Sunday, February 7, 2016

Revisiting the Value of Revision and Editing

"Upon Walking by the Snowy Woods One Evening...."

No... the words that I have used in  my lead in this post are not my own. They denote a significant "borrowing" from my past. Robert Frost would be happy that his "word landscape" might compel me to:

"tell this [his and my story] with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:"

Daylight has increased and now lasts long enough after our evening meal... that I can delay my daily three kilometer walk until that time in the day. Winter has suddenly suddenly reappeared leaving a skiff of two inches covering the landscape... and the coolish air and wind did much to freshen and cleanse the spirit as well.

The sun had just dipped below the western horizon as I entered the pine and oak strewn lane that passes along the river's edge. The silence was immense... the sense of "Oneness" with Creation absolute as I entered this solemn cathedral grove. The stillness was scarcely broken... except for the rattle of frozen oak fingers and the sighing of the arched white pine arms... each in their individual woodland musical response to the lightly gusting northwest wind.

I paused... again as is my usual practice on this walk to rest a while... seated alone on a large chunk of pinkish-red granite. It is here that I review my day and possible actions for tomorrow. Here ... in the uncluttered sanctity of this time and space, I see more clearly and can envision necessary change... without distraction. You see... I am highly distract able and impulse-driven by nature. But I have learned to use this follow up process to edit my thinking and actions to make them more effective.

As is my usual practice in writing my blog posts... I usually commence the writing process immediately after the painting process is completed. I had already fully written the words to describe this project... just completed during the past week. But in thinking about beginning this morning's "editorial session"... using last evening's thoughts, I decided on a whole new approach - one less didactic... one less bent upon teaching and instructing.

It is a departure for me because I have viewed the sharing of my thoughts along with the painting necessary for clarity of my purpose. That may satisfy me... but perhaps it confines... or even bores my fellow artist readers. In reading over the intended post content for "Blending Retrospection With Introspection.. to Form a New Direction"... I felt that it tended too much to be an autobiographical romp through my artistic life ... past to present.

So I have decided to use this format to replace the very lengthy (boring) earlier version. I hope to let the images unfold the process that I used to complete this project... that has been for too long... an a back burner. Now ... the story is told... perhaps in fewer of my words ... and in those hat you might understand more fully - because they are your own!

The post will consist of three consecutive posts over the next three days. Each will consist of a picture accompanied by two sentences. Hope you enjoy this abbreviated approach!

Stay tuned...
Good painting... to ALL!

Day One... Stage One

This post began as most small paintings do... lay in on a toned canvas or panel. This one is a black acrylic toned birch cradle board  measuring 10 x 12 inches. 

This is the finished version of "Island Sunbather" - oil on cradle board 10 x 12 inches

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jump Starting the January Blaws

Plein Air Power...

While my goal seeking and production of new paintings for January kept step with my firm post-Christmas decision to paint steadily... and to paint what my heart desired... I had not been able to get out to paint outdoors. Some health issues and days of gale force winds had put the brakes on that much anticipated and joyful activity.

I must confess that studio painting... though rewarding in  many ways, painting indoors fails to provide the spiritual inspiration and incentive that outdoor painting affords me. "... Still waters... they restore my soul..." Not being able to get "out there"... is my version of "the blahs".

I have been working fairly intensely on a new triptych idea... and had arrived at that push n' pull conclusion for that project. Yesterday... Mother Nature provided a highly unexpected and unusual February opportunity to escape to the outdoors. The bluer-than-blue sky... day long sunlight and the +40F temperatures  enticed me to pack up my plein air gear right after morning chores and a quick lunch.

I decide to head directly to my "Honey Hole" at Ivy Lea Provincial Park where I knew there would be guaranteed solitude... great scenery and  few... if any interlopers to contend with. I took only one canvas... one 12x16 inch canvas which could be used either vertically, or horizontally... depending upon what the landscape revealed to me.

I was able to "one carry" my whole kit deep into the park by reducing it to the barest essentials. I pre-laid my palette in the studio and reduced the brush count to five. I carried my easel in its arm sling and in my lightweight backpack shop toweling, turpentine and kerosene supplies, bungee cords and a beverage. No weight or bulkiness at all!

