Sunday, October 9, 2016

Simple Abundance

Happy Thanksgiving... to ALL!!

"Bountiful Blessings" - oil on canvas 24 x 20 inches

This painting portrays my Grandfather Birrell's garden wheel barrow still serving in a friend's beautiful garden laden to overflowing with the harvest of the season. Aren't we also... like wheel barrows... laden with countless blessings from many harvests???

I wonder...

Recognizing Simple Abundance

All of us strive to grow during our lives in many ways. That striving is essential to healthy living to gain a necessary feeling of personal achievement and success. Most of us are successful in achieving that growth we seek.

I have personally discovered a grave flaw in becoming too focused upon the striving in itself. In becoming too focused upon growth in a linear sense... I tended to develop a set of blinders that prevented me from seeing and enjoying many ordinary but equally rewarding blessings around me.

Even in my painting life, I was overlooking and missing opportunities that were ever-present for me to explore and enjoy. I was simply travelling with my artistic blinders on... pulling the plow along to make predictable furrows. While that's what many expected from me, I found the process and the product monotonous and often without new purpose.

Here is an example of a strategy I experimented with briefly. The strategy involved imagineering... that is reaching into a previous creative crucible... reframing or recalibrating... to extract new insights. In this particular case... I discovered an unexpected image embedded in a hardened pigment-stained palette. As I proceeded to sort out shapes that existed in the muddle of colour... an entirely new direction and new still life image revealed itself.

While it's hardly a home run pictorially in terms of its execution or quality... it is none the less a good double at least... in a hit-less inning. Surprisingly... a customer came into the studio and thought so too. A run scored!

Discarded used temporary masonite palette

"Bounty" - the  imaginary 8 x 10 inch oil still life "harvested" from the previously believed fallow palette

Simple Abundance

The quiet closing hour of this crisp October day
Captures the fading moments of its brilliant rays and azure blueness - 
My eye is drawn to a rapidly unfolding and teetering heavenly drama
Paying homage and notice to the waning fingernail moon...
Now hung indelibly askew in the western sky.

The summer greens have quickly reddened along the now darkened and narrow woodland path
The cool night air offers a decidedly autumnal acrid note -
A pleasant blend of life and decay
Newly-arrived autumn can be seen... felt and smelt everywhere
Accompanied by snippets of new birdsong from high sunlit perches and stealthy flitting presences in darkened hedge rows far below.

I am alone, by choice in a world filled with rich wonders
Riches available to anyone for the simple taking -
But few understand or even care to notice of this peace-filled kingdom and sanctuary
They prefer to text and tweet in the din of modernity
While I continue upon my solitary walk through life... basking warmly and gratefully
In simple abundance.


-  a word thought composed after my evening walk about on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

My greatest blessing this Thanksgiving comes from Allison's speedier-than-expected recovery from her surgery last Thursday. My Familyand I feel deeply blessed... and grateful for this gift... and the gift of prayers and thoughts that were sent our way at this very trying time for us. Thank you... ALL!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Sherman household to each and every one of you!

Rich blessings and Thanks... back to you from us!

"Here's a toast of gratitude... to all of you whose prayers helped me cope through this difficult ordeal!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hope... Courage and Gratitude

Little could I have ever completely understood how much more meaning this sign would convey to me as my journey carried me away from Hillsdale and deposited me back home on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. The mysterious Universe has always teased and guided me all along the way.  I have trusted (for the most part) in its intent and guidance. Some questions and answers in Life are quite simply beyond human comprehension... or control. Simply said - one's Karma.

Hope and Faith are deeply embedded in my spiritual beliefs and my psyche. They have carried me through many dark passages on my journey. Quite simply put- they have led me beside still waters... and have restored my soul... on more than one occasion. 

Once again, I am experiencing deep darkness in my journey. But that state of darkness does not fall squarely upon me. The darkness and danger hovers... unfortunately over one of my beloved family members - my lovely daughter Allison.

