Hordes of visitors invade the Valley each fall to enjoy nature’s beauty. Mobile phones capture the autumn colours and some people imagine what it must be like to be an artist inspired by wilderness views. These thoughts often lead to Canada’s famous Group of Seven landscape painters of the last century whose legacy has brought international attention to Algonquin Park. Inevitably one painter is mentioned – Tom Thomson – whose legendary canoe trips through Algonquin Park have inspired art historians and tourism operators alike, not to mention gift shops, tea rooms, filmmakers and writers of murder mysteries. But no one ever thought about recreating his travels and his famous landscapes from the point of view of his canine companion, Eulalie. No one, that is, until Catherine Wilson and Ruth MacLean, writer and illustrator respectively of Eulalie’s journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson.
Valley residents were treated to a reading and an illustration workshop by Wilson and MacLean last month at the Madawaska Valley Public Library. (Photo above shows young readers getting their books signed.) The event was just one stop during their two-week tour of Ontario towns and is typical of the unique programs the Library provides for all ages, at little or no cost. In this case, participants met both author and illustrator, had their books signed, and made their own paper collage illustrations under the tutelage of artist MacLean.
(Photo shows workshop participants with Ruth MacLean; writer Cathy Wilson at rear)
Author and illustrator said they wrote the book in the first person from the point of view of Tom Thomson’s dog, Eulalie, because they thought this allowed them to get “direct access to Tom’s heart.” MacLean, a landscape artist whose chosen medium is paper collage, concentrated on making Thomson’s landscapes accessible for children. She did this by putting the characters of Tom and his dog into his own landscape paintings. Fans of Thomson will find many images in the book seem familiar because they are based on his paintings but rendered in collage, with MacLean often adding images of the artist and Eulalie.
Illustrator Ruth MacLean (left) with one of her original illustrations; Cathy Wilson displays a copy of their book Eulalie’s journey to Algonquin with Tom Thomson
MacLean lives in Canada but Wilson resides in the United Kingdom. They met when MacLean was researching her heritage on the Isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides. Their first collaboration was about Wilson’s cat, the Tail of Ailsa, but they could not find a publisher at the time. They have since worked together on more projects only to find that as their collaborations progressed over the years, technology has caught up with them and allowed them to self-publish the earlier titles under their own mark Ailsa Press.
Public Library survey still open
Madawaska Valley Public Library CEO Karen Filipkowski aims to bring more creative and inspiring programming to the Valley. She says the library is in the process of updating its strategic plan and urges residents to provide input to the planning process by completing a brief survey before the end of September. The library wants to hear from you, whether or not you are a regular user of the library. Paper copies are available at the library. Click HERE to complete the online library survey.