Tuesday, August 30, 2011

L'Heure d'or....The Golden Hour

Sometimes a painting that you especially like... hangs about and draws very little attention even though you showcase it... and continue to believe in its worth and merit. Normally most paintings come and go without any feeling of attachment... they quite simply "are"... and have served their purpose in creating a challenge or capturing an interesting thought or moment.

For whatever reason... this painting struck a chord with me. It surely was one of those unusual fellows that simply "paints itself from start to finish. Perhaps it was truly the fact that the light was golden... even divine at this church in Les Eboulements in Charlevoix, Quebec and that the painting rapidly and confidently painted... really did effectively and emotionally capture the hour.

Or perhaps... it was the fact that my mentor/ older brother and I were together sharing this marvellous part of the country. Now... for reasons best left unmentioned here and forgotten... we are not "in touch" with each other and thus... the painting is an important bridge back in my mind at least... to a happier past.

For whatever the reason... my unchanging belief in this smallish 20 x16 inch plein air sketch was validated yesterday when a most lovely lady spent an hour or so with Deb and I... carefully studying the wide assortment of offerings in The Paint Box. Finally after much deliberation and deep thought she made her way back to the counter with "L' Heure d'or" in hand saying that this painting would now come to live in Regina, Saskatchewan.

How strange... after eight years of waiting... that this Quebec painting would pass to Regina, Saskatchewan... only an hour or so from Deb's RCMP corporal son Spencer and his family who live in nearby Yorkton! How strange the Universe and its workings! How joyful my heart! Not just for the sale in a longer than usual seasonal sales drought... but mostly joyful because this lovelyand personable woman of taste shared my love of this wee piece of Quebec! C'est magnifique... cet univers du mystere!!!

Back to my easel... and the outdoors! Another trip planned to Algonquin... Soon! Stay tuned....

Good painting ... and sales for all!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Simply... Jack!

I had almost completed composing my next post which chronicled a wonderful visit last Thursday to The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa with my wife Deb, my daughter Allison and her friend and fellow art historian Sharon. We went to see the international blockbuster exhibition entitled: Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome (1592-1606). But that will wait until another day.

I felt compelled to share a post which relates my deep sadness for the loss of an individual who embodies everything that is good in the world... taken far too soon at age 61... at the very pinnacle of his journey when it seemed that his vision for himself... and more importantly, for ordinary Canadians for whom he had toiled so unselfishly... would indeed come to fruition. And we all... as Canadians would be the better for it!

Jack Layton was the federal leader of The New Democratic Party and had just led his party through a tough, and very physically draining campaign for him personally in the late fall. This victory earned him the right to form and to lead the official opposition when Parliament resumed in Ottawa this September. He accomplished this huge upset... while battling prostate cancer and a recently fractured hip.

On July 25th, pale... very emaciated, but still defiant and full of the optimism that he always displayed... he called a news conference to announce to Canadians that he was stepping aside temporarily to battle a new cancer... but that he would be back in September, vowing to fight and beat the disease so that his vision could be carried on.

Yesterday, at 4:45 am in his home and with his beloved wife Olivia and close staff members... Jack Layton lost his final battle to cancer. That fact has plunged all Canadians... no matter party lines into deep grief. We all realize that we have lost some "One"... and at the very same time... something that demonstrates the very Best that can be found in Humankind... anywhere!

Many tributes have been offered unconditionally and without reservation from all parties and walks of life from across Canada. Ordinary people assembled at Parliament Hill yesterday in tribute to "Him". Former Governor General Michaelle Jean offered this tribute... which best parallels my own feelings about Jack Layton's accomplishments and his legacy to Canadians:

"Canada has lost a man of courage and great integrity who embodied the values dearest to Canadians."

And from the tributes of others I will borrow expressions which best described those "values" of which Michaelle Jean attributed to Jack Layton: fundamental decency... passionate dedication...love of country... courageous... legacy of commitment... humanity... a rare state of grace... and that list is endless.