I discovered... to my surprise and delight... that the usual two to three foot snow cover that one could expect in February in this location was completely absent! Unusually warm recent temperatures and rainfall gave the scene a March aura and appearance. Upsetting on an environmental level... but pleasing to an 'ol painter making his way two to three kilometers towards a selected painting location.

I went directly to a site that I had long wanted to paint at the southernmost tip of the park... facing looking up into Smuggler's Cove at the tip of Virgin Island. I had painted the other end of this island a couple of times before... but the timing to get this view on canvas never materialized. Today would become that day - the light and shadows were perfect!

I realized that given the fact that it was past one-thirty... that the sun and shadows would be very elusive... even fleeting. So I decided to merely aim for a rough lay in to be accomplished by the end of the session. With this much accomplished, there would exist a framework or structural base to work from back in  the studio. I would easily be able to fill in the desired level of detail that I wished in a more painterly fashion... minus the pressure of trying to keep up  and adjusting values.

The only hitch in the whole day came when a "sneaky" southwest gust of wind toppled my paint box... spilling its contents (including the wet palette) on to the bed of dead white pine needles midway through the session...... Expletives #@%*&...deleted!

At four o'clock... with the sun rapidly disappearing well below the shoreline, the strong light and shadow contrast that so intrigued me earlier at the start was no longer present. So I packed up my gear and headed back ... content and greatly refreshed... high-stepping the two to three kilometers to the car at the highway.

After posting this initial part of this post... and a quick bite of lunch... I will set to work to draw this first plein  air sortie to a  successful close by day's end.

I leave you with this image... directly as it came from the field.

Stay tuned for the conclusion!...

The sketch reveals the Virgin niche... perched in a protective position overseeing the entry into...or departure from Smuggler's Cove. The current pushed floes of ice in both passages... indicating that the strong river current "has its way"... in both directions.

Ironically... this sacred edifice stands in a very position to have watched whiskey bootleggers coming and going covertly to load and unload their cargoes in the illegal liquor trade that flourished along the whole length of the Saint Lawrence during the Prohibition years.

Studio Enhancement(s)...

As promised... I am posting the results of today's studio session this afternoon. I think it is easy to see that the original effort from on site provided the energy and vision necessary to extrapolate upon the elements of the painting to suit my own needs and pleasure.

While it will require an additional short session tomorrow... after the paint has set overnight... to push n' pull the piece to a final conclusion. I wanted to mull over two potential strategies to add just a small touch of interest to the foreground to tidy up the composition.

Stay tuned...  

The Virgin has been enthroned. The magic of the evening light has begun to dim... except on her niche... swaddled radiantly by the rich amber light of dusk. She is the main focus of the painting... and her silence "spoke" volumes to "Me" while I painted. 

There is not a drop of Catholic blood in my veins... and yet...  I have always been able to "cross over"... and respect the spiritual beliefs of others. We all should worship the same Creator... and be ever grateful of His... or Her blessings bestowed upon us. Faith need not necessarily be found only in a congregation... or prayer offered from a pew. There are many ways to worship... even alone... as I choose to. Just saying...

Back again tomorrow... Stay tuned

Good Painting... to ALL!!!

Plein Air and Studio... in Combination

Less than a decade ago... I spurned the thought of "corrupting" the plein air experience by adding to the painting afterward. I considered plein air painting to be ultimate in value and religiously signed my work in situe... before bringing it inside. Most often... it found its way into into my various galleries who represented me... and then directly into the hands of collectors.

Many of those certainly had the essential merit to be painted and sold in that fashion, but there were a goodly number that would well have profited... and would have seen vast improvement with a second... and even a third look-see in the studio.

Occasionally... the plein gods look favorably upon me... and I am blessed to bring home that "painted itself"... joyful gem that simply appears. That's what fuels my incentive to continue going out to paint.The lure of  having the sheer luck... to cast the right place... and come home with "the big one one" in the boat! ... "How sweet it is..." ha ha!!

The natural world is very large and often confusing labyrinth of distractions and details. Often we are drawn down a cul-du-sac and are overwhelmed by these. Often... we simply "bite off more than  we can chew" on a given day. Good reasons to set these aside to see them in another light... minus the distractions.

