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"Tribute" acrylic on 24 x 36 inch ((61 x 91 cm) stretched canvas (2013)
Olexander Wlasenko and I had been planning an experimental sketching trip in plain air for several years during our late night studio visits. All we had evolved was a set of tools. The kit was composed of our exotic studio equipment; a generator (to mimic civilized 110 AC power), a projector, a pad computer, a sound system, and a video camera.


photo credit: Oshawa Space Invaders

The usual back country camp would not be possible. The equipment of the portable studio was to delicate and heavy to transport by foot any distance, to valuable to freight by canoe and, in a back country camp it would be impossible to keep it from the elements.

The plan included a base camp shelter for the electronics and us, with full luxuriant protection from the elements. We discovered a site for the camper on the edge of a granite outcrop on the east side of the forestry road.

We discovered during set up that the 12 volt lead acid battery on the caravan wouldn't take a charge.

On the west side of the road... the fire ring on smooth glacial ground granite and the lake:

The expedition was amorphous like a blank canvas or large sheet of clean white rag paper. About a month before we penciled in August 10 to 15 with a complement of 4 men. We departed on August 11 with a plan to stay in the forestry and on the road 4 nights and 5 days. The general area, being bureaucratically unmanaged, allowed us to plan as if we were in the early decades of the 20th century. Without reservations or fines we could scrub or go according to the weather.

We had no specific campsite in mind.

We bought most of our firewood from an interesting old skinny retired trucker who, amazingly, cut and split wood for a living a few kilometres east and south from where we were camped.

Olex did the majority of the supper cooking on the open fire with a grill someone had left beside the fire ring.

We ate healthy and well.

I did two India ink, watercolour (right/left hand) sketches during the trip.

On the side, the actual sketching was experimenting with the electronics.

My choice of subject was almost conceptual, it was a crack in the granite near the cliff above the lake a few meters from the fire ring.

I use the art application of the term "conceptual" loosely losing its strict non-objective meaning. I didn't plan to make a diptych that functions on a 90 degree angle, I did it because I was interested in the crag from an ideal location - from every direction at once (cubist). The concept and the objective sketches came into existence at the same time. It is like an illustration of how we were working the projection project... as pure art born in the media rather than as an idea illustrated visually later with media; like a commission. In a Zen of action, the course of it is not predetermined but; action and thought, like Kung fu (Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete *Wikipedia). The action occurs in what we can only perceive as a sequence of unfolding instances through time - one neurological/muscle thought/action to the next without premeditation. Thought and action through training and skill become one and the same.

The crag was as as easy to fall into as it was to step to the internal pillar like core, over another plummet to the other side, a lakeside cliff. The crag was almost invisible to the eye and the mind. MouseOver (touch) the above picture.

That evening after supper waiting and watching the sunset, dusk to darkness at the fireside; we began the essential experiments with sound and projection. The projector we brought was not powerful enough to cast images on the trees, our original hypothesis. Olex pointed the projector onto the smooth granite stone on which the fire circle rested... we had it! The granite reflected our imagery back at us and into the eye of the video.

The generator began sputtering and coughed out. After extensive trouble shooting this second systems collapse in the pitch, moonless dark, for what seemed like hours, we managed to conclude... it was out of gas.

Of course fireside chats, sitting and lounging on granite in ash and dirt are fun too. All the stories of humanity, before central heating, took place or were created before and around a fire. The fire is the mystical connection to what might be 0.2 to 1.7 million years [4] of artful humanoid huddling, dancing, singing, and subconscious charcoal manufacturing.

As in the night before
we didn't call it a night
until the dawning light.

The fourth day we went to the nearest town, bought gasoline and food. We walked and paddled around. In the dark of the black night we hiked up the road under the starless moonless overcast sky to an abandoned forestry training camp and explored the graffiti haunted wooden ruins by dancing shadow lined LED light.

Earlier that afternoon we stepped over and went around the crag to throw boulders into the lake and record the ripples in the reflections. Sometime during that day and night the idea of using the crag as a screen came to us.

Something else must have been at play, exhaustion, lack of vision, the realization that there were only a few litres of drinking water in the fresh water tanks, the terrible effort of carrying the heavy and delicate myriad of tangle wired equipment out and onto location. Or was it the mass of blood thirsty mosquitoes that tarnished the night?

I can't remember much of it only a feeling that almost everything including our creative spirits had abandoned us. It was over and there was no feeling of accomplishment as if the experience of the ruined training camp had overtaken our expedition in a cascade of failing systems.

Lightning lit the western sky like arch lamp plate exposures in a graphics studio line camera target room.

Sheet lighting splashes in digital video.

The next evening flights of protectorate dragonflies attacked and ate the mosquitoes. We laboriously hauled the portable studio to the edge of the crag, began setting up, started the generator, and a rainstorm out of the west came across the lake and we were forced to pack up.

We had about 2 litres of drinking water remaining and the trailer battery level indicator had gone critical red along with the fresh water tank and the waste water holding tanks were almost full.

With the equipment safely stowed under the canopy, in the truck, and trailer; we settled down with drinks on chairs and watched the water flow off the granite and under our feet. The generator could not be used when it's feet are in water. We carelessly drained what little charge there was remaining to us into the yard light under the canopy.

Sometime shortly before 3 am the rain stopped.

Olex suggested we haul the studio back to the crag. I felt relaxed with my cup of coffee laced with Jack Daniel's cinnamon whiskey in a zero gravity chair. Our conversation had turned, shortly before, to the "state of grace" in which art and inspiration take form at once, the dragonflies, the end of rain and the return of starlight.

I agreed.

The muses and the graces seemed to be with us.

We hauled the studio back to the crag.


The rain came again in a awful shocking deluge and we hauled the studio back to the caravan up muddy slopes.

We were over the top! Laughing and soaked too. We turned the camper into an inside out drum kit and played her for the first time like boats of Green Peace at anchor in Victoria harbour, 1976.

I could not overcome my excitement and find sleep even though I had a commitment to be at Pearson International Airport in Toronto that next sunlit day.

The project is not finished. It is now like the rough oil sketches made by the impressionist Group of Seven artists during the first quarter of the 20th century in the Canadian Shield canoe wilderness north. But, instead of working up the sketches into full blown paintings in the studio for gallery showings, we must return to the natural split screen crag with imagery to match. We need our more powerful luminosity studio projectors, AC wire splitters, and real laptop computers to process imagery to match the screen.

Dream on...

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