But perhaps the greatest measure of the man is revealed in a letter that he wrote to his fellow Canadians just two days before his life ended. In facing the prospect of his life ending... and separation forever from Olivia... he composed this magnanimous and immeasurably powerful letter to be read to all Canadians. His last message was to be one of thanks, hope to fellow cancer patients, political colleagues, Quebecers and finally for all Canadians.

Dear Friends,

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one - a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can all do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change...

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

And we'll change the world.

The Truth and eloquence of these words and the man is unparalleled in my lifetime as a Canadian... and most especially words from the mouth of a politician. The message is something that "I" will carry forward with "Me"and put into practice. I aim to dedicate a larger part of my time to working towards seeing his vision accomplished... using my own energy and talents.

The profession of politics can truly become an Art form... when it is carried out with passion... with integrity and commitment over a lifetime. Jack Layton has taken politics to an art form level... and his wondrous and joyous life is to be celebrated as a great Canadian Masterpiece!

I hope that this message inspires all of you to live your life fully... to reach out... to persevere... to share your gifts... to make life... wherever you might live better! Therein lies the Hope for mankind and the world no matter your politics or country of origin!

God bless and embrace "You" Jack!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sharing the Plein Air Spirit!

I was asked by the ladies of Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry to conduct a workshop on Saturday for a small group who wished to be introduced to plein air painting back in late June. I agreed and was notified on Thursday that I was indeed to have the workshop with three participants.

Living about two hours distant from this bustling community... I was unable to really scout around beforehand... as is my usual practice... to prepare for a setting that would be suitable and would therefore optimize success. Summer painting has its hazards... as most plein air painters recognize and prepare themselves for.

I struck off at 6:00am to arrive in Port Perry to make my scouting foray. Glad that I did! All of the usual haunts along Lake Scugog were either overgrown with bull rushes and slimed over because of unusually low water levels... or overrun with people doing a variety of activities from hiking trails... sculling... or launching small craft. Neither conditions suited my comfort zone... so I patrolled the back streets until I found a place with a paintable subject... quiet... shade... washrooms nearby and parking.

I arrived back at the Gallery and awaited my fellow painters and by 10:15 we were off to the chosen land. In arriving... I was a bit unsettled to learn that all three were raw beginners... even to painting really and that their equipment and lack of it reflected that fact. However... being "out there" has taught "Me" to be flexible... and to be over prepared. We shared paints and I even surrendered my easel when one of the easels gave up the ghost... even before being put to the test.

I had them follow me on a "walk about" to determine possibilities... but suggested that we all focus on the same subject from the same viewpoint... given their mutual inexperience. I felt a sense of relief come over the group... which I shared. I set up quickly and within 15-20 minutes quickly moved my interpretation of the view through the lay in process... then helped each of them establish the basic form and elements to begin their own lay ins. The lay ins proceeded slowly at first... but once colour mixing problems and brushwork suggestions were in place ... the pace and their individual confidence picked up, so that we were able to break at 12:20 pm for the planned lunchtime visit to the restaurant for a meal at a local bistro nearby... arranged through Meta4.

After a sumptuous lunch and sharing of backgrounds we headed back to our site and the threesome immediately and enthusiastically jumped back into action. It was refreshing to "Me" to watch over the shoulder of each of the individuals pushing forward with their newly-acquired skills and self-confidence... and seeing the implementation in their own terms and through their own artistic eyes.

The day was very warm... and the sun shifted westward... leaving us in direct sunlight. No one seemed to even notice...or complain.What was even more surprising to me still... was that all reached the final destination within minutes of the others. At 3:45 pm... we packed up our gear... said our goodbyes... and headed off in our separate directions... back to our own worlds.

Each of the pairs of jpegs gives the lay in to near finished pieces for comparison. The growth for each of the participants is very obvious... and I would say... a remarkable accomplishment for first time painters... suddenly dipped head first into the plein air hot pot.

