The power of the Great White North

In the solitary splendor of Canada, these painters found energy, possibility, and a national identity.

Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay, 1914–1915, Tom Thomson, courtesy McMichael Collection

Here in Maine, we import our weather from Canada. In fact, we share a lot with our Canadian neighbors, including black spruces, granite, and the spodosol soils that are good for growing potatoes, blueberries, evergreens, and not much else.

Maine has a contemporary painting style that’s driven by this sense of place. It’s curiously unrelated to our most famous summer painter, Andrew Wyeth. Instead, it derives from an earlier generation of painters, including Rockwell Kent and Edward Hopper.  Maine is just too sunny and wild to sustain Wyeth’s quiet melancholy.

Mt. Lefroy, 1930, Lawren S. Harris, courtesy McMichael Collection

This combination of influences and landscape gives us some curious parallels to our Canadian neighbors, the Group of Sevenpainters. This group consisted of Franklin CarmichaelLawren Harris, AY Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, JEH MacDonald, and Frederick Varley. Later, AJ Casson, Edwin Holgate and LeMoine FitzGerald joined them.

Bright Land, 1938, Arthur Lismer, courtesy McMichael Collection

Although he died before the official formation of the group, Tom Thomson was a profound influence on them. Emily Carrwas never an official member as she lived in Vancouver, but she was influenced by them. Lawren Harris, in particular, was a support. “You are one of us,” he told her.

Shoreline, 1936, Emily Carr, courtesy McMichael Collection

Harris was one of the driving forces behind the Group of Seven, and the most able to articulate their mission. He was a very malleable painter. He went from impressionism to art nouveau realism to complete abstraction in a matter of two decades. His break with realism occurred in the early 1930s, after he visited and painted in the Arctic.

Harris believed in the arctic as a living force: “We are on the fringe of the great North and its living whiteness, its loneliness and replenishment, its resignations and release, tis call and answer, its cleansing rhythms. It seems that the top of the continent is a source of spiritual flow that will ever shed clarity into the growing race of America.”

First Snow, Algoma, 1919/1920, AY Jackson, courtesy McMichael Collection

The Group of Seven painted this ethos. In the solitary splendor of Canada, they found energy, possibility, and a national identity. That’s an idea that has become politicized in recent years. Indigenous people have argued that these areas were always inhabited. The depiction of emptiness was a de facto endorsement of the pernicious policy of terra nullius.

But for artists trained in Europe, many of whom saw duty in WWI, Canada was desolate. As AY Jackson wrote, “After painting in Europe where everything was mellowed by time and human associations, I found it a problem to paint a country in outward appearance pretty much as it had been when Champlain passed through its thousands of rock islands three hundred years before.”

Goat Range, Rocky Mountains, 1932, JEH MacDonald, courtesy McMichael Collection

I’ve painted through every Canadian province and Yukon Territory. (Nunavut and Northwest Territories remain on my bucket list.) To my American eyes, Canada is empty, and that’s its attraction. Canada is unique in having so much wilderness, untouched, in the modern world. That Great White North, which reaches down and embraces the country in an iron grip every winter, is wilderness’ fierce protector.

Everything the Group of Seven painted derives from that unique understanding of wilderness and its value. Maine artists work from the same wellspring of inspiration, so it’s no wonder that our paintings look similar to our Canadian neighbors’.

Soul ties

What makes one painter stand out in our mind when another doesn’t even create a ripple?

River at Belvidere, date unknown, Chauncey F. Ryder, courtesy Blue Heron Fine Art

I was contemplating the dormant branches of a birch tree when Eric Jacobsen suggested I look at the work of Chauncey Ryder. “Who?” I asked. Eric goggled.

“He’s the reason I became an artist,” he enthused. Once he showed me some images on his phone, I understood, but until that moment, Ryder had never pierced my consciousness.

Mín Herðubreið / My Herðubreið, 1938, Gísli Baldvin Björnsson, courtesy Icelandic Times

My pal Bruce McMillan writes frequently about Icelandic painters on his blog. Without him, I never would have been introduced to the austere abstraction of painters like Louisa Matthíasdóttir or Gísli Baldvin Björnsson. At first, I found them uncomfortably brutal. Recently I’m finding that their exceptionally cool mien speaks to me.

