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A Brush with Life - Issue #27 To Return To My Trees

There is a Welsh phrase (not a “Welch” phrase) “dod yn ôl at fy nghoed”, meaning “to return to a bala
A Brush with Life - Issue #27 To Return To My Trees
By Terrill Welch Gallery • Issue #27 • View online
There is a Welsh phrase (not a “Welch” phrase) “dod yn ôl at fy nghoed”, meaning “to return to a balanced state of mind” or the literal translation is “to return to my trees“. This, as you know, is something that I do often. But sometimes, I even surprise myself with how powerful the pull of trees can be. Take this latest tree. I walked out onto this huge expanse of hard sand and then headed directly across to where there was this amazing old fir tree whose growth seems to have split the sandstone, its top is blown off, and its roots getting salted with every winter storm. I could not easily capture its grandness in one image so I pieced a few together and relied mostly on a short video for painting references. After all the little plein air paintings, this is my first studio painting from Hornby Island. Well, let’s see what we have shall we? 

I could have used a 60 x 40 inch canvas for this painting but I resisted and decided instead to see if a smaller 36 x 24 inch could communicate the power of this tree.
We have a start as I gather up the branches lost against the westerly afternoon light of sun and sky.
These will, at first, contrast hard against the expanses of the dark trunk… until I get the reflected light from the sea and sky to the east involved.
I can now sense where the tree is in space as we look way up from the beach floor under our feet. From here, the blocking in process continues until the canvas is covered in wet oil paint.
Now, the real work begins! I build up the paint from both the lightest lights to the darkest dark and everything in between. I desperately what to keep the strength, power and movement of time and space that is already on the canvas. This is essential. I seek the most minimalist of details that all lead towards this one intention and will guide every mark I make from here forward. (Don’t hold your breath though as it will take another few hours and we don’t need any readers passing out in anticipation ;)
I take a long break, plan what we will have for supper, feeling pleasantly pleased with myself that I remembered that we would need to eat. This phenomenon doesn’t always happen when I am in the middle of a larger painting. Sometimes, when I am holding several brushes and standing before a canvas I forget such domestic requirements… until the natural light fades in my painting space.
I continue painting…
Now it is late. I have lost my light and I’m too tired to walk up the stairs to the loft studio and get the studio lamp. Besides, I see some rather tricky changes I want to make that will require scraping a bit of paint and starting over. I must stop. This is it for today.
In the morning, with my body stiff and slightly sore from the hours before the canvas the day before, I begin again. As usual, sleep seems to find solutions that a tired painter would struggle with if attempted without it. The last stretch goes easily and each mark of paint finds its proper place.
The painting has come to “resting”. It still needs a final photograph and the edges painted but the majority of work is done!
I am calling this 36 x 24 inch, walnut oil on canvas, painting “Standing Below the Old Fir at Tribune Bay” but it could just as easily be called “Lost Against the Light”.
Let’s step back so you can get a wee bit of distance from it…

