Algonquin Outfitters

Paddle Art Contest – Janine Marson


by Janine Marson

Painting this paddle to honour Tom Thomson was just something I had to do. I respect what Thomson was all about; his love of the North Country, the clouds, the colours, the trees, the way the northern lights undulate and how Polaris the North Star shines brilliantly. Tom painted the truth of what he saw and what he felt. He found it all beautiful, and so do I.



  • It seems most fitting that I chose to paint a compass pointing due North as Tom Thomson loved the North Country and couldn’t wait to return to it in the Spring. It is a reminder to point oneself toward home and set a bearing towards truth.


  • As a child I was fascinated by the ever changing rhythms and colours of the northern lights. Tom Thomson created a painting called “The Northern Lights” which he did on location in Algonquin Park while camping with Ranger Mark Robinson. Robinson wrote about how Tom painted it partly by lamplight and partly by going out in -4 degrees to look at them.
  • Who hasn’t spent time staring intently up at the night sky looking for the brightest star to discover Polaris the North Star? I painted the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper with the North Star gleaming brightly as a beacon.
  • Tom Thomson honed his skills as a designer at Grip, and Rous and Mann but it was his connection to a group of artists (later called The Group of Seven) that he met there that would provide momentum and desire to explore his art. Tom was very skilled at line work so I have referenced this by creating a border of waves around the quote by him.
  • Loon markings remind us how Tom Thomson and his girlfriend Winnifred Trainor were considering marriage. Loons mate for life and their haunting and mournful calls chill the spine and make your ribcage vibrate, leaving a memorable sound to linger forever in your heart and soul.


  • The string of pearls makes me think of how Winnie never got to wear them on her wedding day and how the necklace fell apart scattering everywhere upon hearing that Tom had drowned in Canoe Lake. I can only imagine how she must have felt standing on the bridge at Potter Creek looking down into the water.
  • The yellow bands represent the wedding bands that were never exchanged and vows that were never spoken.
  • The small droplets are Winnie’s tears for a love lost forever.The droplets pool together turning into rain that washes both Nature and the soul.


  • The 1917 logo by J.E. MacDonald was designed to be used as a designation to authenticate Tom Thomson’s work after his death.
  • Cloud shape: Tom loved painting the many types of cloud formations including ones in a painting called “Thunder Head” that capture the power of weather. He would often rush out to paint it before it passed. In his last spring in 1917 he set out to paint what he saw and felt for 62 days straight. Even he knew he was on to some good stuff as he wrote in a letter back home.
  • Ego pingere veritatem is Latin for “I paint the truth”.


  • I chose to paint a younger Tom Thomson without the swagger of the long lock across his face, as I saw in this photo a promise for the future. He was still trying to find himself but he persisted until he found his love of painting. Artists can identify with that journey of discovery and the struggle to become oneself with a unique voice.
  • I chose to paint a section of the sketch that Tom Thomson did as a study for “Northern River” The original sketch was created in between 1914-1915 using gouache, brush and ink over graphite on illustration board. The Art Gallery of Ontario purchased the study in 1982. The final painting of “Northern River” was purchased by the National Gallery in 1915 for $500. Tom Thomson felt that he had really done something with this painting and nicknamed it his “swamp picture” I had always felt incredibly connected to this image but never knew why until I was told it was identified as being the Oxtongue River in my own backyard. No wonder I bought a poster when I was a teen!
  • Roots: I allowed the trees in the painting to grow down beneath the surface into an underground stream. Still waters run deep as do my roots on the banks of the Oxtongue River.


  • Blue tipped blade edge: Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue were colours used by Tom and it seems so very fitting to dip the tip of the paddle into the blue water and as Roy MacGregor would say “knees down paddle on”.

Janine Marson



Janine’s video about her Tom Thomson Paddle


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