Sailing in waters around the Caribbean islands to Alaskan passages, we have had much joy. Around the United Kingdom and skirting the shores of South America on our way to Africa and on to Europe, we have seen sights that have amazed and delighted. Passing through the Panama Canal and cruising the Baltic Sea, we have been taken to “fair enchanted lands”.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in a converted barn, Alison, a five year old with a Dutch-cut hair style, explained about her dog named Pig. The black lab lounged next to her chewing on a stone. “He doesn’t have any pockets, you see, so he must keep his stone in his mouth.”
This painting is a montage of views from Welford-on-Avon in the heart of England’s Shakespeare Country. Welford is a small community three streets deep and two blocks long. This pretty, quiet, Warwickshire village is only five miles downstream from the bustle of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Although we had visited the Republic of Ireland several times, this was our first experience in Northern Ireland. Since our cruise stop was to be brief, we had to choose very carefully how we were to spend our precious half-day. I had the feeling that wherever we went, I would find something to paint so the decision was made by my bride to visit a National Trust garden just 45 minutes outside of Belfast.
We drove our car from the narrow pea-gravel road out onto a knoll bordered on three sides by granite boulders. Marilyn and I set up our easels and with our car doors open, we could listen to Irish radio. We were not in Ireland; however, we were painting on the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point in Scotland. Only 20 miles across the Irish Sea, Northern Ireland crouched blue-gray and out of focus.
When we arrived in our room at the Miller Howe Hotel on Lake Windermere, we were somewhat prepared for the dramatic approach that that Hotelkeeper, John Tovey, practiced. A retired actor, he brought a theatrical presentation that few hotels can match to that luxury English hotel with its panoramic views.
I suppose that a psychiatrist would be able to tell many things about me by viewing a gallery of my paintings. What would he say when he discovered that over the years I have painted many pieces that focus on doors or doorways? Might there be a desperate meaning to the fact that almost always in my paintings the doors are closed? In fact, I can only recall one work, a view into a walled garden, where the door is ajar.
“Much can be made of a Scot if he be found young enough.” This sign hangs in a friend’s home. People who have come from a difficult situation like the Scots exhibit a sense of determination and a great bit of humour. The countryside of Scotland is beautiful to view, but unyielding ground upon which to live. The Western Isles lie like rocky crumbs along the coast of Scotland where the weather often is rainy and foggy. Most of Scotland is really not arable, but rather home to grazing flocks of sheep. The vast vacant fields are picturesque, but not agriculturally productive.
I recently had the enjoyment of presenting my work at the Garden Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Not only did I have a display of garden paintings, but also for those four days I demonstrated my painting techniques that I had developed in shopping malls years ago. I used photographs that I had taken in England of the Cotswold area as the basis to compose the painting that is shown here.
In Tom Brokaw’s book, A Long Way from Home, a reference to the grave marker at Wounded Knee, South Dakota made me think of cemeteries that I have visited. The six-foot high stone at Wounded Knee where the last holdouts of the Dakota nation were massacred displays the names of some prominent Indians. Chief Big Foot, High Hawk, Black Coyote and Young Afraid of Bear are the expected mentions, but there is also a single chilling inscription “Many innocent women and children who knew no wrong died here.”