Monday, 29 December 2014


 I’m growing older. I am seventy-three. Or seventy-five. One or the other. So I’m not too thrilled that a New Year is upon us.
   To quote Sara Gruen from her book, Water for Elephants, “Age is a terrible thief. Just when you’re getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head…….”
   However, it’s not entirely gloomy. Nothing is expected from old people. You’re pretty much free to spend as much time as you wish sitting quietly and remembering backwards.
   I remember many a New Year. But I’ve always found that New Year’s celebrations were all about acting as if you were having fun, and getting drunk while waiting for the New Year to arrive. And then there was the countdown and the celebratory kissing and the wellwishing, all the while hoping that young woman with the runny nose and horrible cough who kissed you on the lips wasn’t conatgious. So, although I spend considerable time thinking backwards I prefer to think about anything other than ringing in the New Year.

   Thinking backwards actually takes some practice. If you begin in the middle of your life, and go forward or backwards, facts tend to become jumbled. Best to begin at the beginning, the very beginning, and build upon what you remember. No mean feat for someone who  can’t remember names, or his correct age. But it seems to work.
   The other day I spent some time thinking about my birth. Now I really don’t remember my actual birth, and there's no one left to ask the circumstances. But I do know that it was an important day for my mother. I was told that she was the headliner for a Country and Western Jamboree being held in a large arena in Hamilton. She lived in Hamilton during the summer and fall as occasionally my father’s steamship would visit the port with a cargo of iron ore. I should explain that the steamship wasn’t owned by my father. It was owned by the Patterson Steamship Line. He was one of the engineers. He would have liked to own it but we were as poor as church mice, and to simply be allowed to work on the ship was more than one could ask during the dirty thirties. 

Anyway, despite being nine months pregnant with me my mother was performing her act in this Country and Western Jamboree.
She played the guitar while step-dancing down home country style. Apparently all went well until in the middle of jumping up in the air and clicking her heels, all the while playing the guitar, her water broke. You have to hand it to my mom, however, as despite her water breaking she finished the show then hitchhiked to the Mountain Hospital in a snowstorm where, although  she was a bit worse for wear, I was born yelling and screaming.
Or so I was told.
My mother’s best friend, May Something, telegraphed my father,”BABY BOY BOTH DOING WELL”. My father proceeded to celebrate getting drunk on five cent draft beer.
   I do have memories of my first year. I have this image of a light at the end of a long hallway. Apparently my mother lived in a second storey cold water flat on Ottawa Street, and the light that I saw came from a window at the head of the stairs. I also remember vegetable stalls at the street market that my mother would attend to purchase tired vegetables.
   My next memory, a vivid one at that, was when I was in my second year. It was in the late fall. I know this because it was snowing and I was dressed in a coat and was wearing a cap. We were at a train station standing on the platform. I remember the screech of metal on metal, smoke and steam from the engines, and the train’s porter yelling, “All Aboard”. A black porter who wore a uniform like Tom Hanks wore in the movie, Polar Express, helped me onto the train and got me seated. My mother was having difficulty managing a suitcase and me while carrying my baby sister. I can still smell the steam and hear the train’s bell and horn as we chugged out of the station. It carried us home to Midland, to the house where my mother and father would spend the rest of their lives.

 I remember the house, the play pen on the front lawn, the yellow rose bush, fishing in the sewer drain with a safety pin on the end of a long piece of string, eating sand, bobskates, and much, much more. Another time, perhaps.

   Memories, one of the benefits of growing old and having the time to sit and and think backwards. 

   Anyway, ignore this old guy and get out there and celebrate the New Year. Get drunk. Suffer the hangover. Make resolutions to be broken. But, by all means avoid the young woman with the runny nose and the horrible cough. As for me, I believe that I'll stay home, have a glass of wine, wish for World Peace, then go to bed early and spend a little time before falling asleep thinking backwards. After all, it really is just another day in what can only be described as a really messed up world.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014



As time passes the fragments of our existence,
Memories gone astray,
Drift lazily away,
To places we know not where.

Some fragments will linger
And be shared,
By strangers who find significant,
Our thoughts, our cares.

But, with time,
All will disappear,
And we will join the rushing torrent
In an everlasting stream
Of fading dreams.

Ernest Andrew Somers 2013

I was perusing an art magazine and came across photographs of old paintings being put up for auction. The reserve bids for the paintings seemed a bit steep for paintings made by, as far as I could tell, artists with little history. Most of the paintings were made by 19th and early 20th Century American artists, and apart from the paintings having historic significance there was nothing spectacular that caught my eye. There was little information about the lives of the artists, and apart from the artist’s name, date of birth and date of death, nothing was known about the artists. I could only assume that the paintings were commissions, now antiques, and had turned up in estate sales.

