I had my painting class pal Robin and a lady visitor to the Gallery... who at my urging made the effort to come and experience her first ever plein outing with us to start out the weekend. I stressed the fact that I would be moving about painting... more or less on my own after that first day... but they were more than welcome to join me if they wished.
Because I realized that being under public scrutiny in the beginning would be distracting for them... I chose a less travelled village site well away from the usually travelled paths of visitors. It was one where I had made a good painting... unmolested and one which contained strong elements and easy to interpret structure to lay in a good first start. Bina arrived late, but was able to get to the lay in stage... and was thankful to do so. She has had experience in the interior design field... and rose to the occasion quickly without any difficulty. She felt that she had enough on her canvas to leave it... and complete it back in Ottawa later. I finished mine and haven't touched it since bringing it back to the studio. C'est tout fini!
"The Grouts' Garden Solitude" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches
I had long completed this first painting of the day, so I decided that rather than moving elsewhere... I would encourage both of my painting pals who were heads-down-busy...to push further with their own first efforts by simply remaining close by. I simply turned my own easel a full 180 degrees to face southward... and began a "run-for-the-sun thirty minute study looking through a group of willows to the tip of Club Island. I have titled it "Willowview, Club Island in September" - oil on toned 8x10 inch panel.
My goal was to treat this panel loosely... as a study... looking only to grasp essential bits and colour... with little or no intention of adding extraneous detail. I fully achieved that goal... and packed it away when in my mind it felt finished.
Strangely enough, my art historian daughter Allison selected this small sketch/study as her personal favourite of all the works I had completed. That pleased me... because she cited her reasons as the very goals that I had sought to achieve as the elements that she preferred.
Deb intensely disliked the same piece saying that it seemed too smooth and "unfinished" for her eye. Both reasons are acceptable to me... for they are based upon what I consider is the only true measure of the value of a piece of art. Firstly... it should elicit a strong, but rational response by each viewer. The viewer then becomes an active part and contributor to the painting process in tandem with the artist. Why else do we exhibit what we paint? Are we not always putting forth the question: "Well... what do you think?"
I'm totally satisfied with a "split decision." At least I wasn't KO'd anyway!
Saturday's Painting Foray to Pine Island... A Day in Paradise !
I had been waiting for Saturday to arrive. When we had first moved to Rockport back in mid-April
I was given a book to read entitled : "Of Time and an Island" written by respected US journalist, biographer, historian and social critic, John K Keats who had purchased this very island as a summer retreat for he and his young family from hectic citified life. He fell under the spell of The River Goddess... who has captured and owns the souls of all who come under her spell, and finally quit his "job" to pursue a lifetime of "work" conducted wholly and gleefully on this very Pine Island Paradise. His family, now grown and widely spread out family of children continue to arrive here each summer... and until late fall each year... with the predictable precision and instincts of the Canada Geese who as well, claim seasonal residency in these Thousand Islands.
I have been so effected... no moved by this book, that I have purchased it for winter reading and for further inspiration in my painting. What an honour it and privilege it was to paint alone on a section of this small piece of Eden... looking along the very path that Keats had passed to and from his writing refuge... to work in a small white frame cottage looking up river towards Club Island. During the course of my three hour interlude, I surely felt his presence and hope, that in some small way that our being there doing "our work"... might have caused he and his beloved wife Margaret to look down... and smile contentedly.
Pine Island remains the same refuge and womb for play and creativity that he worked hard to create for both he and his family. It surely proves... and gives credibility to my own belief that "Art Matters... in all of its varied forms. So does the life and service one offers to those with whom they share their journey. This first of two canvases done on the island Saturday I hope captures that idyllic and still rustic "River"cottage feeling of belonging which I enjoyed along with folks like Keats for the better part of my early life close to Rockport.
In Rockport... where we currently reside we have been most graciously accepted as the "newcomers" which we most certainly are. We will forever remain as "guests"... people who are always made to feel welcome, but never as fully vested,village born and raised members. In that sense, we understand... accept and take no exception to the fact that we will always have the status of being... "from away". This in no way offends us. It is merely the fact that birth most often determines place and rank in every place that I have chosen to live in.
But on this morning... and on the Keats Pine Island family refuge, I feel "at Home"... in every sense of the word. I feel totally removed from the threats... chaos and discouragement of a too fast moving society that I know longer feel a part of. I feel alive... unfettered... at peace with my thoughts while the pockets of noisy flitting warblers visit my easel unafraid of my presence. I feel the wind which still sighs in the great white pine.. still guardian of this sanctuary. His shade and woodwind musical accompaniment soothes my senses... just as it did for Keats so many seasons now passed.