But one thing is certain in my mind. Four individuals who have been brought together through a plein air experience... now have an appreciation and a healthier new respect for their own creative abilities. As well... we learned valuable lessons about our own lives... and that we are not so very different in how we live them as we often fear. "We"... all share a very common path... with its myriads of joy... disappointment... successes... failures and opportunities... if we take the courage to reach out and risk!

I returned joyfully to my own life with Deb enriched by the spirit of three new acquaintances... who I KNOW... I will meet again! "We" are bonded by an experience where everyone was a winner and an equal in the midst of others!

My humblest thanks to the Meta4 ladies for their continued belief and support of my artisitic journey! If you are ever in the area or have a few moments drop in to the gallery for a REAL art fix! Their tastes are immpecably displayed in every corner of their gorgeous and friendly shop!Their web site can be reached at www.meta4gallery.ca/

Paint on Carol...Neil and Christine! You really shone...each of you!

Happy Painting to All!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Found!... and passed along to be shared!

Terra Skin Tree Free Paper- A new and exciting tool in my box!!!!

All of us constantly search for new ideas... new concepts... new techniques and new products to either enrich and enliven our own painting processes... or one which provides a new tool for our painting and sketching boxes.

This particular product was recommended to me by my friend and fellow (accomplished) plein air artist and teacher John Anderson. John is the manager of Curry's Art Supply Store in Barrie ON and knows the art business front page to back. He excitedly recommended Terra Skin...Tree Free Paper as multi-media surface based upon his discovery that it fit the bill for people like ourselves who work both in the studio... and in the field... where conditions really can present difficulty and limitation.

Here are some of the "positives" to be considered:

*tree free paper

*subtle tooth, yet smooth

*flexible, easy to cut, won't buck, can be rolled and flattens again quickly

*ideal surface for oils, acrylics, watercolour, charcoal, pencil, pen and ink, printmaking

*it is archival and requires no priming for any medium used

*it is composed of 75% mineral content ground limestone and 25% resi

* non-toxic

*available in 25x17.5 inch sheet $2.29 and 25x35 inch sheet @$4.49

*348 lb weight, comparable to 300 lb watercolour sheet

I am sharing the two smaller sketches that I have recently completed... one in the studio the other in the field. All turned out acceptably... given my first awkward attempts. John simply mounts his sketch-sized sheets beforehand with masking tape on Masonite support. If he is pleased with the outcome... he mounts it permanently. If it misses the mark he simply flips it over and gives the other side a go.

I chose to jump to the more permanent step and mounted my precut paper directly onto the 1/8 inch Masonite panel using acrylic medium gel... applied thinly with a palette knife. I then carefully laid the sheet down on the gel surface and used a brayer to insure even adherence right to the very edge and to remove any air trapped between the paper and the Masonite. With a rag I removed any excess gel from along the four edges. I then applied weight to the entire surface and allowed it to dry undisturbed overnight. The next morning, I used a razor blade to easily trim off the overhang around the perimeter of the panel.

The panels provide a very stable, archival and exciting surface to work on. The paint moves freely... but the surface has enough tooth to create drag and not simply slip and slide out of control. I used it with acrylics in the studio in the first go... completing the Charlevois piece which measures 10x12 inches. I encountered no real difficulties at all and enjoyed the entire painting experience.

The second tome out I used watercolours en plein air, as I customarily do when travelling. Deb and I went out to a favourite spot at White's Falls, Muskoka where I knew there was good subject matter, quiet... and shade. My mistake made was that I underestimated the too rapid drying effect of the deep humidity on the watercolour. It simply resisted any attempt to "make it behave"... as this medium ALWAYS does. It controls you... you are only around for the ride... and must "get with the flow...or in this case...no flow!"

