Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Nostos - A Christmas Homecoming... of Sorts

Happy New Year... to ALL!

NOSTOS in literary terms is defined as the homecoming after a long journey. The contents in today's post in so many ways represents and describes clearly a journey... or an end to an important  chapter in my life. My painting journey in the many small hamlets and villages of rural Quebec created a genuine love and respect for Quebecois culture and its people. As I travelled about... painting as I went I immediately began to feel the "joie de vivre" that this culture so freely expresses. I began to understand more clearly than ever before why the French-Canadian population view themselves as a distinct society from the rest of Canada. And as an anglo... it does not offend me.

And all these years afterward... "je me souviens."

To open this post I have chosen this quiet and contemplative piece of music aptly entitled "Nostos" because it captures that peaceful world that is revealed to me by a landscape and the sanctity of our Creator's hallowed space. I felt it an apt backdrop for the perceptions I have chosen to share with you today. I hope that you enjoy the tour.

We both managed to hobble through the Christmas crunch with some help from my brother D.on who came to visit from Victoria BC and a welcomed visit from Bryn who was on break from his final year of undergrad studies at Trent University, Peterborough ON. We are both still searching for answers and solutions for the sciatica-like disruption to our schedule and health. Fingers crossed...

During my break from painting and need to be down flat and resting (with ice packs) I was blessed to discover a series of novels by the acclaimed Canadian author, Louise Penny. Her books are based upon a series of murder mysteries in the Quebec City and environs. All are based upon the central character... Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete police force in Quebec.

Each of the richly crafted plots and supporting characters more than filled my time and and provided me many hours of pleasure... and pain relief. What attracted me immediately to her writing style was her rich powers of description which made her people and the locations very personal to me. I felt that I was a character as well... and that the landscapes she skillfully portrayed and the rural villages she developed as settings were so authentic... that I was transported back in my painting life to those exact places where I had painted en plein air and exhibited for so many years ago.

It was indeed... a homecoming for me - one that replenished the "joie de vivre" that radiated from the Quebecois inhabitants and filled my own heart with Joy back then. I truthfully have never felt that sense of warmth and belonging in many other places that I have called home. Her rich descriptive language is every bit as visually expressive as brushstrokes laid freely but precisely by any master landscape or portrait painter.

Sadly... our blogging family has dwindled in number over the past few years. So many "followers" of the original group have sought other platforms from which to display and potentially sell their work. Their choice. However... I am satisfied to continue to post as I those who share my values and pour common desire to support each other and share our ideas.

After my last post when I revealed my interest in Penny's books and her richly crafted  novels, I had a comment from a dear Blogger Friend Rhonda Carpenter that she too had read one of Louise's books. She further offered that it made her yearn to perhaps visit the area in Quebec where the substance for the books was born. So rich was Penny's description of the Bistro and the foods served in "The Portrait"... that I picked up croissants and made cafe au lait to enter the realm!HA HA!!

I promised Rhonda... that I would dedicate my next post to the excellence of Louise's craft ... and to pique Ronda's interest to move ahead with a plan to visit the Charlevoix area. So Rhonda... as promised... this tour's for you my dear!!! Enjoyez!

A la prochaine... tout le monde!
Bonnes annees

                                                   "Evening Greeting" - Les Eboulements

                                                              "Bienvenue a Charlevoix!"

                         "La Lumiere d'Or - Notre Dame du Lac" -oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

                               "L'Heure d' Or" - Les Eboulements - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches

                 "A Midnight Clear" -  Farm Point, Gatineau Quebec - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

"Rue, Saint Vincent de Paul, Baie-Saint-de-Paul, Charlevoix" oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

"Pas d-Essence Aujourd'hui" - Les Eboulements - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

                                      "Vers Baie-Saint-Paul" - oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

                 "Cul du Sac Extraordinaire - Les Eboulements" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

                                  "Les Eboulements... En Hiver" - - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

                 "Le Grandes Couleurs de Charlevoix en Automne" - oil canvas 30 x 24 inches

I hope that this we plein air sampling from my own enjoyment and interpretation of rural Quebec might transport your imagination... and perhaps even lead you seriously plan an expedition and holiday to Charlevoix. It will no doubt lead you into a whole new world to be explored and enjoyed Rhonda.

