Landscape By Car
I have always wanted to be a member of The Group Of Seven. My affection for the group began in the mid-90's. I visited the major retrospective exhibit of the Group Of Seven at the Art Gallery Of Ontario. The exhibit was huge. All of the big names were there: Thomson, Harris, Casson, Lismer, MacDonald etc...
My eyes fell out of my head. All of that raw colour. The primal use of paint. It was exciting and romantic. I made the trek from Hamilton to Toronto several times to visit the show. I even bought the catalogue, for $45, which I thought was extravagant but I had to have it.
That's what I want to do, I said to myself. I want to paint the Great Canadian Landscape.
That's who I want to be. I want to be just like Tom Thomson.
However, there was one small problem. The more I read about the Group of Seven, the more I realized how different I was from them, aside from the fact that they lived almost 90 years ago. I wasn't simply living in a different era. I was living a different life.
It is well documented that members of the Group of Seven would canoe through the Algonquin. Tom Thomson, a particular favourite of mine, could spend weeks on end, alone travelling the northern lakes in his canoe. He was an expert fisherman. He was completely self sufficient.
I hate camping. I don't understand the appeal of sleeping on the ground, under a damp piece of plastic.
I was in a canoe once. I didn't, and still do not understand the appeal. A canoe is small. It tips very easily. And so strenuous to operate. At least it looked strenuous. I wasn't allowed to paddle.
My idea of roughing it in the bush is visiting a cottage for once a week during the summer. A cottage with electricity, located near a town with a fully stocked LCBO. My idea of roughing it is going without ice for the gin and tonics. And even that rarely happened.
If I wasn't able to paint in the great wilderness like my artist forefathers, what was left for me? If I was interested in landscapes, what was left to paint? Why bother at all?
This was a conundrum for me for many years. A few years ago, I began taking my Mom for drives through the local rural country; down the back roads of Glanbrook, Haldimand, Ancaster, Flamborough. Going afar afield as Lincoln, Niagara, and Kitchener-Waterloo. That was her favourite pastime. And I was happy to oblige.
I soon became fascinated with our local rural landscape. No, it wasn't wild and ravaged like the Great North. But it had it's own charm. An empty horizon divided by power lines and dirt roads.
This is our agricultural landscape. Land that has been touched by the hand of farmers and road construction crews. I soon realized that this contemporary landscape is no less important than the trees of Tom Thomson or the forests of Lauren Harris.
These paintings are a small sample of the work that I completed as result of these jaunts. This is my idea of the Canadian landscape, made up of farms, roads and powerlines, with the occasional visit to the city. I also have a soft spot for Hamilton's downtown, specifically the cherished post Victorian architecture that continues to endure.
Tom Thomson had a canoe. I have a car. Same thing. Sort of.
(all three pieces are oil on paper, 24x30 inches)