Friday, 10 March 2017


I'm continually encouraging young persons to keep diaries, and make sketches to preserve memories. Photographs won't do, as without reference, place and time taken tend to blur. Take the time to write a few words, or make a sketch, and years later they'll talk to you reminding you of not only place and time, but of sounds and smells.

This past while I've been looking through some of my sketchbooks hoping to find inspiration, and I came across an early sketchbook with a few sketches, and a bit of a diary relating to a trip west that we took back in 1999. As we left our home in Ontario it began to rain, and it continued to rain for five days, not stopping until we we're well into Manitoba. Not an encouraging sign for the long trip out to Alberta. None the less the trip proved to be well worth the long drive, and I thought that perhaps I should share this little adventure to emphasize the value of making a sketchbook.

Back in 1999 I was moving away from exhibiting away from my studio, and exploring making digital books. Up to that time I had exhibited regularly at various festivals, exhibiting wildlife paintings and prints. Having discovered Algonquin Provincial Park, and the Group of Seven I was making a move away from wildlife painting and printmaking and attempting to learn how to sketch and paint landscape. It was an interesting time in my career as an artist. There was so much to learn. The trip west was a learning experience in many ways.

I won't include descriptions of the various pages from my sketchbook, as most of the entries have their own descriptions.

We spent a couple of days at Cypress Hills exploring the area. We saw our first Pink-sided Juncos.  I attempted a few watercolour field sketches from the lookout at Cypress Hills Provincial Park. I was amazed at the rugged landscape. Most of us from the east believe that the Prairie Provinces are quite flat. We discovered that this is a bit of a myth, and that some areas remind one of the Badlands that you can experience south of the border in the USA. From the lookout you could see for miles, and miles. One day while sketching, off in the distance, I could see a speck of a yellow, a school bus travelling on the prairie delivering its passengers to a homestead hidden by a cluster of trees, the only trees visible for miles around.

Keep in mind while reading my scribbled entries, that sketchbooks are not all about making art. The purpose of sketchbooks is to preserve memories and possibilities for future art, and to remind us of our time spent.

From Cypress Hills we travelled on to Waterton National Park in Alberta, but that's another story, something that we'll save for a future posting.

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