Today's post demonstrates my point exactly. The plein air experience certainly did rev up my juices ... cured my "cabin-studio fever" and jump-started my creative spirit. Mission accomplished. However... as the next two additional posts illustrate clearly... a "rough 'n tumble" spontaneous sketch now possesses the mood and depth which we shoot for in the studio. And yet... there remains the original fresh and painterly quality brought back from the field.

Though I can't say for certain say that the spiritual aspect couldn't have been felt and entered into painting within the studio... I can state with fullest certainty... that the "Faith" aspect which entered into this piece was for certain powered by the actual site and environment. On this one occasion... I came to feel the closeness that many Mary worshipers enjoy... when they deliver their prayers directly to "Her".

I will end today's (lengthy) post with a quote from Robert and Sara Genn's Twice Weekly letter... this week titled: A Walk With Renoir. It struck a great chord within me... and certainly fits with my post today. I highly recommend reading this piece - it certainly is worth checking out for yourself... and subscribing as a regular too... FREE!

"Religion is everywhere, it is in the mind, in the heart, in the love you put into what you do."
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I feel that there is a religious cum spiritual component in every painting that I conceive. Each pain ting and sketch is an "article of Faith" and a statement of Gratitude on my part... directed back to my Creator... and out to each of you... who might still have a "grain of mustard seed" of Hope and Faith. The world is a better place when driven by Faith... Hope and Charity!

Plant your seed... so others may learn from your example!

Rich Blessings... and Good Painting... to ALL!!!

"River Angelus, Virgin Island - oil on canvas 16x12 inches

Friday, January 22, 2016

Shifting Gears...

We all need variety and inspiration in our creative lives. That change need not necessarily be "spicy" as the old adage drones, but it must be located "right of center" in terms of our own normal day-to-day experience and expectations. Simply put... a challenge is in order... to excite and inspire.

Getting back from annual lazy Christmas sojourns often leads one to feel flat... uninspired... or unmotivated. Many of you have your own strategies to combat these creative setbacks. Each is likely unique to your own interests and goal-seeking. I enjoyed my Scottish water colorist friend Keith Tilley's recent post which described his plan of attack... and success in leaping into the New Year with renewed enthusiasm and vitality. Might be worth taking a look... if you are still struggling with this problem. Keith Tilley's fine site "Painting on the Edge" ... well worth a look-see!

In this post, I hope to present my own approach to overriding creative blocking. I refer to it simply as "shifting gears". Same bike... just adjustments to pace... and landscape interests. I would offer that my painting process/style accommodates two approaches. One style is very structured... planned to the last detail and with some deeper personal layer of purpose and meaning. Most subjects are, or have a still life quality... despite being landscapes. They are usually very "quiet" on the surface... meditative... as Deb blissfully suggests. She loves these.

The other is... let's call it as it is - "frenetic"... dependent upon intuition and impulse rather than complete control. Most of these paintings quite literally seem to "paint themselves". They are "painterly" and strong in color usually... because I heighten the color impact by beginning uncharacteristically on black toned canvases or panels.

This approach is totally driven by my imagination and mood."Imagineering" is the term I use to describe this process. This painting method can be accomplished either in the field (plein air)... or replicated in style in the studio. This is the value of of a lengthy "schooling" in the outdoors... in all seasons and weather conditions.

One of the crossover paths that I have lately committed to follow... is that I will no longer accept commission work. While it was necessary... and lucrative at one point in my life and painting career... I no longer have that need. Neither do I have the desire, nor the ambition to paint what someone else wants or envisions. This is not intended as a negative response to commission work... it is simply a declaration that ... I have done my time and now have earned the right to paint my path to the end of the road under my own flag... and terms.

I will dedicate that time that I used to commit to commission work to my winter works program. This program is dedicated entirely to the development of "bread n' butter" offerings for the Gallery which combine with Deb's handcrafted lines to create a more predictable cash flow. They are created and designed to fit the budgets of travelling tourists. They are not in themselves.... "objets d' art" in my view. I can produce them quickly... and replace them quickly if required. They are... inventory.

Everyone has... or should have their own path or strategies. If one is truly a "working artist"... not a hobbyist,  then one's working method must involve commitment... and a business plan that is not dependent upon one event... or the possibility of on line sales as a mainstay.

