Friday, February 14, 2020

Ti amo Allison!

Today is Valentine's Day.. the day when one reaches out to those individuals who bring the most Joy and Happiness to you in your daily life. Today, I dig deeply in an effort to embrace the contributions of those in my life who make me feel most complete.

There lies little question in my mind that I am indeed blessed to have a host of cherubs and angels who continually offer me their unconditional love and support. My own children and my beautiful Deb and several special friends are such examples.

In spite of these continuously supportive and important presences, today is tinged with deep sadness. A part of my heart is empty and I realize that no matter how hard I try to replenish that space... it will remain empty forever.

I even try to convince myself that I am ungrateful and should feel shame for this feeling. But I have learned over time not to feel so. My grief belongs to me alone and I am entitled to express it as I feel necessary and without feeling a need for apology.

I try not to inflict it upon people at will. And I choose who to share it with. Only a few .. and when it is most appropriate.

I wish to share a card sent to me by a "significant" blogger Friend with whom I share a similar sense of deep loss. I choose to share the card she sent my way to encourage my healing. She included with this special card two magnificent portraits of Allison. One hangs in our bedroom... the other on Allie's mom Joan's mantle piece. I cannot begin to express the Peace and the Joy that these gifts continually offer we Sherman's.

This beautifully crafted computer-cut card is by itself a powerfully poignant
Valentine sentiment... but I will include a few of the handwritten words that my wonderful Friend added:

"I think this card is perfect as it symbolizes hearts joined as one. And even tho some of the hearts have fallen from the tree, they are still very much part of the whole. In time they will be rejoined. But until then, the emptiness can be shattering - if we allow it. And sometimes we must if we are to begin healing."

A one line "Valentine" arrived in my Inbox this morning ... via the Twice Weekly Newsletter from Robert and Sara Genn to which I subscribe. It read simply... but powerfully:

"To be free of fear is to be full of love."

- Adyashanti (Spiritual Teacher)
  Way of Liberation

This liberation is accomplished through following teachings which come directly to you through one's own experience.

As strange as it may seem... though Allison's tragic and shattering passing has left confusion, sadness, grief and even a sense of hopelessness within me at times. It has as well stirred significant spiritual growth and a lesser feeling of fear for death.

I accept them as legitimate emotional expressions. I am not ashamed of them. I choose not to wallow in them either. Allie taught me that during her courageous struggle with the wretched disease within her. I try to work through them and to learn from them...  as they come to me from time to time.

She pulled this tarot card for me which directly follows the teaching of Adyashanti:

 "Replace fear... choose  Love!"

Joan and I meet as the need arises to reach out and share some of the gifts that Allison created and left with us. As well, we share some of our gifts that we shared lovingly with her while she was with us. We are sending this next painting "valentine" that I created specifically for Allie.  This oil  painting that I sent her for Christmas, 2006 recorded the familiar view from a bridge that I crossed every day during my own eight week adventure in Venice.

My own adventure zeal that I experienced there would propel Allison to search and follow her own camino in many subsequent trips to live, study and teach in many parts of Italy. Venice captured both of our hearts. We were.. and always will remain kindred spirits under her spell.

I am proud to say that this small painting will arrive this week... close to Valentine's Day at the door of her "bestie"/soul mate Jill Weinreich Luppi.

We are indebted forever to Jill for spearheading the massively successful online fundraising project which helped fund Allison's trip to Austria to receive advanced cancer treatment. She also deposited some of Allie's final ashes into Venice's historic Lagoon... thus a part of her spirit remains in her beloved city.

I know that Allie would share our excitement and joy to send this Valentine oil gift to Jill for her home. It rightfully belongs with her!

"Campo Santa Maria di Formosa"
      12 x 16 inch oil on canvas                                                                       
I have embraced Allison's wish the I "live my life fully... in her honor."
It is my honor to do so... to the best of may ability.

On Sunday, my painting buddy David Kay and his lovely wife Diane will arrive  to share three days with us here at The Barriefield. David and I have painted together for several decades in his home turf, Algonquin Park. We will spend most of those three days plein air painting together in my special places here.

Got the winter garb and thermals at the ready! Stepping away from my Lunar Landscape theme for a bit. Let's just call this plein air junket into this current -23C "winter wonderland"... "Pure Lunacy"!    LOL

Stay tuned...

             Happy Valentine's Day... to All!!!

                            Ti amo Allie... Forever!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Grey Skies in your life??.

The grey landscape after the pageantry, lights, colors and excitement of the Christmas season generally contributes greatly to one's lack of direction and motivation. Simply put... it's a downer!

