Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Algonquin ... Unplugged!...Alla Prima!

Headed home a day early from the Park... to prepare things in Rockport in advance of "Sandy's" projected fury... also predicted to inflict high winds ... rain and potential damage along the St Lawrence from Toronto through to Quebec. First reports this morning do attest to some evidence supporting that prediction... especially in the Metro Toronto area which suffered power outage and tree damage.

Thankfully... here in Rockport, it appears that our area was only to have experienced high winds which have now all  but subsided... and the sun is brightly shining as I write this post this morning. Everyone was busy when I arrived in the village in late afternoon securing lines on boats and taking in garden and other outdoor items which might be buffeted by high winds. I placed my cedar strip "Island Spirit" safely up tight to the house... safely weighted and tarped out of potential harm's way. Better safe than sorry!

The painting adventure began well on Thursday afternoon when I arrived in Whitney under sunny skies and "Indian Summer" weather conditions... perfect for plein air painting. David and I took full advantage of the situation and headed full steam into the Park to begin the weekend of painting. We decided to set up on Opeongo Road merely because it was already well on in the day and daylight painting hours are much shorter.

We chose small 10x12 inch panels so that we could get in another sketch before the afternoon's end. We completed the first sketch and moved our easels merely a few feet from the first painting location. WQE quickly chowed down on our neglected sandwich lunches, all the while considering the possibilities in the new view. I chose a vertical 18x14 in canvas and stepped into a copse of birches overhanging Costello Creek. The light was failing very quickly, so "speed painting"... completely depending upon an intuitive response was essential to complete at least a "block in" to take back home. Surprisingly... we both came away good solid sketches. Speed can be accomplished... without compromising quality. I am posting these sketches raw from the field... completed "alla prima"... untouched at this point, so that one can clearly see the quick interpretive quality of these sketches. I am quite pleased with the underlying strength of both of these sketches... even before any possible changes might be added.

Thursday, October 25th'

Sketch #1- " October...Through the Gap Between Costello Creek and Lake Opeongo" - oil on cradle board panel 10x12 inches

 Sketch#2 - "The Late October Stillness of Algonquin" - oil on canvas 18x14 inches

Friday, October 27th

A break in the weather permitted a trip down the old Madawaskan Railway bed... now used by fourwheeler and snowmobile enthusiasts as a cross-country trail. We found ourselves alone for the most part of the day.. with just the sound of the wind and water to while we painted from on top of a railway bridge spanning a noisy creek. I completed this unusual square format for me... but it somehow seemed to fit the scene inb front of me.

Sketch #3 - "Algonquin Solitude and October Grandeur" - oil on canvas 18x18 inches

These rapids in the sketch below are located scarcely two hundred meters from the above sketch are a favourite destination for David and I. They always provoke interest and never fail to inspire a good result whenever we paint here. This day was no exception to that rule. This subject attracted me immediately ... I was drawn to its simple structure and its rich contrast between the dashes of remaining high colour... the foam and the dark water. This sketch was painted quickly again... in less than an hour because the light was again failing and the temperature we suddenly noticed had begun to plummet as quickly as the light was disappearing. Plein air painting demands that you pay attention to weather and time... or pay the price!

Sketch #4 - "Simply...Beautiful"- oil on panel 10x12 inches

Saturday, October 27th

The Weather began to shift into the pattern of what one can expect is traditional late October and early November weather fare in Algonquin Park. Cold... windy and sporadic rainy days which can turn on a dime within a mere fifteen minutes to... SNOW! And it did... just that quickly. BY late i  the day the snow began to fall in earnest... and the snowflakes were HUGE... sometimes with the feeling of a handful of snow thrown playfully in the face. Such conditions make out in the open painting absolutely out of the question.... and down right uncomfortably cold at the very least. Snow on the palette is disastrous .. changing the pigment to an unmanageable porridge consistently which will not adhere to the wet canvas or panel

The Painting session is over for certain under such conditions.... however prior thought and scouting provided David and I two sheltered locations... one piece of natural cover under a dense white pine cover and the other two under comfortable porch overhangs at the Opeongo and Canoe Lake Store sites. Both sites offered surprisingly unexpected painting subjects... but most of all... they were out of the cold wind and rain.

