Saturday, August 31, 2013

Swimming Hole

I swam every day of the summer of 2013 in this Jim Day Rapids swimming hole. It may not look like much but it is 18 feet deep of the dock and the swimming is terrific. The sun fish nibble on your legs while in the current it is like one of those "endless pools swimming machines". Early in the season when the water was high the current was so strong that it easily overpowered me every time. The current is slack now and I can hold my own.
This little painting is dark because of the early morning shadows. I quite liked the play of light and reflections across the water and how you can look into the depths closer to your feet. It was a fun experiment.
The water is getting cooler now as the nights lengthen....

Friday, August 30, 2013


These little flowers are smaller than daisies. Like daisies they have a yellowish hub and white petals but these flowers have many more petals - probably 50 or more per flower. The bees were working adjacent plants but not this daisy like flower. They were identified from the painting by my friend, expert naturalist Fred Karstad.

The most widely used common name, fleabane derived from the belief that the dried plants repelled fleas. The name Erigeron is derived from the Greek (eri = early; geron = old man), a reference to the appearance of the white hairs of the fruit soon after flowering - just like me...

I had to finish this painting in the studio with my mahl stick. My hand was not steady enough to block in the darker background after painting the foreground flowers and foliage. It was also getting quite warm after the stratus lifted.

Life continues to be very good. What will I paint today?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Twin Maples

I wanted to try to capture something that wouldn't move. Clouds had occupied too many of my canvases recently and I wanted to slow down the pace just a bit. The majestic, old maples at the entry to the Singleton Studio had character. I liked the rough texture of the bark and the old scar on the one tree. Both trees had sustained some damage from the 1998 Ice Storm but most of those twisted branches were higher and outside the view of the painting. There were a few mosquitoes buzzing around but it was still a pleasant painting experience.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Singleton Supercell

A real life supercell imitated art just a few weeks ago. The similarities with Tom Thomson's painting "Dark Thunderhead" prompted me to paint this image - as if I needed an excuse anyway. This storm had already blown down some trees and hydro lines in Lyndhurst... and across our lane. I painted the entire supercell as it looked crossing the lane to the east ... from the safety of my Singleton Studio a few weeks later. It was really wet outside anyway with frequent thunderstorms so standing outside using a metal easel was not an option. I labelled the parts of the supercell on the painting so that this knowledge might save a life. These low precipitation, low topped supercell storms are indeed dangerous.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Southampton Beach - North

I wanted to demonstrate that the landscape could be modified to fit the canvas. As well I wanted to illustrate that almost any colour could work for a tint as long as it wasn’t white. Nature is perfect but it can be distorted to fit our canvas and to obey at least a few of the very flexible “laws” of composition. The northern beach area of Southampton was scrunched into the space allotted with the following results. It was another 37 minute effort as I bounced around offering support to my fellow painters. Another fun afternoon capped off by a swim in Lake Huron. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beach Lake Breeze Cumulus

Ahhh... some clouds finally developed and they were not to be squandered. These were cumulus clouds with some marginal towering cumuli that developed along the lake breeze front just inland from the shore line. They moved further inland as we painted. I explained the meteorology behind the clouds but I am not sure that the information was successfully delivered. When you paint plein air, the natural world does all of the science for you and we as artists just have to hone our observational skills. It was another 37 minute effort as I bounced around offering support to my fellow painters.

We finished the painting session with a swim in Lake Huron. It was a perfect end to a several days of some very fun painting. The water was also warmer than I remembered! Medium burnt sienna oil tinted 8x10

Michigan Convection

Finally we had some clouds. These were convective clouds that seemed to soar upward over Michigan. When the thermal moved over the cooler waters of Lake Huron they fizzled. The process of decay happened before our eyes in the matter of tens of minutes. I locked my sketch in at the very peak of cloud intensity. The one area of cloud actually looked like it could produce an anvil and then it all fell apart into cirrocumulus. By the time I was finished (37 minutes) the cloud area had almost dissolved into oblivion and was well to the northeast of Southampton. It was a good exercise in trying to catch a cloud – plus it was fun! Medium ultramarine blue oil tinted 8x10

