Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hockey and the 50 Years of Our Flag Painting -Wrapping the Maple Leaf Flag in Canadian Sport

Just what does Canada’s National sport have to do with the 50 Years of Our Flag Painting? As of 1994 lacrosse was the summer national sport for Canada leaving hockey as the winter national past-time. Sport is a part of the fabric of Canada so it needs to find its way into the pigment as well. Let me explain how this happened …

First one needs some background information. The painting comprises 3456 square inches on the face and 480 square inches on the sides. This totals 3936 square inches of paint. For those who have fully converted to metric the area of the painting is 22,297 square cm and 3097 square cm on the sides thus totaling 25,394 square centimeters.

Starting in early December, I painted virtually every day. It is not work if you love what you are doing! Some days were shorter paint days and some where long if I was really in the “zone”. I finished on May 21st, 2013 – probably painting close to 1200 hours as a round estimate. This number approaches the number of hockey games played in a typical season. Exactly 1230 games of hockey are played during the regular hockey season. The time I spent painting on this 50 Years of Our Flag Painting is the same as the number of hours of regular season hockey – not counting overtime. Uncanny!

If we just count the number of twenty minute hockey periods that total is 3690 which is within the lucky number seven of the number of square inches painted (3936) – a coincidence? I think not!

Further, the area of the painting in square centimetres times “pi” (3.1415926) is exactly the number of minutes of hockey played each year including the regular season and playoffs. That number is 79,777.6 minutes for those of you without a calculator. You math whizzes will immediately realize that “pi” is the name given to the ratio of the circumference of a hockey puck to its diameter. The links of hockey to the 50 Years of Our Flag painting just never stop!

Finally the official regulation National Hockey League net measures four by six feet at the mouth. This is exactly the same size as the 50 Years of Our Flag Painting… he shoots, he scores…  Surely this can’t be just happenstance!

Time will be the true test whether the 50 Years of Our Flag painting was successful or not. The messages, colours and textures need to resonate with each viewer. If it does like I sincerely hope that it will, we have indeed wrapped the Maple Leaf Flag with Canada – sports, weather, science, art and humour…. Life is good!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two Paintings for the 50 Years of Our Flag Project

The following was just included as a featured letter in Robert Genn's very popular newsletter - "The Painter's Keys" Here is a link to that site

As a measure of insurance I completed two paintings in celebration of the 50 Years of Our Flag. My featured letter explains my rationale...

Insurance policy: siblings or twins
by Phil Chadwick, Brockville, ON, Canada

In 2012 I was commissioned to paint a 4x6 foot canvas celebrating the "50 Years of Our Flag." The Maple Leaf Flag was first raised on February 15th, 1965 and it was a huge achievement of fellow Brockvillian, John Ross Matheson among others. In fact I am working on this canvas with John who lives nearby my studio.

For me, a 4x6 foot canvas is a big deal! At least 3,456 square inches plus the wrap around. I wanted this art to be the very best of my career and I needed insurance. So why not paint two and promote the "best" as the official painting of the 50 Years of Our Flag Project? All winter and spring was spent painting obsessively on these two canvases. My wife thinks I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive/Creative Disorder). For once she is wrong.

My "darlings" were painted together inspired from the same plein air parents but they are not identical! I toyed with the weather and cloud formations but from a distance only a meteorologist would see the differences or care. I also adjusted the transitions from one subject to the next as I wrapped the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag with Canadian styled art. Just yesterday I noticed that the brush was starting to "dab" repeatedly. Being the person behind that brush, I decided that it was time to "step away from the easels." If I worked any more trying to make my offspring "perfect," I would likely hurt them. Sometimes you can save a painting with a single sweep or kill it with a thousand strokes. It is time to release them into the bigger world away from my studio.

My insurance policy that produced twins when only one was desired leads me to the dilemma as to what to do with them? I won't hide the fact that the official "best" painting has a sibling. They are destined to be separated at birth but the new adoptive parents have the right to know. Plato said that "there is no harm in repeating a good thing," but I feel it is wrong to hide the existence of any siblings.

