Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beatin' the Heat!... Chillin!

The heat goes on... here in the Islands! Lily pads serve as visual evidence that the strength of the angry sun is continuing to lower the water level in the River. The pads hang in mid air at least four to six inches above the surface of the water where they usually sun bathe coolly for the entire summer.

The Bajan term "chillin'... simply means doin' what one likes best! So our painting group pressed forward... despite all the heat talk and headed... "out there"... plein airing! And the heat dissipated... and dissolved as each... through his or her work entered "the Flow"... that zone where Time an other earthly concerns seem not present. You know what I mean... don't you Gang?

All flowering plants in gardens droop and sag... begging for even a slight evening watering to help them hang on. Corn fields are tasselling up... but the ears show little in the way of kernels or their usual late summer promise of their golden bounty... and long-awaited sweet corn... for summer corn roasts or boils.

Still... my Tuesday morning carried off our weekly get together... determined and undeterred by the fact that the temperature might reach into the low 90s F by midday. I had decided to take the class to my daughter Lisa's lovely home  three kilometres east of Rockport on Kerry Point Road for the outing... knowing that all of our needs could be met... and comfortably so... on her spacious and beautiful property right on the shore of the River.

Here there were ample and abundant possibilities to choose from Still life, floral or landscape subjects were everywhere to paint. There is also ample shade both on and under her long second storey deck. From there one could take advantage of clear vistas of nearby island groupings. Thirdly... there are wash room facilities for the ladies... if required. Men are never short of those facilities when plein air painting... every clump of bush cover provides these amenities! HA HA!!

I decided to demo using my medium of choice... oils, of course and to work on 5x7 inch toned Masonite panels. I offered the challenge to complete two paintings /sketches for this outing. I added that this would be facilitated better... if we focussed upon bypassing the usual drawing part of the painting session at the beginning... and worked "alla prima". So this meant there was to be an alla prima start in oil... water colour and in acrylics.

I described what the term "alla prima" meant... and demonstrated how I could employ that technique in my brief oil demo. I selected a section of a clump of purple cone flower, or purple ecchinacea... cropping and isolating a small area that interested me using my two pointers and thumbs to form a vertical triangular viewfinder. I discussed that I was going to create the image on the panel using only geometric forms and masses to establish my overall rudimentary design.

I completed this within five minutes... emphasizing the need to make distinct and well thought out strokes... taking care not to remove... cover  or change the stroke. The simple "golden rule" for brushwork in oils: "a stroke laid... is a stroke stayed" applies. This prevents overworking the rich colour and reducing it to a (blah) neutral and an unpleasant and impotent effect.... and thereby limiting the chance of the painting's success... or even causing its failure.

I spent another five to ten minutes adding brighter values... creating lost and found edges... balancing... push n' pulling it together to create harmony. Lastly... I offered them an opportunity to take a real "leap of faith"... and to boldly assume complete ownership of the subject... rather than replicating what was before them. I added a bright and carefully placed ....Buttercup????... from my memory... shafts of intermittent blue sky streaks which weren't possible to see when looking down at the cone flower composition... as I had to create it in the first place. What I was offering then... was an entirely new perspective... one challenging the viewer... in your face.... AND FROM BELOW the actual flower group.

The last part of the exercise was to have the group view this painting/sketch from twenty paces away. From there... the obviously interesting composition begged the viewer to come closer to "see" more. Good or bad up close... a well designed and composed painting from the start... is intoxicating to the brain..even from across a room. A poor one gets little more than a look... and hardly serves as an invitation to jump in... or to explore further... and to finally "see" what the artist was attracted to paint.

The second demonstration... this time a horizontal use of the small 5x7 inch panel  format focussed upon a clump of islands and a small cabin just east of Lisa's site. I treated it in the same fashion... and completed the lay in demo (as shown) within five to ten minutes. I offered that I would stop at this particular juncture... take a digital photo to help me finish the painting back in the studio later. I offered to send them a jpeg to follow suit. This is how I often finish up... when time or light forces a hasty retreat! In this final rendering... I left the alla prima mode... preferring to finish in my usual fashion and painting style.

So the day, which indeed was steamy and with a punishing sun... if you tried to stand out in it... was a totally successful day for all! Each of us produced the two paintings... enjoyed each other's company and built an even more pleasurable rapport with other members. Plein air painting has a strange way of expanding one's learning in more than just an artistic way. It is wonderful to find kindred spirits with whom to share one's ideas and journey. Time has a way of getting away from us all. July... is suddenly on the very verge of being swallowed up by an anxious-to-arrive August. Summer seems to be... "slip-slidin' away." In his 1977 pop hit Paul Simon wrote:

"Slip -slidin' away...
Slip-slidin away
You know the nearer your destination the more you're slip-slidin' away."

Many interpretations have been offered for Simon's lyrics here in this song. I'm not certain what he really meant... but to me it suggests that too often we let opportunities and valuable earthly Time slip away from us wastefully. In so doing, we create a deep sense or regret... sadness and in some cases great pain because we know that we could have achieved more... acted better... made more of our Selves than we have done.