While the weather this winter has been anything but "normal", the dipping one day and rising the next... fluctuations of the thermometer's mercury derails any attempt aimed at active engagement with paints and brushes and easel - for me.

So, I decided to attempt to inject a dose of enthusiasm into my studio efforts by choosing an unusual  thematic  approach which incorporates some unusual format/focus with it to push the envelope wider. Throw caution to the wind.


I have decided to continue my warm up play adding to my earlier moon based theme. Lately, the moon has been receiving a lot of attention... this being the focus of the Chinese New Year celebration in the Year of the Rat. The first full moon of the New Year has long been wrapped in importance to story-telling within Indigenous cultures around the world. These peoples refer to this first  January lunar event as "The Wolf Moon."

The moon has always drawn the attention of creative human individuals to it. Hence such wonderful music as... "Clair de Moon"... "Moonlight Sonata"... "Harvest Moon"... "Sail Along Silvery Moon" to mention just a very important cultural cross-section of works we enjoy.

I have chosen to undertake exploring the above theme further using a few simple introductory watercolor and ink studies ... akin to my to my earlier VIA Rail series. I hope these smaller sketches will lead me towards a larger format, one which hopefully will grow into a larger space to encourage broaden my ideas and my brushwork into becoming a more emotive undertaking.

Who knows... it might perhaps inject into my final statement some new and unexpected element for my viewers' pleasure and interest. At the very least... it might allow the trapped inner spirit to reappear... and the clouds to move on.  Let's see where it takes us.

  I wonder...

                                    "Wolf Moon" - watercolor with ink

                                  "Moon Shadows" - 5x7 inch watercolor

              "Luv ya ... to the moon and back" - water color and ink 5x7 inches

When I completed the above study, I recognized the potential  to push this smallish water color into the Light... to make something entirely new. By using the same techniques that I always put into play when working en plein air... I create my own version of reality that serves as a template for my own creative vision. Yes... I do call this technique... Imagineering.

Here is the final outcome of my easel foreplay. You can easily compare back and forth to discover what is changed and the effects of the unusual format I created to house the final new image., using a process of "give n' take".

I pulled forward a previously used format based upon the commemorative postage stamp. I think that it accomplishes two purposes simultaneously. Firstly, the perforated border draws attention to the inner image. It is both clean and interesting to the eye. Symbolically for me, it subtly suggests my ongoing feelings of awe and peace for natural occurring events like this which are free for anyone to enjoy... time after time... year after year.

The previous title for the smaller version uses my lovely wife Deb's phrase which she shares with her treasured Grand Gals, Ava and Ella. The title chosen for the larger version reveals the homage that I owe the great classical geniuses of composers like Debussy and Beethoven. Their moonlight tributes are timeless... just like the celestial circus of the night sky.

Hope that this sharing inspires you on one dark day in your life... or studio. Paint your way through the gloom... bring music together with your brushes to... "play on... encore une fois."

Happy Painting to All!

"Clair de Lune" - oil on perforated MDS panel  (inner image size 24 x 13 inches)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Moonlit... "Sail Along Silvery Moon..."

 A couple more moonscapes... as I earlier promised. Moonlight has been the inspiration for so many creative individuals... in so many art forms. Musicians, writers, poets, dancers and painters have since earliest times been drawn to observe and to try to capture the celestial power the moon. It has captured the human spirit... imagination and created wonder in us all. That enrapture in earliest childhood... "when the cow jumped over the moon" and for many in my own generation led right up to that landmark marker on  mankind actually stepping for the first time on the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969.

At that time, mankind for the very first time had a reversed view and forever changed perspective of Earth relative to the moon... and the Universe really. Seeing the Earth... as no humans had ever done before, for certain changed our view of "possibility." Certainly. this "one small human step" by Neil Armstrong does represent an epic scientific stride "for all of mankind." But we, as artists have long been dreaming and reaching out to places where no other men or women have ventured through our individual sand our collective expression.

I will move towards the conclusion of this post by sharing a tabletop painting that I created for Allison to mark her successful completion of her undergraduate studies at Queen's University. Ironically... it bespeaks a Truth that we couldn't envisage. My words... at hat time... were simply words of pride and encouragement back then.

But today... those words stand as an epitaph and testimonial to her accomplishments and endearment to her many students.

Nocturrno a la Salute, Venezia - oil on canvas - 12 X 12 inches

 It has always been my custom to scout an area before finding my way there to set up and paint en plein air. In so doing, I am able to eliminate some of the numerous variables that lead to a lack of success and hardship. That is especially so during the winter months when one faces the hard cold, wind and shortened period of light.

