May 22, 1917
Today Mowat Lodge was like the Arts and Letters Club on a bad day. By that I mean there were too many people around talking about things they pretended to know about. Word had gotten out that I would be having an art show after dinner on Thursday and about 25 people are expected to show up for dinner. Several Americans were going to be coming from the Hotel Algonquin. The anticipation for the show was growing. Many of the guests had seen my sketches drying in the dining room, but none had seen the series presented as a whole. In my estimation, I have about fifty or sixty sketches. Many are in the the store house, several are in my room and the balance are in the dining room.
That’s where Dr. MacCallum was today – in the dining room. He was carefully looking over my sketches. Every once in awhile, he would pull me over and ask me question about a sketch and I would just shrug and be short about my answer. Truth be told, I was never fond of talking about my own pictures. I figured that people could judge them for themselves. Sometime it was amusing to listen to Dr. MacCallum. He knew less about art than he admitted. What he did know was the Northern country, Georgian Bay, in particular, and what a painting would express of the area. He was less familiar with this area of the Park, but I could tell he was quickly translating his experiences into the new context.
I didn’t want to disappoint his theorizing about art, but I’m not sure he appreciated the amount of perfection and effort that went into what most perceived as a slap-dash technique. The times I spent with Alex, Arthur and Jim, in the Studio and in the Park, I picked up the technique from them and they helped me along. What I discovered, and I believe it comes from my childhood days, was my knack for observation and finding a good picture. Then I would apply the best technique and if it didn’t work, I’d scrape and start over. The secret I’ve learned since becoming an artist full time is to be bit cagey about your feelings and motives. If you play it right, people think you have a special gift or are a genius. Nothing is further from the truth.
After a while, I got fed up with the small talk and decided to go for a walk. I needed to have some time to myself so I walked up to Potter Creek just past Canoe Lake Station. I walked a pathway into the woods and came across a palette knife stuck in the ground and a few broken sketches. I had forgotten about these. These were from over a month ago when I became frustrated and broke several of my boards. In my haste, I left my palette knife behind. It seems like no one has been here since, because the knife most assuredly would have disappeared. The bugs were fierce. I won’t be sketching for much longer. Things are becoming greener and the scenes more uninteresting. Tomorrow might be my last day sketching.
I walked back along the shore, past the sawmill, chipyard and visited Winnie at the Manse. Her parents had arrived earlier in the day. They seemed out of sorts but they invited me for tea and pie in the kitchen. Afterwards, I sat with Winnie on the front porch and we looked out onto the lake. Near the shore we could see numerous logs floating underneath the surface. Like stripped corpses, dead bodies, spirits of trees haunting the lake.
I told Winnie about the dinner on Thursday and asked her to come. She accepted. I could tell there were other things she wanted to talk about, but I didn’t want to. I knew what she wanted to talk about. But not tonight.