I gave up after the lay in stage was nearly reached... deciding that I could not get what I wanted... so set it aside and simply enjoyed the scenery... the nice day... lunch and outing with my sidekick Deb! Back in the studio the next morning, I resolved to make something of the perceived disaster of the previous day. As is always my strategy when the ---- hits the fan... and I'm not getting anywhere using my "magic formula"... HA HA!!... I reshuffled the deck... pulled out my oils... sprayed the water colour with retouch varnish... then dove into the water alla prima... literally! All the reference required was in the lay in!

I have included the watercolour disaster... and the final oil outcome. You be the judge as to the success of my little experiment! It's framed... and on the wall as I speak... but I would appreciate your feedback!

This post is directed specifically to my pals Suzanne Berry and Keith Tilley... both of whom are adventurous... prolific... gifted... and forever in search of new things to try! Suz... try this puppy... for your puppies! But it is also shared with all of the rest of you who constantly visit... share and support "me" in my journey! Thank you all!

Happy Painting ALL... and Happy Summer!

PS Simply Google Terra Skin Paper for local availability and more facts!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Visit to Algonquin Park

I just arrived back from a two day trip to Algonquin Park... with no particular agenda in mind... just to visit old friends who live in the Park... and to suck up some Algonquin Summer and sun.
The Park was as is always the case in the summer... very busy with campers... wilderness canoeing enthusiasts... hikers and Park visitors from many parts of the United States, Canada and the world really.

I fought my way northward from Hillsdale to the West Gate entrance at Dwight... battling sheeting rain for over two hours... rain that made driving almost impossible at times... and certainly not restful. Not too promising!

I arrived in full sunshine... at my destination in Whitney where my both sets of friends reside permanently. The first part of my visit was to the home and studio of Gertrud Sorensen at the Couples Resort... a Five Star Resort... now run by her son John.

Gertrud and her deceased Danish husband Fritz... arrived seeking a new life from Europe in 1967. They purchased a declining fishing lodge and over succeeding years developed it very successfully into The Bear Trail Inn... the very place where my love affair with the Park began. I first visited in 1982 when I was invited along with my painting buddy Frank A. Edwards... to a workshop being conducted by my new acquaintance Poul Thrane. That was a pivotal moment in my painting journey... a journey that forever bound "Me" to the Park... and to Poul Thrane... who became a mentor and huge influence in my work.

I had promised Gertrud on my last visit to the Park to participate in The Mystery in the Park Exhibition that I would come up and we could spend a day painting together... either out in the Park... or in her lovely studio. Upon arriving... I realized that Gertrud was very tired and struggling with all of the responsibilities of having a guest. At eighty plus years of age... I will be feeling much the same I am sure.

She wanted to nap after lunch and urged me to go painting for the afternoon and to come back for supper at five-thirty. I decided to take her suggestion and was heading out of her drive and I spotted a subject which struck an immediate chord in my heart. Tucked in the woods was one of the original cabins akin to that which Frank and I had stayed in ...way back when. It was unchanged... and took "Me" back to those exciting first Algonquin experiences.

All of the other quaint log cabins and the main log lodge were moved from their Galeairy Lake location across the road and down the Madawaska River ... a distance several kilometers away. They were modernized and updated to attract "higher end" clients and the cluster was renamed Adventure Lodge. I gave a workshop and demo there in those very comfortable quarters the winter before last.

During the two hours of painting this subject... my head "danced with sugar plums"... as visions of previous visits... events... conversations even... and the faces of many individuals I painted with and admired deeply for their artistic abilities and passion... who are now... sadly departed this earthly existence. Time has a way of silently creeping up on one... and having its way finally with us all.

Gertrud appeared near the end of the session... and wandered over... all the time querying my reason for being there painting... when the Park was so close at hand. When she saw the sketch... and heard my reasons she was moved I think. She mentioned that the cabin had been kept intact for that very reason. It could be accessed by clients at Couples with their key (cards)... Chuckle! Chuckle! ... see within the relics and photo collection which chronicled the entire history of Bear Trail Inn and Couples Resort.

She offered me her key card and I made a quick visit to the "shrine" and enjoyed several moments alone with that memory treasure bank stored within. I shall return on my next rainy day in the Park for a fuller look and enjoyment... for certain!