In my belief system and experience... it is NEVER too late to recommence our journey from a place where we got off track. True... that the same opportunity and outcome won't in all likelihood ever become what it could have been "way back then"... but there exists a cathartic feeling of worth... and achievement in knowing within your Self that you CAN redeem earlier mistakes.

Granted... raising a family and creating a solid career over a lifetime are indeed art forms in themselves and are  worthy accomplishments on any scale of achievement. But there remains one last question to be answered in my mind. What comes afterward?... or do we just succumb gracefully to age and the end of the rainbow... Autumns of our lives?

"What new purpose can life hold for you?"... is the question! My suggestion is to find some thing - something for which you have... or have always had a passion for. Serve it to the best of your ability. Find others who share your passion and expand each other's life and vision... through that sharing. Choose to leave this earth living... and not dying!

Picasso is quoted as having said:

"Man's only task in Life... is to find himself."

I can guarantee you that in achieving that knowledge and understanding of one's Self... one discovers the true meaning of Peace and Contentment. "I" am deeply blessed... to have found my own True/Authentic Self... and in so doing I found "Another"... who loves and values that Self as much as her own. And I have learned to love and be proud of that Self as well!

I wish you the same journey of Discovery... Happiness and Adventure! One equal in dividends to my own!

"Berry Island... one in a Thousand!" - an oil sketch on toned Masonite panel 5x7 inches

The 5-10 minute lay in version.... unfinished

The digital reference to aid in finishing

"Summer... At a Quick Glance" - oil sketch on Masonite panel 5x7 inches

Good Painting and Happy Summer to ALL!!


  1. Food for thought as well as a visual feast. I enjoyed this post in many ways. Summer has finally arrived here, the sun is shining and someone has turned up the heat. Now to get outside painting! Many thanks Bruce and happy painting to you.

  2. Bruce you are such a nice man. I love when you wax philosophic too. Love both your pieces and I am wondering what the inside of that little place looks like on Berry Island...

  3. Good Morning Lisa!... Raining here... would you believe it? How great that is... the first really in all of July for these parts! The heat's been turned down here as well! Your turn I guess! Break out the ice n' lemonade! HA HA!!!

    "Food for thought and visual feast"??? Brings to mind a phrase:

    "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence..." HA HA!!! Hardly that... but nice to know that you found something worth thinking about and perhaps enjoyed for a few moments!

    That makes "Me" smile! Thank you for that!

    Good Painting and Happy Summer Lisa!
    Warmest regards,

  4. Good morning there Sherry!... Nice to hear from "You" as always! Nice to hear that optimism in your voice.

    It would seem that the cabin notion is strong in your psyche Sherry. You don't need to mown one to experience the joy of knocking one off the 'ol "Bucket List"! Oh and by the way... livin' in a truck is a sort of cabin experience... n'est-ce pas???? HA HA!!

    Count your blessings and the small things Sherry.... like blogging friends... like "Me"!! We care!

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. I like both pieces presented + the ten min. version, but "Summer... At a Quick Glance" really trips my trigger, Bruce! The colorful, gestural, work is invigorating!

    Thanks for sharing your method of alla prima. I try to always stand by a "stroke laid is a stroke stayed"!

    We Are suffering from high temps and no rain down here. But as I write, it is thundering with promise in the distance.

  6. Hi there Dean!... Thanks for visiting and for your encouraging comments!

    We share so many common approaches to making art and in the principles we value and use to conduct our daily lives!

    It rained all night and all of today... gently and often in sudden bursts. The flowers can almost be heard drinking.... something we thought was not going to happen!

    I might even paint in the rain... should it continue tomorrow! A thought!

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Glad to see the heat and humidity have not dampened your enthusiasm for outdoor painting! And I know it's been weeks since I very distracted by lots of stuff. Here it finally became more summer like a couple of weeks ago which meant we could finally do a lot of outside jobs. Still, it only gets to maybe 21 or 22 degrees on the warmest days. Rain comes back every couple of days but not enough to "dampen" our resolve to be enjoying summer! We live on the lower slope of a mountain similar to the one in Johnson's Landing that recently fell down and buried a few homes...hoping that doesn't occur here! Meanwhile, I am getting ready for my son's wedding in August and still have SO much to do!

  8. Hi there Karen!... Have missed your presence and grand imagery... but Hey!... A Gal has to do what a Gal has to do!

    Wedding plans first... then back to the drawing board refreshed and ready to paint up a storm!

    The weather seems to be really weird everywhere in the world.... been dry as the Gobi here! But we did enjoy a good night and full day of rain yesterday... and already the grateful grass has begun to re-green!

    Good luck with the planning... the dress looks stunning! Hope the weatherman fills the bill for the big day! Fingers crossed for you all... here in Rockport, Ontario!

    Good Painting and planning!
    Warmest regards,