The breast cancer detected early last year has once touched her... suddenly... unexpectedly and cruelly... despite her massive efforts to drive the disease totally from her body over the past year. Undaunted and courageously "She"... and her family once again ready themselves to resume the fight. Our combined Faith remains fully intact in our hands and our hearts as we ready ourselves to do more battle.

On my personal front... I divine my courage,strength and will to fight from the very same sources where I have always mined them. I draw great strength from meditation and prayer while sitting in solitude and looking out over the river. I end each day with this ritual... and it offers a modicum of peace... strength and comfort. I have struggled in my earlier efforts, but have finally managed to return to the easel where I find great peace in the act of painting - I always have.

For these gifts of the my family and good friends... the river... my painting, I feel a great sense of gratitude. Despite this threat upon Allison's life... I feel deeply... and strangely blessed.

Here is a thought that found its way to me this week through this very blog. It is a quote from a well-known singer and actor, Glen Hansard. I took both comfort and pleasure from reading it and wish to share it with you in this post.

"Sometimes you give birth to something, or you're part of a team that gives birth to an idea, and it grows and has a whole life of its own and you are grateful. It's just so humbling."

Strange... how this passage should arrive out of no where and apply so appropriately to this situation. Allison's struggle with this dreaded disease (which will strike one out of nine women during their lifetime) has given birth to the formation a support team for Allison. 

The Shermantors are once again registered and committed to the task of completing the the annual Canadian Breast Foundation's CIBC sponsored Run for the Cure. The 5k run or 1k walk event commencing at 11:00 am will start and finish at Saint Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

Allison will unfortunately be unable to walk with her team at this year's event. She will be recovering for an upcoming surgery to hopefully attack and deal with her cancer on Friday, September 29th. Deb and I will lace up our runners and join these fifteen loving friends and medical staff to show our pride and support for Allison's ongoing courageous and determined battle to rid herself of this dreadful threat and unfair interruption to her teaching career and personal life. 

I have raised $1275.00 in donations to date on Allison's behalf. My deep wish is simply that women will not face this trauma in the future through ongoing research break throughs and discoveries made possible by worthy events such as this Run For a Cure.

Allie... breakfasting in Bruges, Belgium last month. No despair on this face. She inspires all whose lives she touches with her courage and stoic sense of humour and outlook on life!

Wanna share?... another Bruges moment...

The real "shock n' awe"... at the foot of Verones's Adoration of the Magi... a magical moment!

Perhaps one of my favourite of many photos I have of my Jemima Puddle Duck. A truly pure and thoughtful... sensitive young woman... still full of wonder and a rich lust for life and sharing in the face of trials past and present that most folks would buckle under. I am so VERY proud of you Sweet Heart!

As I mentioned earlier in this post... my painting spirit and creativity were derailed entirely for several weeks... and I was devastated... paralyzed at the thought that her cancer had returned. But her courage has enabled me to recover gradually and I have resumed my painting with vigour and determination - the very kind that my lovely daughter has modelled for me to follow. These paintings below... are dedicated to Allison and her courage. We WILL fight and conquer this demon. I paint and walk for "You"... with "You" and beside "You"... forever! I love you Sweet Heart!


"Summer's Gold" - oil on gallery wrapped canvas 24 x 30 inches

"Sailing Through Summer" - oil on Gallery wrapped canvas 30 x 24 inches

"Whisperin' Pine" oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

Monday, August 15, 2016

August... on my Mind

Year after year... August has come and gone. Summer flowering has dried up in the deep sultry heat of July. August offers wet reprieve for parched soil... gardens... meadows and roadside wildflowers. August is surely a month of transition.

Our summer here in the Thousand Islands region has been dominated by a cruel and relentless scorching sun. So much sun that lawns and hardwood stands are devoid of their usual verdant summer greens. Many might not recover I'm afraid.

While the weather has deviated drastically from the norm... my thoughts and activities have not. I have continued to paint... sheltered from the harmful UV rays under my "Painting Pagoda" - the name aptly given by my daughter Lisa to the five by eight foot patio deck gazebo that I paint under... en plein  air!

