Saturday, November 22, 2014

Adapting to Seasonal Change - Part One

As we have sat watching... and enjoying our resident regular bird... chipmunk and squirrel  populations at our several feeder locations, a noted aggressive change in the feeding behaviours of all species. Even the usually playful and placid chipmunks have been going "nose-to-beak" with the five noisy and "bully-by-nature" band of blue jays to defend their favoured feeding territories.

It is most plain to see that the new skiff of snow... bitter cold temperatures and gale force gusting of sou'west winds off the river have forced them into new patterns of behaviour that deviate drastically from the expected norm. I firmly believe that the fear of hunger and competition for prime feeding territories fuels this change. These changes are based purely upon survival instincts. Even the jays display of aerial warfare with each other drew them away from their usual voracious pack feeding habits.

New arrivals to the yard... woodpeckers to the awaiting hanging suet station... juncos... cardinals... finches... and even a pair of wary crows necessitated an increase in the regular portion of feed. We now have five squirrel ":regulars"... and I dislike them immensely because they put the hustle on everyone... especially Deb's beloved Mr Chips (short tail). I routinely leave him private "lines" (ya... he's addicted!) of his fav food... small black sunflower seeds on the deck near his main hole. That spot offers Deb a front-row-centre view of him... filling his"bulging-to-busting" cheeks without stop... until not another single seed will fit in. A big gift... from a very small and shy  friend... for very little seed!

I pondered how much this change in all parts of the natural world seemed to parallel the new changes... preparations and activities of the human world as well. Gone are our thoughts of strolls in the colourful leaves... lounging on the patio deck soaking up rays... or sporting our best beach shorts, sandals and tees. Snow tires... winterize... wood pile and yard clean up form fragments of the new human vocabulary. Soon... one can add more ominous and dreaded nouns of winter to include:  shovel... salt... snow blower... storm warning... sleet... ice and blizzard... and FLU!!!

Buffalo NY and area is more than fully engaged in that conversation with these elements. The change there arrived viciously and without warning over two nights. What they face this weekend after the two meters of snow... a return to abnormally higher temperatures and rain might well lead to a horrendous and catastrophic situation of flash flooding for the region. Fingers crossed for the people in this area!

In Rockport... we have the yard clean up out of the way... a new more efficient fireplace insert in place (and tested) and a full bush cord of wood split and stacked in the dry Gallery space. Snow tires and winterising for the van were completed on Wednesday... so that we are as ready... as one can be to face the usually long and most often dark winter months in this part of Canada. Let it snow!

I have been fortunate to get in a few last "comfortable" plein air outings in the past two weeks, but the last one with Frank confirmed that future treks must include warmer clothing... weather watching... more careful planning... and common sense. Winter painting can become much more than simply uncomfortable. Under the wrong conditions... and with careless choices painting "off road" and alone is both fool hardy and perhaps... even life-threatening. Those are definitely NOT in my own personal winter vocabulary list!

Here is my first "snow painting" for 2014. Ironically... and truthfully, it was painted in the warmth of our common downstairs winter studio space with the rousing strains of Andre Bocelli's magically inspiring voice-instrument in the background. Now that's "winter" painting!

This "winter landscape painting" derives from an Algonquin sortie to Rock Lake on March 25th, 2010. This 12x16 inch oil sketch on panel was my favourite sketch of five completed during that paint out trip with my Whitney painting friend, David Kay. No one else seemed to agree until this past October. A young couple from Mississauga, ON (near Toronto) were vacationing nearby and happened to discover our Gallery.

They purchased three paintings and took them with them... but the husband was captivated by my "Group of Seven" ... as he described the sketch. He felt it too small for the space he wished to put it in his business office. He asked if I ever created larger paintings from existing oil sketches done previously. I "tongue-in-cheekily" responded., "Yes... just like the group of Seven"! I agreed to "biggen" the original 12x16 inch panel into a 20x24inch painting. I did caution him however... that the new painting would not be an exact facsimile of the original. It would be an extension of the "vision" I had wished to create at the site... that was diminished by a cloudy and ever-changing light source that day.

