Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Have you seen the movie A Walk In The Woods starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Mary Steenberg, and others. It’s about two older guys, physically out of shape, that decide that they’re going to hike the Appalachian Hiking Trail. It’s hilarious. Watch it should you get a chance. There’s also the book of the same name, written by Bill Bryson and published by Seal Books. 

Anyway, I mention this as the other day, September 13th of this year to be exact, we went for a bit of a hike in Algonquin Provincial Park. It was one of those days where despite the fact that we’re faced with impending doom caused by global warming, it was very cold, cold at least for the time of the year, probably in the lower teens celsius with a cold wind blowing out of the west. We’d finished our hike, and we’re looking for a sheltered place to eat our lunch. The picnic area at Lake of Two Rivers was out of the question as the wind was sweeping across the lake churning up waves large enough to discourage all but the serious and experienced canoeist. We drove on deciding that the picnic area at the Western Uplands trailhead, would be the most sheltered. It was. Apparently we weren’t the only persons seeking a sheltered area to eat lunch. The parking lot proved to be quite full. Despite the fact that it was a couple of weeks since the Labour Day long weekend that signals the end of summer, and the pause before the park becomes busy again with tourists seeking  the autumn colours, there were a good number of backpackers either preparing to go out on the trail, or just having finished hiking the trail. Just to let you know, the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail is the longest trail in the park, and is not to be taken lightly.

We ate our lunch enjoying the entertainment provided both by nature, and the activities of the backpackers. Afterwards we walked around the picnic area marvelling at the abundance of a variety of fungi, then paid a visit to the bridge over the Oxtongue River to watch mesmerized by the grasses waving in the current under the water. We always hope to see a trout swimming upstream, but on this day, as most times that we’ve visited the Oxtongue River we saw only grasses waving in the current. 

We were preparing to leave when I noticed two  middle-aged men sitting with their hiking gear at a nearby picnic table. I was unable to resist asking whether they were coming, or going. They were coming having been on an overnight hike. I mentioned that they were middle-aged, and by their appearance definitely not experienced hikers. Their clothing was top of the line, skin fitting, the kind that whisks away moisture. Their gear was by appearance new, and top of the line. Both were somewhat overweight, and the one man who was the most overweight was a smoker. I asked if they had hiked to Rain Lake, the top of the trail, and almost in unison they proudly said that they had, and that they had completed the entire loop. However, they were quick to point out that they hadn’t been prepared for the change in the weather. Apparently during the night a wind had come up accompanied by thunder and lightning and a driving rain. They had checked the weather before leaving and had assured themselves that if there was to be rain it would occur some distance from where they were to hike. The rain was not their concern, however, it was the howling wind so strong that they were unable to get their butane stoves to light, and as the temperature dropped they had nearly froze. But, as I pointed out, they had survived, and they now had a tale to tell. To this they agreed. The large man, the smoker, mentioned that when he told his wife that he was going on a overnight hike, something that he’d never done before, she’d become concerned and doubted that he’d survive the hike. He had convinced her that it would be nothing more than “a walk in the woods”. They had obviously not seen the movie, nor read the book.

While visiting Algonquin I managed to get a bit of sketching done. Ideas for paintings for my upcoming book.

Island - Lake Opeongo - Algonquin Provincial Park    Graphite Sketch  2016

Lake Opeongo - Algonquin Provincial Park    Graphite Sketch  2016

Tea Lake - Algonquin Provincial Park     Graphite Sketch   2016   

Smoke Lake - Algonquin Provincial Park  Graphite Sketch  2016

Smoke Lake - View From Hardwood Lookout Trail   Graphite Drawing 2016

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


Heading South - Canada Geese
Graphite Drawing

It’s that time of the year in our neck of the woods. Ducks and geese are beginning to migrate through the area much to the delight of the local hunters. But, much to the chagrin of the hunters the sought after Canada Goose is all but absent from the marsh. Being long lived they have acquired a bit of the smarts equating the time of the year with the hunting season, and almost to a goose move away from the marsh to the sanctuary of the local parks and golf courses. Here in Midland as many as a thousand Canada Geese can be found  grazing the grass and fouling the water at Little Lake Park. A good deed gone sour? 
Canada Geese   Watercolour Painting

We call it the Canada Goose, but is it really a Canada goose. The Canada Gooses is native to North America and it breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats, but as Wikipedia edited article explains: -