I believe that you might well find recurring similarities in the pictures that Louise Penny and I have painted of rural Quebec. The only difference is our medium... hers in words... and mine in paint. Both summon up a loving interface with the tiny, remote villages which dot the spectacular landscape of regions like Charlevoix and the Southern Townships.

You can check it out for yourself by simple Googling Louise Penny... or by browsing the internet sources to obtain a copy of her work. I would recommend the first of the Gamache series... "Still Life" as a great place to start. And yes... it does have an art focus in the narrative.

Thanks for motivating me to reach back and remember these "glory days" on my own painting
journey Rhonda.

Bonne chance ma belle amie!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Somewhere Out There... Beyond Words

I had almost decided to forego posting this New Year's message. Given the extreme discomfort that Deb and I have both felt during this entire Christmas season most of you would accept my decision and feel it justified to simply... "stand down."

As difficult as the past weeks were... I could not find it within my heart to give up the ship entirely on Santa and the much anticipated  rituals that this blessed season offers us all. I was unable to complete the final project leering at me from my easel. It will get done... but somehow it seemed more appropriate to fulfill the promises I had made to mySelf... and to Allie.

I have decided to keep this post short n' sweet and to celebrate my blessings... both here on earth... and beyond the rainbow. I trust that each of you will understand and know that you too are included among the myriad of blessings that the Universe has brought into my life.

A very dear artist friend and I have reconnected after her decision to not visit her blog site.... citing somewhat similar reasons that included her deep loss and grappling with grief. Like myself, her husband was the crucible of her very purpose on earth and Being. They were childless and filled that space with a deep and abiding kindredship that few earthlings are blessed to discover during our too short existences.

Though my loss surrounds the loss of a kindred spirit... who just happened to be a girl child, those losses equate to a very similar destructive occurrence. We both know that the only way to recovery is to walk the path... on our own terms and to seek out new  meaning and purpose. Our departed ones.... expected us to!

So... I continue my painting journey using my art and my words to reach out to people that I care about. And to connect with those I meet along my own camino to support their journey. I would urge my friend to do the same. We shall talk again soon and share what we each can offer to realize the promises we made.

The Universe has presented some very meaningful sources whose art... though different than my own... does unite us in a spirit of common purpose. Let us continue to maintain our "Circle of Creatorship." May it sustain each of us as individuals and as a group.

Happy New Year to ALL my Painting Friends...

And rich blessings of good Health... Happiness and Joy!

In closing out today's post, I offer the words of a very dominant force in my own artistic and personal growth. They leaped off the page and into my heart from a novel that I am currently reading. Strange how the Universe works... when we listen. Thank you in Louise Penny and Leonard Cohen

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

From Anthem - Leonard Cohen

"Beyond wordiness." Simply... "Choose Love."

Laughter soothes the soul. Remember that... when Darkness falls upon you! It  permits the Light to enter in!

Forever Young and stored safely within my heart. Never to be  forgotten!!

"When we lose someone we love, we must learn not to live without them... But to live with what they left behind."

Thank you Suzanne... you have twice captured the very essence of our dear Allie's  innocence... curiosity... immense sense of imagination and  her abiding love of Nature and the Arts

A never empty cup...full of Sweet Memories

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Another ... and Unexpected Adjustment to Celebrating Christmas

Once again this season... it has been necessary for us to  adjust our Christmas celebrations. What would normally be our traditional ritual of gift-giving and merriment has been out of necessity altered to limit both of these practises.

Deb and I have been laid low by a sciatica kind of injury to our right sides from the hip down to the knee in my case... down to the ankle in Deb's. The pain is both excruciating and debilitating for us both. Activity and mobility is extremely limited and requires rests after short intervals of use and application of ice packs to ease the pain.