I myself have a long-standing passion for mid-century Canadian and British painters, many of whom are, frankly, quirky. I was thrilled to find the work of Alfred Wallis, a Cornish fisherman who didn’t pick up a brush until he was widowed, past the age of seventy (which ought to be an inspiration to us all). To call his work naïve is to underrate its sheer oddity.

The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach, c. 1932 by Alfred Wallis

Wallis was ‘discovered’ by mid-century British modernists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood in 1928. They brought his work to London; Nicholson even bought one of his paintings and presented it to MoMA. But Wallis never saw himself as anything but a retired St. Ives laborer who painted what he knew—“What I do mosley is what use To Bee out of my memory what we might never see again,” he wrote. It was unnecessary for him to laboriously unlearn the artistic conventions of his time; he’d never learned them in the first place.

I have a deep affection for Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, but I never saw their work until I was an adult. And yet I grew up a few blocks from the Canadian border, right across the Niagara River from Group of Seven country. Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Museum has a very fine Abstract-Expressionist collection because its leading light, Seymour Knox II, was crazy for modernism. His tastes were firmly fixed by New York, so the museum owns nothing of Thomson and his peers. They were too figurative for Mr. Knox’ taste.

Evening, (field sketch) 1913. Tom Thomson, courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

What makes one painter stand out in our mind when another doesn’t even create a ripple? In the past, it might have been a question of what we could see. Outside the major cities we had limited access to the panoply of art being made out there. But that’s not true today. We can all see new art, almost in real time, via social media and online museum shows.

Part of this, I’m sure, comes down to maturity. I probably wasn’t ready to see the quiet beauty of Chauncey Ryder when I was 14 and being dazzled by Clyfford Still. Part of it comes from looking at lots of art. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know, and the less I’m inclined to quick judgments. But there’s something else there, too, and that’s the response of the soul, which is—simply—ineffable.

Monday Morning Art School: continuing education

We learn from studying our peers and the painters who’ve gone before us.
Victoria Street, oil on linen, 16×20, by Carol L. Douglas
Bruce McMillan emailed me last week. “Just in case you feel you’re painting a lot, in 1911, from early August to late September on Monhegan, Robert Henri painted 300 paintings, most of them on 12×15 wooden boards, his last major foray into marine art.”
I churned out fifteen largish canvases in thirteen days during my Parrsboro residency and wondered if I was sacrificing quality for quantity. But I’m familiar with Henri’s marine paintings; they’re simple, monumental and brilliant. Bruce’s reassurance came at exactly the right time.
Once we’re done with art classes, we learn mostly from observing other artists. When we see something that we admire, we want to incorporate the essence of that idea into our work. It’s not stealing; it’s how all art develops.
Miss Margaret, oil on canvasboard, 8×10, by Carol L. Douglas. Maggie was my roommate for two weeks.
Alison Hill is a painter I’ve known since before I moved to Maine. We were set up next to each other at Cape Elizabeth Paint for Preservation last month, so I had time to study her brushwork. She lays it down once and leaves it.
A writer told me recently, “you can rewrite that ending eight times and it won’t necessarily be better; you’ll just have eight different endings.” At least with the written word, they’re separate. In alla prima painting, those previous iterations lie there in the murk and muddy up the top layers.
I’d never heard of Tom Forrestall before this current trip. He’s sometimes called the Canadian Andrew Wyeth because of the precision of his egg tempera technique. But beneath that is a light, quirky vision. It’s magical realism unencumbered with social commentary. Can this kind of ruthless observation be learned? I won’t know until I try.
Clearing to the west, oil on canvas, 12×16, by Carol L. Douglas
Tara Will is a pastel painter from Maryland. She has never met a compositional rule she’s not willing to bend, break or pummel into submission. I look at everything she posts because her paintings are always colorful, light, and energetic. She keeps pastel lean and fresh.  
Marc Granboisis a plein air painter from Quebec. His snow and ice are tremendous, but his skies are what I’m interested in these days. He can pull moody, brooding, and dramatic out of a leaden northern sky. There’s tremendous energy in his linework and patterning.
Every artist needs to know art history to understand where he or she fits into the great saga of art. A number of Nova Scotians commented that my painting style looked very Tom Thomson or Group of Seven. That’s partially because they’re familiar to Canadians, but it’s also because I have studied them for many years.
Recent landslide (Cape Sharp), oil on linen, 18×24, by Carol L. Douglas. This painting is the only one that’s going to get a studio revision–in this case, a crop, I think. I removed something at the last minute and it unbalanced the composition. 
More recently, I’ve been thinking about the Scottish Colourists, particularly Francis Cadell. Both the Canadians and Scottish groups are post-impressionist, but they’re as interested in a sense of place as they are in formal order and structure.
Most of the painters I’ve mentioned are not superstars; they’re my fellows in the trenches. Who do you admire right now? What can you learn from their painting?