 By the early 20th century, overhunting and loss of habitat in the late 19th century and early 20th century resulted in a serious decline in the numbers of this bird in its native range. The giant Canada goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950s until, in 1962, a small flock was discovered wintering in Rochester, Minnesota. In 1964, the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center was built to head the center’s Canada goose production and restoration program. The project involved private, state, and federal resources, and relied on the expertise and cooperation of many individuals. By the end of 1981, more than 6,000 giant Canada geese had been released at 83 sites in 26 counties in North Dakota. Similar restoration programs were carried out in Canada. In recent years, Canada goose populations in some areas have grown substantially, so much so that many consider them pests for their droppings, bacteria in their droppings, noise, and confrontational behavior. This problem is partially due to the removal of natural predators and an abundance of safe, man-made bodies of water near food sources, such as those found on golf courses, in public parks and beaches, and in planned communities. Due in part to the interbreeding of various migratory subspecies with the introduced non-migratory giant subspecies, Canada geese are frequently a year-around feature of such urban environments.

So, there it is, the Canada Goose is more the North American Goose, and when you get right down to it the United States should share, if not bear, the responsibility for the reintroduction of the species and the problem created. This brings me to the question, with reproduction and restoration programs in place to bring back the Trumpeter Swan, who ultimately is going to bear the responsibility for the problem that it may created. For those of you who may not be aware, the Trumpeter Swan dwarfs the Canada Goose, and can be equally as aggressive as the Canada Goose.

As I’ve probably mentioned in previous postings, it’s difficult to make a living as an artist. Government grant programs are reserved for what I refer to as “creative artists”, those that make the art that few, save museum curators and critics can understand, and in order to survive it’s necessary to produce “product”, art that appeals to the general public.  August through September and October are the make it, or break it, months for most artists. I suppose that it’s the time of the year, the weather cools, the leaves change colour, and we have Thanksgiving, a time for families to come together. Anyway, people seem to feel more generous at this time of the year spurring the holding of local art festivals and studio tours. With skeins of geese in the air and a genuine admiration, if not love of Canada Geese, paintings and prints of geese and ducks became one of my more successful products.

Aunts & Uncles - Canada Geese               Hand-coloured Etching with Aquatint

Back of the Marsh - Mallards    Hand-coloured Etching with Aquatint

Paired - Canada Geese      Hand-coloured Etching with Aquatint     

Spooked - Mallards     Hand-coloured Etching with Aquatint

Canada Geese         Watercolour Painting

High Fliers     Coloured Etching with Aquatint

Drake Mallards       Watercolour Painting

Mates - Canada Geese   Etching with Aquatint

Thursday, 8 September 2016


They’re early to arrive. Spring has barely gotten a foothold when they begin to show up. Usually  they follow the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Their backup plan should the spring be cold and flowering plants are slow to come into bloom. The Sapsuckers drill holes in the trees to release sap that attracts insects. I’m referring to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, the only hummingbird species that we see in this neck of the woods being all of Ontario. This past spring we had a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird show up on May 8th, a couple of days earlier than usual. We had our hummingbird feeder out in anticipation. A couple of days later a female showed up. The male did his little dance, back and forth, back and forth, to impress the female. Presumably they mated, and then the male was off to heaven knows where to find another female. Male hummingbirds do not help with the raising of their young. The female was busy visiting flowers and our feeder all summer long, then one day there were two more hummingbirds, and immature male and an immature female also at the feeder. We suffered through a very hot, windy, summer in our area near to Southern Georgian Bay. It was difficult to keep the flowers growing, and in the absence of moisture even the insects had a difficult time of it. Consequently, traffic at our hummingbird feeder was, at times, quite furious. In the middle of August a male Ruby-throated hummingbird showed up at the feeder, and did his best to chase the others away. And then it was time for the hummingbirds to think about heading home. Towards the end of August the male disappeared, then the adult female was gone….and on September 3rd there were no more hummingbirds at the feeder. Another year has passed. Soon the last of the wood warblers will head south, the ducks will make a final push, and the Black-capped Chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers will have regained their dominance in the neighbourhood. So much like we humans who are delighted when Labour Day rolls around, and the tourists depart the area. There’s peace and quiet in the woods once again.

For those of you who might be following this blog, and my writing and publishing efforts, just to let you know we've been up to Algonquin and have done some sketching. The hard part has yet to come, interpreting the sketches into paintings and writing the text for MY PAINTING PLACES _ ALGONQUIN. With some 60 odd pages in the bank, so to speak, and still working my way into the park, it looks like I have my work cut out for me come the long winter.

Lake of Two Rivers - Algonquin    Watercolour Painting  2016

Algonquin Landscape        Watercolour Sketch