Most times in winter, I will begin with a smaller canvas, say 11x14 or 16x20 inches. These sizes permit plenty of time to completely accomplish the painting in the two and one half hours needed. Occasionally, that first painting moves more quickly than expected. But there is not sufficient time time to find and relocate quickly enough to step into another subject

"Dying Light, Godfrey, Ontario" - 11x14 inch oil on canvas

So, I look 360 degrees around my easel setup to see if something interesting catches my eye. Usually there is something that fills the bill nicely. So , I gather my thoughts.. fully knowing that there will be no fancy-dancing about. I begin, in earnest what I refer to... as "my run for the sun." It describes perfectly the goal of my attempt here. Simply to out dual the rapidly dying sun on the horizon. Here is such a panel measuring 8x10 inches. The composition is simple... the colors muted or contrasting. But what catches my attention and becomes the central image in the painting is...

"Pale Moon Rising"- Godfrey 

This scene directly followed the one that you see above it... within mere minutes really. Note the rapid brush works.... " A stroke laid  must remain a stroke made." 
Strangely enough... the smaller rapid sketch left my hands much sooner than the larger more finished canvas. Why would that be? Luck? ... "circumchance" ???

I wonder...

I would like to end this blog post today with this bright and optimistic canvas that I created in homage to heritage and hard work. This 24 x 30 inch oil on canvas captures the crisp early golden light of a new day. Perhaps... such a bright, snowy day best describes the new beginning of a brand New Year.

             "Morning Comes! The Delta Grist Mill" - oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches

Wishing all of you... a Happy New Year... filled with the richest blessings of Joy, Health, and Happiness. May 2020 bring inspiration...  adventure and Good Painting into each of your lives!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Martyr's Moon... along the Wye

"A Martyr's Moon... along the Wye " - oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

A Different kind of "moonscape"

You might ask the question... "Why such a seemingly cold and joy-less subject for sharing on Christmas Eve? Why stand out in the deep cold and dark for three hours to capture this bleak moonscape... using my car's headlights to complete this large canvas. Cheerier and more seasonally appropriate subjects most certainly abounded nearby.

This is one of those subjects that I settle down to from time to time that satisfy my own need to search  for answers which provide clarity to my own interests and goals. Again, the visual imagery combines with an inner voice which represents itself externally in the form of prose. Together, they flesh out a complete personal response.

The Martyr's Shrine, located near Midland, Ontario is now a well established pilgrimage site which operates in all seasons which serves all faiths... not just Catholicism. There is a historical reenactment aspect carried out on site which features an authentic stockade from the period, complete with historical figures and activities which replicate life as it was in "Huronia" in the 1600's. High school students are hired each summer to fill the ranks of the re-enactors. This provides both a vital and living link to area history.

Visiting The Midland Shrine is a virtual teaching and learning experience that marries the French Jesuit presence and function in that world with that of the indigenous Huron nation who peopled that area. One is immediately brought face-to-face with the hardships suffered by both inhabitants and the struggles that they met on a daily basis just to survive.

The existence of today's activities... and the actualization of a stone and mortar edifice or shrine stands as a silent witness to the suffering and brutal slaying of two Jesuit priests, Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel Lalement who were tortured and butchered at the hands of an invading Iroquoian war party. This fierce nation from Northern New York constantly warred against the French and their Wendat, or Huron allies.

Butchery inflicted upon simple peoples, political power and control continues to still exist in our divided world. Thankfully... "goodness for the sake of  goodness" coexists and flourishes as well. What remains comforting is that we each have choice to decide which view we will serve.

In closing out this Christmas Eve post I seek to encourage optimism and Faith... in Life and in Death. My own path is set.. and I follow the path with courage... Hope... choosing Believing ... as did our Allison in her own journey beyond darkness and despair.

I love "You" forever Jemima!

A Martyr's Moon Along the Wye River

Death  comes to us all
Some time.
How one faces it...
And goes forward towards the darkness
Which is, ironically... towards the Light
Defeats the powers of darkness.

Not raging... nor afraid
But in Faith and Hope
Holding onto one's flickering candle bravely
Unafraid... even to the end.
Holding firmly... resolutely to that ever faint bit of hope.
As did these brave and saintly souls

In one dark hour
Now three hundred years ago.
Their purpose and their mission
Were not  silenced
By their hideous passage.
Faith overrides death... and all suffering

Forward to Resurrection,
To enter Eternity...

 Wednesday, November 20th, 2001

Post Script

Christmas surely begs for the sounds of music. Huronia was the birthplace of a truly beloved early piece of Canadian Christmas music. The Huron Carol lyrics were composed in those now distant savagery of three hundred years ago by its  martyred creator, Father Jean de Brebeuf.

