I shot this photo as I passed the Roman Catholic Cemetery on one of my nightly walks not so long ago... when winter was still deep and cold. It drew to my attention the cold and the barrenness of death... yet at the same time, the presence of Light... though fading at the end of this February day... offered me a feeling of Hope... and continued Faith!
I include myself in the masses who have "stepped off" the path. There was a time... ever so long ago now... when my parents and particularly my dear Mom blazed that pathway for us as children. I know the difference this morning because of her teachings... and I thank her, in her absence... for that gift of knowledge. I, at least have the basis and foundation for understanding of the real meaning of Easter... and Good Friday in Christian terms.
Though I have indeed wandered far off that earlier path that "She" led us on in early life, I have not surrendered her teachings. I have continued to hold my personal belief in God or in Christ based upon my deep sense of Faith. I have rather cultivated my own personal kind of spiritualism which blends her teachings with my own deeply held beliefs into a workable model that I can commit to and practise in my daily life.
I have no need to edge my Self into a pew in any denomination every Sunday to feel God's presence in my life. He is with "Me"... each and every time that I "speak" with Him in my prayers... or every time that I stand in awe and reverence... in his magnificent and ever-expanding outdoor cathedral. I can truly say that my experiences in some of the most majestic man made cathedrals in Europe rarely match the feeling that I have each time that I choose to "attend service"... when painting en plein air..
I felt compelled to offer this opportunity to share a "conversation" today because it is timely and because the wonderful blessings that I felt this morning... as I listened to thousands of returning Canada Geese moving over me and along the river. There is magic everywhere about me... and the "goodness" of Creation trumpets Hope and Renewal in my own spirit. Sadly... I have no paintings to share this morning to accompany my words. That would mean that my second "voice" would be be more mute than is usually the case.
So I have decided to share with you... the paintings of an artist that I still consider a mentor of my journey... though I never met him. His name is Tom Thomson. Tough considered a member of our Canadian Group of Seven by many... truth be told,he stayed more to himself in his painting journey and drowned under mysterious circumstances on Canoe Lake in July of 1917. That mystery remains unsolved even today, and became the legend upon which the Group "surfed" to create their own reputation... direction and fame.
I began my painting journey copying his and others of the Seven and I do in fact owe much to the very spirit of my work. Algonquin has become my own place of painting worship over thirty odd years and is really my second Home... after the Saint Lawrence River.
Here are some of the paintings that I admire from Thomson's vast oeuvre of 8x10 inch plein sketches on birch panels. Does that ring a bell? I wonder...
This small plein air sketch on a birch panel first sealed and primed with shellac is typical of the hundreds that Thomson painted in his canoe trekking and fishing through the maze of lakes and streams within the Park. This one is simply titled "Spring in Algonquin Park" (1916-17) ... as was always the case. Many lacked either signature or title at his untimely death. That task became the task of his Group painting friends. He would often burn sketches in his campfire before anyone laid eyes on them while he camped. He never placed much significance on approval or acceptance. He lived a solitary existence to paint. The landscape was his mistress... and muse. He died ... as I believe he would have chosen...peacefully in their arms.
This is a large now iconic studio painting on canvas 127.9 x 139.8 cm that now hangs in the National Gallery Collection in Ottawa and is viewed by many... including myself, as among the most iconic of his works. It is titled "Jack Pine".
Here is the small 8 x 10 inch panel created en plein air by Thomson that served as the reference for the larger studio-conceived masterpiece. Despite its smaller scale... it has a bravura and spirited... deeply felt response and accurately and better portrays the passion which conjoined Thomson with the Algonquin wild
During my period of introspection and planning for the solo show that I recently opened in Kingston, I stumbled across this illustration that I had purchased and had fully intended to have framed and hung in my end of the downstairs studio. I discovered in tucked safely away (and forgotten) in a veritable sea of papers and projects.. as yet not accomplished. It was simply adrift in "floatsom n' jetsom" of paper reminders... that to Deb's chagrin... are everywhere at my end of the space... and are "lost at sea"! HA HA!!
My argument is based upon my observation (and contention)... that such Epiphanies are to reappear (miraculously it seems to me anyway)... when they are most useful to my purpose and current thought. Today is in fact one of those moments. And lest ye be a non-believer... this illustration is the pen and ink illustration work of... Tom Thomson. It is a beautifully rendered decorative landscape format bearing a quotation from the poet Henry Van Dyke. This graphic was created by Thomson when he worked as an illustrator at The Grip Design Company in Toronto with other Group members. It now hangs in The McMichael Collection in Kleinburg, ON.
The Van Dyke quote speaks so eloquently of the man... and quite frankly... underscores all of what I have tried to express to you this morning in my conversation. It is my goal to continue my own journey... much in the same vein and with the same purpose as expressed in these words, Could we all endeavor... from this Friday and forward to put into practice in our own lives such goals and directions... both our own lives and the livers of other travelers we meet would find greater Peace and Happiness?
The characteristic which I most admire about Tom Thomson as a man was his Humility. This unfortunately is something which I view sadly ... as missing in life of many others around me... including many artists. In my mind, it is as important an ingredient for successful and happy living as talent... position... or wealth. The potential to include this desirable attribute in one's cache and to be recognized and admired by others for it... is simply to consistently practise it.
Note" The tribute commences.... "He lived humbly, but passionately with the wild..." What an epitaph for all of Mankind... could we but earn it!
"I"... am greatly blessed to have been raised and spent most of my journey in such a beautiful country and nation... where "Peace"... and "Happiness"... are more than mere words!
May it continue to remain so... I will do my best to pass these values and principles forward!
Good Painting ... to ALL!!! ,... and Happy Easter!