Saturday, July 25, 2009

A DQ moment in late afternoon

Right on Main Street is the Diary Queen with its bright red umbrella setups catching later afternoon sunlight. I spend the last few minutes in Neepawa painting this view of DQ with a few customers sitting there against warm summer sunset, hoping to conjure up a memorable and cosy summer moment. With this painting I may wrap up my 10 day project of Painting Neepawa en plein air. It is my sincere hope that this collection of 38 paintings I have done over the past few weeks in July will resonate with the viewers across the country who may have the fortune to proudly call Neepawa their home or who may have once lived here or visited here, and left with fond memories. Thank you for visiting my website.

A glimpse of Viscount Cultural Center of Neepawa

Viscount Cultural Center is located on the quiet street of Mountain Ave lined up with big elm trees. This is the venue where my collection of 38 paintings painted all over Neepawa and its surrounding area will be on display from August 4 to August 28 of this year. It is only fitting to leave its image on my canvas to be included for the exhibition. While painting this view, a fleet of cars with a bride and groom and their quests passing by and while my wife and I were having a picnic right in front of the building, we realized that this building that day may have serve as a reception place for some occasion like this. We were just guessing as we saw cars with different provincial plates coming to park along the street. If so I hope this small painting of mine would serve as a small footnote to that special moment in the young couple's life.

At the Lily Nook

It was getting really hot towards noon when we were on our way to the Lily Nook located just few miles away from Neepawa on highway No. 5, hoping with warm weather like this most of the lilies would be in full bloom as compared to two weeks ago. As we approached the site a field of blooming lilies floated into our sight, a field ablaze with vibrant color. After a quick picnic I set up my easel and started to paint away. While painting I had the fortune to meet the well known Winnipeg based photographer Hans Arnold who shares the same passion as mine for the beauty of nature and whose collection of artistic photographs are so lyrical and poetic that they are such a joy to view.

Strawberry U-pick of the Klassens

Just a few miles before we reached Neepawa today, we stopped by at the U-Pick run by the Klassens. After I introduced myself to him, Ruben, the owner graciously showed us around and let us come inside his beautiful house all built by himself. While my wife was ready to pick strawberries and Saskatoon I followed a group of customers to the filed to paint this lovely view of families of adults and children picking up strawberries in the field against dazzling morning sunlight. A memorable Manitoban summer moment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A glimpse of Neepawa golf course

After painting the view of canola field I simply walked across the parking lot of the golf course and tucked myself away between two big trees to paint this view of the golf course whose fluctuating curves echoed visually with the floating clouds against an azure sky. Far in the distance a glimpse of the local cemetery was briefly revealed by the fleeting sunlight through the gap of the clouds.

A canola field on the edge of the golf course

Nothing can be more spectacularly beautiful and more quintessentially prairie than the sweeping and panoramic view of the golden yellow canola field in the summer. Driving along Highway 10, or any other highway in the prairie you will not fail to see the spectacular sea of golden yellow unfolding and stretching as far as eyes can see. Standing right on the edge of the field I enjoyed as much the aroma and fragrance from the filed as the sight. This particular filed was located right on the edge of the golf course parking lot and with the red roof of a small church building in the distance.

One of Neepawas historically significant buildings on First Ave.

Driving down the First Avenue, I caught sight of this beautiful house not realizing it is on the list of Neepawa historically significant buildings. I parked my car on the street and went ahead to introduce myself to the owner Clay Hainstock who was himself quite an artist who paints quite skillfully and beautifully. Clay introduced me to his family among them was his brother a very accomplished visual artist, and showed me around inside his beautiful house grace by so many beautiful art works on its walls.