Selling art... as a livelihood is a highly competitive crap shoot. It is pyramidal in nature at best. Imitation will only place you amid the crowd.... likely nearer the bottom of the heap. Beyond the financial perspective... you will ALWAYS know... inside at least... the real truth. The only real reason to create... is to be original.

I will sign off today's post using a mix of the paintings that I have created during this past week. Each of these smallish paintings and sketches fit into the "bread n' butter" classification. But...I have purposely not categorized them according to the two styles. Can you discern which style they fit into?

I wonder... Get back to me if you are interested.

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

"Action Central, Gananoque" - oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches

"Failing Light, Tamworth" - 8 x 10 inch oil on on toned birch cradle board

"Winter Evening Light and Shadows, Ivy Lea Park" - oil on toned birch cradle board

"Rivafest, Gananoque" - 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


"When you want something, the whole universe conspires with you to make it happen"
-Pablo Coehlo

After reading my last post, Deb mentioned that she really enjoyed the post because it wove together perfectly events and the emotions of this time of year. However, her querying as to "where" I got my ideas from to create my posts took me by complete surprise. I had simply [and mistakenly] taken for granted that sharing daily life with me would be revelation enough to sufficiently answer that question.

In considering the question further however, the answer became exceedingly more clear to me. Whether one is writing or painting, one is creating - privately within. Creation is driven by internal thought. In most cases, that internal thought is triggered by outside stimulation of one or more senses.

Our physical universe might viewed on one hand as being one which is shared by all humankind. Yet... there exist many other universes outside of our own... and those hold secrets that remain not yet revealed to any man at this juncture in human time. That same possibility exists in looking at the variety of human experiences in terms of artistic creation.

I believe and propose that within each of us... an individual "universe" exists which is as complex...varied and unique as the universe that houses the planets of our own solar system. The recognizable and familiar "planets" and "constellations" which stir my thoughts and actions daily... would certainly be quite alien to you and others who read my blog and observe my paintings.

These differences would then surely account for many of the differences of style and interest which are present and recognizable. That would be true looking in both directions. Earth indeed looks much different... from the International Space Station. Star Wars comes to mind.... EH???

At best, sharing these "Ideas"... or, as my post title today suggests... taking courage to "Crossover"... creates a window of opportunity to "star gaze" - to look beyond the limits of our own mini universes. In so doing our reaching out into the "space" of others offers each of the advantage of attaining and developing insights into how limiting our own "worlds" can become... if we simply "settle" for what we know [too] well. This act of crossing over also permits, promotes tolerance for the thoughts and values of others. We subtly influence each other... even though we may never  physically meet.

Pursuant to this new thinking theme, I once again reflected upon the content of the last post... Lighthouses. In considering this favorite subject of mine, the Universe(s)... both within and without provided yet another thread to extend the Lighthouse concept a bit further and to link it meaningfully to this "Crossover" focus.

It took very little "Imagineering" to ignite the actions which follow. What only remained to be structured was a plan surrounding the subject cum project which I wished to employ as the melding device. The physical universe provides the painting subject... while my imagination elevates and applies a kind of metaphysical overlay to the "Idea". That is not at all imply an intellectual thesis... but rather... an attempt to make sense of the events of my own life and to share my feelings openly with you... the readers.

Making... "The Crossover" 

My vibrant and gifted daughter, Allison's sudden and unexpected illness and struggle with breast cancer has totally reshaped the thinking and actions of all of us in her family. It has truly redefined goal-seeking and reality for Allison herself ... as one can well understand and accept.

It has at the same time shape-shifted my own values... goals and my persona even. Only lately... has the anger begun to subside. Only lately... has there been any relief from the constant fear of that dreaded "C" specter which now hovers over all of us. We must learn to live with that reality... and challenge it bravely and resolutely daily.

This is Allie "ringing the bell"... the tradition followed by all cancer treatment patients... to signify the passing out of the chemo and radiation sessions. My heart swelled with deep pride... and my eyes welled with tears of joy. "I"... no "We"... are deeply blessed... for the gift of Life... and each other!!!

However, I can report with Courage and Faith... that the "Crossover" has begun for released from the painful and necessarily arduous treatment  campaign which bridged chemotherapy... with surgery and radiation.

