Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Wonder of Snow

Its official, I hate winter. We were under a constant cloud of snow for days, now we are in a deep freeze of minus 30 degrees C!  On top of that, when things warm up, it is supposed to snow again.  I agree that from the vantage point inside a warm house, looking out one’s window and sipping a hot drink; the scenery is breathtaking. But it is quite a different kettle of fish if one is stranded in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, in a disabled vehicle in a blinding snow storm. I have already been out for a couple of solitary skis’ and I don’t mind being by myself in the bush at any time of the year. It can actually be peaceful or epiphamic, depending on the journey.

When I look out my frosted kitchen window and notice each intricate delicate pattern of an ice crystal or snowflake, I want to capture it; either in the early dawn of golden sunlight, or the waning light of tinted blue.

Each crystal is miraculously different or unique in pattern and design.
However, these equally beautiful snowflakes are deadly when multiplied in the thousands coming down in heavy flurries, high winds and virtually zero visibility.

That is nature, the delicate balance of beauty and deadliness that reminds me just how small and insignificant we humans truly are. 

 When I was stranded in a terrible snowstorm on a closed highway, I felt terrified and alone. I depended on the kindness of strangers to get me through. I had been feeling since then, that I didn’t matter; that I am an insignificant speck, ready to be snuffed out of existence. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Wherever You Go There You Are states, “We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected.” (pg.162). His premise of practising love and kindness uncovers “what is always present...usually our ability to touch them, and be touched by them lies below our fears and hurts, below our greed and our hatreds, below our desperate clinging to the illusions that we are truly separate and alone. By invoking such feelings in our practice we are stretching against the edges of our own ignorance...and in the stretching, painful as it sometimes is, we expand, we grow, we change ourselves, we change the world.” (Ibid, pg.167-168).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sketches in Progress

I'm afraid I've fallen behind with my posts.  Life has a way of doing that.  With the end of the year approaching and the holiday season, things tend to get busier especially at work.  I’m inclined to be a slow painter anyway, but trying to get back into a routine of sorts.

While the snow is falling heavily outside, I find as much time as possible to spend in my studio working on new sketches.

Sketches are the building blocks for the finished product.  

They are the vehicle to the creative process, getting the juices going.  These are a few ideas that I’m working on now.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking for Spring

The weather is dismal, with rain and grey.  The temperature is to drop to 0 degrees C, with the risk of frost tonight! I started a fire in the woodstove to keep the basement warm as the temperature drops steadily throughout the day.
The sun has attempted to permeate the gloom to no avail.  I am craving colour.  I am working on sketches for another painting, possibly Trout Lilies ( Erythronium americanum) and Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica).

Inserted, are some examples of sketchbook drawings and photos on my walks, as I prepare for the next piece. 

Here is a link for information on our wildflowers: http://www.ontariowildflowers.com/

Monday, April 15, 2013

Paying Attention

“The capacity for delight is the gift to paying attention”.  (Cameron, Julia. The Complete Artist’s Way, 2007, pg. 66).  I woke early and took myself and Phoebe for a long walk in the bush this morning.  Time was the essence as there was still a magnificent crust on the snow but it would quickly disappear as the day wore on.  Temperatures are rising, and today was a different type of day for exploring.  The trail was opening up with large pools as snow melted, falling in on itself.  

Pretty flat rock, on the hill

There was plenty of activity in the bush, a myriad of tracks and movement.

A large moose had come down from the hill to get a drink in one of the pools formed from the spring thaw.  
Phoebe investigates.

There were different signs of deer activity from the tracks of a buck dragging his hooves, to that of a smaller doe. 

Wild turkey tracks were also evident, possibly passing through looking for food. 

 We wandered down to the pond and came across a lone mallard; skittish and wary.  I was not able to get a picture as he erupted in a flurry of wing beats while Phoebe and I approached the bank to get a better view.

The lagoon is almost open now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I happened to scroll through my posts and realized that I hadn't posted the finished piece of Turtle Lake.  So here it is.  It will be one of the paintings featured at the upcoming show this summer, at Wood's End Studio.

This is the link: http://www.woodsend.ca/

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Remembering Chippy Short-Tail

It feels like we’ve had a very long winter.  Spring continues to stall.  Early this morning, my little dog Phoebe and I took a walk in the bush and we were able to walk on the crust.  This is unusual for April; however the temperature was -5 degrees C.

Although, there is still a lot of snow in the bush, we are seeing slow signs of spring; the ice on the pond blackening, the cooing of a mourning dove and five Canada geese flying V formation to the marsh on Peace Valley Road.  During our walk, we came across a saucy red squirrel running for cover.

Yesterday, Phoebe and I spotted a chipmunk in my back yard, one of Chippy’s babies.  I called to the chipmunk, as he sat on the bricks watching us with interest.

Chippy Short-tail as I called her, was a curious little soul that first introduced herself five summers ago by jumping into my lap one spring afternoon as I was outside sketching.  She came by her name as most of her tail was missing.  I presumed bitten off, or caught on something.

Sketches of Chippy Short-tail. ©Eleanor Thorel

She became a constant companion each spring, summer and fall, looking for treats such as sunflower seeds and peanuts.  Rambunctious and daring, she thought nothing of climbing onto our laps, running along an outstretched hand and onto a shoulder.

Two summers ago Chippy brought her two babies whom I nicknamed Percy and Chippy Long-tail to visit with us.  These little rascals were constantly running into the house and then getting frantic trying to find a way out.  Last spring was the last time we saw Chippy Short-tail.

Sketch of one of the chippies in the garden.
©Eleanor Thorel

She had lived to be a good age; greying and silver backed her coat still shining and healthy.  We won’t see her this spring, but she will always be remembered.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


This is the gradual transformation that takes place during the painting process.  I don’t have a name for this painting yet, but shown below is the set up of my work area and the stages the painting goes through.

have my desk set up with sketches and photographs I have taken of the tiger swallowtail that was feeding from the nectar of my lilacs this spring.  

As you can see, I use butterfly studies as well.  All my research has been collected from my many walks.  These have been collected from my butterfly box.
This is the work so far. As you can see the painting gradually takes on a life of its own. I have started a page displaying a body of my work.  Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/EleanorThorel