There is a lot more to this story – much of it has been revealed on my blog . 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Windy Day

I looked at the radar and decided that even though the numerical weather forecasts blanketed the region in convection and precipitation, that I still had time to paint. I headed out to the front yard. It was very windy and I had to use a brick to hold down the easel.

The weather and clouds are always an inspiration. The line of thunderstorms approaching from the northwest would also be a good subject. This view is looking more northerly across the bay. An initial line of convection intensified as it crossed the lake but didn't drop any rain on my canvas. The wind kept the biting insects away. I used lots of paint!

The Canada geese and goslings watched me paint and only dove for cover when a hawk came by. A northern map turtle finished laying her eggs nearby so I protected them with a plastic grate. Painting outside surrounded by inspiration is always interesting.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stable Layer

This is another one of my weather observations. There is always something interesting to paint in the sky.

The sky was overcast with calm winds at the surface. Gravity waves in the altocumulus clouds indicated that there was a stable layer in the atmosphere. The winds at that level were certainly westerly. At the same time arcs of lower altocumulus clouds suggested a significant deformation and stretching process in the wind field. There were even a few spits of rain. Even though the skies were dark overcast overhead the clues were still suggesting that nothing much would come of it. There were patches of brightening skies on the western horizon indicating some thinning of the overcast layers. There were no thunderstorms in the offing so I went and got my easel and palette. By the time I was finished a couple of hours later it was a beautiful and sunny evening.

After painting I checked the radar and a band of strong thunderstorms had developed just east of Singleton. This pattern is typical due to the wave structure of the atmosphere. Other bands of thunderstorms would develop ahead of the troughs of these atmospheric short waves as they rippled along the warm front which stretched west to east across the region. Although it was a clear evening when I finished the painting at least a couple more lines of thunderstorms would cross the lake overnight. The stable layer that I painted was the result of the "calming" of the atmosphere after the passage of a trough and ahead of the arrival of a short-wave ridge. This might sound complicated but it is really quite simple - trust me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Isaiah Tubb's Neighbour

I wanted to illustrate to the participants of the Wilson Street Studio Art Retreat in Prince Edward County that inspiration was everywhere and that you didn't need fancy equipment or exotic locals. Plein air inspiration surrounded us everywhere we went. Bold and sometimes crude strokes are all it takes to catch the fleeting moment.

This is the view across the street from the fine accommodation of Isaiah Tubbs Resort just before we headed for supper. This old brick home was under renovation by a young couple who we got to know over the course of the weekend. The home was once part of the Isaiah Tubb estate.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

John Ross Matheson Way

 The “50 Years of Our Flag” Committee coordinated the Street Naming Ceremony on May 13th.  The street in front of the United Counties of Leeds-Grenville Courthouse is now officially “John Ross Matheson Way”.

This is in recognition of the outstanding contributions of Judge Matheson to the region and to Canada. This initiative is to raise awareness of the history and significance of the birth of the Canadian flag and to commemorate the individuals who were instrumental in its inception. This is a key initiative to recognize John Ross Matheson as the Father of the Canadian flag and the City of Brockville as its birthplace. The naming of “John Ross Matheson Way” is one of the legacy projects that will forever link the birth of the flag with the City of Brockville.
John told me that he had been nervous about the event but was very pleased at how smoothly it had flowed. He and his family felt quite honoured.
The weather may have been chilly with cold northwesterly winds and turbulent stratocumulus but the long ranger forecast was right. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Warm Frontal Rain

Warm frontal rain ... on the way. It rhymes. The early morning gravity waves (#1287) in the layer of moisture above the cold conveyor belt vanished in a matter of minutes. The low cloud departure revealed the approaching cirrostratus wisps riding the upper reaches of the warm conveyor belt approaching from the southwest. I reached for another canvas and this is what resulted. The cirrus wisps to the north appeared to pull toward the northeast. Simultaneously the cirrus wisps to the south pulled toward the southeast. The col or saddle point in the approaching deformation zone was clearly aligned to pass nearby Singleton. The deformation zone is a skin that is the leading edge of the warmer and more moist air originating from the Gulf of Mexico. The darker cloud lower on the horizon were the based of the altostratus cloud which would be followed by even darker nimbostratus and rain. The sky is never boring to record in pigment! It started to rain at 2:30 pm local time.

