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....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Life... Isn't Just Black ... or White!

The first leg of the VIA train adventure was rendered in pen and ink. Each of the fourteen black and white images were completed within a one to two minute time interval. Needless to say, none were completed with any significant detail to make them highly realistic. Basic large forms were recorded to assist in creating a framework. The rest is left up entirely to the vision and imagination of the viewer.

At first, I felt direction-less. Uncertain as to how to proceed with the application of color. Then an idea came to mind. Why not proceed with the application of color using the same framework of a limited time interval. The choice of medium seemed straightforward and logically sound too. Watercolor as a medium would allow me to to apply color quickly and broadly to record a quick impression to support... but not take away... or overstate the underlying ink rendering.

Allison and I had always shared gifts at times when we were apart, or travelling. I had purchased a portable field set of Winsor and Newton watercolors for her to use in her Venice adventures. She however... seemed to never have enough time in her busy studies and teaching to really use it as fully as either one of us had hoped.

Since she passed in late April of 2017, many of our mutual gifts to each other have found their way back to me. At first, I found their return painful... so I merely set them aside ... hoping that a "right time and opportunity" would arise to put them to work.

I now view these returned gifts as blessings in my life. It has become my duty.. and my great Joy to put them to work for us both. It brings to mind a very appropriate saying that I received just recently from the eulogy of  a dear family friend Nancy Weinrich. She was the mother of Allie's Venetian soul mate, Jill Heinrich-Luppi. I feel it a very appropriate occasion to share it with you here:

"Love doesn't die. People do"

It seems everywhere that I travel in my daily life the common symbol which has always enjoined me with Allison mysteriously appears. As I climbed the stairs to go down to the entrance of the cottage on the River where our family was meeting for a meal and evening together... there appeared this very distinct heart gift.. embedded... who knows by whom ... or how long ago. But on this particular occasion it served as a roadside reminder (to me at least) that Allie would be present.

So in the spirit of that love... let us continue the next part of this journey without tears. Let us celebrate their continued presence through the countless memories we hold of them in our lives.

"Choose love." ... Allie's tarot card read during her chemo sessions. Chance say you???... Me chooses to think... NOT!

I have learned (with support and encouragement) to absorb pain and adversity and to use them in positive ways. In this case... I am choosing to take stark black and white imagery (with its own beauty)... and to blend it with watercolor pigments Here's what I managed to bring forward to share with you... in whatever way you choose to view and value it. It's up to you and your eyes!

PS As you read these words we will again be aboard VIA train # 45 headed to back on that earlier trek to Toronto. Enjoy!

Stay tuned...
Back home Thursday... and back to the next project!

Good Painting... and Happy Summer ... to ALL!!

Monday, July 29, 2019

In the Blink of an Eye...

I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the responses to my "Games People Play" project. Mainly because it bore little resemblance to my other interests involving landscape and still life. As is the case in the television and movie business.. we sometimes typecast ourselves by limiting ourselves to one genre. It can be greatly inspiring in the early stages of one's career... yet lead to repetitive boredom in the long haul. In our heavily burdened technological society, public interest is short-lived and best.

In a leap of faith, I have decided to journey back into my earlier interests now recorded  but nearly lost in the meat of my numerous sketchbooks. I hope to seeking out and rekindle my creative spirit based upon "old" ideas which were of interest to me earlier on in my artistic journey.

Many of those ideas were recorded when I fully intended to save them for future use in a time of artistic drought, or uncertainty. Twenty-five years later, time urban sprawl and development swallowed many those pieces of Canadian heritage... especially barns... homesteads and other agrarian enterprises. They exist... many of them, only in my sketchbooks.

I have always enjoyed taking on subjects and projects that no one else wanted, or valued. Even during my teaching years, I chose to work with students who others saw no valued, or believed in. Their life challenges became my own. Their failures mine. Their successes  and triumphs became my motivators. Likewise in my art, I realized and accepted that not all ideas and work is destined to succeed - on a given day. Sometimes, one had to wait to see it ripen and flourish in its own space and time.

In the Blink of an Eye

This phrase is an example of a literary device called an idiom. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent parts. For example: "kick the bucket" which in terms of its idiomatic use means dies. Or for the above idiom "in the blink of an eye" suggests an imperceptibly quick movement beyond possibility : "We lost our entire way of life, or fortune in the blink of an eye."

