Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tom Thomson and Algonquin Park

Algonquin Park has been a place to be enjoyed as a recreational destination for many years. Tom Thomson made his way to the Park for the first time in 1912. He was working at an artistic design firm as a draughtsman and did not consider that painting would ever be taken seriously. He enjoyed the fishing and did some sketching on the first trip.

Thomson is not one of the Group of Seven artists, however he did work alongside them. The Group was formed after his death. He died in the Park in 1917 under mysterious circumstances.

He would go into the Park in the very early spring, sketch and make very quick paintings on wooden boards he could slot into his painting kit. In the winter he would go to his studio in Toronto and use the painted sketches to create the grand canvases. 

In the summer/fall of 2014 the National Gallery of Canada had a special exhibit on Tom Thomson. We already have one of his most famous paintings here full-time, The Jack Pine. His other iconic large painting, The West Wind, is held by the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was part of the exhibit, the two paintings were in the same room with each other. In the corner they had his painting kit. Also, the sketches he had done for each of these paintings were alongside them so we could see the differences between the inspiration and the final masterpiece.

The following photos were taken in the special exhibition section. However, I have noted which gallery owns the paintings, so if you are going to a gallery, you may be able to catch a glimpse of them.
The Jack Pine, NGC
The West Wind, AGO
Spring Ice, NGC
Pine Island, Georgian Bay, NGC 
Northern River, NGC
Autumn`s Garland, NGC
One of the people that was a patron for Tom Thomson and some of the budding Group of Seven painters, was Toronto physician Dr. James MacCallum. He had a cabin on Georgian Bay where he thought the artists would have plenty of subject matter with the landscape nearby. The artists got together and painted a group of scenes that were hung around a room in the cabin. All the paintings in that room are in the National Gallery and they've constructed a room to view them in where they hang exactly as they hung in the cabin.

A portrait of Tom in the cabin painting
How the paintings went around the chimney
In another room they have an extensive collection of Thompson's sketches. Here is a picture of his sketching kit (that I've found online):
I spent quite a bit of time looking at the various sketches they have. Some are very evocative of the Park. He truly captures the beauty, the various seasons, the nature. I think a visit to this gallery is a great way to feel like you are in the Park especially when it's way too cold to paddle.

No trip to the National Gallery is complete without a stop at the gift shop. The following swag came home with me. A coffee table book (that was greatly reduced in price), a lovely china mug, and a jigsaw puzzle that took me FOREVER to make. It is a beautiful picture, beautiful quality, but 1000 pieces of crazy-making frustration.

There are a couple that have paddled extensively in Algonquin Park and they blog about their adventures. One of the things they have tried to do over the years is to figure out where exactly in the Park some of Tom Thomson's pictures were painted. 

Here is a link to one of their blog posts where they tried to find if "View From a Top of a Hill" was painted on Grand Lake. 

I enjoyed reading the book, "Canoe Lake" by Roy MacGregor. Here is the synopsis from Goodreads: "A troubled American woman travels to a small Ontario town, determined to find the mother she has never known. As she searches through dusty records and stirs up old memories among those around her, three young people emerge from the mists of the past…a beautiful woman named Jenny, a shy local boy named Russell, and a dark-eyed painter named Tom, who changes the course of Jenny and Russell’s lives. Historical reality and conjecture are skilfully interwoven with intrigue and suspense as these three move unwittingly toward tragedy."

It's a fictionalized account of what may have taken place.  

I read it alongside another one of Roy's book: "Northern Lights". Click here for the Goodreads synopsis. This version is not fictional, it's a collection of various facts around the mystery of Tom Thomson's death. I was able to borrow this book from the library.

Overall, Tom Thomson was painting the beauty of the Park for only 5 years. We can only imagine how great a loss this was. If he would have had another 20 years to paint and evolve and enjoy both the recognition and the financial benefit of the great works he was capable of, we would all be richer.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Everyday Waterway - Fall Edition

One of the major perks about where I live is my commute to work. I'm not so fortunate that I can walk a few blocks, I have almost exactly 10 kilometers to go from home to the office. But when I ride my bike to work, I go along the Rideau Canal. Some days, if I squint just right, I can pretend I'm out on a lake. 

It's a nice distraction to look at the water and observe the myriad of things going on. The variety of waterfowl is entrancing. I'm only slightly envious of the summer boaters using the canal as their highway. And it's fun to see the newbies who rent canoes, paddle boats and stand up paddle boards from the Dow's Lake Pavilion. I also pass the Rideau Canoe Club where all summer and into the fall the early morning enthusiasts are out paddling a variety of boats and boards. Occasionally I even see some serious canoeists travelling the waterway. Parks Canada has a special canoe I've seen a couple of times too.
Wouldn't want to portage that baby!
On my ride in this morning (yes it was chilly!) this guy caught my eye. Sunrise was at 7:20, which is right about when I leave home. The light might not be bright enough, but here he is:
He was right near the Heron Road Bridge!
This time of year the waterfowl gather in the canal usually in different sections. It is true, birds of a feather do flock together. Although occasionally a super brave mallard will swim up to where the Canada geese are feeding to see what's on the menu.