The sounds of spring kept me company. There were a few biting insects but nothing too bad to drive me inside. My Avian Air Force protected me - the tree swallows were buzzing my easel like they were on strafing runs. I think one flew between my legs but it happened so fast that I wasn't certain. I was busy painting.

Oils on light cobalt/ultramarine blue oil tinted foundation on commercial canvas. - 8 X 10 (inches)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Conveyor Waves

It was a chilly morning to paint. A cold easterly wind of dry air was being drawn into the low pressure centre approaching from the southwest. Meteorologists call this the cold conveyor belt inflow part of the storm. If this flow actually produces an easterly wind at the surface, one knows that the lift and probably the precipitation in the real atmosphere will be enhanced. The combination of the earth frame easterly winds and the motion of the low toward the east (earth-frame again) increase the atmosphere relative collision of air mass flows which produce enhanced vertical lift and thus precipitation.

These gravity waves were at the top of the planetary boundary layer adjacent to the earth. After a night of ground layer cooling the top of this layer was relatively warm and thus pretty stable. Any wind blowing within the boundary layer causes the stable layer to "wave" just like the surface of a lake. These gravity wave clouds are very interesting but with continued daytime heating they quickly disappeared just as I was painting the water surfaces. One of my plein air strategies is to paint the transient subject matter first and leave the content that isn't going to go anywhere until last.
A lone turkey vulture soared the skies while a wild turkey picked bugs in the lawn. The birds, bugs and bull frogs played the sounds of spring. The tree swallows were busy picking off bugs within my reach. A Canada goose sat on the marble point apparently oblivious to my presence.

It occurred to me that the best painters might not know where they are going until they get there and even then they aren't sure... who cares? History will decide if of course history cares...

I actively tried to keep my colours clean with minimal secondary strokes. The joys of plein air painting include picking subjects that interest only you and recording them solely for yourself. The weather does control the plein air painter and I needed to get this completed before the rain heralded by the cold conveyor belt arrived - no problem... it started to rain at 2:30 om local.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rock from the Dock

I needed to step away from the flag painting for a little bit... I was starting to dab and that is normally a sure sign that the painting is either completed or I am running out of ideas. It is dangerous to over-work a painting and the result of doing so is seldom good. I picked up my plein air kit and stopped on the dock looking out across Jim Day Rapids and toward my favourite slab of granite. It was 9:30 am and I finished before noon. The sun was really strong and I was starting to burn. The changing light and the strong May sun are both good reasons to concentrate on colour and structure and to forget the details.

Blue is the "Glue"

The blue colour that was selected to set off the flag and the all important lettering is the “glue” that holds the 50 Years of Our Flag Painting together. Blue is not one of the official colours of Canada.  The red and white used on the maple leaf flag were given to Canada in 1921 by King George V as the official colours. This shade of blue is most attractive with Canada’s colours but more importantly it allowed me to seamlessly flow the lettering background into the skies, the water, the snow and even the rocks of the supporting Canadian scenes that make up the fabric of our culture and heritage. It is a unifying colour and the selection of this pigment was certainly not by chance. Note that it is not the same blue as used in Pearson’s Pennant… but that is another story.
A good friend and great artist Aleta Karstad was viewing the final draft of the painting (shown) as approved by John Ross Matheson and Bob Harper and made the following observation: “I think the edge of the pale blue background to the lettering is too abrupt. It makes a rectangle right in the middle of the painting.” Aleta offered some other excellent suggestions as well.
I couldn’t have agreed more with Aleta and in turning the draft into the final painting I have been grappling with these artistic issues on a daily basis. We had come to the same artistic destination separately. It is reassuring that other artists feel the same way as I did when I first started applying pigment to canvas six months ago. As I continue to paint and approach the completion of the artwork I also continue to improve on these solutions – thanks Aleta!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


50 Years of Our Flag has been granted the permission to reproduce Chapter V, "A CANADIAN FLAG FOR CANADA" as part of the educational portion of the project. Alistair B. Fraser completed “The Flags of Canada” in 1998 and guess who wrote the Foreword – John Ross Matheson. “The Flags of Canada” is a great read. 

