Write It Out: Instruction Video
“Thomson became a bit of a financial windfall for Mowat Lodge, as he continually persuaded fellow artists to come to Canoe Lake to paint. He and his cohorts were even becoming known, ever so slightly, as “The Algonquin Park School.” A.Y. Jackson, whom James MacCallum had introduced to Thomson in Toronto, became part of the informal movement merely by showing up in the park to paint. Arthur Lismer came with Thomson mostly out of curiosity, wanting to see what was so special about a landscape dominated by grey rock, blue-to-black water, rusty pine needles, soft tamarack and forests filled with everything from lowly poplar to the majestic white pine. Lismer, like others, found the landscape compelling but the creative conditions difficult, as artists often had to sketch with one hand while using the other to swat away blackflies and mosquitoes. The arms determined to carry it through, the legs eager to bolt for cover.
Thomson’s artist friends would often combine the trip to Canoe Lake with a stay at MacCallum’s cottage on Go Home Bay. But Canoe Lake was far more to Thomson’s liking, even if not always so endearing to the friends he hauled up north with him. In one letter Jackson wrote from Thomson’s beloved retreat in early 1914, he half-joked that the next news family and friends might hear of him would be “Artist devoured by wolves.” He had not encountered wolves up close but had heard their howls in the distance when sketching outside one winter morning.
“You will notice my present address,” Jackson had gone on in his letter, “far from the dust and din of commercialism. Mowat is a quiet unpretentious place. It doesn’t bust itself to double its population every two years. Nor go crazy over selling building lots. No fortunes are made or lost and yet everyone is happy. The population is eight including me. Perhaps if I stayed on I could get a job as health officer. Or chief of the fire brigade. Our only means of locomotion are snow shoes. There is only one road to the station a mile away and it stops there. However the snow shoeing is good there are lots of lakes and all frozen. So you can walk for miles on the level. As soon as you get off the lakes you are in the bush which is very rough a very tangle of birch and spruce but very interesting wild animals abound. Tracks everywhere deer, foxes, rabbits and wolves mostly. Hunting is forbidden so they all congregate here. I expect to be here until the middle of April, getting some winter sketches.””
As I sit in the sunshine outside my cabin built 30 years ago north of Lake Superior, I marvel that this beautiful land remains so unpopulated and so wild. Don’t get me wrong, I love it this way. We saw a lynx this morning, for the second time this year, after never seeing any since we’d built here.
The land that Tom Thomson “dragged” his fellow artists to in 1917, while it is still protected as a Provincial Park, it now sees over 12 million visitors each year (according to Google).
Although I do love Algonquin Park, I do prefer my camp. It is quite ‘Goldilocks’ to me – not too hot, not too cold; not too hard, not too soft; not too big, not too small. Not too remote, not too close. Just right. Moderation.
Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.