Your list will be different from mine, but thinking about what you like in your peers’ work gives you an idea of what you might want to change in your own. It’s a moving target. In a year, we’ll be talking about entirely different artists.

How long did Van Gogh take to complete a painting?

The modern plein air movement is only about 30 years old. How is it changing art?
Not nearly finished…36X24.

I worked on one painting all day yesterday, carefully, methodically and in a focused manner. The Adirondacks are in an unstable weather phase, so I was forced off my dock three times by electrical storms. Still, I spent a solid six hours on this one painting. I expect it will take that much again to finish—if I get that time without another storm.

This is a new approach for me. I’m working bigger, slower, and more deliberately. Rushing to make many small works sometimes like writing postcards. The difference makes me wonder how plein air events shape the way we work.
Rocky, for Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, took me 2.5 days to finish.
It’s easy to forget how new modern plein air culture is. In 1985, painter Denise Burns formed Plein-Air Painters of America (PAPA). The next year, her group started an annual exhibition on Santa Catalina Island. The discipline has exploded in popularity with both artists and collectors. Plein air painting is accessible and comprehensible. The Art Establishment may look down on it, but the typical punter loves it.
Today there are hundreds of these events nationwide. There are also nomads whose profession is to participate in them. But these events are very different from getting together with your pals at the town park. For example, I never would have forced my work through a line of storm squalls if I were at home. I could return when the light matched my start, rather than struggling to finish in sub-optimal conditions. In fact, I could work an hour a day for a week on one painting, if I wanted to. None of these options are available for the event painter. We must work fast.
Towering Elms, for Castine Plein Air, only took me half a day.
Festival deadlines give rise to a fast landscape style as inexorably as the Internet has given rise to the 500-word blog post. 
According to the Van Gogh Museum, Vincent Van Gogh “put a great deal of preparation into The Potato Eaters, his first large figure study, working on dozens of preparatory studies. The final painting took ‘many days’ to complete, spread over a longer period of time. However, during the last two months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent completed a painting every day.”
Clearly, that kind of pace can drive you nuts.
Dry Wash, for Santa Fe Plein Air, took the better part of a day.
As a youth, John Constable was a dedicated rambler, sketching in the Suffolk and Essex countryside. These scenes, he said, “made me a painter, and I am grateful.” But this was a low-brow form of education for the time, and the art establishment suggested he not give up his day job. Constable always maintained a strict division between his loose field sketches and his finished paintings.
Paul Cézanne, of course, didn’t have a car to dump his gear into and go. Instead, he painted Mont Sainte-Victoire more than eighty times, from various vantage points. Most frequently, he worked from what is now known as the Terrain des Peintres. It was close to his studio. 
Tom Thomson was transformed into a landscape painter through his intimate relationship with Algonquin Park. His patron, Dr. James MacCallum, said that Thomson’s paintings “made me feel that the North had gripped Thomson as it had gripped me since I was eleven when I first sailed and paddled through its silent places.”
The modern plein airpainter doesn’t generally develop that deep relationship with a particular place. On the other hand, we are forced to paint very fast, and that often results in a different kind of energy and verve. And it’s always fresh. We, like our society, are constantly on the move. That’s making a new kind of art.

Algonquin mystery

"Algonquin Rocks," by Carol L. Douglas. I was  most interested in the flaming soft maples. Lakes? I've seen a few this trip.

“Algonquin Rocks,” by Carol L. Douglas. I was most interested in the flaming soft maples. Lakes? I’ve seen a few this trip.
One of the enduring mysteries of the art world is how Canada’s great artist, Tom Thomson, age 39 and an experienced guide and woodsman, died on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park.
A century after his death, the facts are limited. At noon on Sunday, July 8, 1917, Thomson left his cabin to fish. That afternoon, Martin Blecher and his sister Bessie saw Thomson’s canoe floating upside down as they motored on the lake. They did not stop to check it, saying they thought it was another canoe that had slipped its moorings.
On Tuesday, guide Mark Robinson was called in to search for the body. He and others checked portages and inlets for the following week.
Tom Thomson's guide license. He was an experienced woodsman.