Sketch#5 -"Last Tamarack Colour Hangin' On" - oil on panel 16x20 inches
Exactly what lay before us under the porch roof of the canoe shed.

However... Sketch #6... seen below shows the results of some serious "Imagineering" on my part and in David's sketch as well. The view from our wash room shelter location left a lot to be desired in the way of inspirational appeal! Given the reality that the weather was so miserably cold and rainy, the alternative to not painting at all was simply to use our "selective eye" and our imagination to guide the painting process. Half way through the painting, we compared notes... and found that the paintings were too similar... so I opted for ..."a walk on the wild side"  and purely intuitive approach by simple dropping in a bending road... in place of the canoe  the "rude" racks and propane tank. It works for me!

Sketch #5 - "A Canoe Lake View... Intuitively Speaking!" - oil on sketch 10x12 inches
 Not exactly kosher perhaps... but it does capture the best part of a very bad situation and view!

Sunday, October 28th

While David helped out preparing the rooms for tonight at the motel, I ventured down the road to the central core of down town Whitney. As you drop down Highway 60 into Whitney, you pass by  a string of almost identical homes... the remnants of the company housing provided for the lumber company employees... when Whitney was a forestry-driven lumber town. This one, known locally as "The Harris House" is a favourite of mine. Its gold insul brick clad exterior glows when the late day sun strikes it.. affording the opportunity for making a warm painting... even in the very depths of the hard winter cold here.

I slashed it down really... placing everything down quickly with the full intention from the start... not to correct anything. It's simply one of those..."what-you-see... is-what-you-got" that I do occasionally when the cold and time are the absolutes... the determining factors in my painting process. David admired this one when he pulled up with his truck to pick me up for the day's painting together. He liked "its freshness and honesty", he said. I hope so... because he now owns it for his growing Sherman collection! HA HA!!

Sketch #7 - " Stormy Weather Ahead in Whitney" - oil on panel 10x12 inches

This 24x20 inch panel shown below is a subject that I had been dying to sink my teeth into for too long! We had passed it twice on this visit... and dozens of times in the past. However... each time before, there simply wasn't enough water falling down this step down waterfall to create the energy and interest that I wanted, so each time... we passed it up. On this day... everything was in place. It was perfect, so we launched into action and began the very difficult process of tracking and sorting out the path of the water and rock formations. IT is a very complex subject... but worth the effort if one nailed it.

Both of us were comfortably and successfully under way when the snow came cascading down... the size of tea saucers and without let up. Within a very few minutes it suddenly became impossible to put any more pigment on the water soaked panel and the snow covered palette turned to mush. Game over! Despite this exasperating situation... you can see the potential that already exists in the work as shown. I have enough to motivate me to continue this piece in the studio. I took a couple of photo references to assist me. However... I will rely on my own imagination more to finish than the photos... simply because the water action is there... and I have that feel from my first hand experience in the field Stay tuned!... I am looking forward to getting back to this one! No distinct title in mind as yet... but some ideas were being considered at the time that I ended the plein air session.

Now... to resist the urge to "Shermanize" them back in the studio. I will let them sit for a few days and cups o' java while I follow my usual habit of pondering what might enliven the sketch... but not take away from its "painterly" and spontaneous quality. That is... after all... the strongest reason for painting en plein air and as well... is usually the defining feature of outdoor work when compared with studio. In defence of any potential changes made... this is the time when one can totally "own" the painting... by adding from memory what one desires rather than what is dictated at the scene. Small details add richness... but "small"... is the go word oin this retouch process!]

Finally... in closing off the Algonquin Adventure 2012 post... I will share a couple of "extras"... things unexpected when one journeys to such a wonderful place as Algonquin Park. Here is a bull moose we met along the way on our first day out. A large fellow... likely recovering... "his vigour" after a long rut.. he stood motionless for so long... head up that he appeared dead. Perhaps he was indeed... "dead on his feet"! HA

Here are two of the family of four curious and playful otters who chomped on clam after and clam... before coming over to the dock where I awaited this photo session with them. They must be "regulars" at Canoe Lake dock... and they showed absolutely no fear of our presence! A very special moment!

