Friday, May 13, 2016

"It's Time For a Summertime Dream...."

There is recorded an early piece of folklore which boldly declares... "One swallow never made a summer." This statement merely challenges a commonly-held myth that the sighting of a first swallow heralds the arrival of summer. Common sense would more accurately support that many other factors... most notably, the solar system's configuration would have more to do with predicting that moment.

Yesterday, in our part of the world, it indeed felt wholly like summer and even the thermometer conspired to add credence to such a premature belief. Summer's official start here will be marked here by the Summer Solstice at 6:34 EDT on June 20th. As we all know, the path of the earth orbiting the sun in the sky actually dictates the changing of the seasons... and the rest of the natural observations that we draw upon are merely in response to that celestial change of the earth's axial position relative to the sun.

The word solstice is derived from the combination of two Latin words "sol" (sun) and "solstitium" (to stop). Together, the term means that the sun appears to stop higher and more directly overhead to create greater warmth and longer light. Logic and science are practical and predictable instruments to guide decisions for planting, vacationing and many other truly summer decisions.

However, there is something soothing... even romantically reassuring to simply formulate one's own forecast of summer's arrival based upon events that seem miraculously to reoccur within the space of only a few days each year. I take great pleasure and joy in recording these "happen-stances" in my personal journal... and look forward to welcoming summer... in my own fashion.

Deb hung our red hummingbird feeder during the last week of April... in a simple act of faith and kindness. As if by magic... one week later on May second, the first of our three resident ruby red throats fueled up for the first long drink of the summer season at her feeder. The other two have since arrived... and the aerial warfare is now well underway. Their annual pattern of arrival lies (predictably) within the same seven day window according to my records kept since arriving in Rockport.

This summer-for certain occurrence in our lives is added to a chain of other changes as winter' defeat n' retreat deepens and brief Spring leaps so suddenly into Summer. Skeins of overhead Canada Geese have taken to the ground... have paired up and are now preparing to nest. Barn swallows patrol the waterfront with their aerial antics in pursuit of the copious supply of recently hatched flies. Ants have invaded our kitchen... cuing our immediate need to place ant traps strategically to quell their assault. These are the predictable visual reminders in my own consciousness... that summer is on the way.

Summer's presence is in the air as well. My itchy eyes and throat provide ample enough evidence that Claritan is in order foir a few weeks. The pollen sacs have exploded with the increased heat. Leaflets have replaced catkins and a varied palette of vivid greens paints the landscape and woodlands.

A trillium tribe... bivouacked in their spring solitude. Sheltered by the roots of a great and ancient oak at Pitch Pine Point. As I paused on my evening walk to acknowledge their welcome new presence... I thought; "Did their ancestors partake in this annual spring pageant of renewal and rebirth?"

I wonder...

The trillium and other Spring wildflowers carpet the forest floor and add color and life to the previous drabness and decay. On my evening walk... the wonderful aroma of raindrops kissing the dry pavement awakens sense within me... that date back even to my earliest childhood.

Tonight... I am witness to the human ritual of which I have been part for all of my life. It is a sacred and hallowed moment for "Summer Folk"... as we are referred to by locals. Quite frankly, even though we now reside in Rockport and conduct a legitimate business here... we are view as being "from away." We were not born here. But that matters little to either Deb and I. We know "who" we are and find solace in that reality.

On the dock below us... I watched several carloads of young men appear suddenly and then charge excitedly down to the dock where a boat tended by two young men waited. There was an immediate flailing of upraised arms and long embraces... a brief conversation, followed immediately by a rapid relay of backpacks, bags of groceries, briquettes, beer, personal pillows and sleeping bags into the boat. Without pause they embarked southward... a toute vitesse around Club Island.

The annual "Boys of Summer Reunion" for 2016 was underway. I knew... and understood as well... that "The Girls of Summer" would soon repeat this summer sacrament. That would be replaced by the gatherings of the island clans who now return to their family summer retreats on cue every July and August weekend to share time in the Thousand Islands. Summer is a special time for all River Folk... both young and old. "I" am... a "River Boy"!

"River Boy" - oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches

This painting was part of a solo show I created entitled "Summertime Dreams" back in 2002. It captures my son Andrew on one of our six annual week-long canoe trips into the islands. It now hangs in his home... where it rightfully belongs.

So Summer???... It does indeed arrive on a solar and EDT platform for most. But for me personally... summer arrives in a way that I understand and help create. And at The Paint Box Gallery in 2016... Summer will be met with the changes that Deb and I have teamed up to create. All is in place. The hard work has been accomplished. The Gallery is flush with new color and life. We are exceedingly proud of our combined efforts. 

