May 6, 1917
Today was fine and warm. The first real warm day of spring. Today was also the day that Florence left for Ottawa on the train. She took the morning train. I brought her up with Shannon’s wagon. The road is still a bit muddy, so Shannon didn’t want me to use his ‘luxury coach’ (a decommissioned hearse, actually). I saw Florence off on the train. She is planning to stay with relatives in Ottawa and visit the National Gallery. She plans to see Eric Brown, the director of the Gallery. After Ottawa, she’ll go back to Whitby and doubtful whether she’ll go back to Toronto for the next foreseeable while.
Because I was so busy, I didn’t write that much these past few days. I was spending all my time with Florence. It was her first time up North so she wanted to see the sights around the Lodge and the Hotel. She thought that Shannon was a rather odd character, and she felt a bit awkward with Annie, who seemed to be keeping an eye on her every moment. Nonetheless, she enjoyed the rustic feel of the place and said it had a similar feeling to some of the artist colonies that stayed with while she was in Europe. I laughed, because I was the only so-called artist at this art colony, and I probably wouldn’t be there for long.
We went out sketching several times and she was quite surprised and pleased with the plein-air techniques I had been developing. I told her that with the cold and fast changing light, that once a sketch was started, there was always a sense of urgency to complete before the scene disappeared. You needed to ignore the detail to capture the essence. She did a couple of sketches herself, which she attempted with a palette knife only (no brushes). It was quite the experiment. We didn’t keep the boards, we scraped them, and I’ll use them later on.
We talked about my paintings I left in the shack back in Toronto. We agreed that despite me saying that I was painting what I saw there was a considerable decorative aspect to the canvases. I was studying numerous Tiffany stained glass works at the time, and I admitted that I wanted to convey similar effects on the canvas by combining two dimensional foreground figure with a background composed as I had seen it. She was right. I wasn’t here to record spring as daily record. I was here to convey my feelings about spring as a daily record.
As I was waiting with her for the train, she gave me an invitation card to her next show. I put it in my sketch box. I doubt I would be able to make it, but just having the invitation close at hand would remind me of the encouragement I received from her.
Just before the train arrived, Mark Robinson came by. I introduced Florence to him. Mark was very cordial, and was genuinely interested in having a conversation with her. I couldn’t say that of the the other men around Canoe Lake. Florence was looked upon as an alien by some, but we ignored that and enjoyed our time together.
On another note, I received a letter from Dr. MacCallum. He is planning to come up with his son, Arthur to do a canoe trip. He’s asked me to organize some of the details and write him back.