Fall Colors, Muskoka, Ontario A family tradition to rent a cottage in summer, all the extended family would visit and we would play penny poker in the evenings. – Acrylic on Canvas


Dimensions 30 × 40 in


I remember the Fall in Northern Ontario.  Suddenly summer was over, the temperature would go below freezing at night and the deciduous forest would be riot of colours.  The maples, scarlet and the silver birch bright yellow with the backdrop of the fir forest dark and mysterious in the background.    Time to get out the oil paint and brushes and like Van Gogh express your emotions with colours and textures.  The oil paint is thick whereas the acrylics, water based dry flat.    Your emotions pick up on the rythmes of nature swirling point counterpoint like music.  Or get out the palette knife to contrast to the brush work.

As in this picture there are rivers, lakes and streams everywhere left over from the glaciers 10,000 years ago.   I would be torn between painting and fishing but the brush usually won out over the fishing rod.   Before laptops were invented everything was plein air, outside directly from nature.  I had a backpack and a portable easel.  I would hike to the top of mountains to  paint the panorama or deep in the forest to capture light effects.  Nowadays people are afraid of the forest.  They think a cougar or bear is going to attack them.  In 60 years in the bush I have seen one cougar, many black bears and if you make a lot of noise they have an inherent fear of humans.

In this painting I did the underpainting in acrylic which driers smooth and flat and then added the thick gouey oil paint to give greater depth and texture.   As long as you work thick over thin the painting will not crack.  The final varnish is crucial as it stabilizes the pigments over time.

I had a friend who had Sybil Andrew oil paintings.  Being a wood block printer she didn’t bother to put the final varnish on the oil paintings which were very old and the paint was flacking off  the canvas.  I advised her to sell them at auction.  She got $6,500 each for 2 of them and one went for $37,000.  If Sibyl had varnished the pictures properly they would have fetched $150,000.  They were beautiful pictures and learned from her when you enclose space with line it pulls it foreward in the picture plane.  Being a printer this would be natural way to design the picture plane.  I had just returned from a trip to Paris with the students at North Island College.  We have visited all the great Parisian art museums, the Pompidou, Musee D’art Modern, Orangerie to see Monet’s Lily pond panorama and the old train station to see the Impressionist paintings in the natural light streaming in through the glass overhead.  It was all dazzling but I was equally inspired by Sybil’s oil paintings which are lost in someone’s private collection but probably been restored.

I go through cycles of painting and work mainly in acrylics as they dry overnight where as depending on the temperature and humidity and thickness oil paint can take months to dry.  That’s why I did most of my oil painting at my Arizona studio.  When property crashed in 2008 we bought cheap and cheerful as Barbara would say a  home in Johnson’s Ranch close to Apache Junction with a view of the Superstition Mountains, spectacular.   I could leave the heavily textured paintings  outside all night and they would dry quickly in the desert climate.   I’m starting to get the itch to paint in oils but I think I will wait until next summer when it is hot and dry on Vancouver Island.    I use a lot of paint so will have to search out a supplier who sells in large quantities.   I have all the tools and the canvas ready to go.