Before the People

The early morning light is always the best. There were almost no people on the Southampton Beach so the gulls kept me company while I painted.  I wanted to get the colours right and had to revert to phthalo blue to do so. The literature says “Phthalo Blue: Warm blue first made for printmaking ink (cyan) to replace Prussian Blue in the 1920's. With clean, pure masstone and transparency, Phthalo Blue, like all modern colors, has high tinting strength.” Some artist call it a “stain” but I needed it today. There is always something to learn!

The ridge of high pressure was still dominating the weather but there was a hint of cloud on the western horizon emerging through the pollution contained within the marine inversion. Medium burnt sienna oil tinted 8x10

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mouth of the Saugeen

Another 37 minute experiment intermixed with offering assistance to my fellow participants in “Making Waves in Oil” This view is looking across the harbour mouth toward Chantry Island and the famous life saving light. The composition was a group consensus and we all had a go at it before the sun started to glare into one’s eyes. The sun was strong in the cloudless skies. I used more paint! Medium burnt sienna oil tinted 8x10

Shortening Shadows

These are the same two boats directly south of Scubby`s Bluff across the Saugeen River, Southampton Ontario painted at 8 am. I moved the scene a trifle to the east to catch the mid morning shadows. For me the best plein air light is first thing in the morning. I wanted to demonstrate in a demo to the participants of the Southampton Art Group that some success can be had by painting fast with confidence and not letting the analytical left side of your brain butt in and explain to you that you are doing everything wrong. Robert Genn calls in the `37 Club`. Finish the painting in 37 minutes or 37 strokes. I chose the 37 minutes although I think it was more like 29 which is also a prime number. The brush and oils were still flying. I was n ot listening much to the left side of my brain. Medium Burnt umber oil tinted 8x10

Fleeting Reflection

These are the two boats directly south of Scubby`s Bluff across the Saugeen River, Southampton Ontario. For me the best plein air light is first thing in the morning. I wanted to demonstrate to the participants of the Southampton Art Group that some success can be had by painting fast with confidence and not letting the analytical left side of your brain butt in and explain to you that you are doing everything wrong. Robert Genn calls it the `37 Club`. Finish the painting in 37 minutes or 37 strokes. I chose the 37 minutes although I think it was more like 29 which is also a prime number. The brush and oils were flying. The left side of my brain is saying at the moment `What were you thinking Phil? You didn’t cover all of the canvas! Are you stupid or just a lazy artist? Shape up and do it better next time...! The right side of the brain, which is always right, is patiently waiting to tell the left side to keep its opinion to itself.

Maybe my next canvas will be my new favourite. We can always hope. The title is rather puny because both the colours and reflections are fleeting in this subject. I prefer to see the humour in life!
Dark burnt sienna oil tinted 8x10

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chantry Shore

The afternoon sun directed us to paint looking northerly along the rocky shore of Chantry Island. Trees, rocks, flowers and birds were the landscape with the backdrop of American produced haze. Large particulates in the marine inversion dropped the visibility to maybe 6 miles and created a darker, mauve layer on the horizon. We were breathing that air but you couldn’t readily taste the difference – the change in air masses in very gradual. The trick was to get the colours, values and intangible feel of the special place without drawing every leaf. It was a wonderful day at a special place.

Chantry Imperial Tower

 Chantry Island lies just over a mile southwest of the mouth of the Saugeen River at Southampton. Over 50 known shipwrecks surround Chantry Island and its imperial tower. The waters surrounding the island are the most treacherous in the Great Lakes given the number of victims and tragic storms.

The local Marine Heritage Society offers lighthouse tours that include a restored lightkeeper’s home, where rubble has been cleared from the basement, the stone walls have been rebuilt, and a new roof has been installed. The island gardens have also been replanted; all told, over 25,000 volunteer hours have been invested in the site. In the tower, one hundred and fifteen narrow steps lead to the lamp room, seven sets of 15 and one set of 10. Only volunteers could have made Chantry happen!