This is one member of a small flock of loons... which I first identified as Arctic Loons. I observed the group and listened to their short throaty talk... deciding by their lighter body and head colour that they weren't common loons in winter plumage. In referring to my field books, I believe they were Red-Throated loons given that the other likely possibility, the Arctic Loon is an extreme rarity on the Eastern Flyway. Also the lighter coloured and upturned bill is more characteristic of the Red -Throated member of the loon family.

David... out of the rain and wind at Lake Opeongo. Where there's a will... there's always a solution!
Yours Truly pushin' paint on Opeongo Road ... "beside still waters!"

Two Painting Pals... Painting Alla Prima in Algonquin Park!

Good Painting to ALL!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Algonquin Park Bound!

A you are reading this ... I will be on the way to Algonquin Park to Paint for five days with David Kay and other long time friends.... after I drop Deb at the airport in Ottawa for her long awaited flight to Cranbrook, BC to visit with her precious Grand Girls Ava and Ella.

The tamaracks are high in their annual golden change, along with the oaks and birches... the maple glow down on the ground ... as it has done this week here. The hills have become smoky... and the colour muted ... as I prefer it! I have the car loaded with panels and canvases... a new set of paints and brushes and all of my gear loaded ready to get on the road in about an hour. I am up ( too early)... like "The Boy" always was on Christmas morn... driven by "visions of sugar plums... dancing in my head! And for me, this annual trek to The Park is exactly that. A high... and much anticipated celebration in my painting year.

I enjoyed a wonderful morning and afternoon on Pine Island at the invitation of Peter Frost and his very lovely partner in adventure Kelsey. What wonderful examples of the modern Youth! Their very obvious and earnest passion for the wild moved me deeply and restored my Hope that their are indeed stewards to whom the torch can be passed to honour... protect Mother Earth. They are here to buttress the Keats' beloved summer home in The Islands... before they return to their life of adventure back in Alaska... where they live out and realize their dreams on their 37 foot sail boat "The Privateer." They earn their daily bread precariously on their wit and love of the sea and wilderness... by conducting wilderness tours aboard their boat up the West Coast to its Arctic reaches.

But that Alaskan Adventure is a marvellous tale to be shared on another post soon! Stay tuned!

Here are some photos recording this wonderful "Prelude to Algonquin"... and yes, that will certainly be the title for my first painting in the Park. As mentioned, I plan in themes... and often have titles in mind... already linked to certain places. It saves valuable time to pre-plan... at least for the first day to kick start "the juices." I have high hopes for a productive five days of work... and pleasure and will be more than ready to share my 2012 Autumn Algonquin Adventure with you... in pictorial form!

The Keats family Paradise on Pine Island from the water... Bunkie residence on the left... main cottage to the right
 Recognize this painting? Gifted to Magsy Keats... "Sunlit Path to John Keats' Writing Refuge"...to be kept and handed off to Peter when she's "dome with it"

Tucked in for a long ... "Time on an Island"... I hope!

Hear ye! Hear ye spoof given to Keats by his beloved Margaret to celebrate the books publishing birth!

 John Keats' beloved manual piece of modern technology... a step up from his once trusty and sacred Underwood! The hammering of those keys still has a "ring tone" all of its own.... long gone from the memory of texting "Thumb Monkies" of today's world!

Two "River Boys" becoming acquainted... a painless and pleasurable meeting of "The Old(er) and the Younger!


A fall view snap of a Gananoque Tour Boat edging past Pine Island and the USA to the south

A photographic view of one of my Paint Out "takes" on Keat's Writing Retreat

A beautiful reflective autumn view of Zavicon Island'... stag sumac afire... and oaks fading quickly from their fall russet beauty

My Pine Island Host... Master Mariner on fresh or salt waters... and new Mate, Pete Frost. Yes Pete!... "We" are fast friends... I believe... for the rest of my time here on earth!

Kindred Spirits joined in a belief of Hope and Action...for an ailing Planet!

Would... Could you join us???? 

I wonder!....