In this jpeg below you can see the original plein air sketch entitled "Last Vestige of Winter" - which it did depict accurately.... minus any lighting effects and rich colour. The compositional structure of the sketch is absolutely what I wanted and I maintained it... for the most past in the second and larger version. I think that the substantial changes from the first to the second speak for themselves. I believe that the use of the first sketch as the creative "springboard" to a warmer... more universally appealing and eye-pleasing painting for a home or office supports my ongoing commitment to paint en plein air.


The sketch  faithfully records the attraction that I felt to this landscape and despite a rather iffy and ever-changing light... I feel that it "gets full marks" as a successful painting. I would hang it in my own home... simply because I have a certain affinity for "the raw" and unrecognized beauty... not usually appreciated by most other people. Simply... personal taste!


Here is the more finished version. While it conforms exactly to the compositional format and structure of the first... it can be easily seen that additional detail has been added... from front plane to back. One also can readily see the dramatic shift from diffuse lighting in  the first to a more direct and I feel... dramatic use of lighting used overall on the painting surface. The client loves this version... and has asked for "first right of refusal" to purchase the original sketch. A given! Now can you see and completely understand yet a second reason for sketching en plein air?

Whether the added income possibility lights up your heart... or whether... like my Self, you revel in the opportunity to "play" further with one already pleasing idea to extend it into yet another realm of "being"! All the "spade work" has been done in the first one. All you have to do... is PLAY in the second round. And that never fails to make my heart sing!

I will soon post a slide show of images in a second part to help describe how I developed the sketch into the finished painting. Perhaps that post will inspire and equip you to do the same in your own painting process.

This next post will also reveal my shifting into the "commission mode" further. I have five commissions to be completed by Christmas. Lots of work ahead. I am greatly blessed... and thankful !!!

In closing today... when one is open to change... whether in one's personal life or creative life and  is willing to adapt to it... the outcome is more likely to be positive... and certainly less stressful . In my own life experience, I have discovered and learned this... the hard way! Bonne chance!... Carpe Diem!

Good Painting!... to ALL!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A November Novella

A novella is a shortened novel... a "quick read"... if you you like. I thought the title of this post most appropriate to describe the November plein air adventure in today's post... compared to the breadth of the painting relationship and personal ongoing friendship with Frank Edwards.

It was "He"... who first likened our friendship to that of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, mainly because we both come from that magical "listening" radio era... when  listening was the guide dog for the imagination. I firmly believe that listening first promoted and developed the ear and the imagination of the child... simultaneously creating "seeing"... that magical tool that good artists depend upon to transpose mere reality into a personal point of view and style.

Frank and I continue to revel in "playing" together in this ongoing "back n' forth" banter... the kind that children engage in... within their own adult-less realm of fantasy and free play. We are both able to blend the serious (when it is necessary) with the imaginative play both at... and between our easels. Both of us merged this practice into our day job situations. Frank was a respected medical illustrator and award-winning and successful syndicated Canadian cartoonist... and I... an elementary school teacher.

Both situations allowed us both to continue to blend listening with watching to inform our daily actions and responses to the world around us... granted, in slightly differing situations and conditions. Frank worked mostly alone with his craft... while I was surrounded often by the noise and activity of healthy and exuberant young learners.

Our plein air travels... as The Loner and Tonto have criss-crossed us through back roads everywhere in this vast province of Ontario. Throughout almost thirty years, we have painted together in every season in our beloved Algonquin Park. We have painted together as well in the rugged and picturesque Charlevoix region of Quebec and in Nova Scotia when I moved there in 1992.

This combined journey and friendship has been a marvellously rewarding adventure - a full novel composed of many adventurous chapters. Most have been happy, but on occasion... not without deep sadness and difficulties in both of our lives. We shared a successful studio and gallery space in Kingston's historic Woolen Mill for three years in the late 1980's which we named "The Brushworks." This place surely was the very "incubator" for our individual and joint creative spirits. As well... it further supercharged our individual work and our close friendship.

