Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dragonflies in Love

Dragonflies are one of my favourite insects. I serve and stop to avoid them while driving. They have a friend at Singleton Lake. This pair of mating dragonflies were left undisturbed in their loving embrace. The male is to the left with the female to the right scooping sperm into her ovary. At least that is kind of how it happens.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Singleton Spotted Sandpiper

This is based on an excellent photograph taken by Simon Lunn, Naturalist & Photographer of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Simon walked the property on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 as part of the "BioBlitz" I had done during the summer of 2010. I wanted to know just what species inhabited the Singleton Lake property and what I could do to help them along. There is much more to do on this painting but it is a good start.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Three Is Company at Singleton

My first sketch of three fledgling Eastern Kingbirds perched close together on a limb at Singleton Lake, June 2010. This is based on an excellent photograph taken by Simon Lunn, Naturalist & Photographer of Smiths Falls, Ontario. Simon walked the property on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 as part of the "BioBlitz" I had done during the summer of 2010. I wanted to know just what species inhabited the Singleton Lake property and what I could do to help them along.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fair Weather Fun

It is a challenge to paint convective cloud. No sooner have you blocked in the cloud structure and colour, but the cloud changes both in shape and colour. Typically the convection is taller and the bases are darker. The taller clouds places some neighbouring clouds in shadow and these take on a grey colour with a tint of burnt sienna. I have a few of these in this painting.

A knowledge of the meteorology of the situation does indeed help but it is not the solution. The fix is to practice what I preach and that is to leave things "unfinished". Get the first attempt right and leave it alone. That is what I did with this bit of summer-time fun. The cumulus continued to develop and by the time I was finished, the scene was overcast cumulus. The little ridge was passing through Brockville so more weather was on the way!

The sailboats came by just at the right time. I wanted to practice what I preach and this time, there was no delicate touch-ups! It is becoming easier to ignore the finagley details as my older eyes don't see it as clearer as they used to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Winter Sunrise

A brilliant sunrise over Ogdensburg, New York -  There was a lot of science in this scene. I hope there was a lot of art as well.

The reflection of the sunrise is most brilliant where the water is smooth and more mirror-like. For sun glint, a rippled surface at a given distance, is less bright as the amount of surface area oriented to reflect the direct sunlight to the eye is certainly less than that of a mirror at the same distance. The amount of sun glint decreases as one looks more directly down on the ripples as the surfaces of the small waves are less likely to be oriented to produce direct reflection of the sunlight to the eye. The best and brightest sun glint reflections occur when the viewing angle is less than 15 degrees to the surface of the water.

The amount of reflected light also decreases as the viewing angle increases so that one is looking more directly into the water. At these angles, refraction of the light into the water dominates reflection. Thus the small amount of reflected light at these angles is light from the sky thus making the ripples more blue. Most light gets refracted into the water and thus the overall appearance of the water is darker.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"July CU and CI"

Fair weather cumulus (CU) developed early Sunday afternoon. There was more cumulus over the American shore with a minimum over the St Lawrence River. It was apparently holy cumulus - appropriate for a Sunday. A few of the cumulus towered rapidly upward with the crazy wind shear and then was quickly torn apart. The towering cumulus tops sheared up river with the outflow from a high pressure area to the north.

There was a backdrop of cirrostratus (CS) far to the south. In addition there were a few tentacles of fair weather cirrus (CI) in the upper right of the image. The low pressure area far to the south was never a threat for rain along the St Lawrence River.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tom Thomson - Artist and Weatherman

Thoreau MacDonald (J.E.H. MacDonald's son) wrote a perfect foreword to Ottelyn Addison's book... ``Tom Thomson : The Algonquin Years``

“Thomson’s work would be a fine study for some competent critic, but anyone attempting it should be familiar, not only with every phase of his work, but with the country too. He must know the trees, rocks, lakes, rivers, weather; to have them in his bones ..."

I do not profess to be an art critic or curator but I am fully qualified to discuss the meteorology in Tom`s art. I do hope that you enjoy the discussions in this new web page and that it encourages reflection and positive debate.  In some cases, there are multiple plausible solutions and I attempt to give each a fair presentation. I always try to conclude with the most likely interpretation. Of course, I am making this all up but it is based on some pretty sound science. I wasn't there painting with Tom at the moment of the sketch creation but Tom was a truthful and gifted observer of the natural world. Through CSI (Creative Scene Investigation), I can return to the scene of the time... 
I have been doing presentations based on this material since the early 1990's. I feel it is important as well as interesting to put Tom 's art into context. There are not many of his works that I have yet to apply CSI to.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Rocking" - Something a lot different than usual...

It was about to rain but I wanted to play with a panel that I had been using to scrape off my palette knife. I wanted to use the random colours and texture of the scrapings on the panel within the painting of the granite rock on the south shore of Jim Day Rapids. I had the paint and the time and plus there are no rules in the art world... It sprinkled a few drops before I finished but not enough to affect real oil paint.

