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Tim Hortons Holds Canada Together

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I drove from Calgary, Alberta to Knowlton, Quebec. It’s a long way geographically as well as culturally. One province feels completely isolated and hard done by and the other is Quebec, but I digress. The journey presents an opportunity to empty one’s mind but maintain enough focus so as to keep the wheels between the lines. For the record, it’s a drive we’ve done before and one that I don’t mind doing ­– just not too often.

We currently have houses in both places but hopefully not for much longer. Prior to leaving on our journey we had a few weeks of intensive fix-up and clean-up to do. Our Calgary house is for sale and our intention is to be in Knowlton full time. Fingers crossed.

The SUV was packed tight and deep with all manner of stuff. I had a bunch of new paintings that were mostly unframed and a couple of boxes containing 4 new silkscreen print editions. There was also a circular saw and various other tools intended for various projects in and around the Knowlton house. We also had clothes and shoes and a cooler and pots and pans and on and on and so forth. Lots and lots of stuff that took up the entire back of the car with the back seats folded down.

The silkscreen prints were done in advance of the 2020 Tour Des Arts. That event was also impetus for getting new paintings done. Of course, because of COVID 19 the tour has been cancelled for this year but something in me felt the need to proceed as though it is still happening. It was a case of bringing it all or sticking it into storage back in Calgary. Also, I hold hope that some us will still be able to put together some kind of show in lieu of the tour. We shall see.

Driving Cross Country During a Pandemic

Yes, we drove across a goodly portion of the country during a pandemic. While I realize this may not ingratiate us to many, I can assure everyone that precautions were taken seriously. During the rare times we left the car, we wore masks. Motels were not a problem and each seemed glad to see us. Rates were definitely lower than what is typical. CAA card also came in handy for discounts. Staff seemed to be very cautious of sanitation and cleanliness. Front desks were protected by plastic barriers, etc.

Tim Hortons We Salute You

I take this opportunity to give a special shout-out to this pre-eminent Canadian institution. Of the many franchises dotting the route, all but one location we stopped at had open bathroom facilities. Coffee, lunch, and bathroom breaks all happened at Tim Hortons. Timbits are also an excellent amuse bouche on a long drive. Tim Hortons holds this country together in good times and bad.

Loving and Leaving Alberta

This is the part of the trip that seems easiest. After the final check and packing is done you head off on the adventure with a sense of relief that you are finally on your way. Heading east of Calgary offers little in the way of anything to look at other than bald ass prairie. Occasionally, I would search the landscape for a suitable tree from which to hang myself were I to ever find myself domiciled in these parts. I never found one.

The Province That’s Easy to Draw

Saskatchewan is mostly, although not entirely, flat and an easy drive. It has a few gently rolling parts to occasionally relieve the monotony but requires little real effort in terms of driving. In fact, half asleep is not a bad way to do it. I’m pretty sure that I drove most of it with the little finger of my left hand while the car was set to cruise control. They call it ‘Land of the living skies’ by default. It’s a good part of the drive to let your thoughts wander where they may.

Manitoba

Brandon was our first stop and we took up in a Super8 just barely off the highway. Manitoba has terrible highway and road conditions. Bumpy, rutty, and generally terrible.

Ontariariario

The one thing I know for sure is that Ontario is very long indeed and the most taxing part to drive. The Trans-Canada, as it is called, is really a bunch of cobbled together secondary highways once you get into Northern Ontario. Highway 17, which you are on for a good part of the way is mostly two lanes with intermittent sections with passing lanes. These are helpful for sure and likely prevent a lot of accidents. The route tends to be very twisty-turny so the driving required in Northern Ontario is far more active than say Saskatchewan is. We budgeted and spent two days to get through Ontario in order to avoid driving at night. Best not to hit a moose.

There are some very beautiful parts of the drive through Ontario. The fact that we took two days allowed us to stop occasionally and breathe some of it in. Big stretches of Northern Ontario have very little in the way of services like gas and lodging, so you need a bit of a strategy.

We went into Thunder Bay to stay the first night. The city itself is a little off of the Trans-Canada but it is surprisingly beautiful and vey well-kept. We stayed in a funky hotel that had previously been the courthouse. Funnily enough there were 3 cars (out of a total of 10) in the parking lot that had Alberta plates. Apparently, we were not the only Albertans defying recommendations not to travel. In the morning we took the short trip down to the waterfront and recharged a little before resuming our big drive. From there, we were on to our next big stop in Sault-Ste-Marie.

By the ‘Soo’ we were starting to get a little crusty. By this point your mindset is bordering on a dream-state so you have to keep your wits. Ontario was not finished with us yet and we were determined to get this done and be in Knowlton by day’s end. We made a brief stop in Ottawa to have a socially-distanced visit with our daughter on the front steps of her place. Gas, coffee, Timbits, and off we headed to our final destination which at this stage was 2.5 hours away.

We did finally arrive in Knowlton late in the evening while it was still light enough for us to glimpse the yard-work and general clean-up that was in store. The general condition of the house and yard is much improved but by no means are we finished. I haven’t had the time or energy leftover to do any painting. It’s hot and humid here right now. Hopefully I can get to that point next week. Everything is a journey, right?

In closing I just want to say that I haven’t had a Timbit since getting here. However, there is a Tim Hortons within about 2 kilometers. It’s still too soon, but one day. You see, it really is the glue. – L/C

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Tour Des Arts – impressions & responses

For 10 days in July, I participated in a studio tour that happens in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The tour covers the general region including the town of Knowlton, where my wife and I have a place. It was the first time that my current painting style/incarnation had been seen by anyone outside of a few friends and family. Overall my paintings and silkscreen prints got more of a positive reaction than my ability to speak French. Admittedly, this is a very low bar.

This blog post isn’t really about the Tour Des Arts so much as it is about the responses that my previously (mostly unseen) work got from those that visited.

It’s fair to say that the majority of people who had seen photos of my work on TourDesArts.com or in the printed brochure were surprised to see that my medium was painting rather than wood-cut printing. I suppose that they were expecting the images to be smaller and on paper. Of course, this was true of the 5 silkscreen editions that I had on hand but most of the pieces were acrylic paintings on wood (acrylique sur bois). The sizes ranged from 2′ x 1′ to 4′ x 2′ and tended toward the latter.

It’s also fair to see why they were confused. The linework does have a similar graphic quality to wood-cut printing or engraving. I have many more layers than one would tend to have in block printing but those tend to be more visible up close and at full size. However, when seen in reproduction or at any kind of distance it has that same kind of binary quality that comes with printing one colour at a time.

I actually do paint with a single colour at a time across the whole surface of the painting. This has become my technique, or even formula, for painting. This formula, in large part, dictates what one could describe as my style. I am guessing that both ‘formula’ and ‘technique’ are both dirty words in the realm of art but it only makes me love them more. My nom de plume is LooseCanine after all.

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The majority of visitors also said that they saw a strong Native American influence in much of my work. Many also mentioned Australian Aboriginal influence. I can certainly see both, which is funny to me. I would never have thought of either as being something that I have looked at a lot or would ever try to emulate. Nonetheless, these things do present themselves, along with others, during the process of painting.

I am often working on something and well along when I see influences emerge. It could be anything from a stain-glass window to a Dr. Seuss illustration. I can tell you that is never intentional, at least not consciously. More often than not though, once I see an influence emerge I tend to just go with it.

In summary, I would say that having a few hundred people drop by for a quick look was very informative and provided some interesting insights into my work that I hadn’t necessarily thought much about. I’m planning on participating in the Tour Des Arts again next year but have a feeling that work done between now and then will open up some new worm cans.

That’s all for now. – L/C