After a wonderfully relaxing and sumptuous Hungarian goulash meal... and conversation that piqued my taste buds so... that I required no dessert. The meal ended with a rich cup of expresso... backed by numerous biscotti. What could be better to end such a wonderful visit?

Thank "You" friend Gertrud for this visit... and all of the wonderful times that you and Fritz served up to all opf us at Bear Trail!!

I... a bit sadly... bade Gertrud adieu... and was really going to just have a quick drop in to say hi to my other pals, David and Diane Kay who also live in Whitney... and own and operate the East Gate Motel.

I first met them as their overnight guest... but as I would discover... David was also a very accomplished and dedicated painter... an outfitter... trekker... part time undertaker... handyman... and very well respected and established member of the Whitney and closely-knit Park community... a jack-of-all-trades. Being so remote and operating a motel teaches those necessary lessons for survival!

Since then... David and Diane have become our friends and when opportunities arise... we visit back and forth... David and I painting... and the gals doing... well whatever gal pals do when on the loose together. In short... we have become very good friends and have made some very good and lasting memories together.

They are first class folk... generous... friendly... intelligent and obliging individuals who would be great hosts "with artist pocketbook" accommodation rates... should any of you desire ...or find yourself in the Park. Just contact www.igs.net/~outfitters/ ... or appear at the East gate Motel office in Whitney and ask for David or Diane. Tell them that Bruce recommended you... first class friendly Canadian treatment and artistic support guaranteed!

During our catching up... they insisted that I stay over.. so that we could have a lengthier visit. So I checked in with Deb to bring her up to speed on my safe arrival and my plan to remain over and to amble my way back to Hillsdale for suppertime the next evening... with a promise of bringing supper with me - which I did!

After a filling breakfast of sausage , toast , eggs... and several cups of their great coffee I headed off to the West Gate and back towards Hillsdale... taking in the sights as they rolled by.

The Park was strangely different on the drive home... when I had time to poke about and not have to battle the hazardous rain and roads. I was dumb founded to discover distressingly low water levels everywhere that I visited. In all of my years in coming to the Park, I had never seen water levels this low.I decided to pull into the Park Headquarters at the East Gate entrance and inquire about this baffling and disturbing situation.

I learned that the answer was fairly simple. The water levels follow cyclical patterns and are heavily influenced by abnormal weather shifts. This year, there was an over abundance and highly unusual amount of rainfall during the early spring... necessitating the release of larger amounts of water in the spring at dam control points placed at intervals throughout the myriad of rivers and lakes... some of them huge in this vast wilderness Park. The fear of devastating washout conditions along highways and cottage fronts necessitated this dire decision.

The later drought conditions that I have mentioned in previous posts which effected my area to the west... also visited the Park causing the complete drying up of marshes... roadside swales and small creeks and rivulets along Highway 60... the main east-to-west artery leading visitors through the Park. I am including a few jpegs to give you the idea... and a painting jpeg to create a yardstick of comparison.

As you can readily see and understand... this will indeed impact species large and small whose lives are dependent upon water ie. plant life ,waterfowl, beaver, deer, moose, fish to name but a few vulnerable species... the list is endless. The comforting aspect remains however... that the Park is monitored closely and carefully managed by knowledgeable staff can be made to lessen the effects which left unchecked... would be disastrous. Let's hope so!

We are indeed... but small grains of sand on a huge beach that we know as the Universe... subject to the same whims and sometimes harsh conditions that cycle about... seeming at the wrong time... and as they please. Though we can "think".... and can change the course of natural order in a negative fashion... the first and only species to have that claim... we are indeed subject to whatever Mother Earth wishes to deliver. Arrogance... and there seem so much of that everywhere in society... from us to the decision-makers these days. Take heed I guess... OR????

Back to the easel and on with my work!

Good Painting to ALL!... and Happy Summer... what remains. Use it wisely!