It got me to thinking about the contemporary artists of today, and how most struggle to be recognized. Sad to realize that like the artists whose paintings were being auctioned all that will probably be remembered of contemporary artists of today by future generations should they be lucky, will be their name, date of birth, and date of death, and that little if anything will be remembered of their struggle.

Peck Lake, Algonquin Prov. Park     Pencil Study  2014

Peck Lake, Algonquin   Watercolour Painting  2014

Old Woman River  Lake Superior Prov. Park
Pen and Ink Drawing  2014

View From Silver Peak - Killarney Provincial Park           Watercolour Painting

Island-Kearny Lake Algonquin  Pencil Sketch

Island Georgian Bay  Pencil Sketch

Killarney Bay - Pencil Sketch

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Before moving away from the business of art I must mention that your education, of one sort or another, continues for however long one decides to continue working at becoming an artist.

I oft use the word, “ becoming”, as one can never really consider themselves an artist. One’s art is forever evolving. One never really gets to where they hope to be, that place where one is entirely satisfied with the result. Making art is about trying to capture the image that exists inside our head, and failing, then trying again.

Educating one’s self can be quite expensive. I suppose that if your art is all about emotion, and is abstract, then it’s possible that one can get all the education that one needs by simply watching and learning. But, if your thing is nature, or landscape, then one must travel. You can only sleep in your car, or on the ground, for just so long. At some point you have to make use of hotels and lodgings that enable you to reduce living costs. Restaurant food is not only expensive, but a steady diet of the stuff is not entirely healthy.

Copyright laws prevent simply copying someone’s photograph. You must make the effort to acquire your own reference. At one stage in my development we got in the car and travelled from Ontario, Canada, to Arizona, U.S.A., to study hummingbirds. A long car ride there and back. As well, to complete various projects at Algonquin, Killarney, and Superior Provincial Parks, it was necessary to make many trips over a period of many years involving thousands of miles driving and, a tremendous overall cost for fuel, accommodation, and food.

There is a tremendous cost to producing art, and most of it is borne and absorbed by the artist. Artists unlike many other professions are unable to recover most of the cost that go into their art. The market is far too competitive and unregulated, and sadly the general public fail to recognize the value of art to society. I once read that a society without art is “a dead society”.

So, living in a society that has embraced the concept of the starving artist, and teaches its young that life as an artist is romantic, artists have no choice but to absorb the cost, and seek comfort in the effort to survive while working at becoming an artist.

 Frood Lake   Pencil Study 

Frood Lake     Watercolour Painting 2014

I continue to make art, but don't exhibit or sell my paintings. I had many years of running about the countryside putting my art in galleries, and travelling to this and that exhibition. I prefer now to gift paintings to friends and charities, or to simply share it online. It's less expensive to work at becoming an artist this way.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


My previous posting touched upon my foray into the publishing world and the fact that as publisher I had the difficult task of having to promote, and sell my digital books. I mentioned that it was a difficult sell. In time I was able to get my work up on, but not without some difficulty. You see, although I was a publisher by rights, I was not considered a real publisher, so I needed a "real" publisher as a portal to . Now, another surprise, as my portal was not the publisher of my work they didn't warehouse copies, they simply received orders and passed them along to me for a fee. As a result there was little profit to be made. One day after receiving, and filling an order, I sat down and wrote about the experience. It  went like this..........


December 17, 2003: Another dull day dawns with snow flurries in the forecast. A forecast of outright snow one can deal with, but flurries that means anything from a couple of centimeters to a blizzard. In the time before forecasts one simply dealt with the weather. Come winter you threw a shovel into the trunk of your car, together with a couple of candles and a blanket, and dealt with whatever. Now, in this era of information overload paranoia reigns.

I checked my e-mails. An order has come in from Book Express, a division of Raincoast Books located in Vancouver, BC, for a single copy of my digital book “A Quiet Solitude”. Raincoast Books is my portal to When someone orders a book from in Toronto they send the order on to Book Express in Vancouver.  Book Express then contacts me and I send a copy on to the Book Express distribution centre in Toronto for shipping to in Toronto, and so on. So much for technology, eh? 

“A Quiet Solitude” retails for $19.95 CAN. After commissions I receive $8.58 CAN. I reply to the e-mail acknowledging receipt of the order, print out a paper copy of the purchase order and print labels for the shipping package. Then it’s down to the basement for a shipping package and a copy of “A Quiet Solitude”. Before I can package a copy of “A Quiet Solitude” I have to attach ISBN and barcode stickers to enable to track my product.

Later in the day while driving to Midland to the Post Office I think about the many steps and the time it took to publish “A Quiet Solitude”. It began back in the 1970’s, between Art College and my becoming an artist. My then career as an insurance adjuster was endured by reading about art. One day, I recall, I came upon a small sketchbook, only 50 odd pages, soft cover, containing pen and ink sketches and thought, “what a neat idea, one day I’m going to do something like this”. Well, time passes, as time tends to do, and I became an artist. From time to time I’d remember the sketchbook and think about making something similar, but there was always some other priority. 