Chantry Island is also home to over 10,000 pairs of mating birds, including cormorants, black-crowned night herons, great blue herons and egrets. Chantry Island is a Canadian Wildlife Service migratory bird sanctuary.

The rich history of the people and place hopefully got into the paint. The raucous calls of the birds filled the air. The vertical composition was challenging along with the bright sunshine. The only way to paint was boldly. It was a time that the participants will not soon forget. The sky was a blue bird sky so we introduced a deformation zone swath of cirrostratus signalling the storm of the century.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Southampton Breeze Cumuli

I was asked to do a cloud demonstration and this is it. There were not many clouds around in the centre of the ridge of high pressure. These cumulus clouds formed along the lake breeze convergence line and they moved further inland as the afternoon progressed. This view also kept my back to the sun which was almost overwhelming. Sun screen and a floppy hat can offer only so much protection when one is surrounded by reflective surfaces.

This was the final afternoon of the `Toast to Jane Champagne``. I truly think that my friend Jane would have been pleased. We were `all 4 art` during the past three days. We had an exceptional group of artists painting - it was a lot of fun. There was only a bit of dabbing and lots more bold strokes!

Front Range Light

The south shore of the mouth of the Saugeen River was another favourite painting place of my friend Jane Champagne. This location also is perfect for a plein air painter. It has views of the harbour, Chantry Light, the Range Light and the fishing fleet. It also has benches and bathrooms. Ideal!

Safe marine navigation was vital to avoid the rocks and shoals around Southampton. The Imperial Tower on Chantry Island warned ships of the surrounding dangers, while 4 smaller Range Lights guided mariners safely into the harbour. Built in 1903, the front and back range lights on the Saugeen River were lined up by sailors entering the harbour, helping to stay on course until the river channel.  The other two range lights guided mariners through the ‘gap’ in the Long Dock and into the Harbour of Refuge.

In the 1800s, the Front Range Light at the river’s mouth was simply a lantern attached to a mast, fastened to a crib about 50 from the outer deck of the pier. The square tapered wooden building, painted white with a red top came in 1903. At one time, the automated fog horn came on whenever fog rolled in from the Lake. Today, it is operated by boaters with a signal from their marine radios.

It is challenging to paint the range light in the correct dimensions. I have painted it too tall, too squat and too whatever. Jane pointed out to me one day as we talked about my improper drawing of the range light that few artists got it right. Even this attempt is not perfect but Jane would be happy that I tried. There are other imperfections but I won’t point them out.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Consensus Harbour

The afternoon sun was destined to cook us on Scubby`s Bluff so we retreated to the shade along the south shore of the mighty Saugeen River. As always I do a demo to get the creative juices and inspiration flowing. This time though the group decided on the composition! We all would start with the same basic composition and see what evolved. To build it I stood with my easel and fielded suggestions and sketched them on the canvas to see if they would work – or not. It was an interesting and fun approach and put me completely out of my comfort zone.

In the following hours I still mingled and offered suggestions but I spent enough time to develop the painting that the group suggested. They really liked the final result so I guess that I do as well. What a fun group to paint with. This approach will be tried again.

The deformation zone of cirrostratus coming at us was a compositional invention to keep and lead the viewer`s eye around the painting. There was indeed no super storm on the southwestern horizon. We would enjoy more fair weather for the last day of the `Toast to Jane Champagne``.

Saugeen Fleet

The high bluff overlooking the mouth of the Saugeen River was another favourite painting place of my friend Jane Champagne. In the morning the view has everything a plein air painter needs including the fleet of fishing boats parked on the south bank of the river. Scubby`s Bluff has benches as well and I made some extra cash by picking up beer cans just in case the art didn`t turn out.

