Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wrapping the Flag in Canadian Humour

An earlier post told a portion of the story of the design of the painting for the “50 Years of Our Flag Project”. The project wraps the Canadian Flag in history, art and science. Using artistic licence I have also tried to wrap the flag in a little bit of humour.
As a society we move too fast. We may be really connected around the Globe but remain disconnected from what is in front of us. The little pleasures that surround us every day and every where are typically missed. These little pleasures include taking the time to look up at the sky and the clouds. Who sees the back lit bunny? For most people, read no further, just take time to enjoy the clouds. For those who want a bit of meteorology feel free to forge ahead.

The lifted condensation level (LCL) of the fall air mass was quite high – probably 2 to 3 thousand feet above ground level. The parcels of air lifted from the drying surfaces and autumn crops all condense at the same level above the ground – the LCL. That is why these cloud bases are level since heating of the ground is the main reason providing convective lift. The southerly winds increase with height and slope the towers of cumulus cloud toward the north as they grow. The “Bunny Cloud” has gotten tall enough to start the precipitation processes. The bunny is thus called a “towering cumulus”. This also tells us that the temperatures within the higher portions of the cloud are near minus 15 Celsius. Ice crystals grow very well at these colder temperatures due to the high saturation vapour pressure over ice. The ice crystals grow, get heavier and begin to fall. Some crystals collide and aggregate together. By the time the snow flakes are fully developed they are falling at 1 metre per second and exit the bottom of the bunny. In this case the air temperatures closer to the ground are well above freezing. The air is also drier. The snow flakes melt into rain drops which fall much faster closer to 10 metres per second. This increased fall rate decreases the density of the hydrometeor per a given volume and this partially explains why the snow flakes disappear after they have fallen a certain distance from the base of the cloud. The rain drops could also be evapourating into oblivion and thus never reach the ground. Meteorologists call this type of precipitation that doesn’t quite make it to earth “virga”. I suspect this was all virga as I don’t remember getting any moisture on my canvas.
There is humour and even science around us all. We just need to slow down to enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Passion of Phil the Forecaster - $10 Off at

“The Passion of Phil the Forecaster” – 120 pages full of my art was published via Blurb on Monday September 24th, 2012.
Blurb is offering $10 off by simply using the code SHARE10 at Blurb Bookstore's checkout. To quote Blurb "This is a perfect opportunity for you to tell the whole world about your book. Email, Twitter, Facebook, your blog, skywriting, shouting from the rooftops – we're sure you'll find tons of ways to get the word out. (Just don't wait too long, this offer ends March 31, 2013.)"

Welcome to Spring 2013

It is more like winter! The snowall would make it difficult to paint en plein air anyway so I will spend another day in the studio working on the 50 Years of Our Flag Project. We had more than 15 centimetres of very heavy, wet snow yesterday .... I saw it coming from the water vapour imagery ...
I get to listen to a lot of music while I am working in the studio. That's a good thing! I want to endorse the music of a good friend of mine from Environment Canada. Glen Hornblast's CD has remained my play list for the last couple of months. He has a special talent! His Canadian music has just maybe found its way into the pigments on the canvas. The best way to enjoy his talent is to listen to it over and over again - like me. I hope that you enjoy it as well. Dont't email Glen about the true meaning of a "blue moon" - he already knows even though the graphic on his CD wouldn't reveal that knowledge.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

50 Years of Our Flag - Laser Lettering

The sample of lettering pictured is about half way done. There are some imperfections in scale and spacing. I will try to improve on those - if I can. Any imperfections that remain will just have to add character to the project. Afterall this is supposed to be a work of art and human frailty is a big part of true art.
There are plans to produce 7500 or even 15000 prints. Thus the importance of the painting can be intimidating – so that one is afraid to apply pigment to canvas… it is important to get it right!

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Post Is Old... But I have Been Busy!

