Saturday, 31 October 2015


Afterglow      Coloured Etching

It’s cold in the woods these days.
The trees stand naked,
Their branches are bare.
Their leaves have all fallen,
They cover the ground,
And some,
Have already turned brown.
Winter is in the air.

Autumn      Softground etching with Aquatint

There was a time when come autumn, after the leaves had fallen, we'd head up to Algonquin Provincial Park day-tripping, and hike the trails. Sometimes we'd take the canoe and paddle on Rock Lake, or Canisbay Lake. Crazy, now that I think about it, as sometimes it would be very cold, and still, we'd head out onto the lake while ice formed in the creeks, and snow flurries sizzled as they landed on the warm water around us. It was a marvellous time. It was as if we were the only people in the park. The only sounds were those of distant ravens, and the whistle of the wind. In moments like that one cannot help but become very philosophical, and come to realize that everything  once vibrant and full of life must come to an end.

The leaves fall silently to the forest floor,
And swirl together like long lost friends.
Reunited in the autumn of their time
Their colours linger long past prime.
Comes the frost that withers.
Buried beneath the softly falling snow,
They join together on their final journey.

Forest Floor     Watercolour Painting

Yes, winter's breathe is in the air. With the garden put to bed, and much of the yard work finished, it's just a matter of waiting for that first snowfall, the one that lingers, and signals that winter has come to stay. Most of our winter friends, the resident birds, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Juncos, Mourning Doves, Goldfinch, and the odd woodpecker, are busy at the feeding station. A  pecking order is being established that will last throughout the long winter. Let's hope that it's a moderate winter, one with enough snow to enjoy, and one that doesn't overstay its welcome and that it leaves before April. Let's hope.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


Several years ago a young Scottish artist, Leo du Feu, contacted the Friends of Killarney Park regarding a pending visit to Canada. The Friends Executive  Director, Kris Puhvel, asked me to see what I could do to help. I contacted Leo, and assisted with advice as to where to sketch and suggested possible venues to visit to learn about Canadian art, and the Group of Seven. Following a successful sketching trip Leo returned home and wrote a book about his experience. Since then I’ve followed Leo’s development as an artist through his blog  and recently, through the magic of the internet, enjoyed a more personal experience sharing the artist’s life through a You Tube presentation  .

Amazing isn't it? Technology, that is. Email, blogs, IPhones, and film presentations available through You Tube, all common place, is to me, an older person struggling along without a cell phone, quite mind boggling. Oh, what I would have given for the technology of today way back when I was struggling with a several hundred page manual attempting to learn Acrobat 5.0 to produce, the then new thing, PDF files to produce books readable on a desktop computer. Today of course, the desktop computer is about to take a nose dive into the dustbin. Employees now take their own laptops to work, and almost every 14 year old has a cell phone with more memory than I could have envisioned with my brand new Mac IIVI back in 1990s. Yes, things have changed/are changing(rapidly). Yesterday’s technology is no longer relevant, unable to support the needs of the masses. The digital age is coming to an end, and soon, sooner than we think, quantum computing will be the thing.  We’ve become consumers of data. Makes one wonder, will the art of yesterday/today remain relevant, or will it like my old Mac IIVI, become but a memory stored in a server complex located in a distant land?

Okay, so coming back to earth forgetting for a few moments the future of all things, and just in case art continues to be relevant, and Google continues to maintain old blogs, I’m going to post a few recent, and not so recent, sketches and drawings. We’ve cut the lawn for the last time this year, and put the garden to sleep for the long winter soon to make an appearance, so it’s time to get back to writing and illustrating new books that I’ve threatened to write and publish.  A book, sort of a rewrite of an ebook that I made years ago, is in the works and I need more work related to Superior Provincial Park and Algoma.

Orphan Lake     Pencil Drawing

Orphan Lake      Pencil       Thumbnail Sketches

Orphan lake   Pencil Study 2015

Orphan Lake             Pencil Drawing       2015

Orphan Lake   Pencil Drawing    2013

Orphan Lake    Watercolour Painting

Old Woman Bay   Pencil Study   2015

Old Woman Bay   Pencil Study   2015

Saturday, 24 October 2015


There’s a weather window somewhere between the first killing frost, and when winter makes its appearance. It’s highlighted by sunny skies and warm temperatures. If you’re wise you take advantage of the good weather and hustle about putting the flower garden to sleep, and cleaning the eaves troughs of fallen leaves. We call it “Indian Summer”. Why we call it Indian Summer I have no idea. Perhaps, it was a signal for the First Nations people to put stores away and to prepare for the coming of the long winter, a tradition that the early European settlers adopted, and continues to this day.


Morning awakens with a gentle breeze,
Frost lays heavy on fallen leaves.

First light filters through naked trees,
And back lights milkweed gone to seed.

Sunrise and the frost takes flight,
Soon forgotten in the warmth of light.