This can be hung either way - it was meant to be a fun reflection piece.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Every Cloud Has A Green Lining

I made time to paint. The cold frontal convection was setting up and I thought that it would be fun to try to capture the moment under the shelter of the balcony. This was a thunderstorm although I could not hear the thunder until after it passed. The cell turned right as it crossed the St. Lawrence which is a clue that it was a supercell. It changed so quickly that I just blocked in the colours and shapes. An area of dark heavy rain was followed by a whiter swath of heavier rain and I believe some hail. The updraft was definitely tilted to the northwest. The outflow winds stirred up the waves which were then pounded down by the heavy precipitation. The cloud elements really were that dark.

The cloud has a green lining because the canvas was tinted a cool green but also because the rain is much needed for the ecosystem of the St. Lawrence river valley and the low water levels of the summer of 2010. The cloud also blocks a fair bit of the harmful UV radiation. In fact I much prefer a cloudy day when I am en plein air. There was no way I could have painted this cell from the field.


The process of transformation happens every day. Morning cloud morphs into something new due to daytime heating and the wind. In this case, overcast stratocumulus transforms into cumulus and cumulus fractus with the strong daytime heating commensurate with the sun of early summer. Warm, calm conditions exist under the rising thermals of the cumulus while cool downdrafts mark the compensating descending air that balances the updrafts. What goes up must come down.

The stratocumulus transformed to cumulus faster over the land than it did over the water. Streets of cumulus aligned along the southwesterly winds and funneled down the St. Lawrence River. The cloud patterns changed quickly and it was challenging to keep up with the composition. With time there was more blue sky between the clouds that were transforming from the horizontal to the vertical.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Convection Killer

An overcast deck of stratocumulus in the morning can really ruin a perfectly good (but inaccurate) forecast for afternoon convection. Such stratocumulus is typical in the warm and humid air mass. The same moisture that creates the huge instabilities conducive to severe convection, also promotes low deck stratocumulus. As I was signing my name, the sun started to peak between the stratocumulus as it continued its transformation into cumulus due to the ongoing daytime heating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


This is the marble point at Singleton Lake. I was up to my thighs in water with the setting sun on my back. Sun fish swam around my legs. It was only an 8x10 canvas and I was a bit cramped for the composition - but I had fun! The boots left on the shore are mine. Thus the cryptic title for this sketch.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him"

My Friend Roy MacGregor is just finishing the final edits on his study of Tom Thomson. "Northern Light: The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thomson and the Woman Who Loved Him". Random House will publish it in September. Roy and I agree that there is not as much mystery as one might think. When one removes the silly, implausible, invented fabrications, the simpler truth remains. I was very pleased to help out where I could. CSI (Creative Scene Investigation) is a powerful tool. It is a really great read and my only wish is that the really long version could go into print... There are some facts that will finally set the record straight and certainly surprise a lot of TT enthusiasts! Good for you Roy...

This is the cover... It shows Tom circa 1915-1916 working on a trout spoon. Tom always thought that he was a better fisherman than an artist.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Grey Owl - Day 7

I will likely tinker on Grey Owl for another few days but it will be difficult to see the brush strokes - and maybe even the differences.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grey Owl - Day 3

There are a lot of feathers on a grey owl and no two seem to be the same... I hope that you like it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Great Grey

My Friend Dave Hotchkiss took this remarkable image of a great grey owl about to strike a baited mouse on the top of the fence post. Dave wanted me to tackle this subject matter to see how I would do. I actually counted feathers while trying to keep the art painterly and loose. It is indeed another challenge. Let's see how it turns out! The hauntingly intense eye is the most important part of this subject.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Portraits are Challenging

Every portrait is a challenge and this had two - but I like a challenge. More importantly, I want to please and that is my only goal for portrait work. I have had several last days working on this portrait pretty much non-stop for a month. I work to recover what I had. at an earlier stage. At this point the slightest change in colour, shape or tone has a huge impact.. One must know when to stop... I had better walk away from it soon...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Family Portrait - First Sketch

This is the first attempt at the commission. I was having a very good day and the likenesses just popped unto the canvas... Let's hope that I continue to have good days on this work.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Autumn Patchwork

This is the view of the shore of Round Lake in the fall of the year from a canoe - the only way to view a lake. I was attracted to the patchy nature of the tree crowns creating a tapestry of colour. In addition, I just wanted to have some fun.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Path Behind Mowat Lodge

This is a classic Tom Thomson composition but I picked it for its climate change message. Plus this was one of Tom's favourites as he even took time to sign it.
In a warmer atmosphere, snow will become less frequent with more of the precipitation arriving as rain. With less snow and warmer temperatures, the snow pack will melt sooner with the run-off getting to the rivers long before the growing season starts. The springs will be warmer and drier. Spring time drought will impact on planting success although tractors will be able to get on the fields sooner without sinking up to their axles. The old adage of never going out on the fields in a month containing an "a" will have to be rewritten.
The forest fire threat will begin sooner and fires are more apt to become severe with more disease and insect infected trees along with abundant forest floor fuels. This path behind Mowat lodge would look like this on the snowiest day of the winter - never in spring ever again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Round Lake Squall