In 1992 I entered the age of technology; I purchased a Mac IIVi computer. It had a 15” monitor, 80 megabytes of ROM and 4 megabytes of RAM. I also purchased a HP Laser printer. The cost, $6,000.00. The salesman made a point of telling me that I’d never need any more memory and that with a Word and bookkeeping program I was set for the future. The future, of course only lasted a couple of months until my Mac IIVi was rendered obsolete by a newer version. But, it served its purpose, it started me writing and it kept alive my thoughts about making a sketchbook.

More time passed. We discovered Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. We, of course, is my wife, Sandy, and I. We paddled and hiked its many lakes and trails, and I began to sketch. In 1999 I decided that it was time to (semi) retire the Mac IIVi (I still use it for accounting). I purchased a PC with gigabytes of ROM, 512 megabytes of RAM, a 17” color monitor, a digital camera and a flatbed scanner. The cost, $4,500.00. Armed with years of accumulated sketches and paintings I was ready to take on the task of making a sketchbook. First step was to learn the technology. A year, or so, later I was ready to begin. November 2000 I printed off a 100 page sketchbook on my color printer and delivered it to a copy centre. Reproduction would cost a minimum of $1.00 per page not including the cost of a cover and related graphics. Reality is a difficult teacher.

I mused for awhile. I then had the idea of approaching a publisher. Several were approached and some politely declined citing the fact that, historically speaking, Tom Thomson had said everything that there was to say artistically about Algonquin Provincial Park. The thing about artists is that every time we’re told that something isn’t possible we stupidly accept it as a personal challenge. We just don’t know when to call it a day and go paddling. I had come this far. It wasn’t the money or the years of time invested, it was the principle of the thing. I decided that come hell or high water that my sketchbook would become a reality.

Technology, like time, doesn’t stand still it’s continually evolving. In the midst of my dilemma someone invented the technology that allowed the average individual to economically write information to a CD. Information sharing between computers was now possible. There were flaws. Information saved to a CD formatted on a PC couldn’t be read on a Macintosh computer, but then Macintosh’s share of the world computer market was only 5%, so I purchased a CD burner and went back to work. My 100 page sketchbook grew to 183 pages and contained over 185 illustrations. While I was writing and sketching the computer geeks at Adobe were hard at work developing technology. One day in a work cubicle somewhere in the recesses of Adobe’s factory was heard the word “Eureka!” and birth was given to technology which enabled universal language. Adobe’s researchers had developed a software program called “Reader”, which enabled my book, “ Where Raven Plays, An artist’s Guide to Algonquin Provincial Park” now in digital format to be read on every computer in the world having installed Adobe’s Reader, which they freely provided to all computer owners. Of course, there was a catch. Adobe’s Reader read only documents formatted as PDF files produced by a software program sold by Adobe. Another learning curve, but it was worth it?

In 2002 I undertook a major exhibition of my art at the Huronia Museum at Midland, Ontario. It was sort of like a homecoming for me as I was raised in Midland and the Huronia Museum figured largely in my interest in art as a young boy. As a side bar to my exhibition I produced a second digital book, A Quiet Solitude” an autobiographical account of my becoming an artist. I published both digital books as CD ROMs at a cost of some $4,000.00 and introduced them as part of an installation at my exhibition. The exhibition opened to the sound of a wavering bugle. I was ahead of my time; at least that’s what I continue to tell myself.

It’s snowing lightly as I enter the Post Office and take my place in line. A large woman chats incessantly with the cashier about her Christmas shopping problems oblivious of the long lineup behind her. Finally, it’s my turn. I hand the cashier my parcel and she weighs it. “That will be $1.70”, she tells me. I pay and ask for a receipt then walk back to my car before the 5 cents on my parking meter runs out. All I need now is a parking ticket, I think to myself. It’s beginning to snow a bit harder. On the way home I think to myself, $1.70 for postage, 75 cents for the envelope and label, 5 cents for the parking meter, a minimum of $3.00 for gasoline, and $3.00 to produce a copy of  the CD ROM, that leaves me with………8 cents profit. It’s a long, quiet, ride home.


Years ago I threatened to write a book titled, "SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ARTIST, EH!"  and illustrate the cover with a beaver holding an artist palette revealing what it was like to be an artist in Canada. My agent was against the idea. I suppose that these past few postings could be considered as a few chapters for a book of this nature.

Despite what I've written, and the difficulties endured, I have to say that I have no regrets. The life that I've experienced these past 35 years, and the people that I've met while working as an artist was  worth every second of my time spent.