Tom Thomson’s guide license. He was an experienced woodsman.
The news of the missing artist spread rapidly. “Mr. Thomson is very well known here and everyone will hope that he will be found safe and well. The other alternative is not pleasant to consider but should it be found that he has been drowned, Canada will have lost one of her most accomplished landscape artists, and a thorough gentleman,” wrote the Owens Sound Sun.
Thomson’s body surfaced on Monday, July 16. Robinson and Dr. Goldwin Howland, of Toronto, examined it. They found a bruise on the left temple about four inches long, “Evidently caused by falling on a Rock otherwise no marks of Violence on Body,” wrote Robinson. The decomposing body was quickly buried at Canoe Lake.
One of the countless streams that form the roadways of Algonquin Provincial Park, a place that promises you backwoods peace and solitude.

One of the countless streams that form the roadways of Algonquin Provincial Park, a place that promises you backwoods peace and solitude.
On Tuesday, the coroner arrived from North Bay and assembled an inquest. “There is Considerable Adverse Comment regarding the taking of the Evidence among the Residents,” Robinson wrote in his diary. Almost immediately, Thomson’s family sent a steel coffin and requested that his body be exhumed and sent home to Leith, Ontario.
That is where the facts end. Even his final resting place in dispute, with one group of people saying the undertaker balked at exhuming his remains and sent an empty casket back instead. Thomson, they say, is buried at a secret spot near Canoe Lake.
Was it accidental drowning, as the coroner decided? Was it manslaughter, as Mark Robinson came to believe? Was it suicide?
Martin Blecher was 26 when he saw the overturned canoe. He was the son of German immigrants, a quarrelsome, alcoholic recluse who told people that he was a private detective employed by the William J. Burns International Detective Agency in Buffalo. Robinson, who listed local war deaths in his diary, believed Blecher was a German spy.
“I had heard that there was some ill feeling between Tom and some man in that region [Mowat]. It was somewhat casually referred to by someone at Canoe Lake possibly one of the Rangers, but as this was while we were still looking for Tom and I was still hopeful of his safe recovery, I didn’t at the time attach any serious importance to the report,” wrote Thomson’s brother George.
Was the man Blecher or someone else? Daphne Crombie, who was in Mowat that spring, remembered, “Tom and George…they’d had a party. They were all pretty good drinkers, Tom as well. Well, they went up and had this party. They were all tight and Tom asked Shannon Fraser for the money that he owed him because he had to go and get a new suit…Anyway, they had a fight and Shannon hit Tom, you see, knocked him down by the grate fire, and he had a mark on his forehead…Annie [Fraser] told me all this and also Dr. MacCallum. Tom was completely knocked out by this fight. Of course, Fraser was terrified because he thought he’d killed him. This is my conception, and I don’t know about other people’s. My conception is that he took Tom’s body and put it into a canoe and dropped it in the lake. That’s how he died.”
Why did Thomson need a new suit? According to Annie Fraser, he’d gotten local woman Winnie Trainor pregnant and had to marry her. After Thomson’s death, Trainor traveled to Philadelphia to stay with friends, and rumors persisted that she was pregnant. She never married and was protective of his reputation for the remainder of her life.
I started painting Lake Huron in the morning but was rained out. It was a windy whippy day; I'll finish this in the studio.

I started painting Lake Huron in the morning but was rained out. It was a windy, whippy day; I’ll finish this in the studio.
Years later, Robinson elaborated on his finding of the body: “His fishing line was wound several times around his left ankle and broken off.  There was no sign of the rod, his Provisions and kit bag were in the front end of the Canoe when found. The lake was not Rough.”
““You might interview Martin and Bessie Blecher but again be careful. They possibly know more about Tom’s sad end than any other person,” he added darkly.
Even in Algonquin, solitude and peace are an illusion.

Twice told tales

"Avalanche Country," oil on canvas by Carol L. Douglas.

“Avalanche Country,” oil on canvas by Carol L. Douglas.
Mary is flat on her back, ill with something I cannot figure out. I have a nasty cold; she has that and something else. I left her sleeping in a room at the Toad River Lodge and headed back to Muncho Lake to paint.
Northwest Canada and Alaska rivers and lakes are often strangely-colored—milk chocolate brown, ivory, or turquoise. This is caused by rock flour, which is a substance of fine-grained particles of rock ground off bedrock by glacial erosion. Because the silt is so fine, it ends up suspended in glacial meltwater, creating cloudy water sometimes called glacial milk.
These fellows came to visit me while I was painting. When they realized there was a human involved, they skedaddled. There was a foal with them, who stayed carefully behind. I'm ashamed to say I have no idea what species they are.

