That winter, both Alex and I were short on money. I never bothered to keep count, but Alex had a system of keeping track of what we spent for the week. We’d make our own meals in the Studio and if we had any left by week’s end, we’d go out to the movies on Saturday night.
I’m afraid I must have bored Alex to tears. We’d talk about art, but the conversation always drifted to canoeing, fishing, and wild things. Alex kept remarking that he knew nothing of these things and I said I was returning the favour because I knew nothing of the art he spoke about. He told me of Europe, the art schools, the famous paintings. He admired and spoke a lot about the Impressionists. Art in Toronto, Alex told, was nothing more than second-rate, and the paintings he saw at the Canadian National Exhibition weren’t worth the canvas they were painted on.
Dr. MacCallum dropped in on us occasionally to view the progress of our work. By his demeanour, I never knew whether he was genuinely pleased or frustrated by the results of our efforts.
“You fellows must have something wrong with your eyesight,” Dr. MacCallum said during one of his visits. Alex and I looked at each other, and we burst out laughing.
Alex then retorted with a gleam in his eye, “ Well Doc, you have a year to make your diagnosis, but by that time, Tom will be long lost in the bush with his paints, and I won’t be far behind!”. Dr. MacCallum smiled – he knew that our agreement for the year was to paint whatever we wanted and he needed to temper his tendency to meddle in the small things of art that he knew nothing about.
More often than not, the visit would conclude with Dr. MaCallum rooting in our work, selecting a piece, and dropping a few bills that would guarantee our next week’s meals and a Saturday night movie.