Thanks Pete and Kelsey! Our place... when I return ... to Earth!  HA HA!!

"TA TA... for now!", as Tigger always said!... and stay tuned!

Good Painting to ALL!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is Finding A Title ... A Problem????

The Problem...  What do I call this painting?

In coming up with a meaningful title for this painting, I relied upon matching the feeling that I tried to put into this stylized landscape. In many respects, the painting resembles my usual approach to painting a landscape.
However... in this case I was amplifying or over playing the feeling that I had for the landscape and personified the trees and their movement to create a gentle "dance" effect with all of the trees... costumed differently participating in the event. The minuet is a stately dance... and the majesty of the winter's whiteness and the lighting effect offered a "ballroom" feel. I made use of my french to add yet another "royal" touch... and arrived at "Minuet d'Hiver"... which translates "Winter Minuet."

Strategies that you might consider... that consistently work for me

During visits to blogs that I follow over the last couple of visits, I noticed that there seemed to be a common  difficulty expressed by a number of artists in coming up with titles for  their works. This  difficulty rarely occurs for me because I source my titles in more than one way. That is... I come up with the titles for my work through approaching the problem in a number of very different ways.

First of all, it lies beyond my comprehension that one can spend hours creating a painting and then, after the process has drawn to a conclusion ask oneself, "What will I call this?" The questions which enter my mind ... Why did you select the subject?... How does this subject make me feel?...  What words or thoughts does this subject conjure up in my psyche? Often  these questions are usually dealt when I first encounter the subject... before I even open the paint box, or during the process. Ideas enter my thoughts as the painting is under way... stimulated by ALL of  my senses simultaneously.I will share some of the simple strategies which I use that might help you to develop your own personal and more reliable method for getting past this problem.

The Thematic Approach

As a school teacher, my teaching/planning approach  was always based upon a thematic approach... choosing one theme and then linking my ideas which in my thinking were related and could therefore be used as avenues for developing pathways for further discovery and learning. Often, I "brain storm" on paper and generate a possible list of "ideas"... images and locations which might guide the creation of a series of related paintings subjects. 

The current paintings that I have posted recently came out of such a focus. The theme is simply linked to an upcoming site for a Gala Exhibition that I will be taking part in at the local Eagle Point Winery in mid November. It seemed an auspicious opportunity for me to paint in a winery... I never have never painted in one  before. Focussing my attention for at least a number of paintings on a winery / wine theme idea would offer me a new source of subject matter... and since the attendees at the Gala were likely to also share an interest in the wine and winery as well.... having painting subjects that coincided with that common interest "might" prove to be appealing to potential buyers who enjoyed both art and wine.

My first painting came as a result of "happenstance". I simply noticed this wonderful landscape right under my nose in the parking lot at the winery as I was leaving an interview/photo op for our group which had been held earlier on site at Eagle Point. I couldn't get out the ol' paint box that day... but I came back then next day ... too late... but i did arrive and paint a sketch. I returned on one more occasion to fill in the blanks created by the unexpected cold. The 12x16 inch sketch titled  "After the Frost... Ice Wine Anyone" uses the cold episode to create a "tongue-in-cheeky" flavour to the landscape subject. So relating an event to the title to can provide inspiration.

This painting has already been sold to a client with a vested personal interest  and experience with the winery... so my guided approach and time and extra effort has been rewarded and encouraged me to push forward to my other ideas on my brain storming list for this exhibition.

Music... used as an ongoing theme and source of inspiration for titles

Relating still  to the winery theme, I added a musical "play on words"...  a dash of humour to an ordinary still life from our kitchen to create the whimsy painting... "Come to the Cabernet, my Chum" just completed. I have found music to be  a great resource... often using musical terms and song titles with a subject to create interesting and thought-provoking titles

The work is still a work-in-progress at this time... refinement of ideas and a few added features to be considered. "Off the wall"... quirky mannerism for me here, but it inspired me to think and paint outside of my comfort zone!

 The triptych "Heard it on the Grapevine" pairs both musical and vineyard thematic ideas beautifully. ... might revisit that idea!

