Painting at the millpond.
I had been preparing for weeks, since first being invited to paint at the Queensborough Art Fair. My bin was packed; paints, easel, rags, brushes, umbrella, chair, tools, sandwiches, thermos. As it turns out, there’s art provenance to our little community because in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the area boasted not one but two art schools where the likes of A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven taught (and presumably hung out doing back flips in to the mill pond). The proof includes one of his paintings of old Queensborough from 1956 that was shown that day at the Orange Hall. So, it looks like I'll be painting (and swimming) where one of my art heroes and fellow Montrealers once painted? I was excited and woke up early that Saturday morning, the car was packed from the night before.
I pulled up early in the morning where the Black River crosses the Queensborough Road, right in front of the old mill. Long ago, before roads, the river used to be the road and huge elm logs were floated downstream to Belleville (then in-turn shipped down the St. Lawrence and eventually to France for mast-building). Legend has it Frontenac himself came to see our elms (Elzévirs in Dutch). Today, extreme kayak dudes have replaced the logs, the township is called Elzevir, and all the elms are gone due to Dutch Elm Disease. All that aside, it was a perfect summer morning with the promise of a hot day, just what fair-organizers Elaine Kapusta and Katherine Sedgwick had hoped for.
Feeling a little self conscious, I set up my umbrella and easel and lost myself in drawing and painting, a form of meditation I’ve practiced all my life. I was so absorbed I didn’t realize people were behind me, silently watching. Others came to talk. Others stood in front of me so I couldn’t see what I was painting. Friends, acquaintances and neighbours were all very supportive and we had a laugh as many had no idea that I painted. The most surprising part was the local kids, all very interested in the “en plein-air” process. So curious in fact were they, that I volunteered to teach a “painting outside without photos” class in August 2020 (now pushed to 2021 due to Covid).
Anyway, here’s my painting, started at 8am and finished at 5pm all while answering questions from visitors, including, “Do you live in Queensborough?”, “How much are the sandwiches?” and “Where are the toilets?”. All in all, a fabulous day, can’t wait to do it again.
With thanks to Dave Delang for photography.