What do you "see''... in one fleeting glance... "or the blink of your eye?"

I wonder...

In today's post, I hope to investigate and play with that question using a rather unique approach to actually try to measure  my own ability to respond to that question. Commencing the task did not seem particularly daunting in itself to me simply because I have habitually employed that strategy for many years when I have painted en plein air.

Generally speaking, most of my small to mid-sized outdoor canvases are totally completed within two and a half to three hours. Stepping up to the easel and painting almost spontaneously during that time frame is very comfortable for me and generally provides me ample time to get down what I see... or want to say about the subject in front of me.

In the beginning, it was a huge leap of faith and challenge to leave the comforts of a studio to embrace this new kind of on site painting... on location, or plein air painting as it is called today. Working materials, methods and even clothing had to be adjusted to weather conditions and terrain. But learning was gained gradually over time to create a whole new approach to painting which provided greater realism and joy for the participant.

The most important piece of learning for me personally was learning to quickly construct a basic composition using strongest form and color to create a road map to guide an impression - NOT a copy. That ability has remained with me and is as valid today as in the beginning.

I decided to use this reliable tool to fuel my recovery  and return to painting after too many months without a brush in my hand... or art in my heart. My heart had been broken by Allison's untimely and tragic death.

My body was physically weakened by the constant painful effects of sciatica to a point where I felt there was little chance of returning to painting. To entertain such ideas was wistful and wasteful thinking. But time and perseverance has prevailed! I am underway again... ready for new painting challenges.

All Aboard!...

Today's post and project was conceived aboard a rapid transit train journey... coming and going between Kingston, Ontario... our home and Toronto Union Station in the heart of metropolitan  and downtown Toronto on October 10th, 2018. We had a scheduled medical appointment for Deb at Toronto Western Hospital. The early morning scheduling for that appointment made a safe and guaranteed arrival time almost impossible, so we elected to travel by VIA Rail. A great choice!

The travel time is slightly more than three hours ( on a good day). So there was ample time just to sit and look out the window at the passing countryside during the trip. I am a poor "looker". So that ten minutes into the trip found me cradling a small, empty sketchpad, a sharp nib ink marker and my trusty india ink brush/pen in hand... and searching for something to"busy my hands"... and mind occupied for three hours!

I decided to title the exercise :"VIA Views" from VIA car 5103.... with these parameters to add challenge:
  • a quick sketch experiment to arouse instant recognition and quick memory response times
  • to rapidly create a black and white expression of ideas based solely upon masses and shapes
  • 1-2 minute time limitation per sketch/theme/idea
 I could later follow up the exercise, if desired... to extrapolate upon selected sketches which showed the most promise for enlargement to small or larger formats... adding color 

Below rare shown the sketches that were completed in the suggested time frame 

#1 Densely Wooded Landscape - 9:40 am just a few minutes west of Kingston

#2 Broken Field Patterns - 9:45 am

#3 Sweeping Road and Barnscape - 9:50 am

#4 Homestead  (grey) - 9:55 am

#5 Another Destination - 10:10 am

#6 Summer Baled   11:00 am

#8 Barn With Cupola - 11:20 am

#9 Foreground Sumacs  11:25 am

#10 Trees and Trackbed 11:30 am

#11 Flooded Wetland Marsh - Cobourg  11:36 am

#12 First Glimpse of Lake Ontario - 11:45 am

#13 Cobourg Railbed Crossing 12:06 am

Overall...What does your eye see???

The first two sketches reveal my drawing rustiness... or perhaps my inability to quickly focus and record the information as it passed by my eyes and brain at lightning speed in a very densely wooded landscape. No chance at a rewind! Make do... is what appears to be the order of the hour in these initial attempts.

From sketch three forward to the very last subject, I see a more confident and capable  hand and eye  working together. The compositions look bolder and bolder - more like what I would expect. I truly enjoyed the experience as it revealed itself to me... setting after setting. Any one of these "quickdraws" could be made into decent oil painting subjects.

"Do you see what I see?"

I wonder....

I'm excited to share my discoveries... in COLOR!!!!

Stay tuned!

Good Summer Painting ... to ALL!!!

PS Every idea or project does not need to be a blockbuster. From the humblest of beginnings and inspirations come the most powerful of contributions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Let the Games... Begin"... and End

                    "The Games People Play" - oil on black gesso toned canvas 24 inches x 24 inches

Today, I have decided to move on from my lengthy involvement in trying to understand and learn from the unexpected appearance... and enjoyment in participating in "visual foreplay" arising from this (and other) paintings on a black toned color ground.