This is the view from a friend's cottage on Round Lake looking west from about the same place where Tom Thomson painted "The Canoe". Tom's dove gray canoe would have been pulled up on the shore to the right.
A squall line with thunderstorms had just passed Round Lake. The showers were over. Northwesterly winds were sculpting the clouds and leaning them to the southeast. Convection along the squall line gives regularly spaced light patches in the cloud base. Scud cloud stirred up by the blustery northwesterly winds were whipping along to the southeast.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Round Lake Mirror

This is the view from a friend's cottage on Round Lake looking west from about the same place where Tom Thomson painted "The Canoe". Tom's dove gray canoe would have been pulled up on the shore to the right.
It was a clear and crisp morning. The water was a mirror. A shallow radiational fog over the water resulted from the lengthening fall days and warm water of Round Lake supplying the moisture. Cool winds would have been draining off the hillsides since the previous evening. It would have been great to have a canoe on the water and a lure in the water.

Canadian Talent Farm

Phil has joined the Canadian Talent Farm using his home town of Kingston as the base...

Friday, March 5, 2010

March Lights the Shadows

I had some more time to paint and it was a beautiful day to do just that. There was a brisk east breeze so I set up within the forest of the old Browns Bay Campground. It was still chilly at 0 degrees Celsius but it was very pleasant with the sun on my back. I was looking north through the forest at the bend in Jones Creek - Toniata River. I had to gradually shift my easel toward the south to keep the sun on the canvas. A couple of dogs came to pay there respects while I painted.

The sunlight of March heralds the end of winter. There was far less snow in the forest than I expected. The same light cast the shadows which were an important part of my subject. If you put this all together, one has the title which may seem cryptic at first. The word "lights" is a verb here but one might think of it as a noun as well. Both uses of "lights" were intended. It was a fun day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crash of the Cataract

I was starting to loosen up so I grabbed a panel from the back of the grey Subaru. This is the view looking southwest across Lyn Falls and down the narrow channel carved between the granite ridges during eons of spring floods. There was still a lot of snow in the woods but the sun found its way through the bare trees to try to convert some of it to liquid to supply the cataract that crashed at my feed. It was a beautiful day and in addition, I think I caught the magic of the moment in my somewhat crude strokes.

Spring Pro Rogue

It was my first chance to paint in a couple of months. In a way, my art had be prorogued by lots of things - mostly work. It was a beautiful March day and I could wait no longer. The sun was melting the snow cover and that in turn was flushing as fast as possible down Lyn Falls. The spring and snow itself had been prorogued by the cold weather of February. Everything was on hold pending the arrival of some sunny days and temperatures soaring above normal. The temperature climbed to plus 4 Celsius while I painted. This allowed the spring fever to start and also to covert the snow into its liquid form so that it could rush to the sea. In many ways the day was a rejuvenation of my art, the spring and the snow.
I didn't worry about details and tried to let the background roar of the cataract find its way on to the canvas. Mainly, I wanted to have fun and bask in the sun s it climbed above the tree tops.
The word "prorogue" has been added to the Canadian vocabulary through the dysfunctional political system. I decided to use it in a positive fashion.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Western Mariner

My sincere thanks to my Friends at MSC/EC for making this happen. Weather is important and it happens everyday!

What a nice magazine - and they are interested in weather too!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Playing with a Logo

I wanted to tie the canoe to the art. Both are perfect ways to spend one's time. I wanted to keep it simple as well. Hmmm

Sunday, January 31, 2010

High and Dry

The next in the series of iconic Canadian art and how that inspiration might appear with the impacts of global warming. This is Tom Thomson's "Boats" from 1916. I have painted the same inspiration on a slightly different shape of canvas. The boats are now high and dry on green grass and the little water that remains is in the distance. Dropping water levels have already begun in the Great Lakes basin. Increased evapouration is the main cause for these drops. The rainfall is about the same or even a bit more but comes in intense but sporadic episodes that produce more run-off in between the longer droughts. The water doesn't stick around.
The title is fairly obvious with the positioning of the boats a long way from the water. The name also links to my favourite Canadian singer, Gordon Lightfoot and his song of the same name. I had fun...

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Dry Wind

My version of “The West Wind” includes turbulent stratocumulus much the same as Tom’s but with a stronger wind. One of the characteristics of climate change is that storms will be more violent and energetic. Heat is fuel for these storms and there will be plenty of heat.

As well, the wind swept bay in “The West Wind” could even now be a marsh of cattails and grasses. In my version, the strong winds create waves in the grasses as the water levels are now lower and the marshes have moved in.

Water resources will certainly decline across most of North America with climate change. Evapouration will increase with increased temperatures and rainfall patterns will shift with the jet stream. The water levels of the Great Lakes have already started a serious decline.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Northern Trickle

This is based on Tom Thomson’s “Northern River” which is a work he referred to as his swamp painting and one that wasn’t all that bad. Water resources will decline across most of North America with climate change. Evapouration will increase with increased temperatures and rainfall patterns will shift with the jet stream. The end result is that in many localities, rivers will decay into trickles. The ecosystem will change and the swamp won’t be a swamp any more.
This effort is for the Algonquin Art Centre 2010 show featuring the impacts of climate change.