One: True Theology

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“In the early Church, there was a clear understanding that we needed to advance from the self-understanding or self-contemplation that taught us to discipline our greedy instincts and cravings to the “natural contemplation” that perceived and venerated the wisdom of God in the order of the world and allowed us to see created reality for what it truly was in the sight of God—rather than what it was in terms of how we might use it or dominate it. And from there grace would lead us forward into true “theology,” the silent gazing upon God that is the goal of all our discipleship.” Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address to the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” 5,

The Wisdom of God

Venerating the wisdom of God in the order of the world is what “en plein air” painting is all about. In the chaotic jumble of branches and bushes there is order. The artist contemplates the jumble and discovers how it holds together, how it flows and how it dances in natural rhythm. Contemplation is really the key to true theology.

Artists have a head start

Although artists have a head start in this practice, anyone who ventures into a natural setting will discover the sacred if they open themselves to awe. Mother Nature is God’s first bible. Allowing oneself to leave behind preconceived notions and personal agendas opens the door. The opportunity is offered to everyone. Not everyone chooses to partake.

Two perceptions

While gazing at the green kaleidoscope across a lake one sees beauty, peace and the love of God. Another sees an investment opportunity for lumber and condo complexes. Our national parks are essential to maintain the possibility of getting beyond ourselves. City parks and green spaces feed the soul.

Nature no longer respected

However, some deny the idea of soul and God largely because our perception of nature changed during the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment. No longer a source of consolation it became the enemy to subdue, the source to exploit. The Industrial Revolution sealed its fate as something to use rather than respect. The Information Age has removed us from the natural world and placed us in the virtual where there is little to respect and much to exploit.

Awe is the door to true theology

As a result, we have lost the art of contemplation. It is time to reintroduce moments of silence in our frenetic world. Take a walk in the wood. Gaze at a flower and behold its intricate beauty. Make a bouquet of dandelions and find dinosaurs or castles in the clouds. Engage with a baby. Be awed. This is the beginning of veneration and the door to true theology. God awaits our response.

Time to paint

Now where did I leave my brushes?


Different Strokes: Outside

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En plein air or painting outside, requires simplification of shape, colour and tonalities.  Spontaneous, on the spot drawing and painting improves eye-hand coordination, memory and accuracy of proportion. Sounds simple, and it is. However, simple does not translate as easy.

Rust sets in

Unfortunately life drawing and en plein air have both taken a hiatus in my schedule. I am rusty.

Vitamin D

So, with the intention of getting some practice before tonight I set out in search of a suitable venue. From the heart of Montréal many streets heading north end up in Parc du Mont Royal. Coming out of the hotel, I turned north. The west side of the street felt cool. Sunlight washed the myriad of façade on the east side, inviting. Succumbing to the invitation, I took off my coat and tied it around my waist. The warmth felt good on my skin. Vitamin D.


Avenue du Musée appeared permanently closed as the brightly coloured plastic tabs swirled in entrancing coordination around larger flower pots and objects of interest. I marveled at the precision of pattern. White and blue melded into yellows and reds, lovely in the dance. To the left various sculptures graced the lawn. Bronze, stainless steel, aluminum and paint vied for attention against the backdrop of ancient stone buildings supporting new green foliage. I lingered a while.

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Long Flight of Stairs


Entering a cul-de-sac,  a daunting flight of stairs rose in the distance. Granite steps climbed endlessly up. Nevertheless I moved forward. Standing at the bottom would not get me to the top. Stopping to catch my breath I gazed around, looking for the shapes I most enjoy. Sunlight played patchwork on the stone blocks. Solid black railings cut forms in the green beyond. A few photos later the climb began again.

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Determined trees.
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Constant construction.

My Holy Spirit guide

Not knowing where the entrance to the park lay, I listened to my guide. As a result I turned to the right onto Avenue des Pins. Catching glimpses of perpetual construction in the distance I stopped to admire the iron spiral fire escapes amid the determined life springing up between brick walls. A few more photos and onward, upward toward the larger trees and the ever-growing green space. So I crossed the street.


A lovely stone guard rail hugged the edge of the road. In the middle of the curve a small break in the stonework beckoned to wilder places. I stepped inside. The warmer sun delayed my departure from the dappled cool, too hot now. Again, I turned right descending the pathway into the unknown seeking the spot where I could create my next en plein air.

Soothing sounds

My need for the familiar reminded me of the reason why I found it difficult to see. Since everything was new, different and exciting, I found it unpaintable. The search continued. Finally it ended with the soothing sound of running water.

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A lovely setting.

Settling in outside

Water and I are friends. Hence this was the place. Sitting in the shade at the side of the road I took out my pen and allowed the image to form. The tamed stream flowed from a culvert and disappeared into a grate. The carefully designed bed in between hinted at natural forms. The stream and I could live with the imperfection. Eventually the water would carve its own design. My en plein air sketch took form. Satisfied I headed back for lunch. Being outside had rejuvenated me. Life is so good.

Make Music

Crazy! The Make Music Edmonton Festival asked me to be part of the happening tonight. I will be doing another en plein air, capturing the action outside in the park on the corner of 108 Ave and 124 St Edmonton. It all starts at 5pm. Do drop in!