Those ordeals are behind us and we have followed in unison... Allison's incredibly courageous choice to step out... and to live her life fully... in spite of the tyranny of pain and fear. I do so.. to keep step with her choices and hope to honor those choices by living a fuller and better life myself... each and every day of sand that I am given in my own hour glass.

This painting is the first in the series of paintings that I have always wanted to paint... for my Self only! These paintings are deeply personal and I feel go well beyond pure surface value. They address issues that I come upon which I interest... or even trouble me. For that reason... they are not always easy to simply paint. They represent a catharsis for me... an element of healing.

Based upon my previous Lighthouse post and theme... this largish canvas bridges two subject matter that I deeply admire and enjoy painting; historic lighthouse structures and waterfowl. They share the same environment and rigorous... even dangerous weather conditions. They are alive... living life under their own terms... to its fullest measure. Their existence is a full measure of their intended function. There exists a kind of immortality in that act.

It is not usually my practice... but may I impose upon you on this one occasion to "read" the painting the way that I intended it?

These sturdy American Goldeneye waterfowl winter all along the Saint Lawrence and Great Lakes region. Their hardiness and adaptability allow them to not only survive... but thrive in the harshness of our deep and lengthy Canadian winter landscape.

In my long since passed water fowling days, my buddy Jack Wilson and I would haul out to the islands in search of these ducks. We were driven to break ice to get out to the stone cold blinds from which we awaited their morning flights. Despite our intent to hunt them... Jack and I spent co many of those early December fog and mist-shrouded mornings... simply sipping coffee... shotguns cased, while listening for that magical whistling sound made by their wings as they emerged out of the golden fog.

We call them "whistlers"... and their whistler music which I still listen for on the dock in the morning here in Rockport continues to send tingles down my spine... just as it did so many years ago. But I appreciate them in a different fashion... and now alone. I no longer hunt... and often regret having done so. Except... that  I "crossed over" in purpose so many years ago with Jack.

Jack "crossed over"...too soon at forty-six years of age. I miss "Him"... but this painting arrived at my hand because of my time with him... and the special love of these birds that we both cherished... beyond the parameters of the sport(??)

In closing out this post, I offer this perspective on life.... mine and perhaps yours. Live your life fully... day-by-day. Choose your path based upon your passion and willingness to commit to become a better person... and artist. Be thankful for the small blessings in your life - the ones that we often take for granted. Honor those who serve you and love you unconditionally. Travel only with positive influences.

"Cross Over" - dare to live in your own Truth and celebrate your uniqueness. There is but one of "You" in this Universe. Dare to dream... and then live out your dreams... accomplishing one at a time.

I wish to dedicate this post and the painting below to my beloved Jemima Puddleduck... Ms Pig Allison Morgan Sherman. Thank you for sharing your abiding love... generosity of spirit... support of my work... and for your gift of forgiveness. I love "You"...

Forever... "to the moon and back" Allison.

"We" have "Crossed Over"... you and I... together!!!!

"Crossing Over"... at Crossover Lighthouse, Hammond NY - oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches


Cross over Lighthouse on Crossover Island is the designated crossing, or turning point for Saint Lawrence Seaway freighter traffic from US waters... starting in Lake Ontario into Canadian waters all the way eastward via the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec. Passage beyond Quebec leads into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. The river proper... joining Lake Ontario to Quebec measures a distance of 1197 km, or 743.8 miles and is referred to as the Saint Lawrence International Seaway.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Let there be Light..."

The close of every year brings about moments of reflection in all of our lives... as we weigh out the events ... happenings... challenges and blessings that we each have faced during during the now rapidly closing out cycle of twelve months.

Being an unabashed romantic and eternal optimist, my own personal thoughts generally tend to lean towards focusing upon the blessings and achievements... and my gratitude for those life gifts. That is my intention again for 2015, though I must truly admit that it is not nearly as easy as in other years this time around. The life challenges for our family have been immense this year... and my spirit has been greatly challenged.

I believe and maintain that Faith... Hope and Generosity collectively form the underpinnings and foundation for Peace and Happiness. This applies to both personal and creative living. In my humble opinion, they are inseparably one and the same. This coffee cup logo points out my agreement in a sassy ... tongue-in-cheek kinda' way... HA HA!!

