We Need a Perch Around Here

Things have been pretty quiet in the studio, but I did hear the twin aspens on the right call over to Ms. Aspen to thank her for expediting the arrival of their “clothes.”  She acknowledged them with little more than a sniff.  I thought she could have been more pleasant.

In the distance below, some houses appeared on the coastline of Norris Point.  Don’t some folks have an idyllic place to live?

I was working on the lichen-crusted trunk of the largest tree, when it spoke up.  I nearly dropped my brush!

“If you don’t mind me saying so, we need a perch around here.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“We need a perch around here, I say.  Why don’t you flatten the top of that big rock so folks can sit a spell and enjoy the view?  It would do them a world of good.”

“That’s a capital idea!  I’ll get right on that next week.”

“And another thing, where is all the ‘tracery’ you talked about earlier?  Anybody knows that a significant tree like me casts shadows.”

“Hold on, buddy.  I can’t do everything at once.”

“And what’s all this talk I heard you and Mr. McDonald doing today?  You were saying something about putting me on e-Bay?  Now, don’t get any ideas in your head of yanking me out like you did Ms. Aspen.  I like it here by this bay . . . the Norris Point bay.”

“Not to worry, Ms. Guardian of the Path.  You’re in just the right spot!  But thanks for your idea of the perch.”


Get a Move on, Do!

Have you ever wished you could move a full-grown tree to a better spot in some particular setting?  Well, I just did!

With my own bare hands, I dragged the aspen tree at least 25’ straight ahead and planted it!  Yes, Sir, that’s a fact!  Ms. Aspen put up quite a fuss when she found out what I was planning to do, but when I told her she would be closer to her kin across the path, she waved a branch, which I took to mean, “Well, if you must.

As I started the excavation work, Ms. Aspen implored:  “Now, don’t be clumsy.  I’ve just donned my spring frock, as you very well know, and I intend to look my best the whole season long.  None of this modern ripped-out-at-the-knee style for me, or broken off twigs like some shaggy hair cuts I see.  I won’t have it, I tell you.”

I assured her that I would be as careful with her as I was with my very first dollie.  That seemed to settle her down.

After placing Ms. Aspen in her new location, and tamping the earth firmly around her, I gave her a refreshing drink of water.  She felt more like herself, and smoothed out her petticoats before she squinted at her cousins  across the path.

“Oh, no!” she gasped.  “My cousins look worse than manikins in a store front! Get a move on, do!  Quick!  Put some “clothes” on them before somebody comes down this path.  I don’t see why you dawdled around painting that rock and the spruce trees.  How on earth could you be so thoughtless?”


Not Such a Bad Old Soul

Ms. Aspen wasn’t such a bad old soul, you know.  There aren’t enough of her kind who will risk offending you by telling you the truth.

Why, after her brusque speeches, I even got to liking the old spinster a bit.

Feb.11-13-1024See the outline of tree trunks on the right side of the painting?  You’ve guessed it!  There will be more of her worthy clan—-aspens—-by the next time you check out this blog.

Folks Ought To See It!

The old spinster, Ms. Aspen Tree, shoved what would have been the middle pine tree right off the canvas!

Swipe.  Dab-dab.  Dab-dab.  It’s gone, just like that!  Oh my.  When Ms. Aspen comes along, tapping that old cane of hers, you don’t argue.  No, Sir.

But she wasn’t through with me yet.

“These hills have more than pine trees on them,” she croaked.  “It’s only fittin’ that I should represent the worthy aspens of Gros Morne, even if I am bow-legged.”

“All right.  All right,” I said.  “You’ve got a point.”

“You bet I’ve got a point,” she continued.  “Why don’t you leave the boat ride for another day?  Can’t you see that folks are all loaded down with their fancy cameras? There’s no prettier place around these parts than at Norris Point.  Folks ought to see it!  They really should!

Feb.2-13-1024She squinted her eyes, looked me up and down, with one hand on her hip, and asked, “Now, tell me.  How come you didn’t think of that, Mrs. McDonald?”