If one just “surfs the wave” you often miss what lies underneath. The 50 Years of Our Flag has given the committee members the opportunity to discover the interconnections that may be under the surface but give the project a deeper meaning and mission.

“Under the surface of the 50 Years of Our Flag you will find many more connections that interweave to strengthen the fabric of our project and goals as we work toward February 15th, 2015. The stories of Ontario Judge Austin Chadwick and his nephew Edward M. Chadwick fuse with all of the others that merged their talents to achieve the Canadian Flag in 1965. A phrase from John Ross Matheson’s Foreword to “The Flags of Canada” sums it up:

“For a variety of compelling reasons the mid-sixties was a time when it was imperative to put Canada's symbolic house in order. Could such be achieved in harmony with the past, without disturbance to any part of the Canadian heritage? It has been opined that the mark of a good action is that it withstand the demanding test of history and appear inevitable in retrospect.”

Looking back almost 50 years later it would appear inevitable that the Canadian Flag evolved as it did. Just before Christmas 1964 the future was not nearly so clear!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prince Edward County Art Retreat, Thursday May 16 to Sunday May 19

I am told by Keith Thirgood of the Wilson Street Studio that there are still spots available in the “3 days in Prince Edward County with Phil Chadwick:  May 16 to 19, 2013”.  This is from the Wilson Street Studio website:
“Your experience begins Thursday after dinner with an orientation session where Phil becomes familiar with your goals and aspirations.
Friday at 9 am we head straight to the first location where you get down to painting right away, taking advantage of the morning light. At noon, a demo by Phil; then we carry on painting till the end of the afternoon. Phil is there for you all day as mentor and coach while you capture the fantastic scenery of Prince Edward County.
Depending upon the weather, and group consensus, we can concentrate on landscape or include a trip to one of the local villages to paint their historic sights, the choice is yours.
Saturday we begin the day with painting a new location in the morning, a demo at noon, followed by more individual painting with Phil mentoring you every step of the way. Sunday we start again at 9 and paint until lunch where Phil gives us a final demo. Some of us stick around for a few hours more, while others head home.”
If you like the sounds of this… come on down and have some fun!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Southampton Art School –The Group of Seven, Killarney ... and Me

I am very proud to be affiliated with the Southampton Art School. I was the first “Artist in Residence” in 2006 and I made a lot of friends in the community. Jane Champagne was one of those friends and we painted together a lot. I have three courses planned for 2013. One of those is Killarney: the Annual Adventure which provided the plein air paintings that in turn appear in the 50 Years of Our Flag Project. The Killarney Adventure is October 7 through 11, 2013… Let’s paint and have some fun!
This link takes you to the courses that I play in ...

Now for some history… “The Southampton Art School building was erected in 1888 by James Howe to house his amassed collection of books. It later became the Mechanics Institute in 1892 and then a Public Library in 1896. James Howe donated the building to the town in 1912 on the condition that it is used for cultural purposes only. It continued as a library until 1955 when the Etta Shields Library opened on High Street. This unique building became the Southampton Art School in 1957 when under the Directorship of Bert Henderson and an advisory board of such renowned artists as A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Alex Colville and Lawren P. Harris the original “Southampton Summer School of Fine Art” was formed.”

So the Southampton Art School and Group of Seven share a lot of history. The Group also share a lot of history with Killarney. A.Y. Jackson was instrumental in the creation of Killarney Provincial Park. Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer and A. J. Casson also painted in Killarney. Now it is an annual event for the Southampton Art School and Phil the Forecaster to paint in the park in early October. Life is very good!

A few of my Killarney plein air sketches appear in the “50 Years of Our Flag” Painting including the Killarney Light and the white quartzite ridges of La Cloche. The links between the Group of Seven, the Southampton Art School, Killarney and even me are some of the reasons for these sketches to appear in the tribute to the Canadian Maple Leaf flag. The other reasons include that John Ross Matheson, the Father of Our Flag wanted those paintings in the 50 Years of Our Flag Painting. Now if I can just get past the lettering :>)