November 27, 1916
New book, first journal entry.
I picked the book up at the art shop where I got supplies. I was going to use it for sketching, but when I opened it and saw it had lined paper I got the idea of writing a journal. The book’s no good for sketching but I bought it anyway.
I’m not much for writing so I can’t promise that I’ll be making this a regular thing but I’ll try my best. I write the occasional letter, I enjoy doing that, but I never write about my true feelings because I never know who’s going to read them and pass judgement on me. I know the letters I’ve received have been read by others, especially at Mowat Lodge. Annie Fraser, the busybody she is, I reckon she’s read all of the letters I got up north. So I am going to take special care that this journal is private so I can record my thoughts and feelings. Sketches and paintings are good for expression, but for the world to see as they are, there are secrets and hidden feelings in those paintings that will never be revealed unless I write about them. That’s the reason for the journal.
I’m pretty much settled in the shack now. I’ve been back the better part of two weeks. After Achray and Basin Depot, I spent a week at Mowat Lodge, then South River (Tom Wattie), Huntsville for a couple of days at the Trainors. I was thinking about going to see my folks in Owen Sound, but with all the gear and sketches I had and the only connection from Park is through Toronto so I decided to stay here. I’ll see my my folks at Christmas.
I’ve got a several good piles of sketches. Two hundred, possibly closer to three hundred. I did some good sketching earlier in the fall and brought about sixty back with me. I still had a few at Mowat Lodge – that’s why I went back. I had sent a shipment down earlier in the summer but I still had a good two dozen at Canoe Lake. I brought them with me too. When I returned, I set the sketches out to dry a bit more. They might seem dry but they stick together if they’re bundled for a long time. I had to tie them together for the train and I took them apart as soon as I got here. Only two were badly wrecked. I could probably fix them but I doubt I can match the colour I had when I was out painting. Another reason I didn’t go to Owen Sound – my sketches would have been bundled longer and even more would have been ruined.
Back now, I have to start working on the canvases. Dr MacCallum came by and had a look at the sketches. He suggested a couple for canvases I haven’t decided which ones yet, but I was pleased with the sketches I made near Grand Lake and on the Petawawa. Dr MacCallum said he sold a few sketches over the summer and put the money in my account. I should have enough to tide me over the winter time.
It’s gloomy here in Toronto. I’ll be glad to leave again in the spring, hopefully early in the spring. I plan to keep mostly to myself as I don’t like what’s going on for the War effort. There’s a few new folks in the Studio Building. Jim MacDonald and Bill Beatty are still there. So is Curtis Williamson. There’s some ladies too, Dr. MacCallum told me, although I haven’t met them yet. My mail goes to the Studio Building, I’ll be dropping by most days to get my mail, so I’m sure to bump into them.
As I said earlier, I can’t promise how much and when I will write. I can paint like a storm but writing’s another thing. I can only say that I’m taking inspiration from our boys at the Front who are writing their endless streams of letters back home to their loved ones. I’ve seen how the girls and wives hang onto these letters, slipping them into their purses and pockets for safekeeping, I’ve seen a few of these letters where there are sketches and pictures, but it’s the pencil-written words of “I love you, Mum or Sweetheart” that have the most power. Maybe this journal will have that power too, but I’m not sure to whom. Maybe it’s just for me and I will just keep it that way.
First major snowstorm. Almost a foot of heavy snow. Several trees came down with the weight of the snow and took the electrical and telephone lines out for all of Rosedale. Winter’s justice for the rich. I only have the one electrical bulb, so it didn’t make much difference to me.
Tomorrow’s not a day for painting or inspiration, it’s a day for canvas stretching and real perspiration.