The pileated woodpeckers had been turning the tree behind me into sawdust and scolded me as I drew, but after a few moments flew off to another location. The cedar stump was another experience entirely. I was nicely settled drawing this stump and the beautiful turquoise lichens (which reminded me of the dawn I had seen in August with the sky turquoise and the clouds orange- turn your head to the side and see if it doesn't work for you too) when a squirrel arrived chattering and scolding. Then the flickers arrived creating a racket in the trees above me. It reminded me of a time near Canmore Alberta when as squirrel threw cones at me to get me to leave. This squirrel did not do that, however, he/she was certainly determined to distract me. Calm assurances that I would leave soon did nothing to slow the scold. Then when I did leave and was walking out of the woods I disturbed the raven pair lunching on termites and was resoundingly scolded again. Seems they had had enough of human interference for the day. And in some ways I was flattered by the attention. Usually they just ignore me.
I have spent some time this summer revisiting my drawings and sketches from past travels to wild spaces. Above is a painting that was begun in 2009 and finished this summer. It is full sheet watercolour started at Ivvavik National Park during an Artist in the Park experience with Parks Canada. I had concentrated on capturing the colours of the frost shattered rock on the near mountain because I didn't trust my memory to believe in the beauty and intensity of the colour.
This summer has seen me stay in Victoria. I have spent time exploring what is really important for me and how I want to contribute to community as I rested to heal from wrist surgery once again. The initial surgery happened after an accident at the start of a busy teaching season and this time the surgery was in the middle of the summer, traditionally my time to get outside to draw and to complete large canvas works studio. This year I took the time to heal, and rest and sleep and contemplate, reassess goals and also to rediscover a richness that was hidden in drawers full of unfinished paintings and sketchbooks full of undeveloped drawings. Without my wrist surgery making hiking uncomfortable I may not have taken the time to finish these until my dotage.
I finished this painting of Wildwood that was begun in 2008 when I was more involved with the efforts to preserve that beautiful working forest. It is also a full sheet watercolour painting. The young firs precariously growing in the darkness beneath cedar on a fallen tree. Chances of them surviving to rival the others in the painting are slim, but something about their determination and fragility, make their efforts admirable and eminently worthwhile.
I have been re-reading some books by John Berger as well. I love his prose. His words make me think deeply about the purpose of art and why I feel the strong need to communicate with art. Not a new impulse for artists, or for me. He suggests it has been an impulse that has existed since humans first breathed air, and long before language.
"Art, it would seem, is born like a foal who can walk straight away. The talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together." (from 'here is where we meet' 2005, page 135)
I like the thought of need and talent (though I'd rather call it impulse) arriving together.