January will be a month for focusing my energies on my upcoming solo show at AyrSpace Gallery in Ayr, Ontario. I intend to work hard to produce the final "signature" pieces in the show. As has always been my custom in my teaching and artistic lives... I work in themes in order to explore a central "Idea"... coming at that theme from many different angles.
I have chosen to work en plein air to gather ideas and to paint outdoors in all four seasons... so the theme "Painting Through the Seasons" seemed a natural concept to develop and present at this exhibition of my work. Most of the pieces will either have been created totally... or in part on location... with a few much larger works being developed out of my earlier plein air work.
My daughter Allison gifted me with a copy of "Defiant Spirits" by British Art Historian Ross King. This well-written oeuvre chronicles the rise of The Group of Seven painters and lays waste the myths, legends and inaccuracies that have for too long been embraced as "the embodiment" of Canadian Fine Art production in the Twentieth Century.
Most Canadians have been enculturated to believe... and wrongly so... that The Group of Seven created a totally unique and "new" Canadian Art Movement. All Canadian artists and critics since then... myself included... have followed the furrows they laid down attempting to align our stylism and vision with theirs.... seeking a truly "Canadian" identity and voice.
My son Andrew, Allison's brother gifted Deb and I with a two year family membership to the McMichael Collection, located in not too distant Kleinburg. This collection of Canadian Art was created Robert and Signe McMichael to house their lifelong collection of Group of Seven paintings... at first in their log home Tapawingo... which would grow to become the mecca for Canadian artists and art lovers.
I visited this sacred place in my journey dozens of times... often taking my children and on several occasions my Tuesday Art Club students over thirty years. It has never failed to inspire and encourage my journey. It in honest truth... the very core of my artistic being. I unabashedly "feel" the energy of the Canadian landscape... and the pride in our heritage. But I have always recognized, having majored in Art History... that Canadian Art... including that of the Seven ... or Western Art in general owe much to the European Masters and Movements. How could we not?
The closing exhibition of 2010 that we visited as a family on December 30Th... to our surprise... was aptly entitled: The Defiant Spirits... and was curated by none other than the guest curator Ross King. The exhibition was simply a visual passageway for the book and King's ideas. How visually stunning... and intellectually it was! Everything came together: the book... the images and the ideas.
I am deeply blessed... once again... to have children who recognize my passion and who willingly share my deep and abiding love for the craft of making art. It is marvellous to be able to embrace and share common values and interests.. in this age of ipads and ear buds... ebooks and video games... where one is always remote from the other "interacting" individual(s)... with REAL people... face-to-face. I feel a dinosaur so often... choosing not to be involved with electronic toys (beyond this one).
Having experienced reading this book... seeing this exhibition... and in connecting through this blog forum to so many wonderfully talented and friendly artists around the globe... "I" feel much more connected... and in step with our common passion and craft. I more fully realize... and subscribe to this passage from King's book and note in "Sketches" The Members Journal Fall/Winter 2010:
"Van Gogh believed that greatness could be achieved "by working from nature... without imitating other people." But the painter's mind can never be wiped clean. Every artist no matter how innovative or original, is inevitably a fusion of prior influences and the legacy of artistic fore bearers."
So when we get down on ourselves... lamenting the fact that we don't have our own style... or a "fresh" idea... perhaps it would better serve us all just to get back to our easels... indoors or en plein air... and to push pigment for the sheer joy of doing so. Life is short... and each artist has only so many paintings he or she can make in that small space in time we have been given to enjoy! As Group of Seven member Alfred J (AJ) Casson so aptly put it:
"Time... is the only critic."
Count your blessings... and share your Joy!
Happy New Year... and Good Painting to ALL!
Thank you all... for your visits and comments!