Our life has centered around medical appointments and treatments.... none of which seem to eliminate the symptoms as yet. This... after almost six weeks of self treatment. Something has to give to break this loop of pain so that we can get on with our "normal" lives and move forward with the new plans and a chapter in our lives that we have been moving towards slated for April, 2019.

I have an unfinished project currently on my easel that scolds me incessantly when I am able to get down the stairs into the studio.  will not reveal any part of it until I can present it fully finished. It has been in the wings for too many years already and getting it to the point that it currently sits only happened with dear Allie's urging and encouragement.

Stay tuned... it shall be finished... sooner than later!!!

I wanted to post this Season's Greetings from our house to yours and felt that it should carry visual input... to accompany my wishes to each of you important blogging friends. I owe you much for your continued encouragement and support throughout the year and during difficult passages in my journey.

This said... I wish to extend to each of you a truly Blessed Christmas... a Joyous and Healthy New Year. And Rich painting success and growth.

Rich Blessings... and Good Painting!

                                             "River Spirit" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches
                                             (Gifted to Allison, Joan and Andrew Sherman)

                                        "Down East Vigil" - oil on canvas 20 x 16  inches
                                               (Gifted to Liam and Bryn Sherman-Parris)

                "When Play was conducted joyfully... en Plein Air" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches
                  Gifted To Lisa Anne Sherman-Shamray and her children Ryan, Braden and Mica

                                              "Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches
                                               Gifted to a good Friend  Jeanine Burns at Xmas

I chose this one to close out my Christmas 2018 post to commemorate a full moon for Christmas Eve  this year. It shall not occur again for 19 years. Just in case my "brush with life" might have run its course... I leave evidence that I witnessed... and fully appreciated its celestial beauty and wonder this Christmas.

"God bless us... each and every one"

Monday, November 26, 2018

Unfinished Business...

I rarely have a painting project misfire and allow it to hang about. Even in the field when I am working en plein air and directly from nature... rarely do I carry home  a "start" that has misfired. I am accustomed and never reluctant to simply "scrub it" on location, rather than have it haunt me back in the studio.

However, yesterday morning a smallish twelve inch square that had been toned with black gesso and partitioned with a white chalk pencil into four quarters caught my attention. I remembered that
I had taken the canvas along with my paint box and easel to the large lawn of my landlord located directly across the from our home.

The location affords one a very picturesque and high perch overlooking the river. The combination of the rich colors of the maples and the gazebo and the dramatic river backdrop captured my attention immediately. I anxiously dove in to work from a plan from somewhere inside me by attacking adjoining quarters with two separate views from what lay in front of me.

Unfortunately, or perhaps not... Fate intervened and drew my session to an abrupt and unavoidable close. Rain pelted me... drenching my enthusiasm and sending me scurrying for home. When inside, I simply tossed the black orphan unceremoniously into a dark corner of my shared downstairs studio workspace with Deb.

That plein air misfire remained untouched and unnoticed from late in the fall of 2010 when I had first begun painting it... until now. Had its presence and potential not been drawn to my attention by my wife (and most trusted art critic) Deb... it might well still be sitting with its face to the wall unnoticed...and unfinished.

Given that long delay in proceeding, I futilely searched my mind for any semblance of an idea or direction to stimulate my movement... or my interest to resume action. Pitching it still seemed the best way to remove the roadblock!

Strangely... a recent and wonderful discovery that arrived seemingly (by chance???).. or by way of a  richly written murder-mystery novel by the award winning Canadian writer Louise Penny. The novel provided me a new and totally unexpected spark of inspiration to forget about what my earlier actions and idea might have intended originally.

Her writing spoke to me and challenged me to reach within and to search my memory reservoir for any prior event that might provide me a structure upon which  I might build  a newer concept and direction. That new concept would not be bound by those previous stalled failures which blocked my movement forward.

Looking at this malnourished body of unfinished work, I searched to associate what lay before me under the light of my easel to some semblance of such a memorable event. From somewhere in the dust and cobwebs of my teaching past, the black canvas shouted, "Come play!"
And I did.

