Friday, February 10, 2012

"Yesterday's Dreams", Bush Island, Nova Scotia

End lay in result of painting session #1

Second run with the knife-Day #2 - Note new "ideas" creeping in

Final stage - Day #3 Cleaning up the "too" darks areas and more clearly extablishing the water and pilings areas to create a stronger... more readable foreground

Detail of impasto knifework on shed and in water surface

Addition of clothesline as compositional device and "colour surprise"

"The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see."

-Barry Neil Kaufman

Happiness Is a Choice

An aside...

When I first painted en plein air in this place back in 1999, I was drawn to its raw isolation and its remoteness. Rarely... did I encounter... even see any of its inhabitants... except on one occasion when a young lad of about ten came forward to greet me and to ask questions... many questions! He and his family lived in the weather beaten yellow home seen in the upper right of my painting and it was quite obvious that he lacked for many of the things that other children have and take for granted. It was these other things that enjoined us as kindred spirits. Age is never a barrier... when this is true!

He did however... have panache and an infectious smile. He seemed an "old soul." During the course of painting his home, he related how a lady artist came to the island each summer and that she had taken an interest in him because of his interest and ability to draw and paint. He asked if I would be interested at all in seeing some of his work... and I assured him that I am ALWAYS interested in seeing the art of others.

He appeared back at my painting location... in what seemed only mere seconds. He fanned out a fistful of his work on the grass and asked what I thought. I knew immediately why the "summer lady" took a shine to him. His ink drawings were marvellous... and I mentioned without hesitation that I really admired the portrait of the cat a lot. And without hesitation... he offered it to me... saying that he would be honoured for me to have it.

This young man... bright... confident and so generous really reminded me of another "small boy"... one who had been fortunate to have had many caring people to encourage his own life long journey. Art is the first expressive language for all children. They make pictures to describe their ideas and feelings... long before they master spoken or written expression. Their work is unbridled by rules... outside influence and instruction... or perhaps a better term ... obstruction! Even then... they paint and draw compulsively ... and with inner passion!

Sadly, with the increasingly earlier disappearance of childhood in our culture, the "child" in all children is made to grow up far too soon... and away from their love of picture-making as a form of personal expression. During my teaching journey, I was blessed to spend time with so many young people... helping them to recover their belief in their magic. And now... I find myself reaching out to "growed children"... greyed perhaps... by the rigours of raising families or a career... but not of spirit. It is NEVER too late to rekindle that belief buried under years of compromise and duty! Many of you are on that path... and it is a pleasure and honour to share ideas and that path to adventure. Art is for the young at heart. Strange! The word "Art" is contained within the word Heart!

We shared the day together... and at the conclusion of the session... I offered him the painting that I had made of his home. He was taken-a-back by my willingness to part with the painting. I told him that quite frankly... I much enjoyed his cat sketch to the oil... and to consider it a fair trade... one artist to another. I also assured "Him"... that we were equals... and on the same path!

Mission Accomplished! - "Yesterday's Dreams, Bush Island Nova Scotia"
oil on canvas 20x24 inches

Over the past two days I worked and reworked areas all over the surface... trying very hard not to totally disturb passages that seemed pleasing. Since I had placed lower values of colour almost everywhere at the outset... the raising of values... creating lost and found edges and applying heavier impasto where I felt it benefited was really quite easily achieved.

Yesterday was spent looking ... finding places here and there to be corrected to create balance and harmony... and bits of colour placed strategically to draw the eye around the composition. One "idea found" its way into the composition was the line of clothes... a predictable Monday morning ritual "detail"... in every cove or village that I ever visited Down East.

I think that this detail adds greatly to moving the eye... and serves as an unexpected "colour surprise." The gull on the roof... not easy with just the tip of a knife... is there... but not. One of many little details to search for on a compositional treasure hunt . So many other things that existed in the place in reality (though they exist still in my mind) have been eliminated from the actual painting. They are merely "clutter"... and must be winnowed away to leave the real kernels of interest. That's the art in painting!

I truly hope that each of my readers finds something in my adventure... to further their own journeys. Art is meant to be shared... unconditionally with the world... no matter "how good" it is is... or compares to others. Take courage to reach out. Your way of seeing the world will never be the same as any other. It is unique! I always enjoy visiting the sites of Friends to see what their world looks like. I learn from each of you as well!

