Robert Achtemichuk

What I see becomes a sort of visual illumination, like a match struck unexpectedly in the dark, a gift, lighting my path into wonder -Virginia Woolf

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In Homer Watson’s Foot Steps Exhibition

Opening Sunday, June 21 from 2 to 4 pm
at the Homer Watson House & Gallery
1754 Old Mill Road, Kitchener 519.748.43.77

March 12 2015 200pmMarch 12, 2015 2:00pm wc/washi

In Homer Watson’s Foot Steps

This project is an attempt to follow in Homer Watson’s steps, and locate the sites from which he made his many paintings of landscapes around Doon. In my research I collected images of successive seasons in the woods near the house in which Homer Watson was born, just down the road from the Homer Watson House & Gallery; the marsh area where the Speed River and the Grand River meet; and down the Grand River into Cambridge and Paris. Homer Watson could walk from field to field across private property looking for painting subjects. He painted woods, trails, farm buildings, cows, streams and rivers.

I found images like his – riverside views, trails in the woods, individual trees, stands of trees. The paintings I made were done on the spot, following Watson’s method of “plein air” painting, a method that he himself borrowed from the painters he admired, precursors of the Impressionist movement such as Constable, Corot, and the painters of the Barbizon School (to whom he paid such affectionate homage in the ceiling frieze of his studio). Yet unlike them I used watercolour and gouache in my explorations, looking to record the fleeting light, clouds and movement in the spontaneous gestures of a fluid and quick drying medium.

Following in Homer Watson’s steps encouraged my love of old trees and showed me their cramped and dwindling environment. Gone are the huge old-growth trees of his time. What we now have, especially in Cressman Woods, are trees that were seedlings in Homer Watson’s lifetime. New private property signs multiply with the urban sprawl – no trespassing – emphatic frontiers limiting public access to woods, trail and river. I documented what I found, but I did not include new buildings or commercial developments.

Homer Watson saw the beginning of the city’s assault on the countryside and the natural environment, and the danger urban encroachment posed to the groves of old trees. His concern for his local landscape went beyond painting: it took him 25 years of work and lobbying to garner support from municipal councillors and business people to establishing Cressman Woods as a publicly accessible nature reserve, now part of Homer Watson Park.

Like Homer Watson, I want my paintings to raise our awareness that we all need these natural wooded areas, these landscapes and these points of view to be preserved for our collective health and spiritual wellbeing.

Robert Achtemichuk
Spring, 2015

I appreciate the support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund and and the Ontario Arts Council.
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Orienteering Homer Watson’s painting sites 2

Many of Homer Watson’s paintings include views of the Grand River. Charlie Hill, recently retired Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada shared that Homer painted a lot towards Blair which is down stream from his house in Doon.

Taking Mr. Hill’s observation in hand, two weeks ago Sasha, my son, and I rented a canoe and took a paddle from Freeport to Blair past the Homer Watson House and Gallery. I was particularly hopeful in finding a stand of pines along the river that are in one of his paintings now in the collection of the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery. It is called Moonlight along the Grand. We made a few stops allowing me to paint. Here are two, one from shore and one from the boat. There were a few younger pines.

September 28 2014 200pm September 28, 2014 2:00 pm, wc on washi

September 28 2014 330 2 September 28, 2014 3:30 pm, wc on washi

The National Gallery of Canada has a very large collection of Homer’s paintings and drawings. If you wish, this link will take you to the area in the NGC website that pertains to Homer Watson – Thanks to Laura Mabee at HWHG for this information.

I appreciate the support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund.
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