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Beaver's Front Yard
Beaver's Front Yard

This November Ann and I did our annual sojourn to our old stamping grounds in Eastern Manitoba to visit friends and relatives. Each time we’re there I can hardly wait to do a few sketches in my old favourite haunts as well as jam with some of my old buddies and howl at the moon! Going there later than usual, I was a little apprehensive about the November weather. Just like North Vancouver Island it can suddenly decide that winter has arrived. As it turned out, we lucked out and had an unusually mild and sunny few weeks, during which I sketched in Whiteshell Provincial Park in the Canadian Shield, where I lived and painted more than fifty years ago.

I have a section in my website called The Canadian Shield. Just the other day I got an e-mail from one of my young browsers asking me to explain, exactly, what the Canadian Shield was, since he was doing a class paper on it. If you’re from B.C., it’s not a strange question to ask since the shield covers most of the eastern half of Canada; a huge conglomeration of rivers and lakes separated by rocks that are the roots of ancient, granite mountains ground down by time. In many places you can still see the striations made by the last glacial age as it passed over the surface of the granite. This is the area made famous in art by the Group of Seven who struck out North of Toronto on wilderness painting trips. Tom Thomson, the man who most epitomized The Group, worked as a ranger every summer in Algonquin Park. Still young, he died there under strange circumstances, in, or around, an overturned canoe on (wouldn’t you know it?) Canoe Lake.

The western edge of the Shield runs roughly from south- eastern Manitoba in a north-western direction to end under the Arctic Ocean east of the Mackenzie River Delta. The transition from Prairies to Shield is very abrupt at Lake Winnipeg. The west shore is Prairies and the east shore is Canadian Shield. The painting presented here, “Beaver’s Front Yard”, is in the transition zone just east of Winnipeg. As you drive east, you enter a huge area of swamps and bog before eventually seeing outcropping of the granite rock that is so typical of The Shield. Beaver dams and houses abound and can be a nuisance to Highway Maintenance because they plug up the culverts. The term “beaver dam” is usually reversed in their conversation.

The scene in this painting with the dam in the foreground and the barely noticeable beaver house in the distance is universally Canadian, since the buck-toothed rodent is our national symbol. The image could easily be one from North Vancouver Island or, for that matter, from Newfoundland. This one was started on a warm day in early November in Manitoba and finished at Nimpkish Heights on North Vancouver Island. Perhaps somebody in Newfoundland will see it on my website! While I was painting it I felt --- well--- very Canadian! And I won’t apologize!

Henschel Fine Arts
Henschel Fine Arts

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