A single growing memory chained steadily with others to form an increasingly strong and pleasurable visual image. I recalled endless hours of pleasure and Joy for me in a yard filled with many children. What was called "yard duty" by many of my colleagues remained to me a "breath of fresh air" from the restraints of classrooms. Even then... I preferred to "work" en plein air!

You see... Life is about choices. Those made and those passed over.  Joy and Happiness so often are  related to attitude HOW we perceive simple pleasures and daily opportunities. Life is then... purely a position of personal perspective. The choice for all things and outcomes is indeed based totally upon these realities and our combined willingness and ability to recognize and make something good from them.

This once half resolved wee painting owes its existence to many influences. Beginning with its rediscovery by Deb, its painful breech-birth and exile to the corner ... followed by an eight year hiatus in limbo might have prevented its second look. Not really the usual schedule of events that usher a painting into a promising life or future.

The next... and totally unexpected influence in its creation was the serendipitous  intervention by Louise Penny's novel "Self Portrait" into my painting process. This magnificent and intriguing novel literally fell off the shelf in The Beggar's Banquet Bookstore and into my hands.

I am now on my second award winner by Ms. Penny. It too provides a rarefied reading experience. My reading habit and ritual has been regained! I am truly blessed. My bedtime companion has returned!

Oh!.... And by the way. Did I mention that these novels are totally based upon art themes... locations and characters? But that's another story... for another day!

And finally. The completion of  the 12 x 12 inch canvas "Fall Four Square"was re-energized and returned into reality... powered by a simple school yard game that I was honored to share with grade school children. I offer this canvas as a token of gratitude to each young participant who shared the pure Joy of sharing time and laughter for many recesses spread across my twenty-seven year teaching career.

Being a trait. Something that I am proud to say I continue to cling to and value. It sustains "Me"... in the worst of times... bolsters my Faith and offers me Hope.

Good Painting... and rich blessings ... to ALL!!

PS As with many things in both my and painting lives, I think ... work... play and paint - and taught using a thematic approach. One good thought and solution often leads to another... and another.

Stay tuned...
 "Let the games begin!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembrance Day 2018... "Lest we forget."

On this cold November 11th, 2018, I found myself... as I have many times among the quiet crowd of many faces of citizens of Brockville who were gathered to commemorate the sanctity of this special day  which is set aside yearly. The day is celebrated by people around the globe to mark "Armistice Day"... for too many far flung conflicts.

This year's celebration focuses on the original armistice which ended World War War One, November 11th, 1918. It was seen then, a full one hundred years distant from today... as "the end of a war to end all wars." All who attended this year's service here have lived through another World War with its catastrophic horrors and inhumanities committed by all nations.

As well, even the youngest attending this service today have borne witness and felt the impact of loss of family members and neighbours. This is so... even in this very small River paradise... so very remote from the sadistic savagery committed by me just like ourselves upon innocents.

If anger and inhumanity still dwelt in the minds of veterans or families in attendance here... I did not sense it. What I did feel was the obvious genuine sense of grief, loss and deep sadness that I read on all faces around me. It seems incredulous and unthinkable  to me that any one of us could venture forth to take up arms ever again.

And yet, I witnessed with my very own eyes young men carrying automatic weapons... more fierce even than the weaponry that young men were given to bear in previous conflict(s). I watched... and heard applause as these young men and women "cadets" barely in their teens paraded proudly past us. They were already being groomed to assume their role as "cannon fodder"... sacrificial lambs .

These were the sons and daughters of the past for whom we all grieve here. What happened to those Words of Remembrance that we all rehearsed? The meaning of those words seem so shallow to me today:

"At the going down of the sun EACH day... we will remember them."

And on the very heels of these same words come another mouthed and h
ollow grouping...

"Lest we forget."

For many years I brought my classes here to stand with me... to learn by watching what that gift was to me. The Poem Flanders Field was read on this Remembrance Day by Michael Trussell, What a gift it was to me to know that we had shared that very same poem in my Grade Eight Class so many years ago... when we were both younger.

