Utrecht Art Artist Oil color leaderboard 728x90

The Tale of an Island ‘Desk’ – by Robert Genn

The Tale of an Island 'Desk'
 - by Robert Genn

Somewhere out in Lake of the Woods--a lake with 14,000 islands straddling the border between the US and Canada--there's one very special island. After several searches, I located this island in 2004. It was special because, about 1926, one of my favorite painters, Walter J. Phillips, painted on it. We know he was there because he painted another rather distinct island that lay in a certain position nearby. Phillips later made his watercolour into a wood-block print called  Sunset, Lake of the Woods.

In my ongoing hobby of finding where historical artists have gone before, I often find the previous artist had chosen a certain type of place to set up. With a bit of looking around on this small, unnamed island--and keeping Phillips' view in mind--I found a natural "desk" that was there for the taking. A rock to sit on, a place to put my feet, and a rock that took a paintbox and kept it level. There was even a little crevasse that neatly held a can of water.

Naturally, I had to repeat the Phillips event. FYI, at the top of the  current clickback we've put illustrations of his original woodcut, me on the same spot 78 years later, and another photo that might be of interest to you.

Yesterday, Melissa Jean of Kenora, Ontario wrote, "I found it, Bob! You asked me to email a picture to you if I ever found the island (I call it the Phillips-Genn Island). My husband Bill and I found the island yesterday, and we went back today to find the "desk." We looked at both little islands, and I found the "desk" where you and Phillips painted from. It took a while because it was overgrown with willows--they must've been little shoots when you were there. I trampled some down and set up right there. I also found an old tin can that was split open down the middle. It looked like it might have been used as a dish, and it looked pretty old. I imagined it might have been Walter's. I left it where I found it, and also tucked one of my paint brushes under it, with my initials on it. I thought, maybe someday my kids might discover it with their kids on a little treasure-hunt of their own. The place sure made an impact on them, and our daughter Ruby painted with me there as well."

Thanks, Melissa. It's stuff like this that makes it all worthwhile.

Best regards,


PS: "The first thing a painter has to do is to find a good place to sit." (J.E.H. Macdonald, 1924)

Esoterica: There is a Brotherhood and Sisterhood of painters. Dead and alive, absent and present, we travel together and keep each other company. Members of the 'hood are our friends, fellow students and occasional critics. We find them struggling and we find them triumphant on sunny shores and in quiet bowers. We honour them with our efforts as they have honoured us. The phenomenon of the 'hood just doesn't stop. As far as I can see, it's eternal.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

Post to Twitter

Leave a Response