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

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Summer... Slip-slidin' Away

Autumn has officially arrived and not just according to the calendar. The air has undergone definite change with cooler morning and evening temperatures. Birds are "fidgeting"... gathering in noisier -than-usual flocks... anxious to depart for their southern destinations. A fall palette of yellows, ochre, reds and oranges quietly reveals itself. Almost seeming to blush into view amid the verdant and varied greens of summer.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am drawn to paint on location myself... outside in the quiet places now surrendered by often noisy and active vacationers. It is this solitude that draws me to these sanctuaries - places where the soul can bathe... medicate and meditate. The perfect cocoon for creative thought and activity. Even the pesky insect pests of summer cooperate.

Grass Creek Park is such a place nearby our present home. Because it is frequented only by dog walkers and their  contented canine counterparts, there can be found numerous sites for the artist to set up and paint virtually unnoticed. Some sites even provide the added luxury and excitement of offering a view of the Saint Lawrence River. 

My painting site for today's post is just such a place. While it is hardly tucked away in a secretive, inaccessible place... the time of year greatly reduces the usage of the park. An odd car or sedan gawked its way slowly past from time to time. However... most passed offering at most... a pleasant and cheery "thumbs up."

Here's the view that we shared on this late September afternoon. Can you see why I was attracted to this site and its composition? What catches and draws one's eye about here? Is there enough to attract attention  and hold it... on canvas???

Note the simplicity of lines and masses, or shapes. See how they interconnect and harmonize... using the limited strong color to draw disparate elements together?

Step # One is to capture and maintain that simplicity during the lay in process

Step # Two is to look for strategic places to insert missing elements of "color surprises" to help guide the eye around the composition.

Step # 3 This step was conducted away from the site after a few hours (and a discussion with Deb) regarding what was not present in the site itself and needed to be added. In a few words... applying "artists' licence" - something from the soul that makes the creation your own!

"Summer .... Slip-slidin' Away, at Grass Creek Park" - oil on canvas 11 x 14 inches

Red is a color one that the artist should never shy away from. Rarely, however is it used in a purely "raw from the tube" application. Fall colors especially... bear the presence of both the greens that is being replaced... and the reds emerging. That makes the resulting new red muted.

The greatest need to bring this picture to a successful conclusion, is to recognize the absence of a strong, interesting and believable foreground. What better than to add a potpourri of fall flora that is on display directly behind you! Use it and arrange it creatively...  as you please.

Search... and be aware of objects and momentary "visitors" within the frame of view that you have created. What did I add to create yet another source of visual interest?

Hope that you enjoyed sharing this "plein air" outing near Kingston, Ontario!

Good Fall Painting... to ALL! Get "out there"...wherever you live!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Stepping Back in Time... Part One

As I made my way around the village... in search of a new subject to paint, I suddenly became aware  and realized that while the village and its residences collectively were a step back in historical time... they were also step back views of my own life and time.

Changes were evident everywhere i visited to support my growing awareness of that fact. While the overall historical nature of the architecture visibly transports one back in time, so many of the buildings do reflect the changes brought by modernity. Nature itself has conspired with human change to blur past memories that I carry within me from my earlier experiences here.

I can illustrate this using this photograph taken a week ago to be viewed in comparison with a small oil sketch that I completed in 1990.

      Looking down Regent Street... A Stone... as it sits in its late September greens in 2019

The same stone home as I portrayed it in 1990.This smallish 5 x 7 inch oil sketch ... minus all of the shrubbery of 2019 reveals more clearly its classical, early twentieth century limestone origin and beauty.

Given this situation occurs throughout the entire village, as well as the call of the fast approaching autumn color pageant...  I am drawn by a competing need and desire to participate in both. I feel that both would prove equally enjoyable to each of you (from away) and uplifting for me to paint.

I have decided to maintain the village walkabout incorporating some direct plein air pieces like this latest piece... as I am able to complete them. I will add sites that I think present  a potpourri of the village's most prestigious homes and buildings.

Typical Ontario one an one half storey clapboard residential dwelling with central entrance to parlour with fireplace/hearth... summer kitchen to the side. Two slanted ceiling bedrooms located in the half storey.

Clapboard residence of Stephen Yarwood, Purser in the Royal Navy and Nicholas Cross Carpenter c.1830's - 44

I would suggest using previous Barriefield paintings from my past wanderings in conjunction with present day photos for comparison.

"Spring... Willowmere in Barriefield  Village  - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

"Willowmere" sits today much untouched in its Georgian stone beauty. It varies from its current use as a single residence from being a stage coach inn for travellers between Montreal in Lower Canada using the King's Highway to make the long journey to York in Upper Canada. Today York is known as Toronto.

As Willowmere sits today. Notice that the veranda and its railings sit below the grade of the road. When I first visited the village the road was lower, but was raised when the main highway (The King's Highway ) was diverted to draw heavy traffic away from the village to maintain a more "historic" appearance.