A glimpse of Park Lake from behind Dave & Anna Speiss beautiful house

It was about 9 in the morning when I reached Neepawa, while driving down towards Park Lake, I was attracted by the sight of a house located high up on the right side of the road. When I realized it was picture framing gallery as well, I took the liberty of driving up right to its door, and introduced myself to its owner Dave Speiss who was kind and gracious to let me wander around his house to explore the beautiful view. Soon after, Dave's wife Anna came out to chat with me and kindly showed me around inside their beautiful house after I finishied this painting standing high up behind their property looking down towards the lake.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lake Katharine-- the enchanted lake

At the end of my outdoor painting workshop, we drove down to Lake Katerine in the Riding Mountain National Park. It was such a beautiful moment of the day when the intense but mellow summer afternoon sunlight imputed an enchanted mood to the lake and turned its water into a sheen of emerald green. A group of people with children came to visit the lake and the kids were quite fascinated to see me painting on the spot and kept on checking on my progress to make sure that I could paint them onto my canvas. I had to explain how it was impossible to represent individual human figure visually on a small piece of canvas. Hope I did not disappointed them. We lingered on the lake sitting there at a picnic table indulging ourselves in the warm embracing of its enchanted arms.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Land of Aspens a view from lake Katharine

If I had but just one choice as to which image I am allowed to tuck it away into my memory when years and years down the road , this part of the world becomes a distant memory, I would pick the image of the trembling aspens. It was to bend on seeking a view of aspens to paint, we found ourselves at Lake Katherine again after my outdoor landscape painting at Clear Lake. I remember last year around same time of the year, I painted this view while it was raining heavily and I had to use an umbrella to shelter my painting from the rain. This year lake Katerine was in a totally different mood where the wood of aspens were soaked and steeped in the warm wash of late afternoon sunlight.

A Day at Clear Lake ---- Summer of 2009

Today is my second day of outdoor painting workshop, for our practice we as a group decided to come to this spot to paint where the huge elm trees with their shady canopy of foliage provided us with such a pleasant shelter from the wind and sun. I painted this view on a large piece of canvas when the morning sunlight transfigured everything in sight and when the lake front was live with human activities.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Camp out on the bank of White Mud River

With Whitemud river meandering across the Riverbend Park and with lots of big trees providing natural shelter, the park proves to be such a beautiful and cosy site for the campers. After finishing the first painting on site I came across a small foot bridge to paint this view against intense late afternoon sunlight. Soon I found my eyes strained by the intense light and had to finish this painting in a hurry.

Vantage Car Show at Neepawa Lily Festival

At the end of my first day workshop of outdoor painting we made a detour to Neepawa on our way back to Brandon. When we came to Riverbend Park, we saw lots of vantage cars on display which must be part of the Lily Festival activities. While walking around the river bank the reflections of the vantage cars caught my eyes, I set up my easel to try to capture this view. However just five minutes into this painting the car show apparently came to an end when one by one they all left the location.

Clear Lake

As a demonstration for my outdoor painting workshop, I did this painting right beside the park office building. I was attracted by the intense color and light of the early morning hours. The few tall and handsome aspen trees and elms and spruce,sanding like a sentry against the blue sky and lake was visually counterbalance by the horizontal sweep of the lake front as well as by the casting shadows of the trees. I really enjoyed the chatting with passers-by who were all so curiouse by the sight of a group of painters who painted right on location. At the end of the day each of us did a lovely painting.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Neepawa Lily Festival

With their voice still ringing in my ears, I saw them again coming out right on the street singing away. By the time after I finished my first painting and setting up for the next one they did not stand there long enough for me to capture their images on my canvas. What I put on the canvas was just a fleeting impression of them singing with their stance somehow visually echoed by that of the statue of a soldier in front of the court house. It was already around 4 pm by the time I finished this painting, and I had to wrap up quickly to drive to Riding Mountain National Park to start my outdoor painting workshop there. It was really an exciting as well as an exhausting day for me.

On the first day of Neepawa Lily Festival

While I was painting this street view at noon, the Lily Festival officially started with the Tremaine Sisters ' beautiful voice floating out of the lily lounge behind me. Their beautiful vocal performance with their repertoire of beautiful
pieces of music all my favorite served as such a wonderful backdrop to the whole festivities on the street. Suddenly the last line from Wordsworth's poem Young solitary Reaper came back to my memory " The music in my heart I bore, long after it was heard no more." A delightful encounter on the street with the well known young Ladybug Hannah with her mother whom I first met a few years ago in Brandon at Keystone Center where Hannah was one of the invited guest speakers.