It has been very difficult... even nigh unto impossible many days this year to maintain Faith and Hope in the face of the world events. In the very face of the most deplorable of human acts and conditions... even generosity seemed unobtainable to lessen the pain and suffering of the unfortunates who faced daily oppression.... hunger and terror in their displaced lives. A state of Darkness seemed to mantle the entire globe.

 But in the face of this all.... Let us each of us with our unique Spirit choose to promote Peace and Sharing... as we do through our blogging. I know that the Light emanating from many posts that I customarily visit... rekindles Hope within my heart. And I thank all of you who contribute that gift so unconditionally for your caring and sharing

Being a "River Boy"... I have always been drawn to Lighthouses... not just for their unique architectural traits. I have always been drawn to the symbolism and the real purpose that I associate with them. As in art... "beauty" must always be in concert with function and purpose. That marriage insures that the viewer be involved in a dialogue of sorts with the subject matter ... and the artist.

When one examines the evolution of the Lighthouse in marine history... one is brought face to face with the fact that the underlying role of the "Light" remains the same today... but that the architecture itself and the role of the "Keeper" have all but disappeared. Most lighthouses are electronically controlled... and are no longer manned. Only in a few very remote and specific sites.

Though the Artist-Romantic within me  rails at the loss... the Realist knows and recognizes that the Light continues to offer safety and service... but in a changed way. I continue my journey content in the knowledge of this fact. BUT... still I still busy myself at recording the remaining presence of those that I can discover here in the Islands and The Great Lakes... with a few Nova Scotians and West Coastals thrown in for good measure.

I would like to share some of these magnificent structures from Canada's Maritime past that I have had the privilege to visit and paint. In choosing them as a subject for this last post of 2015... I challenge each of you to be a "Lightkeeper" in your own existence and art.

Share your "Light" generously... unconditionally and regularly in 2016... Shine on!!

                    "Maritime Monarch, Peggy's Cove Light" - oil on panel 14x12 inches   SOLD

                    "Mare's Tails O'er Ironbound Island Light", NS - oil on canvas 30x36 inches  SOLD

                                 "Nocturne, Rustico Harbor, PEI" - oil on panel 20x24 inches   SOLD

                                       "Deep Cove Light, NS"  - oil on panel 16x20 inches     SOLD

                                  "Winter Watcher, Prescott ON - oil on canvas 16x20 inches  GIFTED

           "River Sentinel, Sunken Rock Light, Alexandria Bay NY" oil on canvas 30x24 inches"  SOLD

                  "The Way Things Were, Salmon Point Lighthouse - oil on canvas 16x20 inches  SOLD

                          "Pulling in Winter, Point Traverse Light - oil on canvas 12x30 inches  SOLD

                           "Silent Sentinel, Squamish Light, BC" oil on canvas 30x36 inches   GIFTED

It seems so very appropriate to end 2015 on my blog by offering my thanks publicly to my partner in Life and Art, Deb. I should like to acknowledge her constant presence... and her magnificent artisan-ship here at The Paint Box Gallery. Without her love... guidance... business acumen and artistic contributions there would be little or no success at the Gallery. She is ... The "Lightkeeper"of my Soul... and "I" am greatly blessed to have "Her" at my side!... Love you Babe... and Thank you!

                 "Sunken Rock Light" 24x18 inch  stained glass design in an oak frame

   "Georgian Guardian, Brebeuf Island Light, Georgian Bay" stained glass  24x30 inches  SOLD

"Ring the bells that still can ring
 Forget your perfect offering
 There is a crack in everything
 That's how the light gets in."

from Anthem - Leonard Cohen

"We can easily forgive a child that is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light"

Let us shine our love on the world together... to make the world a better place!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!... and Happy New Year!!!
See you in 2016!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Simply... Peace on Earth

It snowed "a skiff" overnight... just enough to provide the hope for a traditional white Christmas. Though I could feel the more intense cold from the very moment my unslippered feet touched the floor... the ermine coat that greeted me on the lawn startled me and took me completely by surprise.

It did the weather folk as well... for there was no mention of this in their prognostications. Surprise... but not. The only thing that one can predict about the weather in these parts in any part of the year... is that it will surely change every within twenty minutes!

