Monday, February 14, 2011

My Funny Valentine...

Happy Valentine's Day ! ... to those whose Passion is making and sharing Art!

I am sending this post today... especially to Sherry! "I" truly hope that this post encourages "You" to look beyond the aspect of making art that deals only with draughtsmanship. Draughtsmanship is indeed essential as a tool in one's toolbox... and a very important part of the process of creating Realism... if that 's your cup o' tea.

Like penmanship... it can indeed be taught... and learned over time by nearly everyone with lots and lots of structured practice... and then by merely using it regularly. There are also those precious few who are "gifted" by their nature and passion to do it more than the rest of us. Both penmanship and draughtsmanship have suffered drastically in this society... where shortcuts to success are the focus ... rather than putting in your time... earning your spurs.

Carrying and using a sketchbook daily is a great tool to improve this skill. If you can ever get a copy of Dr Betty Edwards' "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"... it is a really useful resource which offers specific short lessons and activities to painlessly teach "You" how to "See"... meaning understand... what you are looking at. There is a vast difference in those two terms. Most good libraries... or book stores would carry this edition.

On Friday, February 11th, "I" celebrated 67 wonderful... adventure-filled years on this beautiful Planet. Deb cooked me my favourite dinner... and I did what "I" love to do most... I painted a commemorative painting to mark the occasion. It was , for the most part completed on the day... with a few tweaks and twitters over the weekend. But in my true quirky fashion... it was created... and now offered to any who can make sense of it... and most especially for my Friend Sherry. It's "My Funny Valentine"... and yes... that tune was a "gold standard" in my childhood home... and still is mine today... joining Star Dust and As Time Goes By as favs on my all time play list.

The format is ... would you not say... off the wall. A postage stamp format. Some of the most beautiful art can be found travellin' around the planet affixed to letters and cards. As a child... restricted in travel... "I" had a passion... no an obsession for collecting stamps. I was able to "Imagine" what life was like in the Belgian Congo... Togo.... Yugoslavia... Trinidad and Tobago... just by looking at and dreaming about the pictures on those stamps.

That love of stamps... commemorative stamps in particular, followed me into my teaching. With one particular class... we studied stamps in Canada... from the origin of the "Idea" to the present day. We created stamp designs... together... and exhibited our "stamps" at the local post office in Kingston. It was such a hit that I decided to create a post office in our school... and we did. The postmaster provided letter boxes... sorting tables... hats .... mailbags and much moral support as we launched our Send A Valentine in our school. Head honchos from Post Canada arrived on our doorstep as visitors... and were so impressed by the enthusiasm that I was hired to write a unit of study for use in schools across Canada. My school board granted me a sabbatical for a year and I completed the task. When I came back to class ... the board offered me a Visual Arts Consultant position to in-service the new unit across the 41 schools in our county. IT led to my being hired to work on th A-Team... The Arts Team for the next two years. Strange... how the Universe speaks... offers unexpected opportunity and direction to one's life... if "You" .... pay attention!HAHA!!!

The purpose of this post is NOT intended to elevate my own position. It was simply a good "Idea" from a child with a "learning disability" (at the time)... taken by a caring individual as being worthy of expansion. A "Child" leading a "Teacher" (Off the wall by some folks standards) . That "Idea" so encouraged and motivated our small group of "misfits" not only for that six month period... but for all of time. Scott... that frail... quiet child... the "Idea" proposer... now teaches Computer Technology at Royal Military College.

Many of his class of "learning disabled" moved on to unexpected and highly successful careers involving leadership skills. All others left with their sense of worth... let's call it...Self Esteem... (capitals fully intended) intact. Their "disability" didn't really exist for many of them. The inability of the system of education to recognize and accomodate the fact that they were leaders... not followers was the main cause of their delayed academic and personal growth. That out of the way... and they soared and returned to the very same "regular" classes... where they and their teachers and peers labelled them as n'er-do-wells and misfits.

The point being in this diatribe? Simple! Self Esteem is primary to personal health and Happiness. Self Esteem comes mainly from Joy and Passion felt within. It can be enhanced and encouraged by others aroung or near us... but "We"... alone are ultimately responsible for creating it! Making art for these reasons... to "Me" should be the only reason for involving one's Self in the melee. If one chooses to beat themselves up because they can't draw... there is little opportunity... or chance that anything good can come out of being involved in the process.

I have included three jpegs which clearly illustrate ,"I" think... how Joy and Happiness can be achieved without placing such a high regard for "perfect" draughtsmanship on the final outcome. I truly enjoyed making this "Valentine" for all of "You". It may not be the best thing I have ever come up with... but it demonstrates my point fully!

"What would painting be without passion in the heart of the painter?"

-Stendal, French Writer (1783-1842)

"Sing! Sing your song... make it simple to last the whole day long.

Don't worry if it's not good enough to last the whole day long ...

Just sing! Sing your song!"

-Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters)

Sing! Paint! Play!... and celebrate "You"! "You" are the only "You"! Love your... "Self"!

Much love... and Good Painting to All! Happy Valentine's Day!


  1. That was a super post Bruce! Thank you for the online Valentine and your great words. HAPPY BIRTHDAY from us! 67 years well lived : ) Have a wonderful day and hi to Deb.

  2. Good Morning Ms Grimsby... and A Happy Valentine's Day to "You" and Harry! Hope that you do something special to mark the occasion!

    "You" are right Kim! 'I" do feel that my life has been well-lived... but not without trips down cul-de-sacs... even a couple of Tsunamis!

    But "I" wouldn't change any part of my journey... and have few regrets... in comparison to a life filled with children...many Friends... and experiences -the TRUE blessings of life!

    "I" wish "You" and Harry the same!

