14 October, 1986

R14 A Dream of Rose










R14 A Dream of Rose
9x13" designers opaque watercolour on paper
Private collection

An idea for my novel 'Raven'. One of the Nuclear Sequence, the first watercolour that was meant to be part of the series.

With a painfully quick inhalation he realized that it was Rose. Rose, covered with feathers, or some sort of cloak. Out of a dusky tattered hood her white face with heavy brows drawn down over deep eyes, stared. In a moment he knew she would lean over him with a blunt musical utterance, a throaty monosyllable. Incomprehensible.

-Mary Weymark Goss (from the novel Raven)

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13 October, 1986

R13 Nuclear Picnic










R13 Nuclear Picnic
24x36" oil on panel
Private collection

Using the watercolour field sketch (R8) I did this summer, I worked up this idea. I had the idea for a ‘raven picnic’, and wanted to put in more blue and white dishes, carrying on the themes of R7 Nuclear Tablecloth. I had a lot of fun with the colours, the green against the red/orange and the bright yellow.

Someone commented that it was impossible to look at the painting as a whole, that the two sides of the background refused to come together. That bothered me for a while, but then I began to enjoy the effect. It’s one of my favourite paintings of the series.

She watches the wing patterns closely, as they jump and fight, dancing around each other with their beaks open.

Sometimes she runs with them, in a single line through the grass, arms spread, with long fingers curled at the end, in the painting with green trees draped over the horizon and the red and white checked cloth on the grass. She has been waiting to have a picnic.
-Mary Weymark Goss (Journals)



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12 October, 1986

11 October, 1986

10 October, 1986

R10 Raven feeding Woman













R10 Raven feeding Woman
5x5" ink on paper
Private collection

Raven feeding Woman: I was interested in the image of the bird giving food (ideas) to the artist, and there is a connection with the prophet Elijah being fed by ravens. However, this image, which is one of my all time favourite ink drawings, has been widely misinterpreted, and so a little spoiled for me.

I had been drifting for some time, quivering on a wingspan, suspended between concept and creation.

I waited.

As soon as her eye was in mine, I fell down upon her, dark vision.
Before I entered, I took her tongue, so that she would have to use her hands…

-Mary Weymark Goss (Journals)

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09 October, 1986

R9 Raven Totem













R9 Raven Totem
10x14" designers opaque watercolour on paper
Private collection

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08 August, 1986

R8 Two Ravens (field sketch)










R8 Two Ravens (field sketch)
7x10" designers opaque on paper
Private collection

R8 Two Ravens (field sketch for R13 Nuclear Picnic): Painted outside, at the edge of our lawn. I was doing a lot of small watercolour scenes, very stylized, something I do every summer, as it is easy to carry watercolours with me outside or on holidays.

“Ravens,” she informed him. “In French you would say ‘corbeau’”. She stretched the word out with a throaty hesitation on the ‘r’. “They’re everywhere up here.”

Allan nodded, uninterested. He thought the birds were ugly. He made a mental frame around a few of them, trying to see a painting.


-Mary Weymark Goss (from the novel Raven)



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07 July, 1986

R7 Nuclear Tablecloth












R7 Nuclear Tablecloth
48x48" oil on panel
Corporate collection


The day I was etching in this large panel coated with red oil paint, it was announced over the radio that the nuclear power station at Chernobyl had exploded, and a cloud of fallout was spreading over Europe.

The image of a mushroom cloud, which of course has nothing to do with a reactor explosion, is symbolic of the word and idea of nuclear. The idea is that nuclear physics has a continuous influence over our lives, and the shadow of abuse of power and its sudden disruption of our quiet existence (the domestic checked tablecloth and the blue and white cup). A flurry of ravens (persistent ideas) is sent swirling away by the force of the explosion.

I was greatly affected by the notion that an event on the other side of the world could change our lives here. Although this is not an ‘anti-nuclear’ painting, it is meant to draw attention to the precarious stability of our lives.

Flame and ash,
Ash and cold,
The end of days.

None remains to save,
Is He then also dead?
Without me, can You exist?