These fellows came to visit me while I was painting. When they realized there was a human involved, they skedaddled. There was a baby with them, who stayed carefully behind. I’m ashamed to say I have no idea what species they are.
Lake Louise in Alberta is the most famous of these rock flour lakes, but they occur anywhere there’s glaciation. West of Toad River there are great dumps of till that look for all the world like glacial moraines. We haven’t seen a true glacier in hundreds of miles, but there are permanent snow caps here.
Mary’s illness gave me the opportunity to paint rock-flour water. Muncho Lake is about 50 km west of Toad River community, so I backtracked there, first to paint the Toad River along an avalanche path, then to paint the lake itself in the afternoon sun.
"Muncho Lake," by Carol L. Douglas.

“Muncho Lake,” by Carol L. Douglas.
The Toad was named for the enormous toads found there by Hudson’s Bay Company explorers.  “I have seen some which weighed upwards of a pound, and the Indians inform me there are some to be seen of a much larger size,” wrote John McLeod in 1831.
It is so much easier to paint something commonplace than something unusual. Get the general shape of a teapot and your viewers will understand it to be a teapot. Hit the color of rock-flour water almost perfectly and it looks absurd.
The Toad River Valley is full of glacial till.

The Toad River Valley is full of glacial till.
I’ve thought a great deal about Tom ThomsonEmily Carr and the Group of Seven painters while on this trip. There is something fantastical about their paintings that the American viewer sees as romanticism, or, to put it bluntly, exaggeration for effect. In fact, it turns out to be literal truth-telling. Thomson’s famous Jack Pine may be stylized, but it’s also a tremendously accurate drawing, particularly of the squat black mountains in the background.
Can a viewer in the east understand that a western black spruce might rise like a stick in the air and sends out a bulb of branches at its tip, oddly reminiscent of a fiddlehead fern? Or that some wildfires kill, and other wildfires seem to simply prune, the trees sending out shoots from their blackened trunks?
One too many inquiries.

One too many inquiries.
If you see struggle in these two paintings, you’re looking at them correctly. The colors here are so otherworldly that I’m having trouble committing them to canvas.
I returned to Toad River in the early evening to find that Mary still hadn’t stirred. At this point, my husband took over as long-distance logistician. He has us moving in slow stages over the next few days so that she can rest and recover—and above all, not camp. I’m alright with that, since the temperatures in Jasper and Banff National Parks are well below freezing at night. Even better, there is a clinic in Fort Nelson, and one at Dawson City. If she isn’t perkier today, she’s going to see a doctor.

Jack Pines and Kentucky Fried Chicken

Schoodic Point breakers by Lynne Vokatis

Schoodic Point breakers by Lynne Vokatis (finished).
A visitor mentioned that Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula seems much busier than it has in other years. I’d been thinking much the same thing. If so, that means the National Park Service’s investment in the Schoodic Woods campground has paid off handsomely.
My class was so gung-ho that they started 45 minutes early. Since I’m a morning person, that was fine with me, but I warned them they must get adequate rest. They wanted to finish paintings they’d started on Monday before we moved on. To that end, we returned to Schoodic Point.
Schoodic Institute provides bag lunches and snacks so we can stay out all day. At 11 AM we had fresh zucchini bread and grapes and moved to a far corner of the Point, where stunted Jack Pines break up the rock slopes.
A student asked me what a Jack Pine is. “Something Tom Thomson and theGroup of Seven painted,” I answered. I didn’t think it was a real species, just a term for a windblown boreal tree. Turns out I was wrong. Pinus banksiana is a tree of Canada that breaks out into a few boreal forests in the northernmost United States, including at Schoodic Point.
Lynne and her Jack Pines.