Here we are some fifty years later... Remembering... and sharing that very Peace that our fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and neighbours had laid their lives down for. I guess that there remains
Hope...   through Faith

The torch be yours to hold it high..
If ye break faith with us who died, 
We shall not sleep
Though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Captain Matthew Dawe - killed on July 7th, 2007 while serving with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in Afghanistan

Last Post - Gone now is my dear Friend and Mentor Jack Shepherd, Korean War Veteran to join comrades-in-arms

                                                 "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

                            My small painting gifted to the wife and son of Matt Dawe
                                                on behalf of our Sherman Family

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Celebrating Allie... October 20th , 2018

I have struggled for a couple of weeks... trying to prepare myself for this emotionally charged day in October... the most difficult day we as a family face together. had (falsely and prematurely believed) that I had reached a level of comfort and acceptance in regards to our loss of this shining star in our Universe. So I returned to my therapy and have begun to renew my vigour and courage. I now... more than ever accept the fact that this struggle will be a lifelong one.

For several days I tried to begin a new painting to assist this passage. None have appeared to date. I played around with thoughts and ideas in my head and then sat down at this keyboard to collect my thoughts in an orderly fashion in a new post... to perhaps support these thoughts with previous painting themes that Allison and I had enjoyed together.

I decided to course through the many cards and gifts from friends that have gathered here n my studio. Some hit the mark... sort of... but I came to a realization when I found these two tributes that I needn't look any further. I would use Allison's own words to share with you rather than my own.

So these are from her when she was valiantly at war with that wretched disease. I hope that you discover a renewed strength and purpose in your own life... as I have ... driven by her wisdom and fearless passage into whatever comes next.

                                                        Allie and Venice... forever one!

Yesterday was her official birthday... Saturday, October 20th. We would have celebrated her39th birthday together, so we decided to gather in Kingston at the ginkgo tree that several of her grad students had planted to honour her life.

These jpegs record that celebration by her family and friends in the Kingston area.

                                                    Mom and Dad... till her biggest fans.

Dawn, Allie's secretary and friend at Queen's... Mom... Deb and Andale McTavish, wife of Allies'                                                                            Grad supervisor

                                                     Happy 39th Birthday Sweet Heart!

No celebration would be complete ... without Allie's beloved lifetime friend, Winnie the Pooh in attendance

Throughout most of my adult life I falsely believed that parents were given the responsibility to "educate" their children. As a teacher, I continued to foster that belief. It is only through my journey with Allie... even in its darkest moments that I have come to realize how very wrong and misled I had been.

Allison was "an old spirit"... all of us who knew her and came to know her and love her and to understand the depth of her gift as a friend and mentor. She possessed that very rare ability to accomplish  and maintain both. 

The breadth of her knowledge... even at a very young age was something that attracted all ages to her. It was her karma to carry and share that gift of love and knowledge throughout a very short lifetime...  measured in years. But I will share this quote that she embraced from the Sufi mystic, Rumi. I feel it is a good place to stop and to wish all of you ... Happy Fall and rich Blessings from the Sherman Family.

" I learned that every mortal will taste death.But only some will taste life."
                                                                                      - Rumi

Saturday, October 6, 2018

"Count your blessings... Name them one by one..."

I specifically chose the group of words to introduce today's post. I did so because I feel they certainly reflect the true spirit of our celebration of Thanksgiving. Harvest has always been the perfect time to give thanks. Simply because it is at that time in the year when there is plenty. The cruelness of the winter cold is yet distant. Even in earliest times, the harvest bounty cultivated a sense of gratitude in all people for the smallest of blessings in life.

Those same words used in the title form the first line in a Thanksgiving hymn that we sang as a family with the rest of a then small Mormon congregation in a tiny rented place of worship. That congregation has since grown in strength and numbers substantially. Their meeting place has grown into a beautiful place of worship. The blessings that have been bestowed upon them as "believers" have arrived out of their own hard work and commitment. I will add the word Faith to further support the reason for the blessings that they have received.

