I am currently in Toronto preparing and warming up my brushes for upcoming Antarctica trips. It is the time of year to look back and pay homage to many who have inspired and opened paths for a creative life. Just a few days ago we heard of the passing of the great teacher, artist and friend, Doris McCarthy at the age of 100 years old. She was one of few living links to a time when Canadian art was defining itself. The first time I met her, I was a starving artist having a solo show in some obscure medical building with many flights of stairs that she just flew up (in her eighties) eager to stay in tune with what was new , she was just so encouraging of my crazy over sized watercolours yet being so humble about her own art. Over the years I would see her at several Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour events. She was the CSPWC’s president twice decades ago and was a champion of the medium, one that she used to paint on site to the far reaches of the planet. Last time I saw her, was during an invite for dinner and wine at her home a few years ago. We sat on her couch surrounded by a treasure of artwork and a nice fire in the fireplace. We looked at a recent slide show I had from Antarctica on the laptop, and joked about those smelly penguins. The images just took us back to the place of huge icebergs and fantastic abstractions evoked by the pack ice. She also noticed a few “bad” paintings and let me know when my colour was a bit garish! I could get a sense of sadness that she still longed to go back but the body was not willing. Many will miss her.
On November 11 the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour celebrated its birthday in the Historic Arts and Letters Club. Eighty five years ago to that date several prominent artists including members of the group of seven came together in this building and proposed the idea of a society celebrating the watercolour medium. Some of Canada’s best artists were a member at one time or another and now the C.S.P.W.C has grown as a truly national society, not a small feat in a country the size of Canada. I am not a club guy, but what I like is that I have driven from Newfoundland to the Yukon and have met and visited artists studios and there is always a common humbleness created by that ever challenging medium, maybe also a shared interest in transparency and “light from within”. A few years ago, the now current president Peter Marsh and I were talking about my crazy upcoming painting trips , and that it would be fun to make a flag and take it to the North Pole. Now it’s been with several artists and several places around the globe. Lots of fun!
Painting can be a journey to the ends of the earth or deep within ones consciousness. That is true with one of my teachers John Inglis who was chairman of fine arts at the Ontario College of Art and Design and continues to produce wonderful work. It was a delight to receive a copy of his new book this month, “In Quest for Countenance, a search for meaning in a world in transition”. I love his visionary watercolours that illustrate a transpersonal quest for meaning in a world of radical change. A wonderful weave of inner, outer, and body, mind and spirit. Thanks for the inspiration John!
Speaking of weaving, today I honour my mother who passed away 2 years ago today after a difficult illness at a all to young age of 62. Priscilla was an adventurer, traveler and super talented artist who loved to work in fabric. As a professional dietician she worked hard at her quilts after work and continued to find liberation in them during illness. I have so many fine pieces of hers and hope arrange a show someday. I am always open to suggestions on how to best honour that body of work. Her mantra was to do things while you can and never pass up a chance to go for a hike in the woods or in the mountains.
“The works of humanity cannot compare to the works of nature. As a self-taught quilt artist, one of my goals has been to pay homage to the natural environment in which we dwell. As I walk the forest trails or contemplate the reflections in a mountain stream there is a powerful sense of being connected to something greater than ourselves. I hope to instill in each piece of work my own emotional reactions, my sense of awe and wonderment, of excitement or peacefulness and, not least, of unity with this habitat. I remain open to new ways of seeing and expressing and have recently experimented with a degree of abstraction in some of my landscape work. Priscilla”