Lynne and her Jack Pines.
I think it’s helpful to know something about the rocks and trees one is painting. Schoodic is famous for basalt dikes running through older pink granite. Granite tends to fracture horizontally; basalt fractures vertically. Both fracture in cubes that then wear down with glacial slowness. Knowing this makes our drawings more accurate.
I gave Lynne a difficult assignment: to draw the Jack Pines using color in the place of value, like the Impressionists did. She was then to integrate local color into her work without doing any blending at all. The result was pure Tom Thomson.
Our new location among the pines was about as popular as Times Square. A stream of people continuously stopped to talk to my painters. I was debating what to do about that when my pal Renee Lammers stopped by with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for us. The party was on!
"Schoodic Point," by Corinne Avery.

“Schoodic Point,” by Corinne Avery (finished).
While Renee sold paintings and Sketch-n-Cans to the constant stream of visitors, my class painted, sketched and laughed. And then, at about 4:15, it was suddenly lights out for all of us. I tried to demo about color temperature and found myself hopelessly confused. My students felt the same way. We packed up and headed in for a rest before dinner.
Discussing drawing rocks with my students. (Photo courtesy of Susan Renee Lammers)

Discussing drawing rocks with my students. (Photo courtesy of Susan Renee Lammers)
One only gets a certain number of clear-headed work hours in a day. We like to believe we can push past that, and we can, for a limited time. But the quality and assurance of our work declines.
At six, we had a lobster feast in the cool, fresh air, and by 7:30, we were all tucked up in our rooms. All that fresh air, sunlight and exercise had taken its toll. We hope to catch the Perseid Meteor Shower later this week, so we can’t wear ourselves out now.

Taking chances, redux

I can’t decide whether to call it The heavens declare the glory of God or This Little Light of Mine. It’s a terrible photo, but it’s difficult to shoot a dark painting when it’s still wet and glossy.
Photographs exaggerate the chroma and contrast of the Northern Lights; they are more ephemeral in reality. They also move constantly. I wrote about the snaking patterns in Frederick Church’s Aurora Borealis here; there is something more real than reality in how he painted them.
It’s very difficult to photograph a dark painting when it’s wet; this is the best I can do for now. When I’ve finished the remaining paintings on my list, I’ll come back to it and consider whether it needs more light in the sky. For now, the answer is that I don’t know.
Northern Lights, Tom Thomson, 1916-17

Tom Thompson painted the northern lights in this sketch from life, from his aerie in Algonquin Park in Ontario. “The best I can do does not do the place much justice in the way of beauty,” Thomson wrote to his patron, Dr. J.M. MacCallum. In fact this painting captures the energy and motion of Aurora Borealis almost perfectly.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Two books I keep recommending that people buy, over and over…

Trouble is, I never remember their titles when I’m asked. 

The first is Kevin Macpherson’s Landscape Painting Inside & Out, which is a nice introduction to plein air painting by an extremely competent teacher and painter. If you like this book, you might also try his Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light &Color.
I was teaching in a small town in New Mexico when the dusty little square suddenly filled with painting students and their teacher, Kevin Macpherson. To me, that was the equivalent of a provincial singer suddenly confronted by Maria Callas, and I was quite unnerved. But he was extremely gracious.

The second book is The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson by David Silcox. If you want to understand the northern landscape, you must study the Group of Seven. However, painters from any region can benefit from studying how they paint into traps, see landscape mosaics, and use stylish design. And their ideology—the power of the Great White North—ain’t bad, either.
Daughter getting married in two days! Hanging on by a thread.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Seven Days of the Group of Seven—Tom Thomson (1877-1917)

I’m off to Maine and Rye! I’m leaving some of my favorite landscape paintings for you—works by Canada’s mighty Group of Seven painters. I love them because they combine the freshness of impressionism with a love for the northern landscape.
The Jack Pine, 1917, Tom Thomson
I’m well aware that Tom Thomson was never a Group of Seven painter—he died before the group was formed. But his was the artistic force that set them on their path.
As a graphic designer with Grip, Ltd, Thomson was in a position to influence a generation of artists. He himself was largely self-taught. His career as a painter was shockingly brief—he started painting seriously in 1912, and was dead five years later.  In that short time he produced hundreds of small field sketches.
The Drive, 1916, Tom Thomson
Many of Thomson’s major paintings began as field sketches before being expanded at his studio, an old utility shack with a wood-burning stove on the grounds of the Studio Building, an artist’s enclave in Rosedale, Toronto. Thomson sold few of these paintings in his lifetime.
Thomson disappeared during a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park on July 8, 1917. His body was discovered in Canoe Lake eight days later. Although the official cause was accidental drowning, there have been questions raised about his death ever since.
Join me in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!