Early this spring I spotted a wood duck. Then I saw the missus. They had some babies, I would sometimes see them on my commute. They hung out at a specific spot near Carleton University. I noticed them again this week on my way home one day. It's nice to see they survived. 

I was shocked when I was listening to a nature show and they were talking about bird survival. They said that only 20% of the birds born in a season would survive to the next year. The migration they are required to do in this part of the world is what is so tough on them. 
Canada Geese gathering before migrating
One of my favourite birds to check out are the cormorants. I know, they eat all the fish. The fishermen hate them. It's harder to catch a glimpse of them. Most of their body is below the water when they are swimming. In the past 4 or 5 years I've been riding this route, their numbers are increasing. One day in September I saw about a dozen of them all together, that was a first. The most I had seen before was about 8. They do mate in pairs, but are often seen swimming and diving all by their lonesome. It's a treat to see them drying their wings in the breeze.
Cormorant pair
Swimming cormorants
The water levels in the canal are definitely an indicator of the change of season. Right after Thanksgiving, the water was lowered in the upper section between the Hogsback and Hartwells locks. 
Not even enough water to paddle through
A better perspective
Today I noticed the water is starting to lower between there and Parliament Hill. They've tucked one of Paul's Boat Lines' boats in one of the Hartwells' locks for the winter. It's a pretty big boat, it fills the whole lock.
Winter parking for this boat
Another boat that fills the lock when travelling the canal is the cruise boat that travels from Hartwells' lock to Merrickville and back. It's been designed with a bow that folds up to allow it to fit into a lock. The Kawartha Voyageur is the name of it.

I don`t have a picture of it right now, but I`ll take one next spring/summer.

Boating season is really over now
Pretty bridge in the Arboretum
Pig Island (really!) near Landsdowne Park
Corkstown Bridge over the canal
I'll know winter is on its way when they start putting the skating huts on the gravel pads just before the water starts to freeze. By then I probably won't be cycling. I quit commuting by bike the end of October. Sometimes the weather isn't too bad in November, but the sun doesn't come up early enough. Or when the time changes, it'll be dark going home. The combination of cold and darkness is enough to deter me.

The rest of my observations for the year will be done from the warmth and comfort of my car.

Skating huts are in

Friday, October 23, 2015

Final Cut Photos for Framing

As mentioned in my previous post, I selected some photos to print out, frame and hang in my living room. Here are the ones that made the final cut. They may look familiar, I've probably used them in various posts here.

The biggest picture should be the most familiar as it's the one I use as the backdrop for my blog pages. It measures 12x16. (All numbers are inches.)

Grand Lake, 2014
 The four prints that are 8x10:
Clemow Lake, 2014
Barron Canyon, 2013
North River, 2014
Cedar Lake, 2014
The four individual 5x7 prints:
Going into Biggar Lake, 2015
Cedar Lake, 2014
Moose in North River, 2014
Erables Lake, 2015
These are the waterfall prints in the frame that holds three 5x7's:
High Falls (hike), 2013
Petawawa River, 2014
Near North Tea Lake, 2015
 These are the sunset prints in the frame that holds three 5x7's:

Carl Wilson Lake, 2015
Grand Lake, 2014
Lac Antostagan, La Verendrye Park, QC, 2015

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." This is a quote from William Morris.

I read a decluttering book in September. As I cast my eye around my living room I realized that the four very large paintings of loons (and one lone wolf) I had from an Inuit artist were too big for my wall. These four paintings are gorgeous, they are originals, I had them framed by a museum quality framer (ouch, $800) quite a while ago. And they aren't my property. They belong to a friend who was letting them roll around his basement floor because he didn't have any plans for them. It was a shame to see such beauty treated that way and I convinced him that "we" should get them framed, which "we" did.

Okay, this is Mr. Winston, the paintings are behind him
And Winston is a thing of beauty so he gets to stay.

The paintings were always on loan to me. These days I no longer spend any time with this friend and I was probably holding onto them more out of greediness than true appreciation for their beauty. A decision was made, they would go back to their owner. I channeled the "Let it go" philosphy of the decluttering book. I contacted him and offered to give them back in exchange for my half of the framing cost. He was there within a week to claim his paintings, and I waved goodbye with one hand and clenched onto the $400 with my other hand. I had a plan!

I love looking at the photos I take on my canoe trips. I have most of them on my work computer and they are on rotation so I see a different one every few seconds. Ah, the joy I get in seeing those pictures, reminding me of the precious moments that were spent on the lakes (and even portages become fond memories after time passes).

I decided to choose a number of photos, have them printed out, frame them, and hang them where the four large paintings had been on my living room wall. Okay, this was easier said than done. I've got hundreds of pictures and I love them for the memory they bring, not necessarily for the photographic value. I think I have a pretty good eye for taking pictures (of things and places, not people). I don't alter my pictures in any way, no editing or photoshop for my sexy lakes!

