ACROSS THE ROCKIES

The drive across the Rocky Mountains, from Banff to Vancouver, has to be one of the most spectacular drives on earth. With Lyla’s knowledge of all of the out of the way attractions and the leather lined comfort of a big BMW, it was fantastic experience.USA14515

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Vancouver is a beautiful city. It’s waterside parks looked pretty dramatic with the Fall colors and backdrop of surrounding mountains.

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Vancouver fish markets and harbour

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Camouflaged Hire car took us inconspicuously through the Northwoods of Wisconsin to Dillmans at Lac Du Flambeau.

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Dillmans Bay Resort

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ALBERTA SNOW

Right now in Canada trees should be turning brilliant colors, temperatures should be starting to fall and preparations for winter should be just around the corner. We arrived in brilliant sunshine, enjoyed that for a couple of days then woke up to a huge dump of out of season September snow. Overnight temperatures dropped to minus 10 degrees, roads were closed, power supplies were interrupted and tree limbs littered the streets – inconvenient for the local residents but an amazing site for us.

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Twisted foothills of the Rocky Mountains

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These guys are the double decker bus version of a domestic cow

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Wyeth like.

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Warm fire on a cold night at Lyla and John’s

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Small lake in the mountains above Banff

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Mountain Goats learning to eat rocks

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Driving through the snow covered prairies north of Calgary was a fantastic sight – soft, bleak and grey.

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Badlands

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Winter wood

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Kila

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PAINTING NEW YORK

The last couple of weeks I’ve been locked in the studio finishing work on a book to be released early next year.

I got started on a couple of urban landscapes based on parts of New York. Early one morning I walked down under Brooklyn bridge. There was a lot of road work going on and huge trailers were lined up along a side street. They appeared to be accommodation for road workers – like a gypsy camp under the bridge. Big sections of road were fenced off and there seemed to be uncoordinated  people and machinery everywhere. So much activity in a city that doesn’t seem to stop, and I’m just rubbing the sleep out of my eyes – that’s where this first painting comes from.

This painting is based on the chaotic textures, bars, buildings and patriotism of East Village. Both paintings are a mix of watercolor, collage, Gouache, Gesso, ink and charcoal, built up in layers like the graffiti that lines many of the city’s walls.

MOMA NEW YORK

One of the most amazing places in New York is the Museum of Modern Art. It houses an incredible collection of 20th century art, carefully selected and beautifully displayed. These are a few of my favorites.

This painting of Morocco by Henri Matisse is pared down to simple abstracted elements, perfectly balanced and unified by contrasting black marks. The color arrangement is simple and compressed and the repeating circular shapes carry the eye around the painting, echoing the confusion of, what appears to be, mid day Morocco. This confused movement is balanced and directed by the stripes and grids. Notice how the diagonal stripes in the top left lead the eye back into the painting, as does the grid at bottom center. I love the scattered, repeating yellows and the way he has tied the big slab of pink  to the rest of the painting by carrying it through to smaller marks to the left.

Another painting by Matisse, again the subject is reduced to simple abstract marks, beautifully arranged to lead your eye up to the focal point of fishbowl and lemon. Matisse has halted the strong upward movement created by the tapering diagonals with the two white horizontal marks behind the fish bowl. The eye then wanders out to other carefully placed fragments of  repeating warm colors before being drawn back to the focal point. The only curved lines in the painting are also arranged to hold interest around the focal point, circling it  like a cloud or thought bubble, and contrasting with the hard geometric shapes in the rest of the painting.

In this painting called “The Piano Lesson” Matisse depicts his son being watched over by his piano teacher as he practices in front of an open window. The scene is lit by candle light so Matisse has used a number of large grey shadow shapes to separate and intensify the muted colors. The color arrangement again is kept very simple – warm shapes concentrated at the bottom, being led down to by a stripe of pale warm orange. Matisse has placed this stripe of orange alongside it’s complimentary blue. By matching the tonal values of the parallel stripes, Matisse has created a strange shimmering effect that almost hurts to look at. As you follow these stripes down to the head of his son, the sharp dark wedge over one eye seems to confirm the strange optical effect.

The following four images are of small collage paintings by Kurt Schwitters. Beautiful arrangements of colored paper, cardboard and printed matter – they have an aged, weathered look about them but still seem fresh and vibrant.

