Monday, January 16, 2012

Solitude – In Tom Thomson’s Footsteps

One of the moments that I will never forget on my trip to Algonquin Park last week, was when I left my companions who headed back to the motel and drove deep into the park until I got to the end of the road on the shore of Opeongo Lake. I am sure that during the summer, the spot is busy with campers and day visitors who come to enjoy the crystal clear waters, but in the middle of January, with the lake frozen and snow covered, the sense of solitude was a feeling I had not experienced before. Not to that extent.

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For miles around me, there was not a single human being. I stepped out of the car hesitantly and could not paint for a while. All I could do was experience the vast wilderness and me alone in it. Can I tell you a little secret? I felt an acute sense of anxiety. I have heard and read many stories about people who have spent days and years even secluded and away from human contact. Then there is the whole idea that the worst punishment you can impose on a pack animal like man is isolation. Isolation. That’s what I was feeling. Solitude is a gentler term for it I guess, but isolation is what gave me the anxiety.

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Thankfully I had my paints and a car that I knew (hoped?) would take me back to where other humans were. A bit later as  I was painting, my thoughts went to Tom Thomson, who painted not far from the spot I was at and he also did it in winter. He was made of better metal than I am of course, but he must have felt the melancholy of isolation at these moments I think.

For all the anxiety, I am glad I was there though. You have to experience this at least once I guess. Next time – given a choice – I would prefer the company of humans. Does that diminish me in a way? I don’t know. Some are loners. I thought that I could be… I know better now.

What about you? have you ever felt isolation? solitude? were you anxious about that? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Plein Air at Algonquin Park

AlgonquinParkatDawnI took off early on Monday morning to beat the city rush hour and got to Whitney at 10:30 after crossing through Algonquin Park. I checked into the old style East Gate Motel took a small break and headed out exploring. I had studied the area of Whitney in Google Maps, so I knew the spots that I wanted to explore, but there is no substitute for first hand scouting. I checked out a few spots, all were excellent, and then I settled down and did a watercolour off the dock in Whitney.

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Galeairy Lake, Whitney. Watercolour on Paper, 9”x12” ($98.00)

Shipping & Framing Options

That was followed by another one off of Airy Road. The evening was festive with 6 artists telling tall tales and enjoying the warmth and a glass or two or more.
20120109_2272aTuesday was park day. I headed into the park with a couple of other artists and we were told that they were expecting us and had freshly ploughed the road all the way up to Opeongo Lake. I drove in all the way and did three 8”x10”s on the lake shore. The seclusion was amazing. My two fellow artists chose spots about two km back and I was alone on the lake. At first I couldn’t paint at all. All I wanted to do was take in the feeling of being all alone in a vast winter wilderness. Breath-taking and humbling. It was getting dark by the time I gathered my gear and headed back to Whitney. Along the way out of the park, I had a brief encounter with a moose crossing the highway. Thankfully I will driving slowly and we ended up just eyeing each other while I waited for her to cross.

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Distant Shore, Galeairy Lake. 8”x10” Oil on Panel, ($300.00)

Shipping & Framing Options

The next day I chose to paint in the outskirts of the park along old highway 127 and Airy road. We had a nice bright day and I did another three 8”x10”s. Back for a quick shower and dinner with the hope of another half day of painting before heading home…
20120109_2270aAlas, that was not meant to be. I woke up on Thursday to heavy snow coming down. The town was happy to see the snow because it meant the start of the snow-mobile season. For me and the other artists, it meant a hasty retreat back home before the roads became impassable and we were stuck as unwelcome guests.
The trip was exhilarating. I am  battle hardened and ready for a few more months of winter and winter painting on weekends. Stay tuned!