Historically the mouth of the Saugeen River, surrounded by a fertile valley has been home to various nations since the ice sheets retreated. The Chippewas of Saugeen First Nations and their ancestors called it home. European influence first arrived with the Jesuit Fathers who established two missions in Bruce County. The Mission of St. Peter and St. Paul is believed to have been located near the mouth of the Saugeen River. After the Missionaries arrived, fur traders soon came into the area. During the excavation of the Victoria St. Bridge, a Cross of Lorraine was found, believed to be from 1773-1809. The cross has the stamp of Robert Cruikshank an Irish settler in Montreal who manufactured silver ornaments, which were distributed to the North West Company and to other traders. Pierre Pich established a trading post on the South side of the Saugeen River in 1818. In 1822, surveyor Henry Bayfield noted the presence of "Indian traders" at the mouth of the Saugeen River.

Artist Paul Kane visited the area in 1846. He wrote, The Indian village of Saugeen, meaning the mouth of the river contains about two hundred inhabitants (Ojibways). It is the site of a former battleground between the Ojibways as usually pronounced or Chippawas, and the Mohawks. Of this, the mounds erected over the slain afford abundant evidence in the protrusion of the bones through the surface of the ground. A few years after Kane's visit, town plans were laid out in 1851. Surveyor R. Lynn P.L.S., was instructed to strike a plot at the mouth of the Saugeen.

Jane and other artists have painted and the site for many years and I expect that trend to continue.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Positively Buoyant Beach People

This view is looking directly north toward the mouth of the Saugeen River. I had a request to demonstrate both clouds and people in painting. The only clouds that could be clearly seen were along the lake breeze convergence line to the north. There was no difficulty in finding people to paint.  Including people in my plein air paintings is way outside my comfort zone but we all need to face our demons. I was worried about the people part of the painting but it actually worked out just fine. The splashes of paint have personality. The "people" are composites of several individuals who came and went. Cumulus clouds are created by positively buoyant air parcels. The swimmers and beach people were undoubtedly happy. If you combine the two, which was the motivation for the painting in the first place, you get the title.
Note the 25x50 foot Canadian Flag on the 135 pole at Dominion Lookout. A group of Southampton citizens formed the "Friends of the Flag" committee in 1994 to commemorate the 135th anniversary of the founding of Southampton. Everyday people can make a big difference and it reminds me of the Brockville "Flag Committee". That is where I go every evening to watch the sun set.

Short Dock

The sandy beach to the north of the pile of rocks that are the remains of the “Short Dock” and it was one of the favourite painting places of my friend Jane Champagne. The site was close to her home, offered a great view of Chantry Light and of course had the public beach. What could be better? It seemed only appropriate that Day One of “A Toast to Jane Champagne” would be held on that patch of sand.

The history of the Short Dock dates back to the 1870’s. The growing community of Saugeen was incorporated as the Village of Southampton by a special Act of Parliament in 1858. On April 1, 1859, the guiding beam of the Chantry Island lighthouse shone across the waters of Lake Huron for the first time. Due to the treacherous shoals around the island, a Harbour of Refuge was constructed in the 1870s with the Long Dock stretching out to Southampton and the Short Dock jutting a short way into the water. Unfortunately the Harbour of Refuge was not successful. The opening was narrow and difficult to find especially in storms when the safety of the harbour was needed most. More important was the arrival of across land rail service in 1872 and that forever changed the way goods were transported. The shipping industry was sunk. The Southampton docks fell into disrepair and only piles of very large rock, some long timbers and metal spikes remain.

This view is directly across Chantry Island including the rocks and shrubs that mark the Short Dock. I was most interested in colour and imparting as much fun to the participants as possible. For Jane whose car had the license plate “I4ART”, painting was all about fun and passion for creation. Maybe that is why we hit it off so well. The fellow toasters to Jane Champagne had a great day as well.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Water's Edge

The cold front was fast approaching and the sky was simply a mass of gray with the occasional sunny break. I turned to the lake shore for inspiration.