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Robert Rauschenberg “Bed” At first glance this painting just looks like a heavily textured Abstract expressionist  painting, but after a few seconds the heavily painted support sneaks up and hits you. According to the accompanying notes the bed was Rauschenberg’s. You wonder what wild dreams he had beneath these covers.

BEND, OREGON

Tucked under the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains is the little town of Bend in central Oregon. First settled as a logging town in the late 1800’s, today Bend is one of the main mountain bike centers in the US and a headquarters for all kind of outdoor activity including fishing, kayaking, skiing, golf and rock climbing. We felt kind of  wimpy, arriving for the indoor pursuit of watercolor painting!

Mirror Pond – down town Bend

All along the Deschutes River and through much of the town are these beautiful old timber houses.

Evening, down town Bend.

We were lucky enough to arrive the week the “Bite of Bend” was being held. A big food, wine, beer and music festival taking over the main roads in down town Bend.

Stalls selling all kinds of food lined the streets. The numerous boutique brewerys had their wares for sale. Ten bucks bought you a ticket to sample spirits from dozens of distillers dotted throughout the area and the main stage had a non stop variety of awesome bands from all over the country.

Half an hour drive from bend is Smith Rock State Park – an impressive gorge of craggy rock cut through by a small meandering river. A great place for rock climbing, horse and mountain bike riding, walking or just relaxing under the juniper trees.

CANADA

After floating our way up through the Northwoods we crossed the boarder into Canada at Sault Ste Marie. A mighty bridge spans the locks that move ships from one great lake to another. A short queue, quick passport inspection and some questions about alcohol and firearms saw us welcomed into Canada.

Once across the boarder the highway was lined with warning signs about deer, moose and Amish rickshaws. We saw many Amish rickshaws, a few deer, but unfortunately, not a moose in site.

The Canadian roads were excellent and it didn’t take long for the big V8 to float its way to Sudbury where my brother Wayne and his wife Monique live.

Sudbury sailing club and lake ferry.

Science North is a big, snow flake shaped building housing an Imax theater and a number of science displays relating to the local area.

The park surrounding Ramsey lake, in the center of town, is the home to a large collection of native wildlife. These Canada geese share the waters edge with a resident beaver. There are squirrel’s, chipmunks and raccoons, but still no moose or bears.

One of the main tourist attractions in Sudbury is the Big Nickel. At 9 meters high, it is listed in the Guinness book of records as the worlds largest coin.

Sudbury’s Inco Superstack is the second tallest freestanding chimney in the world (380 meters)  being outstacked by a neat 10% by a chimney in Kazakhstan. Before construction of the superstack toxic gases from the mine had a devastating effect on the local environment – acid rain turning rocks black and killing off all vegitation. The superstack pumps the gas high into the atmosphere, where it can be detected for a 240km radius around Sudbury.

The Canadian government control all alcohol sales in the country. If you want to buy beer you go to the Beer Store – they don’t sell wine or spirits, just beer. If you want alcohol containing beverages other than beer you drive across town to another government owned store called the LCBO. There you can buy wine and spirits, but not beer?

Cigarette sales are also controlled by the government via heavy taxes. Through some loophole, the Indian reservations can sell cigarettes tax free. For a few bucks you can buy 250 generic cigarettes and add some more toxic fumes to the local atmosphere.

Monique took us for a drive to Onaping Falls north of Sudbury. A beautiful river cuts through weathered granite country, lined by forests of birch, maple and pines. It’s a spectacular site at the start of summer but during the fall the green forests turn brilliant red and yellow – it must be really something to see.

Wayne and Monique took us on a boat trip down French River, an hour south of Sudbury. It is a wild unspoilt waterway, dotted with islands and scattered cabins. Indian tribes have lived in the area for centuries and the first European contact was way back in the 1600’s, when the river became a major trade route for furs and timber.

French River Loon

This old fishing lodge was built on French River in the early 1940’s. The semicircular dining room has hardly changed since the day it was built.

French River is a beautiful, unspoiled part of the country. Our guide, Rene, had a real passion for the region, having lived there all his life. His detailed knowledge of the river’s history really made it a fascinating trip.