"Sunny Monday Morning Matinee, Barriefield" - oil on canvas 20x24 inches

This painting recalled the Monday wash day ritual of most households... where clothing was washed ... either by hand in tubs and scrubbed clean by hand on washboards. Or... it was washed in rotary washing machines and then run through the attached wringer. The final drying took place on backyard clothes lines... courtesy of the sun or wind. The smell of those fresh clothes is still firmly embedded in my memory bank. Obviously... the practice remains alive... well and still practised in rural or semi-rural households.

A frontal view of the same clapboard home.. again a typically simple center plan Ontario residence of the early nineteenth century.  Little or no filigree detail to jazz up the facade . Jaunty and welcoming  colorful doors are the norm in this village and do much to add charm and color to the simple homes.

I will take a small "lunch break" from the Barriefield tour at this point... begging your permission and patience while I self - indulge in some rapidly changing landscape subjects. The color change has become much greater than the "blush" that was present... if one looked hard. It has gained in strength and its presence summons up my annual need to pull out the cadmiums.

Stay tuned... Barriefield isn't going anywhere soon. I shall return to the tour in a few days. Its worth the wait to travel through time down Main Street... and to experience "Lilac Row" home by home.

Warmest regards... and Happy Fall Painting... to ALL!!!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Simply... "Just across the road... or around the corner."

My blog post today, I hope records some awareness that has been fuelled by our moving (back) to Kingston... and away from our established life in Rockport. Moving was physically in its own right a challenging hurdle for us both. However, that worry was removed from our struggle through the generosity of four neighbours who took the lead and made things happen rapidly and seamlessly from one site to another. We will always be grateful for this blessing offered to us only out of a genuine act of friendship.

As I write, Deb is combining her own artisan ship skills and business acumen to combine with our longtime friend and web designer, Brenda Stanley at The Heart of Business located in Barrie Ontario. Their combined goal is to create a very new and updated Paint Box Gallery website. This time the site is being designed to replace the physical brick n'. mortar gallery and will be operating as an e-commerce site. Complete with its online shopping cart capabilities for our clientele.

In the meantime, I am out plein airing... panning for gold. A new website and gallery search require new materials that offer change and a fresh look as well. I am fully committed to that task at the moment. The cold, frosty fingers of winter are present during morning hours. That feeling... along with the obvious first "blushes" of autumn color remind one... that this much anticipated magical technicolor pageant... although breathtaking is so fleeting.

"Carpe diem".Well stated... and totally understood! So I am dedicated to delivering my contribution to our new chapter and art journey.

Stay tuned... for some new landscapes with "color surprises", as Emile Gruppe called them.

Places... Just across the road and around the corner

It is again a blessing to have been given this second opportunity to visit, retrace and paint in Barriefield Village again after so many years. Already, this quaint historic village presents unlimited painting material to motivate and excite me as creatively as it did thirty odd years ago. The village and its historically preserved homes are cared for by villagers who value its past. It is truly a vantage point from which the artist can view Kingston in its earliest years of settlement.

This heritage plaque provides all of the necessary lead in information to explain my connection and strong need to make paintings here. The opportunities to make good paintings within this small space are limitless.

I love to work using a thematic approach. What a better place ... "Just across the road and  around the corner from our new home." I will commence my introductory guided tour with one of my favourite Barriefield homes. One where I often was invited for tea with its owner then, Rollie Huegel. Rollie was a noted  and celebrated Shakespearean actor who worked in productions from our own famous Stratford Theater to New York Theater  productions.

In its beginnings in 1830, it was owned by David Morton who operated the premises as an Inn for stage travellers between Montreal and Toronto.

                                                           David Morton's Inn (1830) 
                                       "Couched in Summer... Nestled in Safely for Winter"
                                                        Oil on canvas - 10 x 12 inches

All of the summer floral warmth and garden grandeur surrounding the red door which bid us to enter and to bide a while. Wasn't that exactly what the garden and its jolly entrance has done throughout its history? Seemed a propos to use it in my composition as simply an invitation to enter.

I hope that you share my feelings about my choice... and that you will stay with me on this village walkabout. Anxious to share this village with you. Like the River... its very much a part of my feelings of home... and belonging.

Warmest regards... and Good Fall Painting ... to ALL!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Adieu... to August... and Summertime Dreams

It struck me today in the darkness of my pre-dawn vigil that summer's strength and vigour was rapidly declining. Not just in the later appearance of morning's light which was so visibly obvious... but as well in the other sounds and aromas that accompany summer.

There is is a certain sense of increased "ripeness" in the fields. Young maples have in many places already begun to show the rich color which all maples attain each fall. Now golden grain crops in the fields already have begun being cut and harvested. Hay is resting in bales... awaiting transport to the barns where they will await their winter use as fodder for livestock.

At first light this morning, I was joined on the balcony by the usually shy and suspicious hummingbirds. I suspect that they were forced into risking contact by the growing scarcity of flowering garden plants that they are customarily drawn to... either in the open fields... or in nearby  private gardens. We know from many years of enjoying their presence in our gardens and at Deb's feeder stations that there is sudden surge in their feeding habits in late August.

This event signals their knowledge and memory of their long southward journey. They are forced by instinct to set aside usual timidity and to give over to a feeling of necessity. This impulse seems to replace whatever safeguards they usually observe and practice. We will miss them... but Deb remarked that they at least found us in our new home. Almost certainly they seem to return to safe feeding havens each spring.