I cannot end this Christ Eve blog.... leaving my readers in a darkened place or mood. Wherever darkness is... Light exists also. That is true... especially at Sainte -Marie -among-the- Hurons. It is at this time that the site rededicates itself  annually to the true light of Christian beliefs with the Festival of First Light celebrations. Enjoy this short video visit to Sainte Marie.

Joyeux Noel...  tout le monde!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

"Peopled"... Christmas Landscapes

What would a snowy Christmas landscape become... without children present? The entire concept of celebrating Christmas evolved from the the search... discovery and presentation of the newborn Christ child. Since that very first Christmas, the central theme and the very focus our celebration of Christmas has depended almost entirely upon the traditions created by families for their children.

Christmas represents the celebration of the unblemished and unfettered wonder of youth. It is a precious time in one's life when innocence, faith and optimism are not only acceptable to the adult world... but are encouraged and rewarded by it. It is hoped that this festive occasion prepares children to enter the next stages of human growth and development with an awareness and willingness to give... and to receive.

I will choose not to admonish modern society for its over-the-top lavishing of expensive gift giving... except to acknowledge its deepening presence. Our consumer mentality imposes a sense that we must fall into line to "keep up with the..." you know the drill!

I will not use another line of this post to pursue judging further. Life is really all about  individual choices. I have made mine. I will simply offer these painted "gifts" offered to my children to support some understanding about our concept of sharing for Christmas. Our focus is directed towards the very differences of each child in our family. We cherish those and offer small gifts which celebrate and reinforce our recognition and appreciation of those special traits.

I have created what I hope will turn into a personal annual tradition for each of the my three family groupings. It is my hope that each painting will be brought out and hung during the Christmas season in the homes of each son or daughter in alternate years. It will be the responsibility of last year's sibling to take it to the home of the next and to have a celebratory event to turn it over to the next home.

The cycle, (hopefully) will be repeated each and every Christmas. In this way, "I" hope to be present each year to participate in the Joy of their celebrations and to encourage family gathering. "River Spirit was created for Allison and Andrew. It hung last Christmas in Joan and Allison's shared home... even though Allison had passed away. This year it will travel to Rockwood to be displayed and enjoyed in Andrew's family home by his lovely and youthful family.

"River Spirit, Plein air Snowman" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches

This second snow man piece was created especially for Liam and Bryn to be shared back and forth in their living spaces. Same rules apply! This year, we look forward to them coming to our new home for a few days' visit. Catan and Crib board are at the ready. The menu has been stuck! Christmas is about sharing precious time, good food, laughter... and board games. Let the games begin! 

                       "Down East Vigil" - 24 x 20 inch oil on canvas.

This painting clearly captures our common love of Nature and the outdoors. Peggy's Cove, NS was always a favorite destiny for our treasure searches and beach combing. Winter cold and snow was never something that we cursed or dreaded. We gladly went out into it... fortified with wieners, beans, marshmallows and smores... all the while having a "shin-warmer" break to boost the spirits!

"When Winter Play was...  en plein air" - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

The final and most current edition of my River Spirit- Snowman based theme owes its creation to my many wonderful hours of "yard duty" as my teaching colleagues painfully referred to it. For me... it was never that. I called it "yard pleasure" because the children and I created activities that embraced that freedom and sense of unrestricted play which belongs unfortunately... most often only to children.

When the game of throwing of snowballs became prohibited because they were viewed and ruled as weapons"... the children and I took to rolling large snowballs... to "who could roll the biggest." The remnants of these Stonehenge- like white monoliths often lasted well into... or around April. Truth is... they stood as symbols of righteous rebellion against adult domination.

Ironically, but again pleasing to me, this painting found its way to the lovely home of my eldest gal Lisa. We share a very common view of the world and we both treasure our children and making and sharing our Art.The pure sense of irony rests in the fact that Lisa resides in the Barbados... where nary a snowflake can survive... or until now can likely be found . But hey!... Who can say never? LOL

Two celestial evening skies... one lunar... the other star struck. The final edition... the going down of the sun. Perhaps a fitting closing for this post.Children's play seems today to be either more controlled and defined by adults.. or dominated by technology. Simply put, children are being "left to their own devices" by parental guidance systems.Too bad... by my measuring.

In closing, I hope that this adds some Christmassy feelings to your festive week.
I will close out later i n the week with one last winter landscape. One to replace the Christmas card ritual that simply eluded me this year. These three personages were the basis for our last three years of Christmas card sharing. I have a definite theme in mind along these same lines for the next. But... am still dealing with... well you know. But I'm getting there. Change is change. It's also necessary... and encourages new growth of ideas.

