Quiet Moment – Blackbird Café, Burnstown 24x24 acrylic
In from the cold, the cozy interior of the Blackbird Café is a welcome sight. Nestled in the hills, looking over the Madawaska River at the junction of the Burnstown Road and the Calabogie Road, the Café is a well-known drop-in stop for Ottawa and Renfrew County travellers.
The inspiration for this painting took place on a break from outdoor painting in the Calabogie area this November. Several onsite sketches and a photo for detail, taken over coffee, accompanied me back to my studio at the end of the day - where the painting would began to take shape.
After four wonderful days painting with the Plein Air Ensemble group in Westport, ON, all 19 of us packet our paints and headed home after breakfast. We were weary, yet feeling content from the long days at our easels on Foley Mountain and around the town, and yet fresh with images of evenings full of music and conversation with friends old and new.
Westport is situated in the Rideau Lakes District between Kingstown and Ottawa. It’s been years since I spent time there, back when I had a booth at the Rideau Valley Art Show that ran every summer for many years. I had forgotten just how paintable the town is with its numerous churches, waterfront docks, stores and quaint historic homes. On this trip we stayed at the rambling Cove Country Inn and Spa, dating back to 1876. The rooms were very comfortable, the dining excellent and the big country welcome, warm and friendly.
On two evenings we had art demonstrations by two capable Plein Air Ensemble members and on the last evening we were treated to the foot tapping gyrations of country and blues in the spacious bar and salon of the Cove. Even our very own Mary Moore nailed two renditions at the open-stage mike to choruses of rousing applause from a packed house. Absolutely memorable!
All agreed that, considering the comfortable, affordable accommodation, proximity to Ottawa and Kingston, and so many varied choices of places to paint, Westport was a great choice.
Now in my studio with four fresh Westport paintings propped up for inspection, I can sense the energy and exuberance felt as each one grew from an inspiration to composition to a painting on site. I can’t wait to begin to carefully rework them, correcting colours under studio lighting, and reassessing – a process that can take weeks at times. The last step is to add my signature at the bottom, but only if I feel confident that the work is truthful.
Plein Air Ensemble continues to be successful because it provides the opportunity for artists to work en plein air independently, without pressures of competition or judgement, and with time for discussion and exploring other painting options with like-minded artists.