Welcome Summer!... and Welcome to those visitors who pass through our doors!

Here's a shortened virtual tour for those of you... "from away"! HA HA!

Happy Painting!... and Sweet Summertime Dreams... to ALL!!

Here's a musical song sampling where my "Summertime Dream" theme originates from! Thank you... Canadian Folk icon Gordie Lightfoot. As pure... and richly Canadian as Maple Syrup! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"M" Words...

The month of May has been flipped over on my calendar... offering clean new space to fill with tasks and new possibilities. The first "M" word May... offers Deb and I welcome release from our winter "captivity" in our basement studio into the fresh air of our garden and river view. It is an uplifting and exciting rite of renewal.

We open The Paint Box Gallery on Mother's Day because this weekend celebrates another important "M" word for us - "Mother". Both of our Moms have passed... so the "M" word memories are all that remain. But on this special day set aside ...  we do especially remember their nurturing contributions, sacrifices and lessons that they shared so generously with us while they were part of our daily lives.

Personally, I find it difficult to separate my parents as being only female or male. I have always looked upon them as a team... both sharing the 'pulling' of the great burden of parenthood in tandem. Neither has had a larger influence upon me than the other. I am the sum total of the combined strength(s) of both.

Both contributed to and influenced the value system under which I have tried to live. I have modeled my own parenting strongly upon the template that they provided and am encouraged to see that their system... passed forward to me, and then by me to my own children has successfully been rooted. My planting now has flowered and currently bears strong promise of a beautiful and varied garden of individual blooms to bring further joy to the world.

I have neither painted, nor posted since early April... and have much missed both. But now, I am reaching the end of the necessary tasks and time that took me away. We are currently busy completing the last of our duties to ready the gallery for our Summer 2016 opening this weekend. Hopefully... the Universe will again reward us for our winter of work. Time will tell.

In closing out this short post, I felt it necessary to honour Motherhood. Mothers are truly more than the title usually suggests; they are as well mentors who share their learning and wisdom... magicians who weave the ordinary into life enriching tapestries of adventure, magic and joy for their families. Their "work"... is nothing less than... Fine Art.

What better way is there to salute them... to proudly share samples of the Fine Art that they nurtured in each of us... with the world. Here's a Mother's Day salute and a sampling of bouquets for all Moms... from my Mom and I !

Happy Mother's Day... and Good Painting to ALL... Artist Mothers!

Happy Mother's Day... "Mom and Dad"... I'll love you both... FOREVER!

 "Thank You... For the Music"

                              "There is beauty all around... when there's love at home..."

                                                                  "Keep on Smilin'..."

                                       "Seek... and find joy... in the simple things around you."

"Home... is where the Heart is!"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Beauty ... of Bigger

It was exhilarating to stand before a larger black toned canvas... armed with a single one inch chisel bristled brush. The only goal was to use the roughly placed white chalk lines as guides to lay in the larger color blocks in my chosen composition.

Within the short space of an hour, I stood before the makings for what I knew would be a successful canvas because all of the necessary structure... or foundation was already laid down. The remainder of the painting process merely dealt with refinement... balancing values and creating a color harmony which would unify the whole.  Here's what the initial block in looked like at the end of session one.

Day One

The various "Big" shapes are readily discernible at this early stage. I chose to carve out the center of interest... but its shape is far from stated in a final way. Everything still remains tentative. Each section  of the painting is still open to change and further consideration. The sky is very "stainy" and will be worked up slowly in glazes to attain the morning glow that I wished to be present.

After supper, I returned to the easel and reworked the sky to lessen the left over black toning in the sky area. I decided to let the paint set up overnight. I use Griffin Alkyd white paint on my palette which is a quick dryer. I knew that I could return to the canvas the next day and resume work at the closing stage of the day's work easily. It would offer me time to consider what area to move to next to maintain an "around the full canvas" attack.

                                                                       Day Two

In looking closely at this picture taken at the end of the session in day two... one can see various areas around the central image that now bare the signs of significant change... and yet remain unresolved at this juncture. There is a stronger sense of mood and lighting at this point... which was my goal for the day.

Day Three

Note that in this picture attention has been given to the addition of detail to the light itself... ie the railings... window and weather vane atop the lantern.... as well as the play of light upon the walls of the light.

                                                                        Day Four

                                         "River Guardian, Rotary Light, Prescott ON" 
                                            - oil on gallery wrap canvas - 24 x 30 inches

This is where it sits this evening. Today was a day of push n' pull... a day of balancing values... playing with highlights and adding details for interest. For all intents and purposes... I have achieved what I wanted to in this project. Mostly, my need to use big arm movements to replace "tight-assed' drawing and sitting to paint... both foreign to my preferred plein air approach have been alleviated. I feel refreshed.

Tomorrow... after a time away this evening, I will give it one more look when I am fresher. Looking forward to another "BIG" idea canvas and following my own path.

Stay tuned...

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

One Last Thrust...

After an overnight rest and step back from the painting, I decided to "ice the cake" by adding texture... and therefore variety using my palette knife. I carefully restricted its use to the foreground snow area and the river-facing wall of the lighthouse... thus adding interest and relief from the overall quality of total stillness. Signed it...
Done liker dinner!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Family Gathering(s)...

"We're all we've got..."

I awoke a bit earlier than is my custom this morning because my head was working overtime... mulling over new painting ideas and recent events. Perhaps this is because our opening deadline is fast-approaching... or more likely, it was the surge of "spring things" that appeared simultaneously on my walk last evening.

As I made my way around my one hour circuit in the gently falling rain, I could smell the tell-tale new earthiness of spring. Purple crocuses smiled at me as I left our driveway. Everywhere... tulips, lilies, daffodils and other perennials pushed their greenness skyward.

The air echoed with the crescendo of a variety of male bird voices - all bent upon dominating and securing their air space. The paved pathway on the Parkway writhed here and there with newly-arrived thin, pink earthworms... seemingly stretching out the kinks of their imposed underground winter captivity.

Robins appeared more cheery... and plumper than usual... given this fresh spring menu of crawlers. Perhaps their rotundness owed itself to a still hidden clutch of turquoise-y treasures that would soon be gently placed in mounds of collected sticks and soft grasses... in places that irritate human home dwellers. Cardinal pairs seemed more present along the route... the males perched in pinnacles above all else... trumpeting their air supremacy.

The most unexpected discovery arrived from deep in the swamp on Old River Road. It as the happy... but noisy drone of choirs of spring peepers. All of these harbingers shouted:

"Spring has sprung!"

It struck me... as I drifted slowly from sleep into morning consciousness that all of this sudden change in activity could be attributed to family gatherings... or preparation for new families... gathering.

It struck me again... that the annual ritual of gathering of sap and production of maple syrup in Ontario sugar bushes... as well encompassed the gathering of family members to share the labour and the love of being on the land once again after a long cold winter - renewal!

Our own family had just recently "gathered" to share the annual ritual of making a pilgrimage to the Little Cataraqui Conservation Area's sugar bush to celebrate "Maple Madness. That included having a stack of freshly made pancakes topped with buttery goodness and lathered in freshly made maple syrup from the bush there.

Left to right: Melissa with Mr Mac, Andrew, Nana Joan and BoBo (Allie)
Sorry that you had to miss this year Debs... I had your pancake!

Other surprises transpired as well. Thank you to the resident chickadees on "Chickadee Lane"... and to the accommodating John Deere tractor operator who elevated Mr Mac youngest Deere operator on record! Bonus!!!

                                           Two... in the hand are worth ten in the balsams!

Is there anything more powerful in the world than trust... or Faith??? I wonder. I felt the sheer wonder of having power... but no power ... to make this happen! It quite simply..."is."

                                                            Mr MacDeere takes charge!
I would offer yet another extension of my ongoing thinking in regards to the concept of "family gathering". Here are two paintings that I have made in the past which look at the same "Idea"... as it came to me from the natural world.

I received news early last week that the East Coast version had just recently been sold at The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia... after being on corporate rental for eight continuous years. What a Happy Easter surprise that was!!!

"Family Gathering at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia" - oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

"Family Gathering" - oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

A copse of trees some likely related... at various stages of age and growth.

The Bajan Mafia... The Shamrays
Braden, Moi, Deb Lisa, Ryan and Mica... gathered together in Toronto

This was our Christmas Break gathering with my youngest Bryn, Susie (Bryn's Squeeze), his brother Liam and Deb

In closing out today's lengthy post, I would like to give thanks to each of my five children and especially to Deb. She has consistently and unselfishly provided a real Mom role model and a loving support system for each of them. Deb and I are very proud of each of you and we celebrate the uniqueness of each. Without any one of you... our lives would be greatly diminished.

Allie's recent Easter card to Deb and I says it all for me....

                                                   Inside... it adds... "Is a day well spent!"

We love you dearly!

"We"... are richly blessed...