I consider Frank my Brother and Mentor... capital "B" fully intended. Art has crossed even the divide of blood relationship and has put our relationship in this higher realm of "being"...

"I" am greatly blessed!

This November Novella takes place in Ivy Lea Provincial Park, located just minutes to the west of Rockport along the Parkway. At this time of year, this  usually packed-to-overflowing campground is empty... except for the presence of an odd dog walker. It is a place of great landscape opportunity.... and solitude. It is a creative mecca for "Me" throughout the entire winter painting season. I set up my easel in the quiet cover of towering... sighing white pines... in the soul-soothing presence of the River. It is here in this sacred place that I work in uninterrupted silence and thought. It..." restoreth my soul"!

I had scouted the area the day before Frank arrived and had selected a spot where there were multiple subjects of interest... and cover from the possible cold winds and chill that accompanies a -2*C winter morning. Fortunately, there was sun for most of the morning's painting session. It helped keep the cold away from "the doomers". Bare painting fingers... as Frank refers to them. One loses the feel of the brush with gloves on. So deep pockets... often with catalytic hand warmers in them are a solution to allow extended painting time in the deeper cold. This was as always, a bone-jarring prelude for us both. A kind of "brisk" acclimatization to the deeper cold which most certainly will be present in future winter plein air treks.

The location was at my "fav" place... Smuggler's Cove. I never fail to be inspired to paint in this place, mainly because it changes by the hour... in each and every new day. On this particular trip, we painted different subjects... but our easels, as is most always the case... were within fifty feet (and playing distance) from the other. Despite the cold... we both enjoyed the day and came away with good plein air pieces. Three hours in the cold made the hot soup lunch... steaming coffee and conversation to include Deb back at Islesview a welcome and fitting conclusion to this richly rewarding November Novella.

I hope that this "novella" introduces the value of friendship into the formula for "perceived" painting success. Fortunately... painting success is not measured in $$$$ alone. There is not space or time today to describe the many blessings that art has brought into my personal journey. I can only hope to inspire each of my blogging friends to consider the many other blessings that painting can bring into one's life.... if one "sees"... and "listens" to one's own heart... and "counts their many blessings... naming them one by one"

Thanks for the memories and blessings Frank!.

Good Painting !... To ALL!!!


My vantage point... "disappearing" the distracting foreground dock!


Use "the zoom" approach... to eliminate the temptation to include too much initial attention to detail... and to isolate the chosen subject.


End of session... but not the thinking about the subject. Just a little studio work to tweak it up a notch.


"First Ice, Smuggler's Cove" - oil on canvas 12x14 inches... some more detail in the fore solves a too bare foreground interest, but as well... adds the element of surprise at the new presence of ice along the shoreline and in the shallow bay to the right. Seemed right to add it into the sketch.


Frank's view of the boat house on Virgin Island... my subject on my trip alone ;last weekend. He chose it as well... because it was on a flat dock... and in the warm sunshine. Two good decisions... that I envied in the colder shade where I was set up! I guess that's why he's "The Loner". Kemosabe wiser... smarter than Tonto... Older anyway! HA HA!!


Frank... finishing up on deck!


His wonderfully jaunty 12x14 inch sketch on panel... The central boat house focus...  sway-backed and leaning.This intentional caricatured "slant" on too rigid structures is his signature response to most buildings. Sure does provide an air of... aging in respectful repose! A gem Frank!

"Hi-yo Silver... and away!"... 
Lookin' forward to many more "episodes" !






Monday, November 17, 2014

Making "Someday",,, Into Today

Too many times in our busy daily lives, we put our spirit of adventure or dreams on hold. We simply put off "the doing"... and sadly, many of these opportunities and life rewards are either buried under other daily chores, or are forgotten - never to be fulfilled.