"Morning Has Broken, Stonehurst South, NS derives from a Cat Stevens favourite listening classic from my personal playlist. The painting simply was playing and came up accidentally as I was in the process of painting. It struck a chord for me and it led to its becoming the title for this painting. Ithink that the "idea of the painting was to capture the break of dawn i n Stonehurst... and the title supports my goal to achieve this special time of day. Music while you paint is a great mood enhancer... but if you listen... you might find a title in  there somewhere as well.

Another triptych, depicting favourite Toronto streetscape is titled  "Rainy Day Feelings"... again finds its origin in the songs and lyrics of iconic the Canadian  folk performer, Gordon Lightfoot. If I need inspiration... his music and their lyrics have been a mother lode of  inspiration for my painting process and titles throughout my entire painting career.

"Canon in C Major (Crimson)"

 "Opeongo Opus"

Both of these paintings gained their titles from classical musical terminology... music that I constantly play and enjoy at home and as I travel in my car. Many an "Idea" for a painting driving in the Park owes is origin to this playlist approach to titling. The ideas for paintings and titles that I have gained through my interest and constant need for musical accompaniment is endless. These examples shown are but a few ! Play on!

Literature as a Source for Titles

 I read constantly and within the body of my preferred reading tastes I discover seeds of interest for both the subjects of my paintings and their titles. I have favourites like Robert Frost... whose genre of poetry matches my rural landscape focus and subject matter. A small meaningful quote from a poem... a novel or even magazine and newspaper articles can generate ideas for this purpose. I keep a "Clip File" filled with ideas which I find interest me and I save them until they pop up or I have a need. They are easy to find in such a place. Otherwise they are lost in the cobwebs of daily living.

I also keep a notepad in the van... or write in my sketchpad... or on the back of a grocery list to save an idea... seen or heard. I keep these in the Clip File until I have a need for them. Sometimes, I discover them years after they are collected... and use them at that opportune moment.

Obviously, personal responses experienced whle painting on location... where all of one's senses are firing simultaneously usually provide the vast number of my choices for titles. This underscores the immense value of painting en plein air and adds yet another reason to get... "out there." Just the subject itself... "Failing Light"... "Cascading Waters"... Spring Break Up"... etc can be the obvious title

I hope that these strategies that I use in my approach to titling my work provides you with some food for thought to support your own methods. Use these ideas if they help!

Good Painting and Titling... to ALL!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Autumn Gala... in more ways than one!

Autumn is indeed a "gala"... or festival as the term is described in my dictionary. As I rode along the Parkway westward to pick up groceries in Gananoque this morning, I revelled at the majesty of the peaked autumn colour in every place my eye wandered. The rain and greyness of the early morning could do nothing to dispel the  breath-taking grandeur. The spell over me was, if anything... more greatly amplified as tree trunks were darkened... and the red granite glistened and glowed with the wet. There was little or no breeeze... so that perfect reflections of shoreline colour doubled the beauty and were disturbed and broken only by razor-edged paths left by mallard ducks and Canada Geese who were busy feeding and puddling in every bay and creek.

I returned home and immediately headed out to the Gallery to commence work on my newest piece, a 30 x 24 inch gallery wrap canvas toned black. I had managed to get it to the lay in stage by the end of the day yesterday and was anxious to step into the fun part... detail which would lift out the colour and detail which made this piece exciting to paint. The subject is quite unusual... even quirky for me. It is a still life of sorts which originated in preparations for dinner guests while working in the kitchen. As with many paintings in my past experience... they simply "appear" out of no where and really mean nothing to any one else around except me. I dropped my kitchen duties on that occasion three years ago... and ran to get my camera to record the "Idea." Had I not done so... this painting opportunity and subject, in all likelihood would have been lost.

The painting session today had to be conducted inside the Gallery... and I must admit, I experienced difficulty during this indoor part with colour and values. The overhead lighting was sufficient to light parts of the painting... but not equally on all parts of the canvas... and certainly not on my palette. This made mixing and adjusting values a difficult and frustrating task. I decide to take a break... to see if the weather would change sufficiently to permit me to work outside as I had been doing. The strategy paid off and the weather cleared for the rest of the afternoon. The glorious sunlight more than provided sufficient light for "home stretch" finish that took place.