Cooler night and morning temperatures certainly alert one to "changes in the air". I enjoy this period of transition. It offers me the opportunity to adjust my painting activity and thinking about new themes and ideas. I am happy to know now that I am able to regain my plein air preferences.

I edged back into being outdoors during the past week... carefully at first and limiting my speed and scale of work. I will continue to build gradually... knowing with certainty that my body and gait are certainly weakened and require more rebuilding and time to heal. I work in the outdoor pool every evening... where I have it to myself almost every evening. The workout is less demanding because it is not weight bearing. But all muscles do receive full benefit from the activity.

I chose a nearby location where I [believed] that I could  maintain some essence of quiet and undisturbed solitude. Misjudgment... but not wholly so. Just kept my head down and painting. I took the painting to a lay in stage and decided to bring it back inside to consider what it lacked... or needed added for a second run. It certainly lacked "finish"... and polish.

This afternoon, I decided not to return to Kingston Mills Lock to complete it. I felt that it had enough in it to drive a strong finish based upon what my memory and recall could work with. The on site work was very loose... to the point of being "iffy". The inside treatment tightened things up. But I feel that the final outcome incorporates the best of both approaches.

In any event... let's call it "done".

                                               "Inspiration... alongside perspiration"...

I felt that the idea contained within my words in the title for the post cover the feelings that I have tried to express about August... and Dreams. Summer is fleeting at best. So are dreams. Dreams represent cherished hope. While Summer and Dreams share a vision of limitless time. Life says otherwise.

"Yesterday's Dreams" - oil on canvas 10 x 12 inches- Kingston Mills Lock

I chose this tiny summer retreat... perched forgotten on a granite finger reaching into the languid, lily-choked inlet on Colonel By Lake,  just above the Rideau Canal Locks #45 and 46 at Kingston Mills. I have customarily visited... and on occasion, I have even painted this jaunty, but neglected summer relic. Never... in the thirty odd years that have passed can I recall any sort of flurry of summer activity, or excitement there.

Surely... it must have enjoyed its 'day in the sun'. Somewhere... someone must have shared precious summer moments and memories within these walls and along its quiet shores.

I wonder...  Maybe next year????

Stay tuned...

Good Painting to ALL!!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

August... on my Mind

Fifty years ago today the youth of America sang out in a single, clear and united voice in opposition to the Vietnamese conflict which had claimed the lives of so many of their brothers, sisters and friends. So many of those performers and their music set the future course for music in America and the rest of the world... and did in fact coalesce the Youth in America to bring pressure upon their leaders to end this vicious and senseless conflict.

One performer in particular represented to me the spirit and the power of the singing voice. Still today, her words guide my own personal mantra for conducting my own life. And since Allie's tragic passing it has meant even more. I thank Joan Baez ( and creator) Willie Nelson for this anthem of Hope. Here is the version that Baez shared at Woodstock.


I created this `16 x 12 inch canvas "Thank You for the Music!" to honor my dad for his gift of music over his lifetime to me and countless others. It created such a great influence in my life. Ironically... or perhaps not... my Dad's birthday falls on August 16th.

                              Watercolor Tribute to Dad's 100th Birthday... "Keep Smilin'"

 This song by Joan Baez has done the same for me in my own life. I have learned to live and dream one moment at a time... and to feel deeply blessed to be given these gifts.

My Mom brought Faith and an appreciation for family and natural beauty into my life continuously over all of the years that I was blessed to walk with her. Many of my paintings attest to the deep influence her teachings and Faith play in my life. If I am an artist... it is because of their combined gifts to me. I am deeply blessed.

                                       "August on my mind" oil on canvas 24 x 18 inches

"Summer in Transition" - oil on canvas 24 inches x 24 inches

                           " A Demi-tasse Full of Summer" - oil on canvas 16 x 12 inches

The "flower power" that united the 70's Anti War movement  was spearheaded by a single song anthem of unification by the legendary folk trio Peter Paul and Mary. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Its hauntingly beautiful melody and lyrics immortalize the moment in time when Young America spoke out... and acted. Some in violent ways... others with refusal to serve or to be told what to be believe. They changed the course of American and World History.

Peter Paul and Mary - "Where have All the Flowers Gone"

August  21st...  my Mom's birthday... and flowers eternally remind me of the Peace... Faith and the blessings my Mom bestowed upon me.

August 10th marked the 70th birthday of my lovely and creative wife Deb. She has brought with her much Joy and support for me and all members of our Sherman family. Her creativity manifests itself in so many ways and mediums. But her artisanship in creating her stained glass magic proves that she is "one cut above"all the rest in that field. Here is a sample of that craftsmanship that validates my feelings about her skills.

These projects are but a few of the glass magic that Deb has produced. Her talents, determination, inspiration and generosity endear her to all and value her her as my friend, kindred spirit and love of my love. Thank you for just being ... "You"... for "Me" and for choosing to share your life with me.

"You are... my Forever and Always."

Happy Birthday Sweet Heart! I am greatly blessed....