Deb and I decided last week to commit to knocking one adventure we had talked about for too long... off our ol' bucket list. As I mentioned in my last post, we headed down to Corning NY last Friday and made a pilgrimage to see the famous collection of blown and stained glass at The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning NY.

Deb is a stained glass artisan... and in my own humble view... her unique works are quite simply... "a cut above" the rest. Her creative process engages the use of positive and negative... or completely open space coupled with the gaiety of glass colour to create a recognizable style of her own. She spends days creating her own one-of -a-kind designs... even with her smallest modestly priced "sun catcher" pieces, Each and every piece is unique and assembled with the same attention to care a detail as her larger pieces.

For "Her.... visiting Corning represented a pilgrimage to Mecca. How thrilled and excited she was as she wandered the halls which house three thousand years of glass making ... from Egypt where glass-making was born... up through the Italian Renaissance through to contemporary glass artistry.

I had made the trek more in support of her interests... but came to find many things in the exhibits which piqued my own artistic spirit and I came away equally enriched and stimulated. We are both highly dependent visual "learners"... which is likely the reason that this smorgasbord of colour and form had such an impact upon us.

I would like to close out this post by sharing in jpegs some of the highlights for us... but they are but a few. It is well worth a visit to Corning. It would be a place I will carry a watercolour kit on the next visit... in April!!! Hope that you enjoy the mini tour!


Foyer masterpiece... Deb... with Dale Chihuly masterwork installation piece... mind boggling in concept and execution! What an entry!!!


Could be a "Vincent" piece... in glass


An exquisite Italian tessarae (tile) portrait masterpiece from the Twentieth Century


"O I have slipped the surly bonds of earth..."  High Flight"... for Deb!


Colourful fused glass fish scape. They never did move...


Tiffany Dragonfly masterpiece

How many hours are in this piece. Certainly a Victorian 5oo piece jigsaw masterwork!


Painted church glass... an increasingly lost art. We play with crayons folks!!!


Intricate handwork to produce this 3D bug


Any painter would salivate over the clean linework and minimal colour in this beauty


Italian historic chess set


Detail... artisanship unmatched anywhere except on the Venetian islands of  Murano and Burano


This explains the provenance and story behind this Italian chess set!..... Magnifico!


Corning cut crystal punch bowl masterpiece. Beyond imagining..... never mind executing!


Diorama workman-cutter... puts you in the picture!


"Snuff" bottle cuties... for every taste... and nose!


Is that flower cluster really.... glass??? Breath-takingly delicate and fragile!


Deb... dipped into the rich colour and elegance of the Art Nouveau


Blown glass demo ... at the 2100F.... 24 hours a day fired electric kiln. Forget your meagre winter hydro bill complaints folks!


"Bowling"... Corning-style!!!


History of lens making diorama figures


I see you!.... upside down... and backwards...


My crystal ball and Bucket List... all... in one image!


Glass birds of a feather... sold together... in the gift shop


My Mom owned such a dandy" candy dish... held her red n' green home made Christmas candies!


Something for all of you current "abstract" art enthusiasts... "in the round"!


A wee slice of the quaint, historic... and friendly Main Street retail area known as the Gaffer District


Looking up on the slopes of the valley... "housed" in rich colour and architectural beauty.

In closing out my post this morning... I send out just a small cross-section of Deb's glass artistry. I think you can easily share my respect for her artistry and unique talent. Wish that we had more widows to house some more of her works. I am blessed to share my life... home and studio with this beautiful spirit. 
"She" quite simply is.... my "Bucket List"!

She's a "recycler"... of past thoughts... happenings... and storm windows!


A whimsical accident... simply entitled... "Oops!"


"Tribute to Vincent". We both share a love for his genius and organic energy in his work


"Georgian Guardian", Brebeuf Light on Beausoleil Island


"Sunny... Sunny Day" brought me many days of light during one grey winter.... before it found a new home.


A pair of male gold finch perched on a "found" object!