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Take Five..."

Take Five!... and come "tip-toe thru, my Easter tulips... with me!"

In day-to-day usage in the English language, the phrase "take five" idiomatically suggests taking a short break from any activity. In the world of jazz music it can suggest a similar break as well. However, it can also suggest increasing the standard 4/4 meter, from four beats to the bar, or measure to five beats. This time signature is commonly called quintuple time.

Whether or not you are a jazz aficionado or not, you will likely recognize the Dave Brubeck Quartet's all-time best-selling jazz single "Take Five" from 1959 (written by group alto saxophonist Paul Desmond) which makes use of this quintuple meter. It was the theme song for NBC for many years and played many times daily, thus ingraining it into the America fabric of society. It has been used creatively and successfully as a "cover" by many recording artists right up to the present time,  retaining its rightful place as a jazz classic.

"Take Five..."

"Take five"... for me lately, has been a break away from my easel to take care of necessary business in preparation for our quickly-approaching May opening. Much still remains to be accomplished to be fully ready for that event. Our season is a very short six month window... when tourists come to the Thousand Island region en masse.

Like the Canada Geese visitors are active... and often too noisily present during this short period of time. But usual custom dictates that both take flight and disappear almost simultaneously... and the village goes suddenly to sleep for the long winter months.

I decided to loosen up  and keep my palette completing a smallish oil... knowing that by accomplishing this task, I would be taking care of business and quenching my increasing artistic thirst with this one small creative act. I must confess that I find the smaller oils a bit constricting and less enjoyable than the big brush painting formats, or the plein air outings... but time was the deciding factor. Here is the result produced. This small painting was my "take five"... from the business-oriented tasking... and it was indeed refreshing!.. Can you feel my joy?

"October Opus on Stone Street, Gananoque" - oil on gessoed masonite panel 7x5 inches

Music has been such a constant... a friend on my entire journey. I have many to thank for this gift of music... but none more than my Mom and Dad. Music was always present in our home... in many genres and with many instruments, including the willing family voices to make that music.

With Easter celebrations on the horizon for us this weekend... our family will circle up on Good Friday here at Islesview to share the Easter Blessing of being together. My Mom and Dad's presence will be indeed felt... as if they were still at the table. This was a tradition which they created. We learned the importance of maintaining the "family gathering". Together as a family... we will "take five" from our busy and separate lives.

Thank you both... Mom and Dad... For the Music!!!

                               "Thank You... For the Music" - oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches
                                                        GIFTED to Andrew Sherman

Whatever your faith, or spiritual underpinnings... one need only look to those recent events in Brussels to realize that despite our own perceived trials and tribulations, there exist those in other parts of the world less fortunate than ourselves at this time. I feel required to remember their plight and to add them to my own thoughts and prayers.

Let us all "Take five"... and give silently give thanks for the many seemingly small, yet rich blessings that we receive daily.

Resurrection in Rockport... and yes... we do expect to have this much snow by Good Friday. Do remember this quiet offering of sacrifice...

I would like to close out today's post with another piece of music from any other genre that I subscribe to daily. I can honestly say that this particular piece is likely my favorite piece of music. I listen to it... whenever the world seems unfair... or that life has deserted me. I listen to it ... whenever I really need to... "take five". Enjoy!

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tapping Into Spring's Energy...

I have resumed my desk jockey job... making necessary preparations for our Spring Opening in early May. Painting is definitely on the back burner for at least another week. By that time... by the weather god predictions, this year's annual maple sugaring run will be on the down turn... if not ceased.

I did not follow my annual bush visitation routine at all... and for that I am a bit disappointed. However... I did take the initiative to complete a related portrait piece that had been too long in the "Idea" bucket. I managed to dedicate a block of time to seeing it to completion... and I am satisfied to have that painting marker for the 2016 sugaring off season.

Judging by the very warm reception that the "Ken" portrait on birch panel... and his own Horseshoe valley Sugar Bush Face Book page have received, I decided to share a medley of my own past sugaring off favorites for those who might enjoy a Sherman re-viewing of Ontario bushes that I have frequented. Enjoy the flow...

Sweet Spring!... and Good painting... to ALL!!!