    Much Luck! Good Painting! Happy Valentine's Day!
    Warmest regards,

  3. I agree with Kim, "a super post" And thank you for the online Valentine. Most of all for your great work and a Very Happy Birthday.

    It's wonderful to look back and say your wouldn't change any part of your journey. You are truly a Successful man. God Bless and enjoy your week.

    All the best to you

  4. Hi there Joan!... Happy Valentine's day!

    Thanks for your ever encouraging support and on line Friendship Joan! "I" MUCH appreciate both!

    "I" am indeed blessed on my journey... and look forward to more painting adventures and travel this year.

    Your Valentine rose was "simmply"... beautifully painted Joan!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. A really fun project - this is, of course, the sort of back story that could make some lucky art historian's career one day, as per our phone conversation the other night about the trouble with people failing to write things down! Good thing you're bloggin'!
    What you say about penmanship and draughtsmanship is all too true. Undergraduates simply do not cursive write anymore, and not just because they are typing, but because they cannot. And this is to say nothing of grammar. I suppose it would follow that these once mandatory skills for an artist would suffer a similar fate. Old Vasari said it best: drawing first, indulge in invention and colour next.

    Happy Valentine's Day, Dad!

    Love Allie xoxo

  6. Thank you for writing this with me in mind, Bruce. Your words are so thoughtful and so thought provoking, enough so that I will read this again and again. I am going to look for that book and buy a copy because I suspect it will meet me at my down times. I love the postage stamp story and your thoughts behind this painting format. It is awesome! We recently received a package from Russia and the stamps caught my interest immediately! They were beautiful indeed!

  7. Oh by the way...Happy belated birthday, Bruce! May you stay healthy and strong and always painting!

  8. Well... Hello there Dr Jemima Puddle Duck!HAHA!!

    Thanks Allison... for taking the time... once again to support and encourage "Me" on my journey! Without that love and support... my journey would not have been as blessed as it has been. Thank "You"... for your gift!

    The world is filled with many unprepared people... who in many cases have reached "adulthood" without the necessary life skills and tools to be truly independent. They sadly... have not been required by society to grow. Too many are locked in... somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.

    In all parts of life... Art included... one must ... do the work! That means acquire, and practise using the toolbox. Then of course... be patient and EARN... through practicum experience or apprenticeship the right of "entitlement".

    Simple rule governing the Universe is:

    "What goes round... comes round"...
    same Truth as:

    "What goes up... must come down".

    Your news of the Venice Summer School assignment and the summer Survey course at Carleton University did not surprise "Me" at all Allison!

    "You" have done the work! And the world will be yours... and a better place for "You"... and your future students! Bravo!

    I am proud of "You"... and am deeply... and doubly blessed... having heard of Bro' Andyrewster's successes!

    All my love... ALWAYS to "You" BOTH!

  9. My dear Friend Sherry!... Thank "You" for the best wishes... and for taking the time to again support my thoughts and ideas.

    I was hoping that mentioning your name on my blog would not be embarrassing for "You". I spent the time and made specific menion simply because I believe in "You"... your goodness and what you share so openly with others.Heads up... and full steam ahead!

    We ALL suffer those down times Sherry, but it is when we are willing to recognize that we need support... and seek it... that change can occur. It is also cathartic to suddenly realize that what we thought was our own unique feeling of inadequacy and doubt is as well present in the very lives of those that we admire and look up to as being "grounded".

    Do search out Betty Edwards' book... If you can't find it... get back to "Me". Where there's a will... there's ALWAYS a way my Friend! Happy Valentine's Day... and Happy Huntin'!

    Good Painting and Writing
    Warmest regards,

  10. I just love a romantic!! Happy Birthday and Happy Valentine's day Bruce!

  11. Hi Mary!... "I" happily... and proudly stand..."Guilty as charged"! HAHA!!!

    Wouldn't the world be a better... and a safer place with more romance... less war... hatred and a need for revolution? "I" wonder!!!

    Thank "You"... for the visit and good wishes Mary!Happy Valentine's Day back to "You"!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  12. A lovely post Bruce. I have found that it is important to draw as much as possible. Also we can get rusty at our drawing and painting if we don't practise all the time. The beauty of sketching is that you can at least connect with art at anytime even when away for the day doing on routine tasks.

  13. I had no trouble finding the book Bruce and ordered it yesterday. It is on its way!

  14. Hi again Caroline.... Thanks for the visit and for sharing your ideas on the matter of drawing!

    Drawing is... without any doubt, the very backbone of good art. Nearly every genre depends upon at least a rudimentary understanding of and working ability with draughtsmanship.

    All of us get rusty... and lazy and quite frankly... life does often get in the way of keeping up with the habitual practice that is necessary to stay "at the top of one's game"... in all aspects of being creative.

    As you have wisely suggested... sketching is a portable tool that can be carried along with one on the routine daily travels... on the bus... at the cafe... and carrying out the tasks such as waiting for kids to get out of school... the list of "opportunities" is endless. One sketch a day is one small step by itself... but times 365 days... is a few sketchbooks full of learning and growth.

    Good Painting... and Sketching!
    Warmest regards,

  15. Hi Sherry!.... Good for "You"! Carpe diem... as they say!

    I truly hope that the book brings you the courage and conviction to take up the gauntlet and dive headfirst into setting up a daily routine to facilitate the growth you want in your drawing.My own copy is well-thumbed and worn from use!

    As well as the exercises... you will gain a lot of insight into how the brain perceives and creates. As well... you will find ample research information that explains why we are so left brain driven. It is the right side that values and encourages all of the choice tidbits for artist types ie dreaming... fantasy... free movement... music... all the "Good" stuff!

    Enjoy Sherry! Let me know how it's going... I REALLY am interested in following your process on this one!

    Good luck... and Good sketching and drawing!
    Warmest regards,