It is important to keep any Blog current... fresh... it has been five days and that is more than long enough for fish on the counter to start to stink. But I have been very busy. I have been "Phil the Laser Printer" working on the 50 Years of Our Flag painting. It is not easy work! The font colour is strong and swamps the lighter background if even a single brush hair flicks out of line. How often do you think that might happen? When painting en plein air an unruly brush hair can be a good thing! On the important text of the 50 Years of Our Flag painting a brush hair can be a real disaster.

Getting the text right on this 4x6 foot canvas will be a prolonged 8 phase process. Each phase will use either the strong cadmium red or the weak cerulean blue and will work the edges of the text back and forth until they are as close as I can get to perfect - which certainly won't be perfect at all. With each phase the paint on the canvas will get thicker and I have to remember to paint thick on thin.... The text is a very important part of this project so it deserves the best that I can do.

Here is John Ross Matheson signing the draft of the 50 Years of our Flag Artwork... the text is very important to John and thus it is very important to me and the rest of the committee! As I was taking the attached video of John with my Friend and Chair of the 50 Years of Our Flag Committee Bob Harper, it struck me that we were recording history...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stompin’ Tom Connors and the Flag Project

Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away on Wednesday March 6th - well before his time.  It seems he simply wore himself out performing for the country he loved. A few phrases from his final message caught my eye. I waited a few days to let them really sink in before writing this post.
“It was a long hard bumpy road but this great country kept me inspired with its beauty, character and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about it people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world. I must now pass the torch to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, to be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”
Tom’s words apply to the “50 Years of Our Flag Project”. They also apply to Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven who were inspired to create a distinctively Canadian culture. They also apply to the "1965 Flag Committee", the names on the flag painting that I am still working on (and will continue to work on for a few more months) and to the countless, unidentified Canadians who want to make Canada an even better place to live.
Over the coming months Canada will gradually become aware of the several projects undertaken by the “50 Years of Our Flag” Committee. The 4 by 6 foot canvas is just one of the celebratory projects planned for 2015. Stompin' Tom will still be participating but from an even better place. Tom was asked by the Committee to write a special piece of music for the “50 Years of Our Flag” Celebrations. That Tom would have written a great piece of music is undeniable … for now we will just have to imagine how it might have sounded on Flag Day 2015.
For what it is worth, my favourite Stompin’ Tom song was the “Marketplace” theme – true and laced with his classic humour.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wrapping the Flag in Canadian Art

An earlier post told a portion of the story behind the design of the painting for the “50 Years of Our Flag Project”. There is much more to that story! The project wraps the Canadian Flag in history, art and science. The selection of the art works and locations from my collection of plein air paintings was not accidental but it will take many posts to explain all of the details. This post is about the ancestry of the style of the art itself.

A cursory look at the brush strokes is reminiscent of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. I am not intentionally copying anyone’s style but when one paints outside, surrounded by Canadian inspiration and weather, there is only one way for me to apply pigment to canvas.
Thomson was deeply inspired by the same Canadian landscape and he very much inspired the Group of Seven.  Thoreau MacDonald, the son of JEH MacDonald, Thomson friend, Thomson co-worker and Group of Seven charter member said the following about Tom’s art.
“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, lakes, rivers, weather; have them in his bones … “
To understand Tom’s work one must have Canada in your soul. There can be no better art to wrap the Canadian flag in.  Unfortunately Tom’s art is out of reach for this project but the Group of One was available!
From history there is another reason to use Thomson styled art! Tom Thomson was directly related to Sir John A Macdonald through his mother, Margaret Matheson. Sir John was the first Prime Minister of Canada and one of the “Fathers of Confederation” - perhaps he could be called the "Father of Canada".  It is most appropriate that art inspired by Canada, Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven-One brand the culture of Canada – a nation whose very existence owes a tremendous amount to his relative Sir John A Macdonald.

In my painting for the “50 Years of Our Flag Project” there is a dove grey (cobalt blue based)canoe at the portage for Ragged Falls. Tom would have certainly parked his canoe there.
Matheson? Tom’s mother was Margaret Matheson! Isn't the "Father of the Canadian Flag" John Ross Matheson? Is there another story here? Stand by …