It took me a while, but I whittled the selection down into a special folder on my computer at home "Possible Prints". I asked a friend for advice on a photo editing software (free, of course). I tweaked the pictures slightly. Made sure my horizons lined up (very obviously needed in a lake picture, LOL), I did a little colour enhancement. But mostly, it's just my pictures. The product she recommended was FastStone Image Viewer.

Then I had to decide sizes. My $400 went a long way at Ikea with the Ribba frames. I bought one large one, four that would hold 8x10 pictures, four that would hold 5x7 pictures and two of the long frames that also hold three 5x7 photos. For the latter two frames I decided one would hold sunset pics, the other waterfall pics. Themes!

I was able to place my order online with Costco to print out the photos and within 24 hours the prints were ready for pickup. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong print size for the largest picture and had to re-order that. No worry, with a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, I wouldn't have to wait long.

Yesterday while reading one of my favourite bloggers, she was talking about how to decide where to hang multiple photos on your wall at home. How timely! Her suggestion (which she got elsewhere) was to make a brown paper cutout representing each one of your photos. As I had been opening each Ribba frame to put the picture in, I had to remove a piece of paper the size of the frame. I had tossed these pages into my paper recycling bin, but was able to fish them all out and tape them on the wall with masking tape.

Also, when framing each picture, I wrote in pencil on the mat where the picture was taken and the year. I decided I wanted the display to look more like a gallery. I'm going to line all the photos up along a top line, which isn't too high. See the picture above for an idea.

Once I got all the pictures in the frames and started to hang them, the fun started. I'm being sarcastic here. This was the hard part! Trying to get each picture in the frame without any little piece of dust pressed between the glass and the mat was a struggle. I hung the biggest picture first. I moved on to do the 8x10 frames on each side of it. The top ones went on pretty good (all with tweaking - nothing ever seems to be at the right height.) 

Note, when I say 8x10, it is the size of the picture inside, the frame is bigger. When I started to put up the 8x10's on the bottom, uh-oh, they didn't line up properly. What? It took a bit of head scratching to realize that the paper cut-outs were indeed slightly smaller than the frame. Ohhhhhh. 

Also, as you can see in the photo above, there is a lovely heating control on the wall that breaks up any perfect alignment that I might be able to do. That's okay. We all need an excuse to not beat ourselves up over imperfection.

When working with the four 5x7 frames, I discovered there weren't two grippers, only one, so I couldn't string a wire across the back to hang the picture. The one gripper has a hole in it, but the Ribba frames are too deep for any sort of nail or picture hanger on the wall that can use the hole to suspend it.
So far, missing two 5x7 frames
I worried a bit about my choices. But when I think about how much it cost to get the prints made and how quickly it can be done at Costco, I realize I can just pick another photo to replace a picture with. The overall cost for the prints was $20.99 the first time, and $6.77 for the largest print the second time. Plus I have an extra, fairly large print I can maybe hang at my cubicle at work. The Ikea frames were $115. For under $150 I replaced the four paintings and I have $250 to put towards some new gear! I think I need to get a Henessey Hammock for myself. 

LT is coming over on Saturday to inspect my handiwork. I'm sure he'll suggest the pictures are hung too low. He's very tall. When I go to the bathroom at his house, all I can see of myself in his bathroom mirror is the top of my head and my bangs. 

See here to look at the pictures I chose.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Canoe Museum

I raced through Roy MacGregor's  most recent book, "Canoe Country" when I bought it last week. He talks about the Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario. I had booked Friday off and I managed to convince LT that he should take the day off too and accompany me on a road trip to Peterborough. It is getting a bit late in the season for us to head to the backcountry, I thought this would be way to extend our canoe joy. 

It was a Friday of a long weekend, so the traffic was pretty heavy. It was a rainy day as well. All the better to spend it indoors in a museum! The museum is easy to find, it has an ample parking lot, and despite the austere exterior, you can tell a lot of love and care has gone into the displays inside.
Lots of parking!
The entry fee is $10.50 per adult. Here's the website for more information: You should check their calendar to ensure that they're open the day you would like to visit.

The museum has some very old canoes and some newer ones. The gentleman at reception will gladly give you a recommendation in which order to enjoy the exhibits. The museum was gifted Professor Kirk Wipper's extensive collection of canoes, kayaks and other watercraft. The museum has over 600 of these, but only 100 on display. 

The first area we explored upstairs shows canoes designed and built by aboriginals many years ago. They have a display that gives a lot of information about the voyageurs and explorers that mapped Canada. Make sure you attempt to pick up one of the packs they have to feel how heavy the voyageur's portaging load was. The main floor is more current. There is some information about how canoes were used as recreational vessels, as well as how camps were built to give young people a taste of living in nature. Bill Mason is honoured, as well as Pierre Elliot Trudeau (the two were friends), and recent Olympic athletes have watercraft displayed. 

There is a workshop where artisans may be at work building a canoe or kayak. And there is a lovely gift shop with a great variety of products to choose from.

We both enjoyed the museum and I would recommend it being well worth a visit (and the drive to get there).

Now, the pictures!
Bark canoes
Amazing methods of working with what was easily found in nature

Prized paddles got decorated as well

Weapons used for hunting

One end of a voyageur canoe
The other end, Hudson's Bay Company