The next line in that same hymn of Thanksgiving reads as follows:

"Count your blessings... see what God has done."

I suppose it might seem strange to many... that I can still believe in a God...  who many might think has turned his back on the prayers of our cancer-stricken daughter and our our own pleas for His intervention. Not so. We only asked for the courage to endure the painful passage... together ... in continued Faith and Hope....and a belief  in a life beyond this.

On most days Faith supports us in that struggle. But there are days... even weeks when that Faith or belief in anything is tested. I seek solace and direction from therapy. It helps refocus and me and acts as a release from the anger that does build on occasion. For the most part, we feel greatly blessed... blessed to have had such a beautiful spirit in our midst!

I reflect upon the many other blessings in my life to help regain a thankful perspective and outlook in my daily life. Amongst these are my other beautiful children and members of my immediate family. Our circle is indeed a powerful and constant source of pride... love and support. Each one is different and brings to the circle a special spirit and presence. I am grateful for each member. Deb, Joan, Lisa, Andrew, Melissa, Liam and Bryn. Sprinkle into the main company additional new members... our combined grandchildren and a company of loyal lifetime friends.

We are indeed... very blessed.


The Queen's University Quarterly is a respected literary publication which is devoted to "the best things Canadian". It features articles by prominent Canadian writers based upon politics, literature, science and the Arts, as well as poetry and fiction. It combines skillfully written articles with artfully photographed images to visually enhance the contents. I am now truthfully embarrassed to admit that I had never read the publication... even though I am an alumnus and had seen it many times before offered in the good bookstores that we frequent.

Only by chance alone on Friday, I bumped into an artist friend while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner items. Our chat stretched out into a lengthy conversation.. and during that time Michael asked me if I had read the current issue of the Queen's Quarterly. I smugly offered that I had never felt any need or compulsion to read that "high brow" periodical.

He immediately came back with,"Well you should read this one. There is a dedication to Allison in it." He further offered to drop by an extra copy he had on hand so that we could avail ourselves of the opportunity to read it . This morning, he dropped by for a coffee and left us a copy. After reading it...  I now realized that I completely misread and misjudged the value of this periodical. At $6.50 per issue, I will be aboard for all future issues... and not just because of the tribute to Allison.

Never turn a deaf ear to the Universe's offerings. Here was an unexpected blessing from the Universe... delivered via Michael. It suddenly became a much needed lift in my spirits heading into an otherwise bleak and emptyThanksgiving celebration... minus our lovely spirit Allison.

I wish to acknowledge this beautiful tribute to Allison by Anne Koval - curator, art writer, art historian, and poet. She is currently a professor of art history at Mount Allison University. Her credits are too numerous to list here , but can be found on p.432 in her article : Evan Penny: Ask Your Body (his exhibition piece at the 2017 Venice Biennale).

Check out the Queen's Quarterly - well worth he $6.50 and time  taken!

"This review is in the memory of Dr Allison Sherman, a brilliant and much-loved art historian , professor, and coordinator of Queen's University' s Summer School. She is fondly remembered for her sage advice to hug a column whenever the opportunity arises."

Death and its Darkness seems much less the victor... when the warmth and the Light embodied within this remembrance of her life and contributions is taken into account.

"She" and her life DID matter... to so many. We are greatly blessed....

I love you FOREVER Jemima!

I thought that I would conclude this post with a small collection of my favourite Fall images. In looking back over these I realize that each one does indeed capture  a chunk of my own time and the journey that I have made. Please enjoy... and

Happy Thanksgiving to ALL!!

"Les Couleurs d'Automne" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Simple Blessings "

"Autumn Tumbles In"- Algonquin Park 

"Fall Reflections" Algonquin Park - 8 x 10 inches

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

"Fall's Symphony" - oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches

"Merrily... Merrily... Life is But a Dream" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Autumn's Glow" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

"The Dimming of the Day" -  White's Falls - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

" The Real Canadian Idylls- Kananaskis " - oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches