Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

"The Gathering"- Opeongo Road - oil on canvas 12x10 inches

"Winter Waning... in Algonquin Park" - oil on panel 20x24 inches

"Melt Water Reflections Along the Madawaska" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

"Madawaska Relics" -oil on panel 16x20 inches

Morning... and Fog-shrouded Islands at Rockport

Golden Goose at Dawn

Rushing Water at O'Hara 's Mill, Hastings, ON

Well... Spring has indeed arrived in full dress over these past three days! The above average temperatures for March have the entire human and animal world... "a-flutter!" Flocks of newly arrived American Robins... the honorary ambassador for Spring in these parts... along with Red Winged Blackbirds and Canada Geese fill the Spring air with ribald tunes of male rivalry, as each species claims its territorial space and enters into the annual rituals of mating. Even the small amphibians that fill each large puddle or brackish backwater and swamp have begun their nightly serenade... living up to their title as night "peeper- a joy to the ear!

Once winter-silenced creeks and streams are now raging torrents of foaming cascades and fast-moving dark waters... running towards the larger rivers and lakes. Beavers are busy everywhere building and repairing their large dams beaten down by the fury of this new water deluge... busy trimming saplings and even larger trees to be used in their engineering projects to shore up their dams.

Beside the house and in the garden... the daffodils are now fully bloomed... pansies as well. The tawny grass... and fields are revealing a prelude to their summer greens already. All of the trees have budded and the Oro hills have shifted to their traditional pinkish red dress... and the softwoods are displaying their catkins. I cut sprigs of pussy willows to place in a bouquet for my daughter Lisa. The maple syrup run is finished for certain. The temperature today of 19C is the highest ever recorded for this date. As welcoming and warming as it may be to the winter wearied body... it remains troubling to the mind... that such severe change has occurred almost overnight!

Children have shed their winter layers and are arduously pumping their bikes all over the village once again. Young teenagers clad in tees.. flip-flops and shorts are either skate boarding... or strolling back and forth through the village... hand-in-hand with their "spring squeeze." Is the human response to Spring's arrival much different than the rest of the animal kingdom? I think not! HA HA!! Spring has simply... quite suddenly sprung up everywhere... and with it a spirit of renewal... Love and ...Hope!

We are busy into the packing... getting ready for the quickly approaching moving date. I am off to Algonquin Park next weekend to help my friend David Kay with his Spring Paint Out in the Park Group... and will contribute an evening demo on Saturday evening. Looking forward to a paint with David and the twenty-three fellow plein air enthusiasts. Still some snow in the woods and sheltered places there to add some interest to the spring painting.

This will be my absolute last "spring fling"... en plein air... until Rockport is all in place. I was down to Rockport for the weekend to make final arrangements and arrange for material deliveries with the fellow we have contracted to convert the 24x30 foot garage into our gallery space. I have the new brochure which I designed and a new sign back from the printer as well. Those important checks are now off the "to-do-list"... so things are well underway at both ends!

These jpegs illustrate some of the sure signs that spring has indeed arrived in Rockport... and what Algonquin will look like next weekend! These paintings were from last year's Spring foray! Stay tuned...

Wishing you all... Good Painting... and a Happy Spring!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Have ya e'er bin ta sea Matey?"...

"Team Canada".... Willy Smail's Bush, Groveton - oil on canvas 5x7 feet

"Hangin' on... at Bush Island, Nova Scotia" oil on canvas 20x24 inches

"The Old Man ... and the Sea" - Indian Point, Nova Scotia- oil on canvas 14x16 inches

Despite a deep urge to head out to local sugar bushes during the past week... I stuck it out in the studio and completed the last piece to be shipped down to my gallery rep in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I'm now caught up with my painting duties until after our move.

Both paintings, I think capture the very deep feeling of respect that I developed there during my five year life experience... for the quickly disappearing way of life and the hard working coastal people who inhabit the many fishing villages and coves all along the vast seashore of Nova Scotia.

Many of my friendships formed were with people who been personally touched by the hardships which life on the sea can bring to those who put out to sea to make a living. But as harsh as the sea can become... there is a love for it... and a need to be near... or better still on it... or as I heard it said about one fisherman who had been drowned by the sea:

"He was one of 'em who needed havin' de water under 'em." That says it all eloquently in their own tongue, I think.

A couple of phrases from Ernest Hemingway's marvelous sea epic, The Old Man and the Sea support the feelings of pride in and acceptance of hardship as a necessary part of being a fisherman. The old man protagonist of the story, Santiago... to the boy: "Anyone can be a fisherman in May."

Hemingway's protagonist Santiago also said..."No man is lost at sea." I

My painting of "The Old Man and the Sea" is a tribute to Hemingway... and the courage of the countless souls who lived upon... and loved life at sea. And especially... to the memory of the many sons of the sea who were taken.

I'll add one pictorial tribute sweet salute to the Maple Gathers! A good run for All!

Good Painting and Happy Spring to ALL!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Once there was a tree... and she loved a lttle boy."

Two "Old" Canadians... still standing proud... and TALL in Cathedral Grove, British Columbia

"Maple Morning Glory" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

Crooked.... interesting trees... "Leaning Towards Autumn" - oil on Canvas 36x48 inches

Even fallen trees... "Life Is a Beach"- Sooke, BC- oil on panel 24x48 inches

A wedding gift... "A New Beginning"- oil on panel 10x20 inches

"A Birch Copse In Late Winter" - oil on canvas 24x20 inches

Trees... Coming and going... "A Family Gathering" - oil on canvas 36x48 inches

Tapped Maples Standing tall..."Sunbathing In Spring" - watercolour on paper 22x30 inches


My post title this morning is "borrowed" from one of my favourite books. These are the opening lines of a very special book, "The Giving Tree"... by the late children's literature author Shel Silverstein. I "discovered " this book... or more succinctly and accurately.. it discovered "Me" when I was teaching children with specific learning disabilities. It quite literally "fell off the shelf "... and into my needy hands.

I say needy... because I was new to this "special" class assignment and freshly back from a self-funded leave of absence, a time that I had chosen to paint full time and to open the Gingerbread Gallery in Camden East, Ontario. The experience was both gratifying and profitable, but with a baby on the way and more than anticipated costs to renovate our newly purchased and very neglected Victorian-style new home... it was necessary to return to a more predictable teaching income to support these very real life needs.

Back to the needy part! I was needy... simply because no curriculum outline existed to guide me in conducting an educational programme to resuscitate the learning of these children with special needs. All had "fallen through the cracks" in the regular public education system... and had failed and were totally left behind their peer group. I had to devise my own curriculum, based upon my instincts... my own interests and skills... and my "read" on " how these kids worked... more to the point... why they wouldn't.

The term ADHD was (still is)... the "go word" attached to all of them... "behavioural" as you might expect followed the clinical diagnosis. The common trait was that all were withdrawn from risking in math and language and none could... or wanted to read and write. They wanted to play... quarrel and upset any learning environment. I understood their feelings in a strange way, simply because in my life in school, I had been less than successful in these as well... choosing to "doodle my way" through grade school... and through seven years in high school.... the two extra years being dedicated entirely to my educational passion at the time... football and cheerleaders. I was good at both... and no art programme existed in our high school. My grades met the lowest average that permitted my eligibility for football... so goin' nowhere academically.

A very special teacher... friend and mentor, the late Don Taylor... an English teacher recognized my "interest" in art... and my love of poetry. Using these strengths, he encouraged me to read... and participate more in class... rather than to try and control the class with my clown act... yet another (misused) strength. His mentorship and genuine interest in "Me" as a person turned my school life around. Art became much more than just the act of painting in my life. From that moment forward... it became my mission to share through my art...

He taught me to capitalize upon my strengths to create opportunities which advanced the "possibility" that I might actually graduate. Through him and his gift... I regained my self-esteem which had masqueraded for far too many years... sheathed in adolescent stand up humour and head-butting. I became head boy in the school... and did in fact graduate. I moved on to London Teacher's College and graduated in 1965... a full fledged..."certified" and ready-to-roll educator! HA HA!!

These tools would become the very basis of discovering and developing my own brand of pedagogy throughout my entire teaching career. Self-esteem became the apex, or central hub of my learning model... Art being a "driver" ... along with Poetry/ Prose as a "vehicle" which I could use to encourage initial oral and written expression. Children's literature... reading along with pictures.... replaced usually boring basal readers which affected only predictable outcomes... and most often... preordained failure for those with lesser strengths or experience in a totally language-based learning environment.

And so it went during my career... and in every classroom I worked with. This model again came to my aid in this new teaching experience... and with it ... "The Giving Tree." Having followed my posts you will note that the concept of"Giving"... remains a constant in my present mantra and my journey.

"We".... number like trees on this beautiful planet... different "species" perhaps... with different bark, colour and texture... height... abilities and locations. This analogy is in no way obtuse... don't you think? Simply... we are all a part of Creation... children of Mother Earth... subjects of the mysterious Universe.

Trees have always been special to "Me" ... even a young child. I often scaled a very ancient white pine at Narrows Lane Road... near Rockport... to seek solitude... a place where I could see the world over top of and well beyond Tar Island... Grenadier Island... clear to the United States in the very distant haze. I carved my initials into that tree... claiming it as my refuge... my safe haven.

That necessity for solitude has continued to be a part of my life... and though I no longer scale very tall trees... I reach out as far beyond "the din" of humanity that is possible for me to access... to again be alone with my thoughts and Creation. Trees still play a very strong part as subjects for my artistic interests.

The response to my two recent posts employing tree images encouraged me to look back in the archives to bring forward a collection to share which I feel does... borrowing a phrase from beloved Dr Seuss' wise Lorax... to indicate that: "I (too)... speak for the trees"... and have done so for the very same reasons. I used "Lorax"... then available on tape to workshop with teachers the use of children's literature to inject pertinent ecological and environmental lessons... and the importance of sharing using cartoons. Unique thought then... now a blockbuster hit at your local big screen theatres in the Now! A real money maker...

The final message in that Seuss classic... rings up a message which I have always maintained. Stewardship for the planet is better left in the hands of the young. With aging and current eldership comes cynicism and a sense of powerlessness. Technology has reached a blurring speed which dizzies all of us... just to simple things... like answering the (i)phone. The current trend which clearly demonstrates that the young have come of age... and now hold down the positions of higher decision-making... which in our day was reserved only for "seasoned"... and usually grey-haired veterans. It is a world for the young.

However... the other sign of the coin... and there always is one... is the reality that the span of childhood has decreased.. to the point where it almost no longer exists. Machines and electronic devices dispense knowledge... and have replaced hands on contact in the home... at school and play amongst peers.

There is great value and a sense of belonging gained from being held... sitting around a table sharing daily meals... being read to by an adult on a comfy couch... playing interactive board games together as a family or peer unit...kidding and talking "silly" talk with your child... before it becomes necessary to talk about things more crucial. These interim episodes in "growing up" form a platform of trial and error... preparation to deal with the world alone... and with your own survival toolbox. I am not at all sure that our current society realizes that this is crucial in establishing Self-Esteem in our children.

Much can still be be done to counter the cultural tsunami of mass electronic control... by simply doing the things that I have suggested with your children or grand kids. The place to begin is in early childhood. Children still respond to "old hat" ideas... such as a "Cat in the Hat" winter evening read on the couch... hot chocolate all around! Board games still rule at times in our house... and we all enjoy the fun-poking and the excitement when the elders are whopped... and trumped by the short guys!

I thank Caroline Simmill... my Highland Lass blogging Friend found at simmill-art@blogspot.com for the suggestion to revisit some old tree Friends. This post is for you Caroline! Enjoy!

A Light in the Attic is another Silverstein favourite as are all of the Bill Peet's wonderfully prose-driven, beautifully illiustrated series... beginning with... "Big Bad Bruce". What a stir... and hour of laughter (at my expense... or so they thought) that book caused in my class of misfits... when introduced by a whirling dervish... then... Johnny!

But that's another story... for another day!

"I" ... am blessed ... to have my memory!

Good Painting to ALL!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Friend... Ship!... To Marian

"Thanks For the Music!" - oil on canvas 16x12 inches

The title of this post might indeed seem a tad strange... be viewed perhaps as a "typo" at first glance. But I will put that to rest by offering this suggestion... that holding membership in our blogging family, or community... is akin to being a member of a crew... on "The Friend Ship"!

In my "conversation" early this morning with fellow Scottish blogging friend Carolyn Simmill, I responded that I would try to maintain at least a once-weekly post through the duration of time until we have moved to our new life in Rockport. My "to-do" list grows by the day... even though I tick off a couple here and there.

I must finish the last painting to send off my two works to Nova Scotia. That project came to a rather sudden and abrupt halt... with the very tragic and sad news of friend Suzanne Berry's loss of her husband and soul mate Tim. I was ready to commence the project today... but in my "quik check" of favs... I noticed a post at marianfortunationpaintingdaily@blogspot.com from Marian Fortunati in California announcing the passing of her beloved Dad and mentor on Leap Day.

Marian and I share so very much in common in both our personal and painting lives... in fact the parallels are uncanny really! And for that reason alone... I deeply feel and share her sense of loss at this moment. "Palette talk"... takes a sudden rear seat... and is replaced by the other connections which make us kindred spirits at least... and in our specific case.. extended family.

I have "visited" her lovely... upbeat site to pay my condolences. What attracted me there was a painting she had done of a grandchild and her Dad at the piano... a painting that "She" offered as her tribute to her Dad and mentor.I have such a photo of my Dad with my children Allison and Andrew. I wish to offer a still life tribute "portrait of my own Mom and Dad"... now in the hands of their biggest fan Andrew... as a gift of condolence and respect to Marian . Paintings are merely essays... "written using colour and brushstrokes"...

Another piece of "synchronicity"???? My Dad and Mom's 78th Wedding Anniversary is March 1st... Leap Day! How strange the Universe... How the same we all are!!!

Much Peace and love Marian at this difficult time... "You" are never alone!

Warmest regards and sympathy,