Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Writers experience what they refer to as "writer's block", a period of time when inspiration fails. Artists, well we just come up blank. We're capable, but we go through periods where we wonder why we're doing what were doing. There are moments when we feel that what we're producing is simply not good, or not good enough, and we loose confidence and feel a lot of self pity. I'm no different. I'm growing older and feel at times that I'm simply fading away. In fact the other day I read that old artists don't die, we just fade away. So, while I'm fading away, I lose myself in sketching and doodling memories of places been, and places dreamed.....

Island Kearney Lake, Algonquin Park

Island Oxtongue Lake, Dwight, Ontario

Northern Ontario Landscape  

Costello Lake, Algonquin Park

Northern Ontario Landscape

Frood Lake, Killarney Provincial Park

Island - Georgian Bay, Ontario

Tea Lake  Algonquin Park

Awenda Provincial Park

A bit of an update regarding my book publishing with Blurb.ca . WHERE RAVEN PLAYS has still to be reformatted to epub. THIRTY PLUS ONE has been published and is available in both print, and as a free epub download for those of you employing IPads and IPhones devices. I had announced that my next venture into publishing would be titled SHADES OF GREY. However, I'm still debating whether I should restrict the contents of my next book to mono chromatic sketches and drawings, or go for something different involving paintings as well as drawings and sketches titled WHISPERING WINGS & OTHER THINGS. Time will tell. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014


A view of Rock Lake from the Booth's Rock Hiking Trail

Watercolour Painting    2001

On a recent visit to Algonquin Provincial Park we drove into Rock Lake and did a short hike to the remains of what was once known as the Barclay Estate. Parks Ontario's website describes the history behind the ruins, of which only a concrete base remains, as follows: -

Even wealthy Ontario judges can face government expropriation.
In 1895-96, the prominent timber baron J.R. Booth purchased this point and built a large estate here called Men-Way-Tay ("Place of Sunshine"). Booth gave the property to his daughter, Gertrude Fleck, and through marriage it was eventually passed down to Justice George Barclay. This estate met the Ontario government land reclamation axe of the 1950s, when over 50% of the leased properties in Algonquin were removed. Barclay vacated the site in 1953.

It is of note that in 2017 the several hundred remaining cottages in Algonquin Provincial Park will be expropriated, and will be removed. Algonquin will then truly become a place of solitude.

History aside, the main reason that I wished to hike to the Barclay estate was to make a sketch , or two, and to obtain a few photographs to aid in the making of some drawings and paintings between shoveling snow come this winter. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative. We here in this part of Canada experienced a very cool and wet summer. On the days of our visit if it wasn’t raining it was downright cold. So needless to say there wasn’t much sketching done.

Disappointing as this sounds it’s not as if we haven’t hike the Booth Rock Trail and paddled Rock Lake on many occasions over the years. I fact I came upon a sketch and a few notes from some years ago to prove the point. Note that it was raining on this occasion as well.

My how quickly time passes. It seems only yesterday that we were running for shelter........

The tiny island depicted has always been a source of interest, and has been sketched and photographed by, no doubt, thousands of hikers and canoeists over the years. I'm no exception as my files reveal that I've made quite a few drawings and sketches in this area over the years.......

Pen & Ink Sketch 2000

And this year's visit has resulted in a few more sketches and drawings to add to my Algonquin collection.

Pencil Sketch on a scrap piece of paper    2014

Graphite Drawing 2014

On the way in to Rock Lake, a fair drive on dirt road with washboard sections, we discovered a section that screamed out for a quick sketch so we stopped and had lunch while I made marks in my sketch book.

We never cease to enjoy the solitude that is Algonquin Provincial Park. It's an endless source of inspiration in all kinds of weather. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014


            Etching with Aquatint

I find autumn to be a most fascinating time of the year. Everything seems to pause while awaiting the first frost and the bitterly cold winds out of the north that will signal the return of winter. Plants wither and die, trees begin to shut down causing their leaves to change colour and fall to the ground, songbirds and waterfowl migrate to warmer climes, and insects, having laid their eggs and prepared for a future generation, succumb to the cold.

       Coloured Soft Ground Etching
As one grows older it’s not uncommon to take a bit of time to sit and ponder, and to ask questions as one did when we were much, much, younger....
    We placed a vase of freshly cut bright yellow sunflowers outside on the table of our rear deck and it was almost immediately discovered by a bumblebee, and in short order another dozen, or more, bumblebees. As the days went by and the cut sunflowers, encouraged to continue growing by replenishing the water in the vase, became home to many of the visiting bumblebees. Many spent the cool autumn nights clinging to the sunflowers in a state of torpor as if concerned that another bee would take their place on the flower. Interestingly, none of the bumblebees were at all aggressive. One could sit quite close to the sunflowers, and although one of the bees might bumble close by it was as if they failed to view us as a threat, blinded perhaps by their attraction  to the rich pollen of the sunflowers.
   Sadly, the reason that the bumblebees were clinging to the sunflowers was simply due to the fact that they were, in a manner of speaking lost, as their home no longer existed and they were without order in their lives. By this time the colony from which they’d come had disintegrated with the death of the old queen and the flight of the new queens, which were now off locating a place to spend the winter only to awaken in the spring to produce a new colony.
   This got me to thinking what purpose does this repetitive cycle serve, a cycle that has been repeated countless times in the mist of the distant past? Certainly, the bee is important to the pollination of plants, but to simply do something over, and over again, without, what we humans would call “real purpose”, seems to make no sense. Who, or what decided that this cycle should be repeated forever?
   In my reading I stumbled upon someone else who’d wrestled with this question and came to a conclusion of sorts: -
(From Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace: Chapter IV)
“As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man.
A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people. A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers. A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey. Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race. A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence. Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee. But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.
All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life.”
   So, I’m back to where I started my pondering, which brings me to the larger and more troubling question, that of wondering exactly what is our purpose let alone the purpose of the humble bumblebee.

   Autumn, it really is a most fascinating time of the year.
 Autumn Algonquin
                          Watercolour Painting