August has long been a month of birthday celebrations for the Sherman clan. We first celebrated Deb's birthday on August 10th as described in my last post. Tomorrow... August 16th marks my Dad's 104th birthday. That is closely followed by the birthday (kept secret) of my younger sister Chris on August 19th. Sunday, August 21st will mark my Mom's century mark... her 100th birthday. It is very difficult to comprehend them being 100 years or more old.

Where has the time gone?

As has been my custom... I try to commemorate August and their birthdays with special paintings and thoughts. Many of these paintings never lose their impact in describing the importance of my
parents' contributions to my growth and development as a person and an artist.

I have chosen to "replay" a few earlier tributes below... before offering this year's August tribute to them both.

"Keep Smilin!" (from my Dad's bulletin board in his basement "Inner Sanctum"

"August... on my Mind" - an oil that displays August delights... corn and peaches for my Dad's taste buds...  Brown-eyed Susans for my Mom's table

"Summer in Transition" - a crazy quilt oil depicting a floral clock of roadside "weeds"

"A Demi-tasse Filled With Summer" - an oil still life... the kind that could be found constantly throughout the summer on our cottage dining table

"Simply... Daisies" - an oil still life... simply composed using repurposed objects - a testament to my Mom's resourcefulness and ability to make joyous things...  and to take great pleasure creating from the "ordinary" objects around her

My favourite image of all - "Thank You... For the Music"

This image conveys to me the duality of their common gift of music to our family... certainly different in many ways... but jointly significant when put together 

Closing Thoughts

It is my ritual to visit my parents' grave site on their actual birth dates. I always leave flowers... usually mums and spend a few minutes in contemplation... and yes, conversation with them. Though I know and accept that they have left this earthly sphere of existence, it is my belief that their spirit remains firmly in my heart and perhaps in another spiritual realm of existence beyond my own recognition and experience... yet.

Our cottage was surrounded by towering white pines which seemed always to whisper to me... at least I imagined that to be so. During many August days, these guardians provided shade by day and soothing "night music" to dream under. They were our friends... and we "knew" them intimately.

How appropriate... that my parents final resting place be sheltered by another of these tall sighing fir sentries! It soothes my sadness and provides a sanctuary of privacy and quiet reminiscent of our Narow's Lane Shangra-lai. It is a cathedral... a place to offer thanks and to feel centered.

               "Whispering Pine" - oil on canvas 36x30 inches... my most recent painting

How appropriate as well... to end today's post with a poem and painting combination honoring the lives of my parents based upon a theme depicting a rugged white pine on the shores of our Saint Lawrence River. It stands ever leaning to the southeast... a stance modelled and determined by the force of seasons of northwest  winds.

Time ... After Time

The new summer geese above are flying...
The white pines below are gently sighing
And just below my earthly feet..
The both of "You"
Beings of my deepest love
Are lying -  
Together in eternal sleep.

 I pause to remember you both today in Life
As simple souls who sought little
But gave much...
"You" both have survived
Flown to a place beyond Today 
Far beond this world of bitter strife -
Safe in His omnipotent hands.

With deep and abiding love... respect and undying thanks,
I bid you both adieu
Until that time 
When my span's run
And I can come... to be again with you.

I love you both... Forever.


Back to my painting... and my new direction just getting underway

Good Painting ... to All!!! Happy Summer!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"MIndfulness" is... "The Big Magic"

I am making a brief return to my blog today to recognize and to celebrate the birthdays of  a handful of very special people who form the cornerstone of my present and past success. Ironically... or maybe not, they all share August birthdays.

Today.. August 10th is my wife Deb's birthday. We have chosen to celebrate the day simply with an evening meal and get together with my daughter Allison and her Mom Joan. It is a blessing for me and our blended families to witness the true feelings of love and friendship which these two women share. It speaks so eloquently of their splendid souls... and the power of true sisterhood. We... are deeply blessed.

I would like to share a series of jpegs which chronicle the birth of a very special commission which Deb created for The Church of the Redeemer here in Rockport for the family of the late William (Bill) Hargett of Charlotte, South Carolina.

