May 4, 1917
Florence and I spent most of our time outside today. The sun was out and it was well into the fifties. We didn’t stray too far from the Lodge but we were far enough away to not be bothered.
Annie, on Shannon’s behalf, apologized about Florence getting her skirt muddy (we had to walk back through the mud yesterday because Shannon got the wagon stuck) She offered to launder it in the morning. As the sun would be out with a drying wind, it would be back to its clean state by this afternoon. I could see that Annie was quite gracious about setting right yesterday’s incident and making Florence feel comfortable as a guest. Unlike Shannon, Annie has a keen sense when things feel wrong and knows what to do make things feel right. She’s the counterbalance to Shannon and Mowat Lodge’s secret to success.
After breakfast, Florence looked through my sketches . I had over a dozen set about in the dining room. Some were sitting in the window sills, others were propped atop the wainscoting, or against the wall in the corner where the reading chair was.
Florence looked closely at the northern lights sketch, “Tom, did you use a palette knife on this one?”
I reached over and with my fingers traced over the lines I painted, “No, I used a filbert. It was cold, in the low teens, the paint was stiff. A palette knife might have done a better job.”
“Oh no!” I could hear the delight in her voice, “A frozen filbert brush has done the job nicely. It’s a good effect.”
I admire Florence. Despite her time in Paris, she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a painter here. She could have stayed there and become a European painter, like so many other artists from here, but she decided to come back.
“The weather’s good now. No telling when it’s going to turn. Let’s get our paints and go out.” And we went out into the sunshine and wind.
Before we did any sketching, we walked to get the feel and sense of the place. We walked up to Lowrie Dickson’s place – the road was dry to there. Then we came back and set up by the old mill foundation. We were on a rocky outcropping that made for a good view. I was considering bringing Florence in the canoe but the water was still too cold and treacherous. I had only been out for one excursion and I needed to be sure of my sense in the water before I took on passengers, especially women. A heavy winter dress in cold water is a sure death sentence at this time of year. I didn’t want to take that chance.
We both made sketches using the smaller boards I cut from the orange crates. I painted a stand of birches. She painted the far shore to the east.
“Cloisonnism. A good scene for that, Tom.”
I knew exactly what Florence meant. Bold colours, compartmented, decorative. Like stained glass. Like Gaugin and his painting “The Yellow Christ.” Symbolism, bold colours, flat planes. Deliberately crude and simplified. Heresy to many, but a depiction more truthful than anything before. I learned all that from Florence.
We spent that afternoon painting and on our way back, we picked a wildflower bouquet. Dinner was better and friendlier. We played some cards and checkers in the evening. Shannon kept us entertained with his story of extracting his wagon out of the mud. George Rowe had helped him out. Shannon left out the best part of the story – that he ended up at Lowrie Dickson’s shack for the better part of the afternoon drinking with the boys. That’s why he was late for dinner yesterday and why Shannon’s family decided to eat separately in the kitchen – because he was drunk.
When the evening was done, Florence made sure that she went to her room on her own. I waited awhile before I went up. My timing, my ascent, and my footsteps on the upper floor were most certainly monitored by Annie. I went to my own room, making a loud noise closing my door. Certain that Annie can ascertain my precise whereabouts – for the first part of night, at least.