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.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Grateful Remembrance...

Monday, November 11th, 2010. It is cold and wintry place.... freshly  transitioned from blazing fall colors and harvest. The world seems so very cold. Somewhere between brooding and grieving. I easily attuned to the feelings of loss. 

It would be so easy to simply give in to melancholy and self-pity. But I must admit that I have a truer appreciation of loss and the feelings that come with that void in one's being. I will not journey any further down that road with you. I will not dwell on that further because we do still have choices we can make to help one cope with and embrace ... if only to offer Hope and Purpose.

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on canvas 12 x 10 inches

Captain Matthew Dawes - Princess Patricia Light Infantry, 27 years old Killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan, July 4th, 2007

Allison and Ella's Undergrad Convocation moment... a cherished memento which lives brightly on in our hearts. 

"At the going down of  each sun... and in the morning, we do remember them." 

                                                                      Forest Folk... and Kindred Spirits... FOREVER!!

Never goodbye my Dearest Sweet Heart . 

"Ciao... et Grazie! Ci vediamo dall'altra parte. Tutto il mio amore,

My commemorative Stamp Portrait design permits Allie to continue her travel adventures... anywhere... and especially back to her beloved city of Venezia.

In closing this post, let me share my own observation and belief:  

That fearing death is normal human response. But if one can rise up and view death as an opportunity to learn more about themselves and the potential richness of life .... day to day. 

In a recent Spotlight on Aging article, Bereavement Support Manager Sarah Reid Hedberg suggests  that one might eventually be able to "view death as a teacher, not a threat. And that people are infinitely valuable not only in life, but at death as well."

I currently struggle with mixed emotions and some inability to totally operate with this grace and acceptance. But I do try each and every day to put one foot ahead of the other and to contribute to Allison's journey to educate. She encouraged me to "Believe in miracles."

On Friday past, I was invited to offer a talk describing my journey as an artist in nearby Westport to a group of 80+ artists  . I accepted with some trepidation. I decided to begin my presentation using Allie's portrait to "break the ice" and as a springboard to encourage thought and discussion.

I accomplished that and held attention beginning to end. I was asked at the conclusion of the presentation to consider offering plein air workshop in the spring.

I now see a vision of continued presentations for the same purpose. Reaching out... versus retreating painfully inward.

May the world embrace peaceful tidings and reach out in brotherhood. Let us bring down more walls... and argue against building borders to keep fellow men from free movement and opportunity. Would that kind of free world better honor our Fallen???

"Lest we forget."

I wonder...
Stay tuned

I would share this solace that I received and felt during this year's  National Remembrance  Ceremony observed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Matthew Dawe' s mother was honored as this year's Silver Cross Mother to represent all Canadian mothers who had lost children during wars... to place a wreath on their behalf . It was very moving for me. A bitter-sweet moment of sadness mixed equally with pride. Never forgotten... WE will remember.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Thanks Giving... or... Giving Thanks... or Thanksgiving

No matter the interface one chooses to use between these two words, they are meant to describe this autumnal celebration in one's life of giving thanks... being grateful. The words and the celebration  are both meant to describe an ancient human ritual that was derived from the conclusion of a successful harvest time.

It marked a time when food(s) were harvested... gathered in successfully. The gatherers then gathered around a table in fellowship either collectively as a family, or in communal groups. They gave thanks ... and shared in the bounties of the harvest. In most cases, the festival was connected to deities, or faiths to whom adherents felt inclined to offer prayers of gratitude and thanks.

It has always remained festive and celebratory... and in most cases involved food, wine, music and joyful conversation. The celebration, as we have come to celebrate it in North America draws family members homeward from wherever they conduct their "separate" lives, or circumstances.

In North America usually turkey, or ham, root vegetables and pumpkin pie comprise the traditional fare. These foods translate to our table from their early origin on the Eastern Seaboard of the US from the traditions and foods available there to earliest settlers and Christian ancestry.

Most likely, these traditions, including the food choices will remain in place. It will not remain so for Deb and I however, on this occasion. Firstly, our family members are widely scattered geographically in diverse places throughout Canada and the Barbados.

Each of those members has responsibilities in their own lives to share the ritual of Thanks Giving that was begun under our roofs and around their tables with their own offspring And so our Thanks Giving custom continues. We remain gathered together.. spiritually... at least.

Thanksgiving in 2019.... Sherman-style

Life changes many things. In the worst scenarios, family members are sadly and tragically removed from their seat at our tables, leaving empty seats around the table and in the hearts of all remaining family members. Such will be the case at Andrew, Melissa and Joan's 2019 Thanks Giving table.

Grief and loss, if you permit it to be brought forward can leave hearts forever heavy and one's Faith shaken, or worse, even destroyed. Allison would be so upset to be viewed as the cause of family sadness.

She implored each of us to " live out our lives to its fullest measure in her honor, if this was to be her time."

We each are doing so. I continue to try to fulfill that wish in my own way. Painting, as I am able and reaching out to use my Art as the connector just as she and I both did using our earthly time and gifts to do so. I will continue to do so... and will support all of our family members to join hands to continue to celebrate in their own fashion the life miracles that she created for others.

I have a painting on the go already but have let it rest for now to share the memories of Allie , in combination the Joy and Love that we have put in place to share with our Friends and neighbor. I hope that you enjoy this small sampling of my own personal memories and creations.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my Canadian friends and neighbors and an early greeting to those who celebrate theirs outside our calendar date!!!

                               "Bounteous Blessings" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

My life has been filled like this wheelbarrow . It ironically was used by my maternal Grampa Birrell to tend his garden. He filled the wheelbarrow with flowers throughout his life time and he filled his family's lives with copious love and blessings That generous spirit still lives and guides the actions of so many of his offspring.

I was greatly blessed to learn from them and to feel that same love from my Mom and Dad in their home. Today , I do my best to pass it forward to my children. I believe that they would continue to be proud of their family. Too many blessings to list...

                            "Autumn's Final Fanfare" - oil on canvas 11 x 14 inches

"Autumnshine" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

"Leaning Towards Autumn" - oil on canvas 36 x 48 inches

"Bittersweet Madawaska Valley" - oil on canvas - 11 x 14 inches

"Lake Galaiery Color" - plein air oil on panel 8 x 10 inches

Giving Thanks in 2015... all present (Andrew the  chef and photographer)

Who will ride Allie's bike next year.?????

Sadly... I wonder.

Each of us are still pedaling that bike for you Sweet Heart. Last weekend were among the Shermanator team members who hit the road at The Annual CIBC  Run/Walk for the Cure in your honor.

Love you FOREVER Allie
Mom, Dad and Deb, Andrew, Melissa and his Fearsome Threesome lol