Ann and her loving family wanted to create a memorial in this quaint riverside Anglican clapboard church to commemorate Bill's pastoral contributions over a spoan of almost fifty years and their presence as a family on their beloved Saint Lawrence River. They chose Deb... as we all do because of her genuineness as a friend and her obvious passion and artisanship in stained glass.

Deb and Ann spent some time together to flesh out some biographical facts in order for Deb to relate to the subject... the family's wishes and the essential  facts about Bill that would "read" iconographically to visitors to this church.

I will let the sequence of jpegs that I have selected speak for themselves to offer you the same opportunity to ponder the theme of her wonderfully colorful and expressive window. The cherry window frame was hand made by a local wood craftsman, Barry Wanless... who turned out to be a student from my very first grade seven class in Brockville. Serendipity you would say???... Not I!

The Universe works in mysterious ways

Cutting the  bristol board pattern into separate pieces

Each bristol board piece is hand cut and laid into the template form for each section of the window

Each piece of glass must then be lined with copper foil to fit the section of the window accurately

Each piece must be soldered to adjoin those around it in a uniform fashion. Then it must be repeated for the reverse side again

Middle section completed

Top section completed

Middle section foiled... ready to be soldered

The God Head... "three in one"... finally

The window installed... and back lit 

Deb and Ann sharing a special  moment after the service

The Hargett Gals with their window!... Those smiles are worth a million $$$ to an artist!!

Deb with her Hillsdale girl friend Grace Hallyburton who came all thew way to Rockport to share the day with Deb

"Mind.ful.ness" is the state of being centered squarely in the present through conscious meditation and daily practices which encourage and develop one's ability to live in accordance with... "what is".
Drawing from the present to create a pathway which is satisfying and rewarding through one's one gifts and talents is in my humble opinion... the "BIG MAGIC" in life.

I am privileged... honored and blessed to have such a wife, partner and best friend to share that path with. We are truly blessed.!

Happy Birthday JBG!... I love "You"... to the moon and back... and forever!!!

Stay tuned... I will add a joint celebratory posting on August 16th to celebrate the lives of my mentor-parents Don and Jean Sherman. Could never pass up an opportunity to give thanks for their combined lifetimes of love and support.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

When Worlds Collide...

I had begun this post back in mid June to recognize National Aboriginal Day here in Canada... but in all truth my resolve and desire to finish and post it evaporated with the recent and deadly turn of events all around the globe. This unexpected inner malaise reached a crescendo... driven by the ranting rhetoric of Donald Trump followed immediately by the series of senseless tragedies that have since gripped various parts of the United States.

The sole part of my original post that still applies is its intended title. It would seem to me that in both Canada and the United States, we are witnessing the sudden upheaval of the tectonic plates of early history which have for centuries had been observed periodically... but otherwise had lain unresolved.

The earlier general indifference of the majority and power-enabled abuse accompanying it can no longer be ignored. The terror arising out of these senseless and obscene acts has swept aside the very underlying fabric of our "peaceful" societies... creating and promoting fear and bitter hatred across cultural and ethnic boundaries.

In both histories, we dominated, humiliated and abused a group of people one indigenous... the other dragged in chains mercilessly from their true homes to serve early capitalism. Both suffered the same mistreatment and both were dealt with inequitably and even inhumanely by our governments and yes... even our people.

Now... with fear and anarchy on the very verge of controlling the streets of any city, town or hamlet... we are faced with the new reality. We either meet the situation embracing truth and honest intent to reconcile the misdeeds and mistakes of  past history.

Maybe we must revisit enshrined "rights" that are now not just obsolete... but are now a danger to all citizens within our midst. First amongst these rights to be re-evaluated... and perhaps even fall by the wayside in my mind... should be the "right to bear arms".

The use of deadly force... even by our police needs to be reconsidered and our officer members retrained in what police maintained in my own community as I grew up - a stronger community presence and mentorship role with youth. Both of these very visible and meaningful aspects of police work in the twentieth century helped establish my own healthy respect for the law and the officers who were resposble for maintaining and dispensing it.

Just one old codger's response.... certainly a much more cpomp-lex problem than my idealism describes in this brief post.