Beyond the Garden Gate

Today marks the first day of Neepawa Lily Festival. For this occasion I drove to Neepawa early in the morning when people on the street were just setting up for the festival. I also set up my easel right on the side walk in front of the store. The hanging flower baskets and the business sign of Beyond the Garden Gate right across from the County Court House building was the subject of my first painting for the day. It was nice to see Brent again who is one of the owners of Beyond the Garden Gate and whom I met the first day when I came out to paint in Neepawa.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

From a church yard

We had a picnic sitting on a garden chair enjoying the view of the garden in full bloom in the quiet and sunny churchyard of the Knox Presbyterian Church after I finished this painting on site.

A glimpse of Lake Irwin

We reached the top of an uphill slope to try to get a glimpse of Lake Irwin. The lake below with its quiet mirror like surface , the few aspens lining up along the road , the distant bluish range of hills with stretches of farm fields , the blue expanse of sky with few wisps of white clouds and collecting it all visually the quiet gravel road stretching away like a shining ribbon all unfold in front of me enticing me to capture them onto my canvas.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Riverbend Park

It was dark and cloudy with a threat of rain when we reached the park. However the sight of a few kids playing around on the bank with their reflection thrown onto the river was enough to make me stop to paint.

A canola field on Lake Irwin

At the end of a gravel road leading up a steep slop along the lake, an open stretch of canola field greeted my eyes. Instead of painting a view of the lake I decided to paint the view of what appeared to be a golden sea of canola field stretching far into the distance with dark looming clouds gathering over the sky.

From the shore of Lake Irwin

Just a few miles away along Highway 5, we find Lake Irwin which is connected to White Mud River. While picnicking on its shore I did a small oil painting of this stretch of canola field edged by a fence of trees and a field of wild violet colored flowers.

A sunken garden

Right on the side of a road and sunken far below the surface of the road is a big garden ablaze with blooming flowers and plants. It is such a delight to find it all of a sudden for it could be easily missed with it being so far below. I painted this view against intense morning sunlight.

Knox Presbyterian Church

It was before 9 in the morning when I found myself standing in front of this stately church building marveling about its history and its physical beauty. With the sunlight shining on its east side mostly and casting the rest of the building in shadow, I had to pain quickly before the change of light alters my overall impression of the building. This church was over a hundred years old now and is dedicated as a provincial historical site.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A view on Second Avenue

In Neepawa visitors are not hard to find streets like this lined up with big elm trees forming a sort of arched gateway.Before I headed back to Brandon late in the afternoon, I found it irresistible to paint this charming view of a street steeped in the warm wash of late afternoon sunlight.

A Ukraine Catholic Church

It was windy and cold towards afternoon and the sky turned inky dark with clouds. Saw this charming Ukraine Catholic church with its creamy color contrasting quite dramatically with the dark grey sky.

A view from the edge of the cemetery

Standing on the edge of the local cemetery. I am totally enraptured by the view looking out over the beautiful expanse of open field with oak trees and the river meandering through. In Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel this cemetery was alluded to in her fictional town of Manawaka, and of course it does seems to be the fact that the cemetery appears high up on a hill as it was described in her novel. I was contemplating what this place was like in Margaret Laurence's days. It must have been at least as beautiful if it were not more despite of lots of hardship and personal struggles with elements then.

A sweeping view from behind the hospital

Right on the edge of the parking lot behind the regional hospital building I found myself standing there looking out over the view unfolding in front of me: the open sky, the stretching plain with oak trees and a small path leading all the way to a highway. Sheltered from hot sunlight, I set up my easel in the shade of the trees and painted away.