This is the view toward the south looking across Jim Day Rapids. Duck weed hugged the shoreline while out in the current the faster water was completely open. The wave action was such that one portion of the wave reflected the sky while the other reflected the dark greens of the opposite shore. Silver and soft maples grow right to the water's edge. In the spring the water is at least a couple of feet up the trunks but the trees seem to survive the month or two of drowning quite nicely. I wanted to capture the feeling of the place without painting every blade of grass. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Singleton Gray Ratsnake

We see lots of snakes at Singleton Lake and they are all safe. I have two nesting boxes for the endangered gray/black ratsnake and have provided other shelter as well. The ratsnake is a constrictor, mainly preying on small mammals. Its natural predators include Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Raccoon, Fisher and Mink.

"The major threats to the species include being run over by vehicles - given their length and tendency to move slowly across roadways, deliberate slaughter by humans and habitat loss due to increased development."

This harmless snake can live up to 25 to 30 years, but due to the species' tendency to only lay clutches of 10 to 15 eggs late in their life cycle every two or three years, even small threats to the Gray Ratsnake have major implications for its overall survival. We are doing everything we can to promote them at Singleton Lake. This gray ratsnake was maybe 5 feet long judging by my foot... they need a place to live and thrive as well.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Morning

The warm front moved north of Singleton Lake overnight. Brisk and warmer southerly breezes were the clues to this fact. A low level jet at the top of the planetary boundary layer had created some streets of cumulus fractus which were in the front of the scene. Convection was likely occurring where this low level jet intersected the warm front to the north. The southerly streets of stratocumulus on the western horizon merge into a solid cloud sheet until it gets overhead and you can see between the streets. The higher level deformation zone was evident behind the stratocumulus. This is the leading edge of the convection along the cold front.

A quick look at the radar and satellite confirms the sky reading - more or less. There is a second low level jet further west but still ahead of the surface cold front. Environment Canada has some watches out but no warnings as of yet and nothing for Singleton Lake. Maybe I will paint a thunderstorm this afternoon. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cold Side Cumulus

Have you ever notice that fair weather cumulus clouds prevail in a ridge of high pressure? This is a pretty obvious observation that we are all familiar with. The cool and dry air in the ridge is just right for puffy cotton balls of cumulus but not too unstable for the taller cumulus and thunderstorms. These clouds evapourate like magic as soon as the leading edge of the next system crosses the area. The deformation zone of the warm conveyor belt that feeds the approaching system with heat and moisture can be almost invisible unless you are a keen meteorologist. Those curved arcs of cirrus in the western sky reveal the deformation zone that I am referring to. You can also infer the deformation zone by watching the cumulus vanish. It seems like a contradiction that the cumulus clouds disappear just as the upper atmosphere becomes moist but really it is the delicate dance that the atmospheric forces play out each and every day. The cold conveyor belt part of the ballet were the easterly winds that stirred up Singleton Lake on their way into the approaching ow pressure area.
The bottom line is that it will shower later on Wednesday.
I have been using more paint lately..

Dark Thunderheads - A Supercell

As some of you might be aware, I have been doing a presentation about the meteorology in famous works of art  for a few decades. Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven have been favourite subjects within these presentations. "Dark Thunderheads" by Tom Thomson is a classic example. The painting was probably named by Dr MacCallum or Lawren Harris and neither were meteorologists anyway. Tom’s motivation to “record” this particular observation would have been the nearly constant thunder and the dynamics of a supercell thunderstorm. The persistent rotating updraft, backbuilding anvil and steep flanking line are all characteristic of a supercell. The dark scud (scattered cumulus under deck) cloud is simply a timing issue. I talk about this and more during my presentation depending on the interests of the group.

A real life supercell imitated art just a few weeks ago. This storm had already blown down some trees and hydro lines in Lyndhurst... and across our lane. The colours might be different but the similarities with Tom's painting including the scud, prompted me to take the picture - as if I needed an excuse anyway. The blue box encloses the portion of the storm that Tom fitted to his panel.