Despair exists, despair
That grins from faceless
shadows
Burned and fused in the
concrete sphinx.

Aeons ago
The fiery gaseous cloud
Blossomed into earthly
Splendour.
Will the promise of glory be
Shattered by the sons of Cain?
-George I. Bernstein (from Winter Apocalypse)


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04 April, 1986

R6 Rose in Kitchen










R6 Rose in Kitchen
24x36" oil on panel
Private Collection

The first painting in the series to employ the checkerboard motif that became part of the Nuclear series. Rose and I were fascinated with the light patterns on the kitchen floor, and she posed there for the drawing. She spent several days sitting in her leotard on the cold floor and feeling, as she put it, “a little strange about anyone walking in.” This is a good likeness, and Rose’s husband approved. The raven shape appears in her hair, and the raven himself is supposed to be hopping across the floor, just out of the picture (his shadow appears in the floor).

Although it took me days to do the checkerboard in the curtains, and I swore never to do it again, I went on to use the motif in several more paintings in the Nuclear sequence. As in the other Nuclear pictures, the red checks represent order and peaceful domesticity, the chaotic shadows in the floor reflecting the turmoil outside the window (the world outside).


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03 March, 1986

R5 Trail and Raven












R5 Trail and Raven
24x24" oil on panel
Private Collection

My neighbour across the lake always kept this trail cut. It led from the back of his yard, through the bush to a beaver dam at the end of the lake. The trail was really nothing more than a tunnel cut through the dense growth, and this painting catches the effect of emerging from the ‘tunnel’ and looking into the open field with its island of evergreens.

This is one of the first of the Raven Series, and it was the last painting to make use of real scenery. It was done from a Prisma colour sketch I did one fall. It was also the last picture in which Naples yellow was used, a favourite colour in the scenery series (Sgraffito Series) preceding.

After seeing Roberta's poetry, I had written to her, asking to use her work in the exhibition in North Bay (1988). The poem ‘Lyell Island’ had been printed with an ink drawing of mine (Raven and Lady 151086) in Writer’s Quarterly, but I was more interested in using it with this painting.

If they cut these trees
and the ravens fly away,
the chain will be broken and
It is I who will fall,
rootless.
-Roberta Olenick (from Lyell Island)

originally published in Writers' Magazine, Vol 10, No. 1 1988
Roberta's web site: www.neverspook.com


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01 February, 1986

R4 Rose and Raven













R4 Rose and Raven
24x24" oil on panel
Private Collection

When Rose T. first moved to our road, I said on meeting her, "You look just like I imagined the Rose in my novel." In fact, her rather exotic, Pre-Raphaelite looks made her the perfect Rose, and I asked her to model for me. She was warned ahead of time that ravens would figure prominently in the paintings. When Rose's husband saw this picture, he was mildly horrified at what I had done to his wife, who in reality is quite beautiful.

I am very fond of the viridian green and alizarin crimson combination. The repeated wing shape in the reverse shading of the sleeve, the leaves and the hands is a favourite device of mine.

Rose sat down on the doorstep, the leafy bushes framing her. Poe ruffled up excitedly and hopped right over beside her. For a moment Allan thought the damned ugly thing would jump on her shoulder. He shuddered.

Rose had seemed to be the only normal person living here. No normal person was on friendly terms with overgrown crows.

"Gronk, gronk," said the raven.


-Mary Weymark Goss, from the novel Raven

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05 January, 1986

R3 Three Ravens













R3 Three Ravens
24x24" oil on panel
Private Collection

Actually the first Raven Series painting with ravens. I was not keeping a journal at the time, so how the Raven series got started remains a fuzzy memory. I do know that I had intended to paint Northern birds. I had done a small panel in this style with gesso. I had so much fun with the ravens in this painting, I continued with them, and they became the longest series I have ever done.

Also influencing me were the images evoked during the writing of my novel, Raven, on which I was working intensively at the time.

There were three ravens sat on a tree
They were as black as they might be
With a hey down derry, derry, derry, down, down.

The one of them said to his mate
Where shall we our breakfast take?
Down in yonder green field
There lies a knight slain under his shield.
-traditional

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