“Of course I can't draw for beans. That's why I’m a painter!” - R. L. Bloore
Drawing is the essence of visual art. Drawing “from life” is the artistic process in representational mode: using objective reality for subjective expression; rendering what is in front of you to convey what is inside you; conveying what is inside you to express what is in us all. But Bloore was a non-representational artist. He was a great draftsman, celebrated for his drawing in the non-objective mode.
Blue Sky Lake, 30 x 40cm, Sept. 25 1994, Private Collection, Toronto
Bloore always referred to the outdoor sketches as “strictly intellectual exercises.” His focus was completely on the exploration of aesthetic concepts that could be of use in his paintings. The historic Japanese styles that were influencing his painting in the late ’80’s can be seen in one aspect or another in almost every sketch.
Juniper Island, Stony Lake, 30 x 40cm, Aug. 20 1988, Private Collection, Toronto
Nonetheless, the joy and peace felt by an artist out in the elements, loving the place and the moment and the challenges he is setting himself to, are palpable in these drawings. And this is very Japanese as well. Looking in we can feel the moment and get a sense of the place, a strong suggestion of Nature, but most of all we see space. Bloore always insisted “there is no such thing as ‘negative space’ - space is positive!”
York Regional Forest, East Gwillimbury, 46 x 61cm, July 19 1992, Private Collection, Toronto
From Toronto’s Cemeteries to Ontario’s Wildlands
On a cold winter morning in 1985 while crossing the field that separated his farmhouse studio from the York University campus lecture halls, Ron Bloore had the heart attack that ended his teaching career, and almost ended everything. After surgery and recovery he was instructed to, among other things, "get out more" and he began taking long walks that regularly brought him past and into the St. James Cemetery near downtown Toronto.
St. James Cemetery (with David Partridge), 46 x 61cm, June 13 1999, Private Collection, Toronto
He was also finding himself in many other cemeteries on many other mornings those dark years saying adieu to the friends and colleagues who were not making it past their own heart attacks and other various attacks. And it struck him that these were some very peaceful, pleasant places to sketch and relax and remember and think and move on.
Cowan Memorial, St. James Cemetery, 30 x 40cm, Sept. 11-13 1988, Private Collection, Toronto
When ex-students, now fellow painters and friends, Eugene Knapik and Sheila Gregory saw that Bloore had been doing open air sketching alone and occasionally with David Partridge at the local cemetery and at Partridge’s cottage on Stony Lake they insisted on starting regular Sunday sketching and painting expeditions to random locations around southern Ontario. This was about 1989.
The core group ended up being Eugene and Sheila, shown here with Ron...
...Ardis Breeze, who brought the camera, shown here on another day with Ron and Eugene...
...and Tim Noonan (below). After disembarking from the car and hoisting the weaponry chosen for that day they would each pursue inspiration in whatever direction their Muse would lead them, there to engage with Nature until hunger or weather or Time called their conjuring to a stop. Noonan, usually off in some distant spot, would need to be summoned by all the others yelling in unison, but often they would have to search down various paths, to find him and tell him it was time to go. (Click the image below to see it much larger.)
Along the side of one of Bloore’s sketches is recorded a stray comment of Tim Noonan’s, with the date and location duly noted: “I try to not let the landscape interfere with my painting.” May 16, 1993, Mono Cliffs.
Among the trees, along the hillsides, in the occasional old village cemetery, or "Stone Orchards" as he liked to call them, Bloore stuck almost exclusively to his pencils while his cohorts sketched colourfully and wildly with oils on panels and watercolours on paper blocks. He did once or twice bring out an oil paint set of his own, as is shown below, but none of these were kept.
Only one time did they manage to drag along Claude Breeze (on the left below), though his wife Ardis was a regular. Breeze had “had enough of that sort of thing in the old days back at Banff with Tony Urquhart,” he said. “Now there is a guy who can draw!”
Urquhart was a good friend of Ron's and is indeed the epitome of the artist who will really relax by drawing and yet do so with the greatest facility and expression. On these Sunday afternoons, Bloore would really relax by thinking. While his lines did not always dance to these peculiar beats he could kick his ideas around and smile, as he wistfully revisited the “Life Drawing” he had abandoned in his youth.
Fraser Island, Lake Joseph, 46 x 61cm, Oct. 11 1987, Private Collection, Toronto