Stay tuned...

Warmest regards,
Good painting... to ALL!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Moon Struck... Again... and Again

I have chosen to offer the much beloved classic " Moonlight Sonata" as my prelude to this pre-Christmas post. It never fails to elevate my emotional and creative juices in preparation to paint. Often... it leads to actual  lunar themed paintings paired with prose, such as the last post's focus... "On Being Wed to a Winter Moon.

It seems not impossible... but inconceivable that a deaf man - Ludwig van Beethoven could imagine such a powerful image trapped within his mind and conduct it through an impassable labyrinth of impossibility to our reality. But as Leonard Cohen exalted in his own mastery of imagery and song "Anthem":

"There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in."

It is through imperfection and risking that the purest examples of beauty come. Never stop trying. Never stop using your own "voice." Be proud of your Self. Failure is not a mistake. It's a learning opportunity. Just a perspective.The lessons to be learned are there for the taking. Reach out! Never give up!

"A Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches, I feel shares a similar peaceful, reverence, one unsullied by the activity imposed by the presence or activities of man. That was my immediate goal at least. Beethoven has achieved this ever so brilliantly in terms of composition, color, movement and phrasing. Might you agree???

A Sugar Moon

Moonlight strafes the darkened maple stand
Silent sentinels on guard until the return of spring.
Somber silhouettes in the quiet winter night,
Their arms outstretched... thrusting into the inky blackness of the beyond
Ever hoping vainly to capture the celestial disc.

The now deserted shack sits patiently waiting
The murmur and mirth of the excited voices...
Of they, who passed the long cold nights
Sharing labor, food and laughter,
Privileged were they to share and savor their sugary secrets.

Spring seems always to return... but will the voices?
Not likely will this shanty fill to the brim with that steamy maple liqueur.
Not likely will these now moldering pans feel heat
Or ever yield another dram or pint of that precious maple gold-
This landscape and the sweet taste of Paradise... are forever lost!

How strange! This poem was written one early morning. To be exact... on December 14th, 2006

The final full moon of this year... and this decade occurred on the clear evening of Thursday, Dec. 12th, 2019. I watched until I saw the silvery orb appear dramatically over the eleven storey condo to the east of our building... and lift silently , yet serenely out of view overhead.

The embedded "man in the moon"... the"cow jumping over the moon" memories remain fully with  me to this very day. My imagination continues to search for my own imagery to faithfully record the overwhelming gravitational pull that this phenomena has imposed upon my thinking and creative expression time after time.

The actual appearance of the moon in this particular phase represents celestial perfection for me. So much so, that I have felt my painting ability imperfect by itself to capture the sense of awe and majesty that a full moon imparts.

Working on recurring themes is in my opinion... not a weakness, but rather a strength. Using past thoughts and ideas helps build bridges for new growth and perceptions.

I will share two more "moonscapes" with you before sending my Christmas message and blessings to all!

Stay tuned...

Rich blessings of Good Health and renewed creative energy... to ALL

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Twice Said...

Strange... that I should rediscover this painting while looking for files to create a power point presentation for The Rideau Lakes Artists Association in Westport. Stranger still is the fact that the painting had a poem on which it was based and created.

Both were accomplished on November 18th, 2002... exactly seventeen years ago.... today! This year, a full moon did appear this week and meteor showers are forecast for our skies in this area tonight.

It was not an uncommon practice for me back then to sit down and record my thoughts and visual impressions in prose on the back of the canvas that I intended to paint on... prior to actually beginning to paint.

On most occasions, I discovered that both interpretations most often shared both similar... and different imagery. I have often wondered which version more clearly and accurately represents the Truth that I sought to capture.

In this particular case, I invite you to add your own thoughts and opinions. I would deeply appreciate hearing your thoughts.

       "On Being Wed to a Winter's Moon" - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches   SOLD

A ring of silver illuminating her celestial soul
Drew me fully to Her.
Her face... alabaster against a backdrop of inky blue velvet,
Cast her radiance across the sheets of fresh white winter linen.
The world about me stood in solemn stillness...
Except for a handful of carelessly tossed meteors -
Ribboning their briefly seen journeys earthward.
Rows of gnarly maples in their best black night attire
Lined each side of the silvery runner that led her to the crest of the hill,
Towards the altar where She stood.
Just the faint woodwind sounds of rattling frozen maple fingers,
Accompanied by the barely audible whistle of migrating golden
eye wings
To usher me solemnly forward
No turning back
Towards my Destiny -
To be wed to a winter moon.