My post does reflect however... how very disturbing the world situation has been for me in my own creative life. I truly have been left reeling by these events... and my optimism has been eroded for certain. An early post construct entitled "Truth and Reconciliation" lies unfinished. Perhaps it need not advance further... it has served its purpose for me. In tandem with today's post... the two leave me feeling like I'm simply "peeing into  the wind".

I am including the body of that earlier post today... as it shall remain. Ironically, it perhaps it sounds the "Last Post" for Journaling With Paint. There comes a time in everyone's life that one must become "Self"-ish. That is, one must seek to serve and honor one's Self. That is far from the other "selfish".

I have been struggling with this decision for many months now... searching my heart for many months now, while seeking a new direction. Recent family and personal health concerns and economic realities in our lives here in Rockport have further contributed to a need to refocus our energies and directions.

I have finally made a decision to embrace a new direction with vigor and a much-needed time away from blogging... at least for the time being. I believe I have found a novel pursuit to direct my attention and creative energy towards. My painting of course... will continue unabated.

Stay tuned...

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

Truth and Reconciliation...

I am a few days behind in posting, given that the substance underlying my reason for this post passed me by on June 21st... National Aboriginal Day in Canada. Highlight... it would seem for that event here was the unveiling of a lifesized bronze at Parry Sound, Ontario... home of World War I hero, Corporal Francis Peagamagabow.

The bronze symbollically depicts the "warrior" Pegamagabow  unleashing the eagle... in this case into the gentle winds blowing ashore from Georgian Bay. At his feet lies a caribou... totem of his Ojibway clan. Ironically however... it might as well symbolize the presence of his rifle and sniper's skill... "credited" with 378 "kills" and more than 300 captures. These are indeed the "remembrances" as the "Warrior Chief"... which have earned him worthy honour on the battlefield.

My own respect for Pegamagabow arises in his post war achievements as a Canadian father, grandfather, great-grandfather, leader, fierce activist for his people's indentity and causes - his peaceful humanity. These attributes in my own mind line up better with what I am proud to assert... are Canadian values which align with what I consider "being Canadian" stands for. They also follow the direction indicated within the body of my last post.

In Canada... we as a nation are currently working through the process of addressing the injustices caused to indigenous (First Nations) peoples contained within Canada through a process the government calls "Truth and Reconciliation". How long this takes... and to what degree it is met will be hopefully determined through rightful and fair negotiations in tandem with First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders.

The injustices span nearly 400 years of European colonization and domination. Highest on the list of grievances to be discussed and settled upon are land claims caused by unfair treaty agreements and the catastrophic degradation, physical and sexual abuse imposed upon innocent  and helpless native children who forced out of the hands of their parents and culture and into distantly located residential schools. These acts were a deliberate and willful intent to destroy the fabric and language of their unique cultures and way of life.

The obvious hopeless despair of so many First Nation individuals and communities is rooted in these earlier and still continuing injustices. Fortunately, icons like Peagamagabow have inspired new leaders and youth who have risen out of the ashes to assume leadership roles. These are intelligent individuals who have combined their own sense of "Who" they are and where they have come from... with modern standards of education and a better understanding of the place for an autonomous presence for their nations in Canada.

The time is right. Symbolically... the time in a natural fashion parallels the Summer Equinox we have just exerienced. A full moon rising last evening beautifully over the peaceful waters of "Manitouana"... here in Rockport. The Thousand Isands most certainly live up to their First Nations origin - Garden of God! It parallels and demands a time for the Canadian Government leader Justin Trudeau to offer more than a token Sunrise Ceremonial gesture to mark the occasion. I think that his iconic Canadian legend and father Pierre would expect... and offer more.

I wonder..

Poppies in Summer Equinox moonlight

In closing out this post... I would offer another level of consideration in regard to the process of "Truth and Reconciliation" . Could the gesture not be expanded to include all Canadians??? 

By definition of the word... and by birth... am I not - are we all not indigenous Canadians by birth. My ancestors arrived by ship across the the Atlantic Ocean from Scotland and England in the late nineteenth century. Original First Nations... it is puported by current archaeological evidence, crossed into North and South America across the Bering Strait millenia ago. Only time and circumstance separate us really.