Yesterday was tree trimming day for Deb and I... and it went off with only minor hitches. The light arrangements always add "color" to the festive language... but eventually we sorted them out and got on with the tree decorating ritual.

Out of Pandora's Christmas chest leaped memories of many Christmases passed. Many of the ornaments are handmade... dating back to primary school days for the children. Others bear dates and names of those who either created them or gifted them to us.

I particularly love hanging the dozen or so very primary looking candy cane ornaments. They were the products of a project that Liam, Bryn and I made to decorate one very sparsely-decorated (taken from the wild) Charlie Brown Spruce for our first Christmas together in year one at The Paint Box Gallery apartment in Hillsdale.

They consist of one red and one white pipe cleaner intertwined with each other to form the candy cane shape.They remind me ever so clearly how much can change in one's life... if there is love at home. Home for me is not just a house. It is a place where hearts live in love and harmony. Money plays little part in the presence of those two important home furnishings.

The Order of Good Cheer... Peace on Earth... Christmas 2015

My daughter Allison will arrive later today with her Mom Joan to commence our "Good Order of Cheer" festivities. We will put together my Mom's all time fav "Tater Gem Casserole and make her much loved peppermint and wintergreen flavored hard Christmas candy.

We will spend the time... and NOT... the $$$... to bring us together to celebrate this joyous family season. We have learned first hand during this last challenging year for our family... just how very precious our Time and our Family members are in our lives!

The two lads will join us here at Islandsview for a three day sleepover. Good food... fellowship and board games galore will form "The Order of Good Cheer" at our Rockport "Habitation". During the endless deep Canadian winters of the 1500's, this celebration was formed to lift the spirits of his isolated men by Samuel de Champlain... the Father of New France. He created this merry diversion to help overcome the terrible loneliness and deplorably frigid conditions when Canada was a fledgling French wilderness colony.

Our 2015 version of his "Order of Good Cheer" will melt away the remembrances and pressures of late night College study sessions... quick intakes of Kraft Dinner and assignment deadlines. Our "Habitation" will offer times for relaxation... sharing laughter and stockings to be traded. Gifts are not on the radar. Even the traditional turkey will be spared this year for us. Other arrangements are being undertaken to change traditional expectations ... and thinking.

My personal Christmas tasks are completed. Cards are in the mail and on the way to their various destinations. The yard and deck decorated. My annual Christmas painting has been completed. It will be presented to the boys on Christmas day... to commence its planned annual exchange between their houses each year forthwith. It depicts the relationship as it existed in Nova Scotia... "way back when". That relationship remains unchanged at this moment. The painting speaks its own words:

"Down East Vigil" - oil on canvas 24x20 inches

Last year's version""River Spirit" will be carried by Allison and her Mom to spend Christmas and 2016 at the home of her bro' and my son Andrew, Melissa and wee Mac in Rockwood, Ontario. And so... the beat goes on. 

                                                "River Spirit" oil on canvas 18x14 inches

Much love... to ALL Sherman Children... from their Snow Santa Plaid Dad!!!

In closing this post... I wish to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you who have shared visits and thoughts here on my blog site. Each of you do much to inspire and encourage me in my personal and artistic lives. As a measure of my deep gratitude, I offer this blog image version of this year's annual card to each of you and your family members.

                                     "River Dance" oil on gallery wrapped canvas 40x30 inches

Merry Christmas... to ALL... and hopefully... more Peace on Earth!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Boy's Christmas Covenant

"Not a Creature Was Stirring..." - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches  SOLD

The current
Christmas 2015 preps get underway...

The current weather and projections for the Christmas celebration just ahead closely mimic the Hillsdale landscape in my 2007 Christmas card theme. Just as the weather has see-sawed throughout December between the expected to the unseasonable... so do my thoughts... day-to-day during every Christmas season.

I find myself busied with preparations for the Christmas Present... yet predisposed to following decades old rituals that connect this 'boy" as far back as my early childhood. Let's call the concoction a "preserve" of sorts... anticipation pickled in nostalgia! AWB... the capital "R" Realist - Romantic!

Early Beginnings...