The work is still drying and it will be a bit before I release it. I am thinking, maybe for the show that opens in July at the gallery, unless someone lays claim to it before then.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this behind the scenes development of a new work. In addition, if you are interested, at about the 18 second mark in this next video from Hornby Island, there is a segment that shows this tree in its environment.
Impressions of Hornby Island
What I am reading and related bits...
The long article I am currently reading, heavily peppered with paintings, is only a segment of a dense book. I am going to introduce it with the concluding two paragraphs:
Nature is perhaps the supreme teacher of the idea of recurrence. By studying it, we are continually meeting the same patterns: a tree puts out its first buds, it blossoms and comes into leaf; its fruit ripens and falls; the leaves change colour, wither and are blown away by the wind, leaving the branches bare. Our lives are at points no less circumscribed and subject to necessity. Concentrating on the recurrent patterns of nature primes us to understand the structure of our own embodied lives. 
We should not expect to have mysteriously escaped the laws of existence. We remain part of the cycle of time. There is, thankfully, little that is ever entirely new.
What Is Wrong with Modern Times - and How to Regain Wisdom - The Book of Life
This article is a “standing back” sociological and philosophical perspective on our current human condition. It is not a light or easy read because it tends to lift us out our own personal world view and allow us to look at it as an observer. So, I offer the article with a warning - to read this article could be unsettling. Yet, I offer it anyway. I offer it because these are dangerous times when we need to be brave. I believe, we need to question. We need to consider that what we believe to be true-and-right, may possibly be wrong-headed. But if this feels like too big a stretch and you would rather lean into my paintings simply for their own sake, I understand. If this is the case, skip over the link to the article for now and enjoy the latest painting process all by itself.
The other bit that seems to belong in the same basket of exploration and adventure is a video about finding a whole new way of living together. Microtopia: Micro Dwellings, Downsizing and Living off the Grid can be found on Amazon Prime Video. This offering isn’t so much about back to the land as it is rebel responses to the societal expectations both for individuals and for communities.
I am fascinated with the changes in social organizations that have resulted in the past 30 years, partly because of the internet. If houses were created for storing memories and material wealth - what do we really need to provide only shelter and a home? From the margins of invention, curiosity and frustration, combined with a belief in humanity and working from a place of hope, we have begun a restructuring of civilization. What would we like this to be? How do we get there? This video takes us into these wild pioneer ways for living in contemporary society - or possibly ways of living in spite of it. I highly recommend, if you have the chance to take an hour, you watch this exploration of alternatives to what we believe we now know about the best ways to live.
A question for you from this past Sunday...
Sunday Morning thoughts from the Terrill Welch Gallery Mayne Island BC
This video was first recorded live on my Facebook Art Page. I therefore already have a few comments to get us started.
This first comment is from Dr. Katherine Cox Stevenson, PhD (Nursing) is a woman finally living from her heart as a writer, oil painter, tiny homestead keeper, journal instructor, and spousal dementia survivor. She considers creative expression equally important for health as meditation, exercise, nutrition, nature, etc. You can learn more about her life, work, and upcoming journaling and writing workshops on Mayne Island at https://drkatherinecoxstevenson.com
“I watched this video earlier today Terrill and here are some of my thoughts in terms of your online showing and the gallery. Online everything looks beautiful and you do a fabulous job describing and showing your gorgeous paintings. In person, viewing the paintings is a whole other experience. As others have mentioned it is easier to see the changes of light and one can walk back from and toward a painting. As beautiful as the paintings are online, in my opinion, they pale as compared to in person. You have seen me gasp with some of your paintings in the gallery, even though I am familiar with them online. Then there is you and that gallery!! You have created such a warm and inviting space and welcome us all with open arms and no pressure. There is an energy with you and the gallery that I find the words hard to find to describe it. Beautiful, creative, exploring, and almost a sweet kind of secret Mother Nature is holding for us through your work. A very grounding, healing, space I like to return to often as it and you nourish my soul. <3 Fabulous idea to ponder this glorious Sunday.”
This next comment is from Alice Harris, a champion of creative problem-solving and home-inspired invention, who devours whole libraries of books in her drive to fulfill her curiosity and pleasure in discovery. Second to this is only her quirky sense of humour and compassion for those around her. She always brings more than she takes away and this includes her occasional visits to the gallery.
“Since the only way I’ll get to see a lot of art from around the world is online, sometimes it will have to do. I prefer to see things in person, and even better is when the artist is there and willing to interact. In real life you can see texture and changing light and so many little details that may not show properly online. I can step a little closer or a little further away. Not the same as zooming in or out. In person the artist may choose to share a story about their life or the work that brings things to a whole new level of understanding.”
And a third and final comment is from a fellow painter Diane Widler Wenzel who lives in the state of Oregon. She has never been to the Terrill Welch Gallery but we have corresponded on social media for years. You can learn more about her life and painting from her coauthored blog with Rain Trueax at https://rainydaythought.blogspot.com/
“When I look at the art of my artist friends online, the experience is always less of a social experience than when I go to a gallery. In galleries, I always engage in conversation with the managing attendant and often with friends or family at the gallery. Art history online serves as a bar in judging my own work. The lighted screen changes what is actually the colors in a painting and viewing art on the monitor trains the way I paint color, guiding me to brighten my palette.”
So what are your thoughts? How do you experience paintings online and in person? Is there a connection or relationship between these experiences?
Until next time!
Canadian Contemporary Artist Terrill Welch Landscapes and more by impressionist painter Terrill Welch
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A Brush with Life is the good bits! Insider stories, discoveries, snippets, opinions, new works and shows for fans and art collectors of Terrill Welch paintings. Published every 2nd Friday.

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Terrill Welch Gallery, 478 Village Bay Rd., Mayne Island, B.C., Canada