What DID separate us and has caused the chaos are the ownership values of white superiority carried by Europeans and imposed upon First Nations Peoples already here and settled... sharing the land degrees.  The creation of reservations was akin to creating structures which functioned (intentionally) like corrals. They most certainly limited movement, cultural pride and identity, education and language maintenance. But more damagingly... this abuse of power destroyed a way of life and the sense of free will of an entire people. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Legends... and Reflections of "Grief for the Loss of Beautiful Strangers"

Permanence in the world... and our own sense of mortality across many generations has been shaken to their very roots during the past few weeks. Disappeared from earthly existence almost in a chain are legendary icons David Bowie... Prince... Mohammed Ali... and Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe. Gone are they and their glory days. Gone too... is our level of comfort and a part of our own sense of place in our own parallel journeys.

I have been saving a newspaper article by Toronto Star journalist Sofi Papamarko published on April 26th, 2016... just a day after the untimely passing of Prince. I had never really been a true Prince follower... but I was inexplicably deeply saddened... and particularly moved when at last I exposed myself to his music... and came to understand more about the gifted young man. His passing heightened my awareness to how much we all live a "taken-for-granted" existence... governed totally by opportunity and whim.

The core of Papamarko's article is woven around the thoughts of grief and loss expert and book writer, Robert Neimeyer in his one book in particular, "Techniques of Grief Therapy". I have not read the book (as yet)... but these quotes used in the article piqued my interest to do so when I am able.

"Celebrities in particular may exemplify our values, ideals and aspirations, and so their death may represent the death of a part of us."

This quote closely supports the very feelings that I have described above... and most assuredly the feelings that I have undergone myself in losing these life markers. From time to time... we do lose su7ch a marker, but when there is a sudden avalanche of such loss... I find myself buried (for a time)... paralyzed and unable to feel... to create or to repond positively. Am I alone in this thinking?

I wonder...

I will take the time to read Neimeyer in my own plodding fashion... but currently "The Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gardiner is in my headlights... and is serving me well in my searching. Here is another brief quote that perhaps suggests a good reason for me to move forward with my plan to read Neimeyer:

"Rather than questioning the legitimacy of this experience in the case of the death of a celebrity with whom we have identified, it might be more appropriate to marvel at the human capacity to invest ourselves in the lives of others, well beyond our immediate circle of family and  friends."

It would serve one well to remember that every legend, no matter what field of endeavour they have excelled in... were first children... then beginners - it was a journey. Their level of excellence was arrived at more through hard work and determination than through their innate "gift".

I share Neimeyer's belief that service to others offers the great opportunity to not only contribute to betterment in the lives of others... but as well, doing so tends to elevate one's own feeling of purpose and worth... "What goes around... comes a round."

Papamarko mindfully concludes her article with this wonderfully insightful argument:

"The deaths of our idols aren't that far removed from the inevitable deaths of those we love the most. Celebrity deaths often force us to reflect upon the finitude of earthly existence. If larger -than-life demi-gods in leather and lace can so quickly shuffle of this mortal coil, what Hope is there for the rest of us schlubs?"

I have myself passed through the first portals of earthly loss with the passing of both of my parents. The sting of that loss remains with me... especially on days like this Sunday... Father's Day when I make my trek graveside in Brockville to deliver flowers and to "speak" with my Dad and Mom. I offer my words of gratefulness to them without any logical hope that they hear my words. But I do so, in simple Faith. I have come to know that without Faith that Hope cannot exist. I choose not to live in a world here... without the presence of either. The existence of a world beyond "Here" can only exist in my system of spiritual belief if - I earn the right to enter through my conscious acts here.

I will close today's post with this personal thought that for me links Legends... Reflection... and Father's Day.

My Dad was a simple man... "ordinary"... to many who didn't come to know and love "Him" as I did. He lived a life of moderation in everything - except in the sharing of his love and passion for music. His piano and musical skill could have taken him far further than he chose to travel with it. But he chose to be with his family and to share his music with a loving and grateful community which recognized him for "Who" he was.