How could I not paint a good painting? And paint a good one I did! Good enough to be awarded one of the four People 's Choice Awards at the conclusion of the event. It was NOT the technical qualities of the painting. Rather, I believe that it was the essence of the strongly attached emotional feeling just described which I was able to transcribe on to the canvas. Others thought and felt so as well. That pleases me beyond the value of any award recognition. In my own story telling fashion... using paint... I have passed forward the very special legacy and gift of two very special River People... perhaps beyond my own time. Is that not a reasonable level of... "Immortality"?.... "I" wonder....
What do you think? I 'd be interested to hear from you!
"Sunlit Path to John Keats' Windswept Refuge" - oil on canvas 20x16 inches
"Looking North Over the Keats Windswept Studio" -oil on canvas 10x8 inches
Right after lunch, the sky greyed up and threatened menacingly to bucket down on our painting troupe. I quickly grabbed a black toned 8x10 inch canvas from my kit and booted it to the top of the hill which gave a panoramic view over the studio directly northward towards Rockport. Sensing the urgency of time... I quickly dashed off this twenty minute study of the studio... swaddled, as it remains today in masses of stag sumac... resting for the final b;lazing fanfare of autumn seeming to be awaiting their cue to perform colourfully in the grand pageant of colour here in the Thousand Islands. Piny Woodwinds... supported by the first strains of soaring brass of autumn... it is indeed an intentional portrait of those grand opening bars of Autumn's symphony of colour. Over-the-top capital "R" Romantic you say? Absolutely... and no apologies offered! Music and poetry exist and play continually in my mind and soul, wherever mood...colour... harmony and and solitude come together in my journey. "I" am truly and proudly... a capital "R" Romantic.
Back on Land- Saturday 4:15 pm
When I arrived back from Pine Island, Deb told me that a number of visitors had dropped by looking for the "working artists" who were supposed to be in the village painting. There were none on Front street... which is action central for the main throngs of visitors by car... or those from tours... either prior to boarding or after their boat tour. So, I quickly grabbed a small 5x7 inch toned panel and my paint box... nothing else and headed up the street towards this site close by which never fails to interest me. I quickly found a place out of the way behind a telephone pole...sat down... opened my box... selected a 1/4 inch sable bristle brush and began furiously painting the panel held vertically in my bare hand.
"Up the Lane to the Cornwall Pub and Grill" - oil on panel 7x5 inches
... Not a stone's throw from home!
This mini-painting was completed in just fifteen minutes... no solvents... just a rag to somewhat clean the brush. I decide "just to let things hang out"... and for one of the very few times when I paint... I truly set out to create as a painting as abstract as my impressionist temperament and habit would allow. I am thrilled with the result. It "says so much... with so little"... and there was absolutely no feeling of restriction or feeling at all cramped or pressure by time and space. Wish that I could come at painting more often in this fashion! Hey!... What a great idea!
Sunday Morning... Not a Stone's Throw From Home!
I had decided to get "out there" as quickly as possible... to be alone and to find a spot and settle into painting quickly. I wanted to escape the distraction of the crowds of visitors who mill about and wander wherever they wish, so I chose another site where this would be possible. I had long admired this quaint house in the village and I have known its owner Margot Miller for quite a long time. She has a long-established and respected reputation as an artisan, painting fashionable items of ladies clothing with colourful acrylic washes.
The dappled light erratically flooding through the nearby trees created interesting patterns, both on the simple white clap board home itself and on the various planes of ground, road and shrubbery as well. Here was such an opportunity "to let 'er fly" with this painting as well..To paint rapidly tying shape to shape... shadow to shadow... interlacing these with the rich, bright light which presided over this idyllic scene. I began the painting at 10:15 am... and packed up and returned home at 11:00 with what I feel was my most enjoyably energetic painting of the weekend. What an uplifting finish for such an exciting plein air experience!
"Dazzled by the Light...at Margot Miller's House" - oil on canvas 14x18 inches
Our event came ceremoniously to an abrupt but welcomed end at Caiger's Resort with an informal Wine and Cheese get together and opportunity for the public to mingle with the participating artists who were anxious to share their weekend painting results with the other artists... and the public Folks attending were given a single vote to be cast for their favourite painting in the collection. The focus and goal of this artist-friendly annual event is to paint... share time and ideas and simply to have fun together. It is not about "prizes". It was our intention and sincere hope... that everyone attending would return home... "a winner." Judging by the paintings and the comments of all artists there.... everyone did so! The 3rd Annual Rockport Plein Air Paint Out should likely attract many more painters and visitors, all anxious to repeat their success!
Good Fall Painting to ALL!!
My next post will come to you after my trip up to Algonguin Park! Stay tuned... the colours are on the move... and so is "Yours Truly!
"Oh ... I have slipped the surly bonds of earth... "
John Gillespie McGee, Jr
RCAF Pilot, Killed in action in WWII