I was blessed to have had loving and creative parents who developed annual family rituals that began early and ran throughout the entire Christmas season. Christmas began in mid to late November when we headed out in search of chains of creeping cedar... used to create long chains to decorate staircase newel posts and rails... as well as the mantel of the... orange crate faux fireplace that we built with Mom's guidance.

The boy marveled at how real the red brick crepe paper looked with its crackling fire of birch logs and tissue paper flames... topped by a wooden plank mantel bedecked with sheets of white cotton snow... dotted with well placed imitation fir trees. All of this finery couched the ever-friendly village collection and of course...  a larger-than-life Santa and his string of white plastic coursers. Little wonder that my still fertile imagination still runs wild today. It was first planted... "way back when"...

Creche Creation and its significance...

Uncrating and creating the Nativity creche was a children's affair. All helped to put the various Christmas cast in place on the  long oval table that straddled our front living room window. New angels appeared in the heavenly skies each year. One year, I crafted a foiled star of the East to hover and keep watch on a thin strand of copper wire. Christmas carols were sung as the activity moved along... our favorites: O Little Town of Bethlehem... Silent Night... We Three Kings... Away in a Manger... Oh Come, All Ye faithful... Joy to the World

"While Shepherds... washed their socks by night ... all seated round the tub. The angel of the Lord came down and taught them how to scrub" delighted us gleefully each year... but drew the wrath of my Mom. I did catch her smiling quietly to herself though. Down deep inside... she knew that our family did indeed "put the Christ in Christmas"... reverently with Santa. That tradition continues with the same zeal in my house.

Spreading Simple Joy... via Canada Post

The Christmas card ritual was conducted by my Dad. The process stretched itself out methodically throughout the month of November and this first stage was dedicated to the sending process to all who responded in the previous year. The second half of the process involved transcribing this year's card senders onto the list for next year. Cards received were placed each Christmas in a wicker basket beside my Dad's chair... where they could be read and enjoyed over the Christmas season

In their declining years, it was obvious that the tradition could not be maintained by my Dad from their nursing care facility... though I had long followed my Dad's card tradition throughout my own adult journey... and in my own fashion. I offered to be the "ghost writer" for my Dad's Parkinsons- shackled hand.

It was a joyous activity which enabled their own participation and and personal contributions to friends still living in a world they could no longer be a part of... or reach out to. The memories from that venture linger in my heart... and refuel my own determination to keep the tradition alive in my own world. I still send the odd card out to remaining members of my Dad's card list. The beat goes on... and the sands of Time continue to drop in my own hour glass.

 Each card envelope has its own unique caricatured and colored and inked image

Some gently poke fun...

They are my way to recognize long friendships and shared experiences

Some even make use of the Christmas postage stamp to poke fun at Canada Post.

Each year I do question the use of my time to continue this practice in this fashion. I have watched people take the card out of the envelope... and without hesitation... crumple up the envelope ... and simply throw my gift (and my self-esteem) in the trash bucket. The temptation to simply "throw in the sponge" is great... momentarily. 

But then... I receive my "annual" simple card from Liam and Bryn's three aunts... aged 101... 97 and 94 expressing their joy... and thanks for receiving my annual card to each of them. Only Auntie Rose remains in her own home. Lil lives with her nephew and niece near Rose and Sis in in a nursing home... confined to bed and legally blind. How merry can that be? But in the face of these life -crippling losses, she remains... "merry and bright".

All of these magnificent elders retain their will to be included in Life... and a huge sense of gratitude for their life... family and friends. My card is a small gesture that our tie is still there... even after a separation that lead to tumultuous life change(s) for me personally. Do not treat success in isolation based upon a too small sampling. Love... Generosity... and Faith will always prevail.

Rose's envelope this year bears a message that is as eloquent as any decoration I could send. Its humble message touched my heart greatly... and speaks to the underlying principles which join us in love and friendship. The phrase very succinctly underscores my philosophy about the enjoyment of one's life.

Thank you dear Rose!... It is indeed the ability to "Delight in the little things...." that form Life's greatest daily blessings! Merry Christmas... once again to all three aunts!!!

"I"... am greatly blessed!

Keep your own covenants... whatever they may be. They will bring unexpected and overflowing Joy... and Glad Tidings to your door.

Good Painting... and Merry Christmas... to ALL!