The Melancholy of Fall or a Painter’s Depression

The first days of September have rumbled past Mayne Island in thunder, lighting, rain and sun. Unsettled weather I believe they call it. As many of you know, I usually focus on the sun and let the rest slide off like rivers of water on our tin roof and escapes along the bedrock to the valley floor. But today not so much. There is nothing specific that has cast a shadow on my optimism but rather a clutter of small bits, hanging at about head-height, making it hard for the light to get through.

impending darkness by Terrill Welch 2013_09_04 193

As I mentioned today over on Kathy Drue’s Lake Superior Spirit blog post “the sun’s egg yolk eye in late summer” this is my favourite time of year. There isn’t much time to read though. Even so, I am working my way through I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simons and several art books on the life and work of the American Abstract Expressionist Richard Diebenkorn. This and having recently finished watching the T.V. series Mad Men on Netflix. Hence, I have spent much of the summer in the North American time of my childhood learning about events, art and music that was not really part of my rural experience at all. It seems most of this didn’t reach me until the late 70s.

Of course, I have painted as usual these past months. Late summer is the time when my love affair with still life painting comes into full blossom.

golden plums an apple and green vase 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_08_23 058

(GOLDEN PLUMS AN APPLE AND GREEN VASE – 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas released today HERE)

But the midday light is starting to become rich and warm again so I shall be back to my camera expeditions along the sea.

Cattle Point with iPad by Terrill Welch 2013_09_03

(Cattle Point with iPad is a photography sketch from Tuesday for future painting reference.)

This then is the beginning of the bitter, savory and sweet times of brilliant tangerine, lemon and rose flickering colours in front of the brooding and impending darkness of winter.

Sliced with a Tear 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_04_16 052

(SLICE WITH A TEAR 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas yet to be released but soon I promise)

Evening and the Arbutus Tree 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_04_16 092

(EVENING AND THE ARBUTUS TREE 36 x 60 inch oil on canvas available HERE)

So we could blame this darkness of spirit on Leonard Cohen for light is only as visible as the shadows allow. Therefore, in order to live in the light one must know the shadows.

Rhythm of the Sea Edith Point 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_04_16 069

(RHYTHM OF THE SEA EDITH POINT 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas will also be released soon)

Who better to guide such a journey than Leonard Cohen.  Undeniably, Cohen offers a well-worn path into the grey and the bleak. But that is not it – not really.

Could it be the daily browsing and musing over the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn who, even with his brighter moments, leaves me with a mysterious sense of lose? A lose that is likely unintended on his part from what I have read?

(image credit de Young e-cards HERE)

So no, it is not these abstract expressions of Diebenkorn with their occasional years of figurative and representational works. But possibly the blues has something do with the hope and optimism that was dashed when a world became driven by materialism such as is so cleverly shared in the series Mad Men. Today, Diebenkorn’s paintings can be viewed on the imagined glossy magazine pages of the previous advertizing thrones of Madison Avenue while our noses are currently pressed up against the calving glaciers of impending climate change and Cohen brings us to our knees during a more resent poised rendering of his song “Hallelujah.”

Not a comfortable or perky image if I do say so. Possibly at this point, there is only one direction left for this artist to go and that is up. Yet, I stay awhile. Such hard fought drilling into the underbelly of darkness should not be wasted. Last evening we watch the 2010 Chilean film “Old Cats” written and directed by Sebastián Silva and Pedro Peirano. This film is an endevour to bring us full force into the mess of living at the ends of our life, and possibly the universe as we know it, with its unraveling unfinished and often unresolvable finality which must be accepted as it is – a work-in-progress.

Now, once again, I ask myself in my best Mary Oliver voice “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

At this very moment as I write, my honest answer is – I haven’t a clue. Are you surprised? The woman, the painter, the photographer and the writer who always seems to have some plan or other hasn’t a clue? True.

Once in a long while you see, I realize that most of what I am doing will matter not within hours, days or weeks of having done it. Yet, I persist in my delusions that it does matter and it is important. Why, we might ask, do I do this? Because to meet the reality face-on that it is all for no reason at all makes it hard to get up and then do what I am compelled to do. Therefore, in my normal altered state, I must believe what I do does matter and it is important – if only to me.