Being aware that painting on a black color ground does indeed heighten  a greater sense of depth and  an illusion of levitating. It is a tool that I can add to my painting tool box and call upon whenever I am looking for that penetrating depth of field or an attention-getting device.

Being freed from a need to create to use high realism and detail is in itself a good reason to think beyond the box that we often slot ourselves into as artists. Other approaches which one can apply to vary and broaden our skills adds enjoyment and joy to the creative process. While using one pathway does indeed offer the feeling of control and competency it takes away from the joy factor.

You will also note that each panel... if viewed carefully can be seen to be unfinished in parts. A part of the freedom... and the "game" dimension that I created helps convey the notion that you are being "played with"... teased visually. However, this can also be interpreted as my honest invitation to you to form your own "play" and decisions.
I wish to thank fellow blogger artists and Friends, Lisa Le Quelenec and Keith Tilley for their constant presence, always valuable comments and encouragement. Their combined interest in this project, both offering that the image encouraged them to think about and to make their way through its visual elements with open minds. Both observed that they felt the need to revisit the painting because it created a kind of visual puzzle for them.

In thinking about The Games after the fact, it reminds me of one of M.C Escher's masterly graphic  perspective puzzle pieces. I am encouraged to draw this project to a close now because I have achieved all of the goals that I had set out to share with my viewers.

I learned much about myself and how to look beyond the obvious outcomes... and to be patient. I am now ready... and excited to move on to another idea that has waited too long in my sketchbooks to be followed up on.

I hope that you will join me in my further explorations and adventures. More to come...

Stay tuned!

Happy Summer Painting... to ALL!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Beyond Blackness

What does "blackness" mean to you? Has your concept of blackness changed or shifted meaning during your lifetime? What brought that about?

Black in artistic terms suggests the absence of light and therefore color which is dependent upon the presence of the spectrum of white light. But does defining blackness end there?

I wonder...

A glance into any good dictionary will suggest that beyond the ideas shared above, black can have a host of meanings and applications ranging from color... to emotional meaning (ie. evil vs. good).. to heraldic implications.

I felt it very appropriate today to use black as my focus in this post. That usage is possibly the single most important use of black in modern world history. Where were you on July 20th,1969 when Astronaut John Glenn stepped from the safety of the LEM module onto the surface of the moon?

Think of that epic and awe-inspiring moment in human history and their travel beyond  the influence of earth's safety... science and technology into that vast blackness of space. Think of the depth of blackness that these three earthlings were thrust into.

That achievement is perhaps the greatest measure of Light and Darkness for me in my lifetime... though "Darkness" has certainly revisited me in other forms less pleasant. I will not revisit those  here in this blog post today. Those (might be stories.... for another day)...

I choose rather... to share two of my painting projects with you to commemorate this human landmark of achievement. The first that I have chosen is a smallish painting that I hurriedly created for Allie's 31st birthday. Ironically... I chose a toned black canvas to depict the subject - our favourite Venetian religious structure, Santa Maria della Salute for my gift. Stranger still... is the presence of that silvery full moon illuminating the magnificence of the Salute.

This Baroque-styled white Istrian marble domed church was created by Venetians as a gift to God to celebrate the end of "The Black Death". This devastating plague was believed to have been a divine intervention, or punishment for disobedience. It ravaged Venice and all of Medieval Europe between 1347 and 1350, killing one third of the population and leaving the survivors with conditions of famine and economic upheaval.

On dark nights, the white marble structure appears to float effortlessly upon the inky blackness of the lagoon. It struck me fitting to paint this remarkable edifice... lit by the full moon. I titled the painting "Notturno"... or Nocturne. Can you not feel the sanctity and peace in this small painting? Allie did. It hung directly above her head in her bedroom during the last hours of her own journey... into Darkness.

Today ... on this 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing... the painting including the Salute and the Moon has even more meaning for me.  Ironically again... is "The Salute" not giving the illusion of hovering??? How did I miss that until now?

I wonder...

Stay tuned... "The Games"... are nearly played out... and are ready for posting! lol

                  "Notturno... at the Santa della Marie de Salute" - oil on black gesso toned canvas 12 x 12 inches