The Museum

It was quite early in the morning when I got to this location to paint. It was a very windy morning and there was a shower of rain over night as it was evident with the pool of water in front of the museum. This used to be the railway station which must have been the center of the town's life in the heydays of railway travel. While painting this view, I was thinking of how many times, those human drama of joy and sorrow associated with this spot had been repeatedly played in the past. The gust of wind was so strong that it almost knocked over my French easel. I had to hold it down with my left hand to keep it steady. A young lady who happen to work for the museum came over to chat. She happened to be a fine art student and was able to speak very good Chinese to me which was a total surprise to me. Well, I can see how much the demographic landscape has been changed with the recent immigration of people from Korea and Philippine in this town. In Margaret Laurence's day it must be rare to see visible minorities walking down the streets here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A house across from Highland Glen

After finishing the first painting, I came over across the street to paint this beautiful house as luck had it the sun came out briefly lighting up the whole building. It was already late in the afternoon I had to finish my painting in an hour before the light faded away. The lady owner was kind enough to introduce us to Vivian when we came over to her door thinking her house must be a B&B.

A view from Highland Glen

What could be more fitting to find a Bed & Breakfast on Vivian street with its owner sharing the same name as the street. Vivian, the owner of Highland Glen was very enthusiastic with my project and let me to explore her backyard with this almost pastoral view of the country. It was too bad that the sun was hidden away and the sky was covered with clouds. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for this view was not dampened by the rainy weather at all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oak Wood from Park Lake

It was humid and rainy when I started this painting standing on the path through the oak wood. I am always captivated by the oak trees , for it seems to epitomize the strength and defiance without loosing its gracefulness. No wonder it was once identified with some of the ancient European Germanic essence.

Land and sky from Park Lake

This is the first time I ever stand here to look over the Park lake. It is around noon now. I am deeply moved by what is enfolding before me: the sky with the sweeping flow of clouds, the open field dotted with trees and houses in the distance, and the lake with mirrored reflection of the sky, and up front the groves of oak trees standing always ready like sentries.

" The Castle"

The castle is located right on Main Street at the entrance to Neepawa at the end of an up slope which is part of Highway 16. It must have had its past glory as a building for it seems to have been deteriorated and is in need of renovation now. Nevertheless, it still has its dignity intact as one of the most well known landmarks of the town.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Stone Angel ----- a source of inspiration for the novelest

It did not take long for us to locate the Stone Angel in the cemetery. Allegedly, this is supposed to be the Stone Angel alluded to in Margaret Laurence's novel The Stone Angel in which the very first paragraph starts like this:" Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand....." The author struggled with a proper title when she finished the draft of her book when it dawned upon her that the title should be the very first few words in the book The Stone Angel as it really was a metaphor of what her female antagonist Hagar Shipley's self discovery was all about. It was really a unique painting experience for me to stand there painting in a cemetery where row upon rows of flower draped tomb stone lie silently all seemingly trying to tell their own stories.

A glimpse of the old school from Riverbend Park

This small building used to be Stoney creek School moved here in Riverbend Park in 1964. There must have been lots of school buildings like this all over isolated rural communities on the prairie in the past. I was visually captured by the school building reflected in the small creek and by the sweep of trees echoing somehow the sweeping flow of the clouds gathering over the blue sky at the moment.

Former Home of Margaret Laurence

Who would have thought that one day I would find myself standing in front of Margaret Laurence' residence to paint like this? After all it was almost 22 years ago way back in China when I first came across an excerpt of Margaret Laurence's novel The Stone Angel. Margaret Laurence wrote a series of novels creating a fictional town of Manawaka using her birthplace Neepawa as a source of inspiration. When I read her novel The Stone Angel the allusion to the town of Neepawa was quite obvious for instance she mentioned the stone angel in the cemetery which we were going to locate soon and also she mentioned the local newspaper Manawaka Banner and the river which was obviously the White Mud. Well if Margaret Laurence's antagonist Hargar Shipley did step out of her fictional world and resurrected into today's real world of Neepawa she would be marveling about how much better life has been changed. However she would realize the hill remains , the river remains and the trees remains, and what is different now is how much free the town is now of its distant shadow and social economic shackles.

Beautiful Plains County Court House

Finally found myself in Neepawa, the town so close to Brandon , yet I only passed through this place once in my life. Now with my exhibition coming soon next month I am trying to paint as many paintings on location as possible for this show. It was cloudy and rainy when I got to the town early in the morning and started my first painting on the street across from the beautiful court house.