Featured work being shown from September 3 – 3o, 2013 at the Island Blue Art Store in Sidney B.C. Canada. These four paintings are the Feature Paintings this month and available with detailed viewing and purchase links at Terrill Welch Artist.

Four paintings Sept 2013 Island Blue Art Store in Sidney B C by Terrill Welch 2013_09_04 014

Also, thank you to everyone who commented, shared and voted on my three landscape paintings in the Arabella Competition for the People’s Choice Award. Due to a late change in the contest rules, these paintings have been eliminated from the possibility of being selected for this award. The change in the rules allow for only paintings selected for the semi-finals to be considered for the People’s Choice Award. My three paintings were not among the Canadian landscape paintings selected for the semi-finals. Disheartened, I remember those who have come before me and who have failed on numerous occasions to capture acceptance for their work. The list is long and I know I am in good company. However, this disappointing competition result does not lessen my humble gratitude for those who do collect and appreciate my work. Thank you all again for your unrelenting encouragement and support. I am reminded…

reach for what you want by Terrill Welch 2013_08_28 155

(my youngest grandson on the beach at New Castle Island)

I wish all the Canadian Landscape artists whose paintings are moving forward in this competition all the best and much success.

Because of all this, with these unraveling, unfinished and unresolvable marks on the canvas of my life, I shall continue to work on what will always be – a work-in-progress.

Spare no pigment on the palette and pass the brushes please.

Who accompanies you into your darkest places?

© 2013 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to

16 thoughts on “The Melancholy of Fall or a Painter’s Depression

  1. Congratulations on the acquisition on a new venue in which to display your lovely paintings, Terrill. And thank you for this post… And for the adorable photo of your grandson. So cute!
    To answer…
    You must know the dark corners to let the light in.
    Darkness. I know you. Who accompanies me there? Mother Gaia, God, the universe knows and supports me there.
    “Embrace the darkness. It is part of you,” they whisper. “Know the light. It is your truth.”

  2. “Therefore, in order to live in the light one must know the shadows.”

    Terrill — As our mutual friend, Sandi White, would say about your wise observation, “Fact!”

    The emotion of shadow is how we know peaks from valleys, sunshine from cloud covered skies, and laughter from tears. A necessary part of our experience.

    • Yes a necessary part of our experience Laurie and like Sandi I agree “Fact!” Still I seldom directly share my inner darker days possibly because I refuse to give them much of a toehold on the cliff side of my everyday. But I am not sure it is a wise approach particularly in the arena of social networking. I certainly wouldn’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I never have misgivings, self doubts and failures. Because I do. And I survive and move on but not in just one exhale. It takes time and sometimes patience.

  3. I love the Evening and the Arbutus Tree. I especially love the chaos of the leaves with the hard edges outlining the tree juxtaposed against a Monet-like background. Lovely! BTW, did you lose your power in the storm?

    • As far as I know our power stayed on Diane though we had a whack of thunder and lightening over the past week. Glad you enjoyed the Evening and the Arbutus Tree. This painting is particularly lovely in person. The large paintings are extremely difficult to do justice in a photograph but I think I go tit close.

  4. I liked this post so much. And here’s an admission from the shores of Lake Superior: I, too, have no idea what I plan to do with my one wild & precious life. There’s light and shadows, shades of colors, everything present, and lately, for the first time in my life, I’m learning to flow without a compass trusting that it’s OK. Even the melancholy. And especially the not-knowing. It sometimes seems that we shall meet one day on your West Coast. I hope so.

  5. So glad you shared this. I think I always feel a little melancholy as summer ends–the years just go by too fast these days. I always enjoy your paintings and photography–you are so talented and have such an astute eye. I’m loving the Cohen recording too as I write. Altogether, an especially enjoyable experience coming here today, even if I share some of that melancholy. I ask myself the same questions about the meaning or value of the things I write, and like you, I have no definitive answer. But I think what I’m doing does have meaning and purpose. And part of that is just being so grateful that there are people like you and Cohen sharing your music with the world. Little drops of water, perhaps, but it does add up, and each drop itself is felt somewhere.

    • Deborah it is the connections like yours and others who have comment here that keep me writing and sharing and grounded as I go about doing what I feel I must do. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment. Most helpful and inspiring.

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