A new painting

construction-sandbox-color-adjust-small

When I began Art Is Eternal as a blog, I had been away from painting for a long time. I needed a nudge – several nudges, really – to get me going. There was so much to do in my life that took me away from what I professed I wanted to do.

I’ve been through these barren patches before and I knew better than to bemoan my fate. So I’ve been waiting and preparing for the right time. I’ve puttered at things in watercolour which is a good way to spend an hour or two; but I wasn’t getting down to meaty things, things with meaning.

I must say that I haven’t gotten there yet, either, though I’ve taken a big step forward. I wrapped my drawing table in plastic tarp to keep it clean (it used to be my Mother’s teak dining table. It’s a grand size to work on. But I wouldn’t want to spoil it for it’s original purpose in getting irretrievable paint spots on it. And I put a big painter’s tarp on the floor – the white canvas type – to protect the carpet. I’ve transformed the dining room into my art room.

I am going to work in acrylics now, since I don’t have decent ventilation, especially in winter, and I have developed sensitivities to solvents. Even small amounts of them. I haven’t used acrylics since my college days – I don’t want to tell you how long ago.  I’m not used to working with the medium and one needs to before the medium will sing the song you are asking it to, as it should.

I had two sixteen by twenty blank canvases in storage downstairs and brought them up, placed them on my table easel. It wasn’t expensive – a made in China affair, very respectably made in solid oak, but it sure is handy.

I selected three new brushes suitable for use in acrylics, and began to paint.  It’s not good to use acrylic brushes for oil and vice versa. The image up above in this post is the result.

I’m fairly happy with it, even though it’s “just a landscape”. No messages here. Just a visually pleasing part of the landscape.

I’m hoping that I will continue in this vein though, as I’ve hundreds of reference photos recording some of the construction on the new Pitt River Bridge that’s being built in this area. That, for me, is meatier.

I like construction, the flag people in their brilliant fluorescent clothing. I like the industrial lacework that the old bridge imposes on the landsscape and am sorry that it will have to disappear when the new bridge comes, but of course it will have to go. It will be replaced with a sleek, lean suspension bridge, spare in details. Post-modern contemporary minimalism. Cost efficient. Altogether citified. The bucolic nature of our community is rapidly being exchanged for the density and rapidity of a major satellite city.

Talking with the Stepford’s next door, we envision moving when the pace gets too fast and the low-rise downtown of our municipality becomes high-rise. It’s beginning. We are in accord – a village feel is what we want to live with. A pox on sleek progress and developer’s greed!

But I digress. What fascinated me about the scene I painted before was how life had grown so delicately upon the construction sandpile, with second-growth alder and birch taking hold as the pile waited silently as the construction went on around it. The landscape it sits in has changed many times in the last three years. Once, it was forested with marshy trees; the original firs and cedars that grew there had long been removed by the pioneer generation for building materials, for the forest wood industry, and for firewood. A whole new marsh ecology had taken over.

When I came here two years ago, I thought that it was simply the original marsh ecosystem that came with the river flats. But one day, while walking on the dikes by the Alouette River, we stopped to ask some young workers what they were doing as they cut grasses and brambles away from some little blue netting tubes that protected newly planted cedars and firs.

It turned out that they had a mandate to return the area to its original ecosystem. They were re-introducing plants that had been taken out or had been overtaken by aggressive second growth plant material.

On the shores of this beautiful area, a park preserve has been designated and one can walk for about seventeen kilometers through farmlands, wetlands  and rural residential “development”.  Next to this is large stand of  alder (second growth) forest of several sections of land. Guessing, it’s maybe a kilometer square. Next to the alder forest is a large shopping centre with big box named conglomerate businesses – a warehouse concept food chain, two hardware chain stores, a home decor business, a super-store food market, two car dealerships, a kilometer square of parking asphalt, etc, etc.  I’m guessing that takes up two kilometers square. They are big businesses.

Since the construction of the bridge, the alder forest has been slashed. It is no more.

In it’s place, the riverside property has been loaded up with mega-loads of  sand to stabilize the soil conditions so that road building and bridge building can continue.  Trucks have been continuously taking loads sand to the construction site and moving it from one place to another . I don’t profess to understand the structural imperatives of this activity. I only know that in the places where the bedrock is down so far and that watery conditions are nearby, where the water table is so near the surface, this activity is necessary to minimize the possibility of buildings settling. It ensures that footings for bridges and roadways are solidly made.

I’m thoroughly sorry for the animals that must have made home in that little alder forest. Where have they gone? Have they had to fight with their own kind for territory as they are pushed further inland? Or will we just find them going upscale, raiding our back yards for nesting areas, or, like my raccoon last year, taking up residence in our houses?

In any case, lately, that whole area has been razed flat. The only thing that protrudes from the kilometer square where the alders once grew is this sand   pile. It has been there sufficiently long to have grown all these airy alder babes. Few have grown  large enough become a tree. It’s mostly just  scrub brush.

I liked the composition of this scene; I liked the variations of greys of the sand pile in light and in shadow, the slight reddish tinge that the alder branches infused to it where their growth fringes the crest like a haircut with attitude; the mossy yellow-green where grasses have taken hold. The sky is boldly blue. I’m still struggling with the acrylic paints to mix colours as I would like, so it doesn’t quite capture the delicate shift of blue somewhere between a French Ultramarine and a Magnesium blue, but its good enough to convery the feeling of a bright sunny day (which is refreshing in this last spate of snow that we’ve had that seems to be unending). Perhaps, a picture never can reproduce that awe that we feel over something we find very beautiful.

Who would have thought – a construction sand pile, as a thing of beauty?

One last thought: As kids, we play in the sandbox or at the beach. We love shifting sand from one place to another, making castles and roads and rivers and tunnels; or we make hamburger patties and cake that are disgusting to eat. We run our model trucks and Dinky toys through them and create stories and And then we grow up.

Some people never lose their love of messing with sand and dirt and building things. Isn’t it fortunate for them that adults invented a thing called construction? And architecture? And engineering? Now the trucks are real. So is the sandbox!

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