But ... in my eyes, Dad was a legend... someone to admire... respect and to emulate... even beyond Death itself. Death can know no pride in taking him from me... for he remains fully within me for as long as I am here. Reflecting... if I look in the mirror or someone remarks that... "You are so much like your Dad."... my heart swells with pride because through me... he still lives and is not forgotten - a living legend... a legend living outside his time.

He would share my pride today to welcome a new Sherman into our midst. So for him... I welcome Andrew and Melissa's and Mac's new wee daughter/sister Whitney Linda Joan into our special family circle. Long Health... Happiness and rich Blessings to your family! Congratulations Andrew... and Happy Father's Day. I know that my Dad shares my pride in observing your own early fatherhood!!!

              Whitney Linda Joan - born June 8th, 2016  - 7 lb 6 oz.... Mac's new Little Sis

 Dad led a very blessed life... a path that I have diligently striven to follow. And as I myself pass into the autumn years of my journey... I move forward as he taught me to and with these two credos to live by:

"Keep Smiling".... and "Just do your best!"

"Thank You... for the Music"... Dad and Mom!!!
Love you both.,.. Forever!

Happy Father's Day Dad

"We all could die any day."
 -The Purple One

Adds Papmarko..... "In the meantime, let's dance."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Learning from the Classics...

Ironically, all "classics" in every in every human discipline were once new and every master in each of these disciplines was once a beginner. Therein lies the first lesson to be learned from classical study:
Exceptional skill and excellence develop in relationship to time spent practicing and in an unwavering persistence and desire to grow.

A small few may be blessed with an innate "gift" in a particular discipline that may accelerate growth and development early in life. But most of us must independently search out and discover our own passion and pursue it doggedly under our own steam. It becomes a lifetime pursuit that often must be blended with securing an education... raising families and earning a livelihood.

Often, this pilgrimage leads right through our entire lives and if we are fortunate, we meet special people along the journey who encourage and facilitate our growth. Sometimes, we actually meet these individuals/mentors personally and their presence enriches our artistic lives exponentially. In other cases, we "meet" these influences through books that we read... in instructional dvds or through online contact on social media sites like Blogger.

However, it must be said that the largest responsibility for personal growth in any discipline lies squarely in the hands of each individual. Self-education and determination remain the greatest single factors for personal growth. It's like following a "pick-a-path" basal readers approach where choices must be made based upon intuition and personal interest. Outcomes are dependent upon those singular choices... and outcomes vary greatly among participants.

I would like to share some of the choices that I made along the way in arriving where I now find myself.

Like most of you, and out of pure economic necessity... I was an ardent pencil n' paper freak in my earliest years. Art education opportunities were very limited in my community, but I was blessed to have had two teachers in elementary school who did nurture my artistic spirit and did affect great change and further searching that remained with me throughout my entire life.

I basically taught myself to draw and from late adolescence onward, I read and voraciously developed that skill at every opportunity in many sketchbooks. I moved to oil paint in my teens briefly, but abandoned it until after I was married. That interest was revived by the chance discovery of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg ON. This fateful introduction led me to resume my study of The Canadian Group of Seven members' work and that journey continues right  up to now.

I began my "home education" at a kitchen table after putting my children to bed and vigorously copied paintings by Thomson and AY Jackson. I found their paintings easy to read because of their textural and lyrical treatment of line and color. Both were designers by trade, so that composition was obvious and textbook in quality.

I learned my lessons quickly... and at my own speed. Jackson was a master in collecting pencil sketches on location and translating them later into fine studio paintings. I greatly admired their mutual need to paint outdoors. I believe that I was very much in tune
with Thomson's moody and restless nature then. That remains unchanged today.

Within the body of work that the Seven produced are monuments that remain as pivotal influences in my own searching. "At the Maple's Edge" and "Scarlet Maple" by Jackson are two of these. "Northern River" and "Jack Pine" from Thomson's oeuvre are two others of particular weight and significance for me.