You’ve No Idea

The two pines on the left had to be reminded that they won’t be left too long looking like dead trees.  Once their branches are dry, they will get their scented tufts back.  Always proud of their lofty appearance, they seemed to begrudge the time I was spending, giving the leaning pine its coiffure.  I could just feel it!  You’ve no idea what I have to contend with in this studio.

Have you ever tried consoling a couple of pine trees?  Let me tell you, it’s no easy matter.

The deciduous tree on the right is truly a very patient, selfless  species.  He tried to get the pines to look on the bright side.

Jan.26-13-cropped “Take heart, noble pines!” he called out.  “At least you have the warmth of the sun on your trunks.”

The pines were rude, and didn’t even acknowledge his kind words, but he paid no heed to them, as he had something more to say:

“I can’t wait to get my ‘hair’ done.  When my ‘wig’ is put on, it will make the loveliest tracery of shadows on the path.  Just you wait and see.”

Patience Is A Virtue

The pathway has been nattering away that it was sick and tired of going straight!  It was bored, and wanted to curve to the left . . . so I finally gave in.

At least the tabletop mountains in the background are content, as they’ve  been clothed in their greenery of aspen, tamarack and spruce.

Next week I’ll give the sticks, the “hope-to-be-trees,” their branches and leaves.  The old pine will have to be patient, and reign in its ego.  The wash is all it’s getting until its neighbours look a little more respectable.

Jan. 19-13-1024The mileage sign is yattering, too, but I’m not paying the least bit of attention.  If I’ve told it once I’ve told it a hundred times . . .it’s not going to be put in place until the area is treed.  By the time the tourists have hobbled this far, they’re probably pretty fagged out, but it’s not my fault.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this painting won’t be either.   They’ll just have to keep guessing how far it is to the boat, that’s all.

Scraggy pine, last to be washed in

The ancient sentinel on the right has moved a few times since the last blog. 

The height of what will be rocks in the left foreground, where the bake apples are blooming, has been shortened.  Such modifications are dictated as we eat lunch on the sofa, with the fledgling painting propped up across the room so I can study its composition.  

Once I get the scraggy top of the old pine washed in, then I’ll start adding other trees and shrubs on both sides of the path.

Watch for the wooden marker, telling how far along we are on this 3-kilometre trek to the boat.  We’ve got to keep trudging along! 

Bake Apples

In the foreground, I’m sketching the much loved BAKE APPLES that appear in spring along the byways of Newfoundland. Our B&B hostess served us her own deee-licious bake apple preserves!  Each plant bears one raspberry-like fruit, orange in colour.  It takes patience and a lot of bending over to pick enough fruit for a batch of jam.

A 45-minute walk along this path brings you to the boat which tours the spectacular Western Brook Pond fjords.  Or at least that’s the time set out in the travel brochures.  Lloyd put his back out handling our luggage the night before, so we were hobbling along at a snail’s pace, worrying that the boat would leave without us.

I’m looking forward to getting the oils out tomorrow, and doing an initial light wash to get the painting underway.

Come Along!

The new year opens with its fresh page of opportunity, perhaps many pages, perhaps 365!

In the studio, I’ll be taking you down a gravel path in Newfoundland.  Watch for the sketch!  It’s a 3-kilometre trek, so put on a good pair of walking shoes, and come along!

A Final Adieu

Today my husband and I bid adieu to the original oil-on-canvas painting of Big Ben.  He is on his way via FedEx to a collector’s home in the State of Delaware, where he will be joining the other three horses in this set.

Big Ben was to begin his journey earlier, but Superstorm Sandy called for a change of
plans.   You may check out his portrait on mcdonaldart.com.

           Statue of Big Ben by the Tay River in Perth, Ontario

Golden Reflections

Watch for the upcoming posting on mcdonaldart.com of my latest watercolour, Golden Reflections.