AWB... on location in late autumn at McFadden's Bush, Oro-Medonte

The finished painting  SOLD

 "The Real Team Canada" - Smail's Bush, Groveton - oil on canvas 5x7 feet   SOLD

  "Sweet Dreams" - demo 16x20 inches  SOLD

 "Three Bucket Maple" - water color on 300 lb Arches paper  GIFTED to Andrew Sherman

"Smail's... Under Steam" - water color on 300 lb Arches paper  SOLD

"January Thaw" - Ego's Bush 10th Line Oro-Medonte - 20x24 plein air canvas

"Sap's Runnin' " -oil on birch cradle Board panel 10x12 inches  SOLD

"Team Canada... Too" oil on canvas 36x36 inches  SOLD

"Before the Run Begins at Lalonde's Bush" - oil on panel 11x14 inches  SOLD

"Afternoon Recess, Drummond's Sugar Bush, Kemptville" - water color on 1/2 sheet 300 lb Arches paper  Gifted to Joan Sherman

 "Sugar Moon" - a wood cut 8x8 inches on litho paper  Gifted to Lisa (Sherman) Shamray

Monotype and ink experimental piece  SOLD

"Entrance to Ken and Rene McCutcheon's Bush" -oil on canvas 20x24 inches  SOLD

"Canadian Bucket Brigade" - oil on canvas 18x14 inches  SOLD

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring Fever...

Scarcely days ago... I posted that I was taking a much needed hiatus from this blog because I needed to man the machinery that drives the business side of our artistic lives, During that brief respite, I have indeed joined with Deb to carry out that mandate... and we have gained much needed ground on getting that monkey off our backs. Both of us have increased our share of the new inventory of offerings greatly.

Each morning, I carry out my usual morning ritual - I commence my day with my brisk three kilometer walkabout of our village. Needless to say, I seek the solitude here just to reflect and plan my day... which generally speaking, comes easily because most residents here have flown the coop southward to escape the winter cold.

This morning was hardly the norm. As I stepped to the end of our driveway, I was immediately greeted not by the usual quiet... or the River constantly grinding its icy teeth. I was overcome by the cacophony of birdsong all about me. It literally froze me in my tracks!

Most of this new din came from seemingly endless skeins of trumpeting Canada geese everywhere I looked overhead and along the length of the River. Noisy... exuberant... no... joyous migrants anxious to gain their summer breeding grounds. You know these are migrants by their elevation and their unwillingness to hold formation. Spring beckons... and their raucous music belies their need to respond to an inner drive and instinct that has guided their kind each spring for millenniums.

I dawdled along slowly... drinking in all of these new sights and sounds. Everywhere... spring was bursting forth in a single breath. As I passed through the hardwood and pine stand on Riverview Drive... two pileated woodpeckers were verbally going toe-to-toe in an obvious territorial dispute... adding an even higher decibel level to the unending goose strains.

In the final leg of my walk... silence again seem to return- momentarily. The soft chatty voices of a chickadee band followed me... all the time "chickadee-ing" me along the cedar hedgerows. At the parkway crossing into the east gate of the village, I paused to check traffic. A new voice! It was the first plaintive spring trill of a male red-winged blackbird... a certain harbinger of spring's return.

I decided to take a ride into the countryside briefly... to check out a neighboring sugar bush site to see if the sap was running. They were hard at it... so I took a couple of quick photos and was in the act of leaving... when again the sky was suddenly filled with at least another hundred Canadas.

As I approached the van to leave... there on the lawn were three American Robins - my first of the season. If one ever doubted before that spring was in the air... this single sighting was the clincher. I headed straight home to share my discoveries with Deb.

She had announce during our morning coffee ritual that her pal, Mr Chips had re-appeared on our patio and resumed his sentinel stance... glaring inside. At the side door... daffodils and tulips were burst three inches out of the soil... and had been out for nearly two months, due to the lack of snow coverage.

Well... the end of my spring epiphany... and this growing "Epistle... according to St Bruce". I will close out this unexpected post with a couple of photos that I wish to share from my morning adventure. I will offer a sneak preview of a piece that will be completed later this evening. It is one of several paintings that I have been working at... paintings that have been on the back burner for too long.

Happy Spring !... to All!!!

My heart soared to nearly the height at which they were flying!!... Pure joy... on the ground and in the air!!!

Drip!... Drip!... Drip!... Sweet Spring ... dropping in!

Just  underway... wood at the ready... voices in the woods. Snow cover light!

 "Ken McCutcheon... Sugar Daddy" - oil on raised birch panel 16 x 20 inches

A tribute to a true "man of the land"... a steward... a gentle soul.. a father and husband beyond compare. I salute "You" Ken!! Thanks for the many "sweet" memories and springs that our own family is blessed to have tucked away! Let the Spring Games flow... long and hard!

This is both a portrait of a man...a portrait of a truly unique Canadian cultural activity...and at the very same time a portrait of a way of life.