December 2, 1916

I woke up early this morning dreaming about Mowat Lodge. I am looking forward to returning North in the spring. It was still too early to get out of bed so I lay there and stared at the beaverboard ceiling. It’s rather close as my bunk is up on the upper level. I can almost reach up and touch the ceiling. If I had a paintbrush in my hand I certainly could.

Later in the morning I did little but smoke my pipe and read the paper. I won’t spend the money to get the paper, so I read the day-old from the foyer at the Studio. I get my mail there too because the postman won’t deliver to the Shack. Wise choice for him.

Florence visited again today. I never know when she is in the city. She takes the train in from Whitby and stays with friends in the City.

Winter in the Shack

I worked alone in the shack behind the Studio Building during the winter of 1916-17. That winter I applied myself very diligently to produce eight of my most important canvases. These are known today as Petawawa Gorges, The Pointers, The Drive, Birch Grove, Autumn, The West Wind, and my most known piece, The Jack Pine.

The winter was a great time of struggle and discovery for me. I was productive to say the least, but I had not resolved myself to a consistent approach to my works. I painted what I felt and saw; I expressed bold form and my techniques of bright and vibrant colours seemed to be a heresy beyond that of my friends Jackson and Harris.

The War had broken us up. Lismer moved to Halifax with his family to be the head of an art college. Lawren Harris was stationed at Camp Borden, and only Jim MacDonald and Fred Varley remained in the City. Poor Jim was too preoccupied with his family’s poor health and tight finances to be much of an inspiration. And Varley, well we didn’t go out of our way to see each other, since the argument we had earlier this year.

I tried to remain oblivious to the world falling apart around me. The canvases I worked on consumed all of my energies both negative and positive. Unlike my sketching outdoors, an almost automatic impulse to me, painting canvas within a studio, I needed to draw upon within me a discipline of something that came naturally to me when I was outdoors, but not within a studio.

I was never sure what I painted was good. Despite the endearing comments of others, I always felt that they rang hollow.