Yellow David Austin roses with fiery hearts surround a stone bird bath in our front garden—-some blossoms are reflected in the water!  I believe you, too, will feel that the painting has old-world charm!

The original is 24” x 18” and prints will be available in that size as well as 12” x 9”.

Colour the ABCs

Returning to Canada in 1984 after eleven years on Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands, I sketched drawings depicting the plants, animals, birds, trees, houses, and children, and had a colouring book published, with captions in the local language of Papiamentu, Dutch, and English.

When John and Joanna were on Bonaire this summer, they took some copies of the colouring book into a bookstore to see if they would be interested in selling them.  The owner was enthusiastic, and has given me a contract for the artwork.  He has undertaken to publish Colour the ABCs on the island, add Spanish as a fourth language, and market the books in the Dutch islands.

From John and Joanna’s photographs, I found a few corrections should be made—-an incorrect bottom fin on the queen angel fish, the iguana’s chin needed a waddle, and the thorn branch was misnamed.  I set to work to correct those pages.  John shared the artwork files on Google Drive (the cloud) with the bookstore owner.

Stay tuned for further developments!  I’ll let you know when Colour the ABCs will be available directly from the bookstore on Bonaire.

                                  Queen Angel Fish


Watch an Octopus Gliding along

“The ocean is calling,” wrote John as he dictated his latest underwater adventures.  I could hear the waves lapping the shore as he did so, and the occasional cry of the gull.

Expand your octopus sea smarts with John’s latest 2-minute video.

Can you spot the flounder in the sand?

The parrot fish sleeping in a bubble is the beautiful blue-green fish with some pinkish fins.  By the way, they chew the coral and produce sand!

– – – – – –

Back to our studio now.  “Golden Reflections” has been sketched.  Fragile petals in vibrant watercolours will soon be brushed into life, contrasted against the stone bird bath.

Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Our son, John, is donating his seven weeks of vacation to Trans World Radio Bonaire as a volunteer missionary, helping them with computer projects (July 30-Sept. 15).

 After three different flights, with a window seat falling into his lap on each leg of the journey, he arrived at nightfall (that’s 7:00 p.m. year-round there). 

Lloyd and I served with TWR Bonaire from 1973-1984.  Our three children were educated totally in the Dutch language, becoming bilingual.

As you will read from John’s first blog from the island, the TWR guest house he is being housed in is just a four-minute walk from a great resort catering to scuba divers (John is an avid one). 

How’s that for icing on the cake?        

Enjoy John’s informative blogs:  www.johna.ca

Heroes of Niagara – Part II

During the War of 1812, like other homemakers in the Queenston area of the Niagara Peninsula, Laura Secord was forced to billet some American soldiers.  Just prior to this unwelcome intrusion, during a lull in the battle of Queenston Heights, Laura searched the gruesome battlefield for her wounded husband.  With the help of some men, Laura managed to carry James home to nurse the wounds in his shoulder and knee.

Laura overheard a disturbing snippet of the American soldiers’ conversation through her window.  They were discussing plans of a surprise attack on the nearby British garrison at Beaver Dams (nearThorold).  Some of the Secords’ friends and neighbours were stationed at that garrison.  They would be in danger, and the last of the peninsula could fall to the Americans.  Laura determined to alert Lt. FitzGibbon of the imminent attack.

In the pre-dawn, Laura left her wounded husband and five children in the care of the eldest 13-year old.  She walked some 19 miles through swamps known to be infested by rattlesnakes, and which contained stretches of dangerous quicksand.  Time was of the essence.  She must reach FitzGibbon by nightfall.  The heat was oppressive.  Laura lost her shoes when crossing a fast-flowing creek, but pressed on with her mission in spite of cuts to her feet.  She came upon a Mohawk Indian encampment.  Putting up a brave front, she demanded of the chief that he lead her to Lieutenant James FitzGibbon who was stationed with the 49th Regiment at the stone Decou House.