A small flock of her free standing glass friends. She loves her cheery song birds.... and so do her customers!!

Here are two of her works that are in the "permaent collection"... of AWB. They offer me plwasure... a million times a day!


Two male finches keeping fire watch ... on our mantle! Two heats to  dive away the winter cold!


"Spidy"... with bobbing "babies" on braided copper adds to the river view in our kitchen cozy bay ... where we lunch every day at noon.

We are now settled safely in for winter... a bush cord of firewood...  cut and split in the now empty gallery space. The work is hung in our downstairs studio where music and new creations are already underway. I headed off for a wonderful afternoon of plein air painting at Ivy Lea Park with my long tome painting pal Frank. Stay tuned... for that adventiure in my next post... along with the "correct" answer to the plein air imposter from two posts back...

Happy Painting to ALL.... and Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American Friends!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pausing to Remember....

November 11th... a day in a month of change from summer giddiness and gaiety to stillness and a more sombre and muted landscape. The world about us seems to accommodate the tone and mood necessary to pause within our busy lives to honour those men and women who serve... and have served to preserve the very freedoms and quality of life that we enjoy. Be it be called Remembrance... or Veteran's Day we will celebrate and remember as they fought... side by side.

This past weekend, Deb and I fulfilled a long held promise to visit the Corning Glass Museum located in Upstate New York. The village of Corning, cradled in a deep valley by the western remnants of the Catskill mountains straddles the Chemung River. It is a picturesque throwback to a time of main street prosperity and architectural beauty. One feels comfortably at home immediately...  and this feeling is merely confirmed by the congenial and genuine welcome offered to visitors by down town businesses.

I immediately recognized a commonality between Brockville, my home town and this new place. Though the geographical backdrops for each are entirely different... both share a similar and genuine spirit of warmth. Both places are ironically populated by distant relatives. It is an irony created by an earlier war between our two nations... an irreconcilable conflict at the time which necessitated a migration of citizens northward across the St Lawrence River to preserve their beliefs and to create a fledgling new nation... Canada.

Which brings us up to Today... November 11th , 2014.... Remembrance Day in Canada and Veteran's Day in the United States. In the succeeding two and a half centuries since the War of 1812 which divided us... we stand united  peacefully as neighbours. Time has succeeded in healing the deep scars inflicted by the conflict that separated us. While war creates causalities and loss... it also simultaneously ushers in the possibility of peaceful coexistence... and freedom. But there is always a price for freedom... "Lest we forget."

This morning at 11:00am, Deb and I will fittingly observe Remembrance Day in our place of birth - Brockville... along with its citizens. Many will likely be people that we grew up with in our early years. Many of the names on the cenotaph... or on the many wreathes to be laid will bear the names of family members familiar to us both. It will be personal and emotionally felt... as it always is for me. However... since July 7th, 2007... Remembrance Day has a face. I will forever remember the face of a boy... lacing up his hockey skates along with my own son Andrew.... now so very long ago.


 "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - My personal tribute of remembrance to Matt and his family


Captain Matthew Dawe


                                         Cenotaph.. Court House Square, Brockville, Ontario


I will forever remember the image of his wife Tara, son Lucas and his parents sadly, but solemnly enjoined to celebrate the opening of a building bearing his name at Royal Military College, Kingston. These images are the inner scars that I carry personally. I cannot begin to fathom the depth of their common loss and lasting hurt.


This year... yet another face is added to my memory of Remembrance. It will be that of Nathan Cirillo... the Canadian reservist who was struck down senselessly, as he stood guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. His death underscores an earlier thought offered in this post.


                                                            Nathan Cirillo... "Last Post"

There is always a price for Freedom. Blessed are they who have paid that supreme price on our behalf. Blessed are their families who will carry the weight of that loss in their own lives... forever. They will never forget. The least that each of us can do to honour them... is... to remember and keep the memory of their presence and sacrifice alive.

I am deeply grateful... and blessed by their gift! How about you? Say so....in your own life.