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Mermaids play a significant role in the myths and legends of my Highland ancestors, assisting them in their journey from Ireland to first the islands and then the mainland of Scotland. I am enlisting their assistance once again as I  embark on my latest project, the construction of a 23 1/2 foot catamaran sailboat. I drew this design to grace the bow of each hull when the boat is completed.

The catamaran is the latest one to be offered by venerated designers, James Wharram and Hanneke Boone. The prototype Mana 24 was launched last year, sixty years after James set out on a boat of the same length to be the first to sail across the Atlantic Ocean on a catamaran. His inspiration for that boat and those for which he subsequently became famous was the sea-going double canoe sailing craft of the Polynesians.

This will be my second Wharram designed catamaran. In the 90’s I built a Tiki 21 and sailed it on Brightsand Lake for three summers before loading it in a 40 foot container and shipping it to Ghana. Here is a shot of it sailing onto the Ghanaian shore in 2002.

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Stay tuned for photos and updates during the construction phase. May the Mermaids of the Prairies ensure us fair winds and safe passage.

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12×16 Acrylic on stretched canvas

For over forty years, sailing has been a passion of mine. In that time I have owned five sailboats of various types and sizes. My lone sailing lesson consisted of an afternoon on Jackfish Lake with my next brother who had learned how to sail while in the Coast Guard. He helped me to set up my first sailboat, a home-built fifteen foot wooden craft that I purchased for $500 and we sailed for a couple hours. After that I was at my own devices, relying on sailing magazines and a how-to-sail book that I had come across in a bookstore. This was long before the advent of the internet and YouTube – it was trial and error hands-on experience.

Somewhere along the way in my reading, I encountered a man who had profoundly changed conventional sailing in Europe with his designs for two hulled sailboats inspired by and modelled after traditional Polynesian sailing craft. In 1956 James Wharram and his two female crew members became the first to sail across the Atlantic on a 23 1/2 foot catamaran that he had designed and built. I became enthralled by his designs and his philosophical approach to sailing with an emphasis on stability and low cost construction. In 1999, I completed the construction of a 21 foot catamaran, designed by James Wharram, using a set of plans drawn by his partner, Hanneke Boon. The boat was a Tiki 21, given the number 97 since mine was the 97th set of plans sold by James Wharram Design for that model.  The reference photo for the painting above was one of the few photos taken of that boat, sailing on Brightsand Lake.

Sailing season is still at least two months away, but while we can’t sail, we can paint about it. This one was inspired by a shot taken at the 18 minute mark of the video of last year’s  camping/sailing expedition, the Elbow Run 2016. My brother was charging up behind me like he owned the lake, and it wasn’t long before he surged past me.

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20 X 16 Acrylic on stretched canvas

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12″ x 16″ Acrylic on stretched canvas

 

Enough time has passed that a generation have reached adulthood without seeing the six grain elevators once situated beside the CNR tracks running through Maidstone, Saskatchewan. Like the majority of elevators on the Canadian prairies, they were decommissioned and demolished years ago.

As a youngster, I often accompanied my Dad when he was hauling grain from our farm located fourteen and a half miles north of the town. Dad had built a wooden box on the back of a  two ton Ford truck and in that, we made the trip. This was a big improvement over the days before my time when my Grandfather and his neighbours used horses and wagons to do the job. Riding in the truck with Dad was always a good time. Occasionally if I was very lucky, Dad would take the time to buy us ice cream cones as a special treat.

Years later, when I had a go at farming, I hauled my own grain from my place five miles further north,  past my Dad’s farm, down through the Big Gully and back up, and on into the town. If I began early in the morning and if everything went well, I could sometimes make three round trips in one day with two hundred bushels of wheat or canola on each load. However, if there was a snag, like a loader that wouldn’t start, or a truck that got stuck, or a line-up causing delays, or a side trip to get machinery repairs, or groceries that needed to be bought, that meant two trips with perhaps enough time at the end of the day to load the truck for an early start the next morning.

With the elevators now gone, grain is hauled by semi-trailer to high through-put elevators located much further away. It has become “big business” – no time for ice cream cone treats for youngsters anymore.

When painting this, I referenced a numbered print drawn by friend and very well respected local artist, Velma Foster. The print hangs in my Mom’s home in Maidstone and brings back memories for me every time  I see it.

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With two people painting in the same house, one consequence that we did not anticipate was an accumulation of painted canvases. What to do with them? The answer when one has bare walls – hang them up! But then what happens if you decide you don’t like them hanging up anymore? or, if one is very fortunate, a painting is sold? The down side of hanging pictures is the hooks that leave holes in the wall when displays are changed.

There is a modern solution – a picture rail like that used in art galleries where paintings are always in a state of change. The system is easy to use and looks good. However, the price is a deterrent if one is operating on a starving artist’s income, or as it happens in my case, one is too cheap to put out that kind of money. Fortunately there is also the traditional solution which has been all but forgotten and that is the route that I took.

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  • At the local Co-op lumber yard, I picked up 5 eight foot lengths of picture moulding that was traditionally used for just this purpose – 5 x CDN$10
  • Online I discovered I could order from the UK picture moulding hooks – 25 for $20 postage included.
  • From my bicycle wholesale supplier (or your local bike shop if you don’t happen to repair bicycles like I do) derailleur cables – about a buck per cable, long enough to cut into 2 pieces
  • From an electrical wholesaler terminal lugs – $28 for 25 lugs

Total outlay to do three walls on a 12′ x 15′ room, with lugs and hooks and cables left over for another room – $120

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A hole was drilled through the hook, just large enough to slide the bike cable through. The cable was  then slipped through the terminal lug and the lug screwed to the back of the picture frame. To protect the wall, I also added small felt pads to the bottom corners of the frame.

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Voila – 15 canvas’s on display, with room for a few more. We are pleased with the results and will likely do the same in another room.

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20″ X 16″ Acrylic on stretched canvas

$240

During an October trip to Campbell River, British Columbia, my friend took me out on several forays into the area. On one of those expeditions, we checked out the Strathcona Provincial Park and hiked a short distance in the forest. Cool and rainy weather had kept the forest floor wet and green – it was a magical walk. One could easily imagine gnomes and fairies watching us from under ferns growing in the shadow of giant fir trees.

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20″ X 16″ Acrylic on stretched canvas

$245

Our destination was Lupin falls and the walk was rewarded as we approached the falls, with water cascading out of the sunshine, down through the forest and under a small wooden walking bridge on the trail.

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20″ X 16″ Acrylic on canvas $245

In 1910, the first members of a new community made their way north from Oklahoma to Saskatchewan to stake out homesteads in an area north of Maidstone. These African Americans came in response to advertisements from the Canadian government, inviting people to settle and occupy the western part of the area called Canada.

These homesteaders built themselves a place of worship, using locally harvested logs from the nearby North Saskatchewan River valley. A section of the churchyard became the cemetery for the community.

I grew up on a farm three miles west of the Church, on the farm that was started by my grandfather and great grandfather in 1905. The reference for these paintings are photos that I took in 2007 during one of my sojourns to Shiloh.

For more information, read this recent post by Leander Lane, one of the descendants of the original settlers.

Here is another article from the University of Calgary that provides some of the history of the community.

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10″ X 12″ Acrylic on canvas $90

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12″ X 16″ Acrylic on canvas $145

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