A moth flutters on a gentle breeze,
One last flight before winter’s freeze.

The afternoon is warm and lazy,
Clouds appear,
 The sky grows hazy.

Evening descends with winds that scare,
Winter’s breath is on the air.

A few days ago we had a killing frost with the overnight temperature dipping down to -7C followed by a dusting of snow. The snow didn't last, melting away with the sunrise and rising temperature, but the damage had been done, my flower garden was in ruin and the large Maple tree in the nearby park hurriedly changed colour and joined the Ash trees in dropping its leaves. Preparation for winter has begun in earnest.....

First Frost - Goldenrod and Queen Anne's Lace    Watercolour Painting

Autumn-Canisbay Lake  Algonquin Provincial Park      Watercolour Painting

Red Maple    Watercolour Painting

Autumn  Killarney Provincial Park     Watercolour Field Sketch

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


A few days ago we participated in a nature walk at Awenda Provincial Park. It’s become a tradition, regardless of the weather, participating in Awenda's last nature walk of the season.

This years nature walk was lead by Tim Tulley, the park’s Natural Heritage Education Leader, or in other words, the park’s Naturalist. Tim is a professional naturalist, one of the best in Ontario. Professional naturalists would seem to be a dying breed, what with everything going on line, and information about all things natural being only a touch, or a swipe away. However, to walk with a real person such as Tim, and to share in his enthusiasm about the natural world, is a world above anything that the swipe or tap of a finger can ever provide.

Mushroom Shapes  Watercolour
Despite being quite cold the sun made an appearnce encouraging some 15, or more, persons to meet up with Tim in the parking area at the trailhead. It was to be a mushroom, or fungi, hike. Now the subject of fungi is not to many considered very exciting. But, with Tim in charge, exciting it became. Looking around it seemed that there were few mushrooms in plain sight, but with Tim’s encouragement, and his infectious enthusiasm, it was only moments into the walk that we began to see fungi everywhere. We not only learned about the identification of various species, but we were amazed to learn that beneath our feet through the seeming magic of symbiosis everything in the forest is connected, and that through this connection trees are actually able to communicate with each other.

Now, this is something that I long suspected, but being a naturalist-artist of a lower order I had no way of proving my theory. Instead, some years ago, I wrote, more or less to myself, the following:-

I have a thing about trees. All things living for that matter, but trees, well, I simply find them intriguing.

That they don’t run about and proclaim their existence as we humans do, but stand and face abuse and attack from a multitude of creatures, and continue to survive is actually quite amazing.

If we could communicate with trees think of the things that we could learn. Think of the history to which some long lived trees have been witness. Of course some will be quick to point out that not being sentient creatures we could never hope to communicate with trees. But, they are sentient, just not sentient on our terms. Think about it for a moment. If we prune a tree it senses what we’ve done, and believing that its very life might be in jeopardy, it’s stimulated to produce new growth. Trees sense and track light. Trees sense the change in the seasons and promote, or stop growth. Trees under attack from an insect in one valley produce pheromones that alert trees in another valley to produce chemicals to discourage attack by the insect. Cut a tree down and it will attempt to regrow itself. Marvelous, when you stop to think about it. A creature with its consciousness beneath the ground, blindly stuck and unable to run away from danger, has learned to survive against threats that would be our very end. I’m quite aware that trees can’t talk, or sing, but when I walk through a forest I listen, and if there’s a breeze, a gentle wind, it’s as if the rustling of the leaves and the knocking of branches are trying to tell me something.

Tall Pines - Algonquin                                                 Watercolour Painting


Tree groaning in the wind,
What forces dwell within?
Like a sentry standing guard,
What have you sensed, what have you heard?

Twisting your branches with sightless eyes,
Defenseless against your demise.
Tortured by insects and animals alike,
Do your groans reflect your fright?

Or are the groans heard in the wind,
Your means of telling us what lives within?

I could go on and attempt to explain this phenomena, but I’m quite certain that I couldn’t do as good a job as Tim was able. Instead, as Tim suggested, we should go on line and look up Prof. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia, and her talk about “Mother Trees”.

Amazing, the natural world. It’s so disappointing, that as a species, we’re so out of step with something so wonderful. I do wish that there were more Tim Tulleys to help us to understand the treasure that surrounds us.

It was a wonderful nature walk. Something that I’ll remember.  Should you be visiting the area and discover that Tim is leading a nature walk make a point to join the group. You won’t be disappointed.


Forest Floor (detail)                                                             Watercolour Painting    

There’s a stillness in the woods these days.
The leaves on the trees,
once green,
Are now hues of yellow and red.
And the ground is littered with those that have fallen,
And are patiently waiting,
For the cold wind that is coming.

Autumn - Beaver Pond                               Watercolour Painting

 Autumn - Birch Stump                                                             Watercolour  Painting