Written by Michael LeBlanc
It was during the early sketching trips to the area around Algonquin Park that Eric was impressed by the shapes of the limestone rocks, some of which he took back to his Toronto studio. He combined this experience with other observations and created his first major painting, called “Afternoon, Algonquin” after the large nature preserve in the heart of northern Ontario. “Afternoon,” which is currently in the R. McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario is a somber work which depicts an assemblage of abstract natural shapes by a lake on a cold, windless fall day. Compared with his brightly coloured illustrations and covers at the same time, the painting seems lifeless and overwrought. However, this painting is important because it reveals something about Eric’s innate inquisitiveness:
I found a stone. It was a little larger than a honeydew melon but not symmetrical. It was strangely beautiful, like a Henry Moore piece, but sculptured by wind weather and time on the shore of one of the Great Lakes, in Canada. It had a hole in the side of it the size and shape of an egg. The shore was covered with limestones, of all sizes and shapes piled upon each other bleached blinding white. Nearby I noticed of all miracles a small smooth stone the exact size and shape of an egg. I put it into the cavity of the unusual stone. I brought it home. I used it in a painting. It was strangely beautiful.
Months later I was asked to give a talk on aesthetics and beauty. I thought to use this stone with it’s egg, to show that not all art was devised, but to make the point the art was also selectivity.
I thought to emphasize the point by bringing by way contrast an ugly stone. I went into the gravel drive behind my studio in the city, and I picked up a small stone. I looked at it for a while, but found it interesting. I picked up a larger one, but also found it too interesting to use as a contrast or an example of ugliness. I picked up another jagged stone, or piece of gravel. It too was not a good example of ugliness. Deciding that I would settle this more easily I took from a broken concrete wall a piece of broken concrete. I studied it. It was interesting. Having scuppered my own lecture and demonstration I told them of my failure and revelation:
That there is nothing uninteresting.