The Postmaster’s House. Facing the Nith River, Ayr Ontario.
THE POSTMASTER’S HOUSE (2)
(continued from The Postmaster’s House 1, posted June 26. 2013)
A new passion can develop in the most unforseen way.
Suddenly I not only desired, but needed to surround myself with colour and beauty. Phil and Joan (Roe) McLorn’s beautiful, intensely coloured, watercolour images, their still-lifes, florals and scenes made you want to enter and stay awhile. I felt happy, contented, excited as I walked from room to room in their Heritage Home, circa 1840. Named, ‘The Postmaster’s House’ because the village postmaster had lived there more than a century earlier. It and an outbuilding, previously the Carriage House, were nestled among gardens along the bank of the Nith River in Ayr, Ontario. Just entering the property caused me to feel transported back in time to a gentler, more civilized way of life.
Following a tour of their beautiful home-gallery, Phil and Joan took me along the flagstone path to the Carriage House, but now it enjoyed life as their studio and a charming B&B in the loft. More inspiration saturated my soul. It was here where I fell in love with two more of Joan’s paintings from their painting trip to Ville Sur Auzon in Provence. Joan stressed the watercolours were incomplete – they were ‘underpaintings’ she said. This is the first layer of watercolour paint applied to your drawing. It suggests the shape, colour, value. When dry, the artist goes back in and applies more contrast, intensity, detail to finish the work.
Ville Sur Auzon underpaintings in watercolour, by Elizabeth Joan Roe McLorn
I wanted to buy her ‘under paintings’, not just because they were beautiful in themselves, in colours like yummy sherbet deserts, but for me they introduced me to ‘the process’ – I could see the steps leading to a finished painting.
My wheels were turning, and when I get inspired, look out. I plunge in to everything with gusto and single-mindedness. I was inspired to such a degree that I knew, then and there, that I wanted to paint. I had never done so in my life. In fact, public school art resulted in such pitiful, embarrassing results that it felt simply beyond my ability. Yet here I was, 50 years later, in Phil and Joan’s inspiring home and studio, saying to myself, “I can do that. Maybe not as well as they do, but I know I can paint.” I knew too, that I had to find out how and where to begin this new endeavour, before I left The Postmaster’s House.
So, although by now I had nearly outworn my welcome, I asked Phil if he would give me a few pointers. We returned to the house and he sat me down at the beautifully hewn, harvest table in the large, inviting kitchen. Phil advised me on what basic art supplies I should buy, and where I should buy them. Because I didn’t know a round brush from a flat and because the names of the paint hues were so numerous and so foreign to me, he sketched the necessary items and listed the tubes of paint. Phil recommended that I join the Waterloo Community Art Center where there are workshops, art shows, a sketch club.
Phil McLorn’s list of suggested paints, brushes & paper to get me started on my new passion.
Phil McLorn’s recommended initial palette set-up – warm hues left, cool shades right.
Then Phil sent me off with a preliminary plan for moving forward on my new passion. I left the Postmaster’s House and headed straight for Racca’s Art Supplies in downtown Waterloo, Ontario. There, owner and watercolour artist, Valerian Racca, became another kind, inspiring mentor. I returned home on a high of excitement and a little trepidation.
Without the artistic inspiration, generosity and encouragement from these two talented artists, I would undoubtedly have been frustrated and failed. A year later Phil invited myself and a few other people to enjoy a workshop in the gardens of The Postmaster’s House. I was still so new at this painting thing, that I was bamboozled by the speed and ease with which he could create such beauty. I was frustrated by my clumsy attempts. But I persevered.
My daughter Joanna and friend, Gill attended the painting workshop with me. Gill and another good friend, Pat attended some of Phil and Joan McLorn’s November Open Houses with me and each returned home with a painting or two of Phil’s. So the joy and inspiration fanned out to more than myself.
Talented watercolour artist; witty, debonaire, gentleman Phil McLorn died about five years later. Gill and I attended a viewing at the funeral home to pay homage to a man who had affected both our lives, and to pay our respects to his wife, Joan.
The day in 2004 that began with an impulse, and led me to knock on the door of an artist’s home where I had not been in more than 20 years, opened up an entire new world for me. I often think back on it and smile. Follow those impulses, those little inner voices that momentarily tweak your thoughts. I am so happy I did, for my next decade has been richer for taking the plunge, risking egg on my face.
There are moments and people who come into your life and make a difference. I will always be grateful my life path crossed Phil McLorn’s, if only for a brief time.
The Postmaster’s House The rear garden adjacent the Studio where the Art Workshop took place with Phil & Joan.
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