Friday, August 2, 2013

IPAP Worldwide Paintout in Rockport - Friday September 13th through Sunday 15th, 2013

Registration for the 3rd Annual Rockport Plein Air Paint Out, Rockport 
Friday September 13th through Sunday 15th, 2013
Sponsored by The Rockport Development Group

"999 2 Go" was painted from the dock of Pine Island during the First Rockport Plein Air Paint Out.

Contact: for further details or accommodation support with special event rates. The only required information is - Registrant’s Name ... Email Address… Phone #

This event is intended to bring together plein air artists in the friendly creative atmosphere of the historically significant and beautiful Thousand Islands village of Rockport.
There is no registration fee required. The costs for each participant hinge upon lodging, meals (breakfasts, lunches and evening dinner) and transportation costs over the event period.  Rockport and area businesses providing these services are offering special event rates
Prizes will also be awarded based upon “People’s Choice” criteria at the final wine and cheese reception on Sunday.

Day #1 – Friday, September 13th
Welcome Breakfast on the Lawn at 31 Front St.  Cost $3.00 – kick-off and site map distribution 8:30am
(a) (NEW for 2013) Plein Air at Boldt Castle, NY (All day)                      
-return transportation onboard a Rockport Cruise Line vessel@$20.00 
-entry fee onto Boldt Castle Grounds @$8.00  (some refreshments available at island or bring lunch)
Rockport Departure at Boat House Restaurant Dock - 10:30 am SHARP!
Possible returns at 1:00pm       3:00pm… LAST BOAT 5:00pm!!

NOTE: a valid passport is required for entry into the USA and back into Canada
Restrict your materials carried to this site to the most necessary in order to reduce customs delays or complications

(b) Choice of islands locations via water taxi from the Andress Boat Works Dock at return cost of $6.00 per individual.    Pine Island      Hill Island       Grenadier Island       
(c) At any location in the village as per the map

Evening Dinner – 6:00pm TBA drinks and chat 6:00 to 6:30 pm
Evening Speaker – TBD

Day #2 - Saturday, September 14th

All artists are requested to paint within the village of Rockport for the entire day to present an opportunity for the public to watch artists at work. A detailed Rockport map of possible painting locations and guidance will be offered at the opening breakfast on Friday.

Complimentary Evening One Hour Cruise – 5:00pm

One of our business partners, The Rockport Cruise Line, has graciously invited all artists and their guests to board one of their cruise vessels for a complimentary one-hour cruise and introduction to our beautiful Thousand Island region. We depart at 5:00 pm SHARP. Upon our return, we will proceed to dinner to be announced at the welcome breakfast. . Afterward we can enjoy sharing our weekend experiences and if one wished… an artist could select their best piece to share with the group. A restful way to end a busy painting day with friends!

Day #3 - Sunday, September 15th

Morning – Last opportunity to paint or to “touch up” those earlier “masterpieces”
Final Reception… Wine and Cheese and Awards Ceremony – 1:00 pm SHARP

Southampton Art School - Phil the Forecaster Classes

Great news... it looks like there has been enough enrollment to make all of these classes happen this year. The details can be found at
I have some new tricks up my short sleeves this year! There is still some room if anyone else wants to come and have some plein air fun. The Killarney Adventure is always great.. and the weather and fall colours are bound to be spectacular. There is a reason why the Group of Seven and the Ontario Society of Artists kind of adopted the area. Not every effort is a masterpiece but it is easier when you are surrounded by inspiration.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

International Pacific Research Center

One never knows where your art might turn up!  A particularly brilliant (if not genius!) undergrad friend of mine from Queens University is now the Director of the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC). Strangely, we both followed meteorological careers after Queens. Our respective paths have crossed repeatedly in the last 45 years and they have done so once again. Kevin's journey took him to Hawaii where he took a fancy to my yin-yang handling of some Ontario lily pads. Kevin asked to include them on the entry page to the IPRC website and of course I was honoured. Here is what "Alluring" looks like - the circle in the upper right.