"At the Maple's Edge" - AY Jackson

                                                   "Scarlet  Maple" - AY Jackson

The rich color and light in Jackson's outdoor painting and his loose, shorthand style of sketching both bear testimony to his designer strength... strong composition and pictorial design. His draftsmanship, though dramatically downplayed to facilitate his painterly style and outdoor preference... nonetheless clearly demonstrate his drawing ability. You can also find within the sketch... color notes and numerals from 1-10. Therefore bs 6 would later mean burnt sienna value of six in the studio and guided his own color choices later in the studio.

     "Pencil sketch of Quebec from "AY' s Canada"

It was Thomson's seminal studio masterpieces before his untimely end however, that continue to haunt me with their magical tapestry-like patterns of light and color. I feel that his work possesses a kaleidoscopic quality - never static... always shifting as your eye in an ever moving search across and around the canvas.

His field sketches seemed simple and honest... and yet, in his final years there was a reaching out... a searching to re translate the ordinariness of the landscape before him into a surreal and deeply personal new reality. Sadly, his life ended tragically and far too soon for us to ever fully comprehend where his journey might have taken him.... and us as Canadian artists.

My favorites of his studio masterpieces were "Jack Pine"... an Art Nouveau influenced canvas for certain and "Northern River" first painted in Algonquin as a sketch and then adapted in a larger and more finished canvas format in the studio during winter. This painting more closely follows the tradition of his plein air studies and panels painted as he tripped about Algonquin Park fishing, canoeing and painting alone in his canoe. Perhaps... "He" and "I" shared deeper similarities... and inner secrets... beyond making art...

I wonder...

"Jack Pine" a very large canvas in Art Nouveau decoration and light. It bears a strong similarity to stained glass produced by Tiffany and the like working in the same time period.

"Northern River" is a canvas that has periodically entered and re-entered my life since elementary school. A large silk screen version which hung in my elementary school across from my grade four room now hangs in my bedroom. It continues to add pleasure every day that I look at it.... and draws me to Algonquin... and back to Thomson each time that my eye picks it up.

I believe that we as artists are sponges of a sort. We absorb and carry the juice and energy of things and events we experience and value... long after they have passed by. I believe that this image bears this out and I will try to share my reasons with you... in paint.

I painted this 30 x 24 inch canvas in 2009 in Algonquin Park on Opeongo Creek. The golden light and mood reminded me...somewhat of Northern River. I wondered at the time... could this be the same spot... one hundred years later? Just an uncanny feeling...

I still wonder...

As the years passed and the canvas hung about... I became increasingly uneasy with the painting. One morning last week, I thought that I would see what happened if I pushed forward with an experiment to see how much I would need to change my painting to match Thomson's effort... without setting out to fully copy it.

I lessened that possibility by intentionally limiting my palette to cadmium red, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow light, burnt umber and of course titanium white. I laid in some guide lines with a large stick of vine charcoal and set to work... using only two brushes... a one half inch bristle and a quarter inch bristle... start to finish.

I will let these pictorial records of my painting process do the talking now and you take care of the reading... and deciding.

"Northern River" by Tom Thomson

                                             "Evening Quietude"- Opeongo Creek (2009)
                                                             oil on 30x24 inch canvas

Charcoal "mapping" - note intentionally compositional deviations in trees... especially the serpentine spruce

   One hour lay in with one brush and left overnight to reconsider and dry

Finished... and as yet... unsigned... What to do????

The exercise in my mind supports my belief that we assimilate knowledge from things that resonate within us... or that we are attracted to and admire from everywhere in the world that we visit. I am the combined product of a healthy and supportive middle class upbringing, a university education experience... and the "School of Life".

However...  I continue to deeply believe that "significant others"... and their work have presented me with huge influences and opportunities to learn from. It is this belief that continues to fuel my own desire to blog and post my thoughts... process and paintings to share with those who might think as I do. It is my way to pass forward the kindnesses that were bestowed upon me generously during my own journey.

Take what you will from my ideas and put it with your own. Perhaps. One idea might transform your own thinking..,. and give you new direction in your own. One voice can become a choir when combined with others who dare to believe... and act in unison! Dare to dream! Join with me!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!