The natural world is like a house with different spaces. Each room has its own ambience. The same way you might adjust a lamp, I would like to adjust trees: "Just a few inches to the left please... Yes, right there is good." I wish I could tweak the sunlight and rearrange the clouds as easily as you might pull back the drapes. Occasionally, when everything stands still for one glorious moment of fleeting splendour-- I paint.
Having grown up on a rambling old farmstead surrounded by endless fields, I delight in open land and sky, where narrow stripes of cropland recede gently to faint blue horizon. My parents bought the farm when I was seven, and I loved the tall weeping birches and faded old barns. The noisy flock of pigeons in the granary and shy barn cats, long-time residents of the dusty hayloft, kindled my childish curiosity. I felt immediately at home.
Looking out from our backyard, I noticed that each direction displayed its own weather. Softer light shone over the lake to the south, and glowed on Picture Butte behind it. The western sky rolled out towering thunderheads and brilliant sunsets. The north paraded fluffy cumulous cloud-lands that seemed like distant mountains. The east at twilight was periwinkle.
I've been told that Picture Butte, the "livestock feeding capital of Canada," has more cows per square kilometre than anywhere else in the country. Luckily, smell is invisible, so the mingled refrain of manure and dust floating on every western breeze hardly affected my paintings of the region. The fields of canola, flax, hay, and barley glowed in summer sunlight. Neatly-lined tree windbreaks surrounded the farms, hiding the houses. As a child, I was always mildly disappointed to find that the homes among the trees were not as interesting as hidden houses should be.
When my world seemed too bland, I painted imaginary worlds, which still echoed southern Alberta in colour and lighting. These paintings came from dreams, stories, and moods whose intensity required depiction.
I lived in Lethbridge for eight years; the winters and winds are interminable, but the landscape has its charms. Severe planarity and barren coulees emphasize the enormous presence of sky.
Henderson Lake is a leisurely park in the middle of Lethbridge's quiet residential streets: a perfect morning walk or evening meander.
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is within Henderson Park. The name means friendship in Japanese, and the garden celebrates the Japanese community and their contributions to the city.
For a bit of exercise, there is Indian Battle Park, a network of trails through the river bottom. You might glimpse deer, or migrating birds. There are often rumours of rabid coyotes, stray moose, prowling mountain lions, and the occasional bear, but I have never seen any.
Alberta's grassy prairies showcase magnificent skies. Clouds roll over the fields and pastures, spurred by tireless winds. When light breaks through clouds, the entire world changes its hue.
Prairie winters are long and cold. I have seen snow every month of the year except July and August, but I still pretend winter isn't real. I wear short sleeves until the temperature drops below freezing in the fall, and as soon as it gets close to -5 degrees Celsius in the spring, short sleeves are immediately appropriate again. However, despite my disapproval of winter, I do appreciate a good Christmas card snowfall.
My favourite childhood day trips were Waterton or the Crowsnest Pass; the soaring pines, jagged peaks, and rushing waterfalls provide majestic contrast to the open plains.
In the foothills, nestled in ranch land, is Gladstone Mountain Resort. The golden tones of late August are muted under the smoky haze of distant wildfires.
My siblings and I occasionally spent summers in New Jersey with our cousins. We always visited the Jersey shore, and on summer evenings rambled around Clinton, a little town of quiet Victorian homes, artisan shops, and Italian restaurants.
Florida's gardens are luxurious and its beaches balmy. The paintings below are only a sampling of the painting ideas that were inspired by my visit there. Knowing that alligators might lurk in every shimmering pond and marsh added an adventurous tension to offset the sluggish elegance of the scenery
Sunset and sunrises in different countries have distinct moods and colours.
The canyons of Zion National Park and Buckskin Gulch in Utah.
Arizona's sere desert displays intense colour.
British Columbia's elegant forests and dreaming streams often feel like they come straight out of a legend or a fairytale. I have been told that the reason so many people in Chilliwack, BC wear hiking boots everywhere they go is that "you never know when you may be running errands and suddenly want to go climb a mountain." This seems like excellent logic to me.
This watercolour set of three family homes is how one client chose to celebrate their family's story.
I sometimes still paint or draw imaginary places; perspective is always difficult to determine, but the challenge is rewarding.
There is enough magic in real gardens, however, to keep me painting for a lifetime. The little bower seat below is in the garden at Blaylock's Mansion, Nelson; and the wintery branches, eerie in fog, are of the same weeping birch tree that I have been drawing since childhood.
Most of my paintings and sketches can be reproduced as prints. Email me at email@example.com for more information about custom paintings, sketches, or prints.