November 28, 1916
New book, first journal entry. Finished my breakfast. Sitting at my table having tea.
I picked up this book at the shop where I got my 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 not good for sketching so I bought it for writing. 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 feelings because I never know who’s going to read them and pass judgment on me. I know the letters I’ve received have been read by others, at Mowat Lodge. Annie Fraser, the busybody she is, I reckon she’s read all of the letters I got up north. I am going to take special care that this journal is private to 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 settled in the shack now. I’ve been back in Toronto for 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 visiting my parents in Owen Sound, but I’ve decided to stay here an paint. I’ll see them at Christmas-time.
First snowstorm. Almost a foot of heavy snow. Some of the older trees have come down with the weight of the snow. The electrical and telephone lines are 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.
I’ve made a lot of good boards. Close to three hundred I have here. 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 badly wrecked. I can 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.
I have to start working on my canvases. Dr MacCallum came by and had a look at the sketches. He suggested a couple to paint I haven’t decided which one. I’m was pleased with the ones I made near Grand Lake and on the Petawawa. Doc said he sold a few sketches on consignment over and put the money in my account. I should have enough to tide me over the winter time.
It’s gloomy here The days are grey. I’ll 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 see them.
I won’t promise how much and when I will write. When it’s right 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. For now, it’s just for me and I will just keep it that way.
Tomorrow’s not a day for painting. It’s a day for canvas stretching and real perspiration.