Standing in wet, torn, blood-stained clothes, with scratched arms and legs and bleeding feet, Laura delivered her message to FitzGibbon.  All she would answered when questioned about her sources was that “they were reliable.”

Together with only 45 men and about 400 Mohawk and Odawa warriors, FitzGibbon outmanoeuvred the well-equipped and trained Americans, and took 462 of them prisoner.

                                              Mohawk Chief Teyoninhokarawen

By the way, there was no cow involved in Laura’s perilous journey!  The lady tour guide confided to us that when she applied for her current job as an interpreter, she also mentioned the cow that Laura took along on her journey.  Apparently historians added the cow to give the tale more colour!

Some years ago when our family was serving on Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles with Trans World Radio, a visiting doctor and his wife arranged for the staff to have a special evening.  We were all to dress in historical costumes.  There would be prizes.

Following the story-line learned in public school, I suggested that our family enact Laura Secord.  Our daughter, about 9, wore a big frilly bonnet and long dress, and led a “cow” composed of her two older brothers, John and Daniel, who had burlap sacks covering their bent-over backs.  I had made the cow’s head earlier for a nativity scene.  The staff was made up mostly of Americans, and no one could guess who these Canadians kids were portraying.  They thought it must be Mrs. Murphy whose cow knocked over a lantern that set off the Chicago fire!

– – – – – – –

During the tour of Laura Secord’s house in Queenston, we learned that when the Prince of Wales visited Canada several decades after the War of 1812 and saw a woman’s name on the list of Canadians to be honoured, he searched out the records.  Laura Secord’s service to the British Crown had been outstanding.  He acknowledged her heroism and sacrifice by a handsome monetary award.

As Lloyd and I sat on the porch of the Laura Secord Museum, the monument to Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock towered straight ahead in the distance.  In the trees, a wren rhapsodized about the blessings of the now peaceful Queenston, and suggested we join in thanksgiving for the brave soldiers who once fought on this soil for Canada. . . including a brave woman in bare feet.



Lichens and Toadstools

If our wall is not showing signs of decay, how did the lichens get such a toe-hold?  I’ll answer that question in a moment.

When I went out to water this morning, I noticed that our week of hot, humid weather had brought about some pop-up surprises!  Loner toadstools or tiny clumps of “fairy caps” were everywhere!  It took the humidity to bring the invisible spores to life . . . and overnight at that.

I’m not much of a toadstool.  I don’t thrive in heat and humidity.  I enlisted the help of two fans this week so that I could work in the studio without melting while sketching “Golden Reflections.”  Today I pruned a stem off one of the rose bushes to help draw the leaves.

To answer the question about the lichens, they are ceramic, and were purchased a few years ago at the Stratford Garden Show.  This spot by the back-door mailbox seemed just where they ‘belonged!’


Birthday blessings because of a very special rose!

After posting the last blog showing Sir Wilfrid Laurier Climbing Rose blooming by our back door, I received a most interesting email.

A lady in Ottawa had received one of these roses for her birthday back in 1999.  She moved it to another location in 2004, but it did not survive.  Since that time, she has been trying to obtain another one, checking with nurseries each spring, and finally with a rose authority.  He believes the rose originated in France, and that White Rose changed its name for a marketing stint.  (Renaming roses is a no-no.)  Incidentally, I purchased mine from the White Rose Nursery in Waterloo in 2000.

I was more than happy to take cuttings off of my bush for her.  She will be using root compound, and trying different methods to propagate them.

Each of the stem ends were wrapped in wet paper towel, and then the bunch of them wrapped again in more wet paper towel and secured with an elastic.  They were carefully encased in double plastic bags before inserting them into the shipping tube.

Precious cuttings are on their way to Canada Post, which promised that they would arrive in Ottawa the next day.

By the way, the tube full of Sir Wilfrid Laurier Climbing Rose cuttings will arrive the day before the lady’s 55th birthday!  If you would like to wish her a joyous birthday, email me, and I’ll forward your greetings to her.