I am currently reading a wonderfully uplifting book authored by Barry Neil Kaufman entitled:

Happiness Is a Choice. From Chapter I, Living the Dream comes this mind-changing phrase:

"to no longer believe in what is,

but to start to believe in what you want."

That was the real intention and goal of this exercise. To physically demonstrate that you can make your art what you want it to be.. not to restricted by "what is." Real joy comes out of watching your mind "imagineer" a new reality... one that is your very own. The act of creating through painting has been with me throughout my entire lifetime. It was a tool every day in my classrooms to motivate and excite children. And in one dark episode in my life... it became my recovery craft and has carried "Me" out of unimaginable Darkness and Despair. It alone... with a few good Friends provided Hope for a Tomorrow... that has become... Today!

I am deeply blessed!

Good Painting... and Adventuring to All !


  1. A wonderfully poignant story Bruce, a story that many will identify with. Thank you for sharing this. Your painting is a beauty that is made even more special by that grand image filled title.

    As someone once said..."everyone deserves happiness"

    We must remain as close to the flowers, the grass, and the butterflies as the child is who is not yet so much taller than they are. We adults, on the other hand, have outgrown them and have to lower ourselves to stoop down to them. It seems to me that the grass hates us when we confess our love for it. Whoever would partake of all good things must understand how to be small at times. ~Friedrich Nietzsche


  2. Hi there Jeffrey! Thanks for your very uplifting comments and for the so very appropriate Nietzsche quote!

    "Being small"... by remembering what it feels like to be a child... and retaining the freedom and truth which are at first intrinsic to all children... can do a whole lot to discovering true Happiness... even late in one's Life!

    It is always a pleasure to connect and share our ideas Jeffrey! Our journeys and ideals do in fact... run in parallel!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, I like the way that the painting has come together in the final stages. I quite liked the mysterious darkness under the decking, but I agree that it does read better now. The washing, also, is a nice touch. It brings a bit of life and suggested movement into the painting.

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to meet that young lad again and find that he has found a way to follow his heart.

    All the best,

  4. Good evening Keith!... Thank you for dropping by and for your positive comments about the painting and project!

    Glad too that you liked the details and changes... I think they work! The clothesline does indeed a human element to an otherwise empty fishing village setting!

    I often think of that lad Keith... and like you... I do hope that fortune smiled upon him... as it did this other not-so-young fellow!

    Oh... that "He" was able to find others who placed value on his gift... and showered him with supportaand encouragement. The Universe yields many surprises! Maybe I shall meet him once more! I would like that!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. I wonder what happened to the young lad you met on location back in 1999 could he still be drawing and painting! It is a fine story isn't it about the energy and pure creative spirit of the little people. They are still drawing and painting in our schools here. I was speaking to some of my art students the other day and quite a few told me thay didn't have art classes when they were at school! horrors just imagine not to have art classes at school, why painting was my santuary during my childhood. It is great to see how your painting has progressed Bruce. It had a kind of birth all of it's own during the postings here on your blog and finally it is complete. I like it, but I especially like the story of the young lad showing you his art, I can imagine him within your painting drawing or simply walking by those fine cabins you have painted so beautifully.

  6. Wonderful finish, Bruce! The clothesline works great!

    Thanks for the wonderful story.
    It was an elderly Picasso who said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”.
    There is great wonder,seeking,playfullness, and newness in a child's painting. It serves us well to reconnect.

  7. Hi there Caroline!... Thanks for your visit and meaningful comments!

    The story of the lad is really about the story of the art beginnings for most of us! None of us would likely have arrived where we are currently... without the support and encouragement of a host of people in our lives.

    The exercise was, as I mentioned... designed and carried out to demonstrate that art can be joyous when we own the process... where we aren't bridled with rules and formulas to make our art.

    Returning to our childhood habits of pursuing our passion with no attention to the obstructions and views of others!

    I am totally happy with the outcome... and hope that it added to journey of others!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  8. Hi there Dean!... So many thanks sent your way this evening!

    Thanks for your visit and positive comments!

    Thanks for sharing the eloquent and related Picasso quote! Right on!

    Thanks for your agreement with reconnecting with our inner child to build new creative ideas and works!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Fantastic painting, Bruce! I love the colors, the "stilts" with the negative painting - a beauty!!

  10. Hi there Linny!...Thanks for your visit and "over the moon" pleasing comments about this piece! They mean a great deal to "Me"
    coming from... "The Queen of Whimsy"! HA HA!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  11. I s the painting of Bush Island for sale, I am from there