Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Colours of November: Not Only Grey!

Thirty days hath November . . . and in a typical year, here in the rain forest, most of them are wet and dreary. As I explained earlier this year (Please see "Painting in a Wet Climate", Feb. 27) I've been collecting photographic images of November, and later painting from them, for several years now. I began doing this to stave off the seasonal depression which I associated with the weeks leading up to Christmas, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no shortage of colourful painting material to be discovered.
So here we are, in November again, and I'm at the planning stage of another painting on the theme "In Praise of November," based on a photo I took last year. It's an odd image, a "witch" crudely crafted from a child's hockey stick, a store-bought mask, and duct tape. Evidently this creation was thrown negligently aside once Halloween was over. I spotted her lying recumbent on a chafer-ravaged front lawn, grinning complacently at the sky.

Meanwhile I'm again taking photos of anything that strikes me, and have added to my collection some mouldering hosta leaves, a seagull sitting on an industrial chimney, and a litter of fallen crab-apples. This year it's not hard to find bright colours, as in this image of a heap of gunnera leaves photographed today in Queen Elizabeth Park. With a third of November already gone, we've yet to have a sharp frost, a gale or a serious downpour, and the trees have kept their leaves much longer than usual. Although the native trees tend to have yellow leaves rather than the brilliant reds of Eastern Canada, there are enough exotic ornamentals in Vancouver to provide an impressive range of hues.

A Long Wait - acrylic - 2009 - 18" x 24"
My first November painting is called "A Long Wait." I took the photo from the window of a waterfront restaurant on Vancouver Island. The old seaman isn't a real person, but a wood carving, one of a group of figures. I don't know anything about the sculptor--if you do, please pass on the information. Whatever the old man is waiting for--his ship to come in, perhaps?-- combined itself in my mind with the long wait for Christmas when decorations go up right after Halloween, or even sooner, and look tired and tawdry long before the actual holiday. To me, Christmas in November seems as hopeless as standing in the rain and looking out to sea.

Last of the Leaves - acrylic -  2009 - 20" x 20"

In spite of the stereotyped notion of November as rainy, the weather can actually vary from mild and benign, like today, through fog, hail and rain, to heavy, though usually short-lived, snow. Several of my November paintings feature trees or other vegetation in various types of weather.

November Snow - acrylic - 2009 - 20"  x 20"

After the Storm - acrylic - 2009 - 18" x 24"
What a difference a couple of days can make! After Thursday's sunshine a sudden change brought strong winds and heavy rain. The mountains disappeared into the mist, the trees were stripped of their leaves, and this afternoon I drove back from the suburbs in sleet! Such abrupt changes prompted "After the Storm" and "November Rainbow." The former was a view of the western sky as seen from the Oakridge parking lot at twilight; and the rainbow appeared in the east one stormy evening, splitting the sky into blue and pink, and casting such an unearthly light on the buildings as the base of the arc that the old tale about the crock of gold seemed entirely credible.
November Rainbow - acrylic - 2009 - 24" x 18"

Next  weekend I'll be taking part in the annual Eastside Culture Crawl for the seventh time. If you live in the Vancouver area I hope you will include our building, Portside Studios at 150 McLean Drive (northeast corner of Powell and McLean) on your itinerary. Here's a map, and you can check out the details at

Two November paintings that I will be showing at the Crawl this year are "Lakeside, November" and "Blizzard at Night." Please come and see the real thing!

Lakeshore, November - acrylic - 18" x 24" - 2010

Blizzard at Night - acrylic - 20" x 30" - 2010

Next blog post mid-December