I will not endeavour to describe the painting in detail or the process of making it on today's post. I have chosen to simply post it as it sits this evening... with some changes to be made tomorrow to draw the project to an end. I am doing so, because I wish to offer this very fitting and timely painting to celebrate another "Gala"... which will be feted tomorrow...but really began 32 years ago. I is my lovely daughter...  Dr. Allison Morgan Sherman's 33rd birthday... a day that still emotes the same feeling of joy and pride as it did all of those years ago!

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!~ Can't wait to celebrate with you on Monday... as is planned!
What  better way could there be to commemorate the day an art historian arrived upon this wonderful planet... than to create a painting! And that painting possesses the same wonderful sense of humour... and "joie de vivre" which you possess and carry with "You"!

So here it is... fresh from my Rockport easel"

"Come hear the music play
Life is a Cabernet, old chum
Come to the Cabernet"!!!...... HA HA!!!

"Come to the Cabernet" - oil on gallery wrap canvas 30 x 24 inches

Have yourself a GRRRRRRRRRRRR8  Day tomorrow Jemima!

All my love ALWAYS!
Dad (and Deb)

Good Painting to All!... Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Putting A Saddle on Your Creative Horse

Contrary to most complaints that I hear from other artists I meet in daily life... or on their blog sites... I rarely run out of  painting ideas. Actually, they flood continuously into my psyche... from every part of my life. "Ideas" abound... to the point that they create an overload which in itself is as paralysing as the problem of running out of ideas. My mind simply scampers helter-skelter in all directions and I cannot focus on the elements required to get on with a single project. The feeling created is akin to having to pee... where there is nowhere to find a bathroom. I'm sure that all of you have experienced that on more than a single occasion.

I always find myself in this position in autumn... when the fall painting season with its glorious colours summon my attention and heart outside. But it never fails that this once-in-the-year plein air bonanza also lines up with other events in my personal and artistic life which divide my interest and abilities to really just get out there ... and ride! Again... I offer that most of you as well experience the reality that "life gets in the way"... at times when we're motivated to paint... and that "pee feeling" need.... returns!

I am currently in that very situation. I will be taking part in a very fine exhibition opportunity in mid November, one which has the potential to draw many more visitors just before Christmas... making it a must do for the Paint Box Gallery. We will be officially reducing our hours of operation as of October 31st to "come-by-chance or appointment only." Everything, including the main draw... The Rockport Boat Line tours shut down until the spring, so that the possibility of daily traffic is too greatly reduced to warrant sitting in the cold. We will be moving the paintings shortly into the studio-gallery we are currently drawing together in our large and open finished basement.

I have been out working as you have noted at the very site where the event will be hosted... The Eagle Point Winery to find interesting new material that might bridge the site with my landscape interests. A great strategy! I also am currently working on a very large piece and have returned to another which is "off beat" for me... unusual... fun-to-paint... tongue-in-cheek... quirky... but again something that I know will grab the eye because of its up beat  colour and appeal. I have been (using the "pee" analogy further)... "holding it for too long now"... and must... get it out of my system... PRONTO KEMOSABE!!!!

I , as well have a "gift" piece under way for a friend... a portrait of all things.... completely out on the limb activity for this landscape painter to compound the above issues further. It stares back at me neglected... forlorn... and begging to receive attention. I think that stopping at this stage of reporting on my traffic-jammed dilemma is prudent. I believe however that the two problems which commonly visit all artists at some point or another in our creative journeys... though they appear to be "different"... in fact... create the "same" effect - PARALYSIS!

The solution for "yours truly"? I have been sitting in the studio... coffee in hand... as I write this post... mulling over all four possibilities for a return to focussed painting activity... and reflecting upon a path of least resistance to begin to sort out the traffic jam. I am approaching my horse... saddle in hand... with a need to mount. I am looking my "Mare/ Muse" square in the eye... asking permission to climb aboard. Maybe... if I sip a bit longer... then gently stroke "Her"... I will receive the courage and permission to mount and ride! I somehow feel better... just having shared my dilemma with all of you this morning. Hold the bridle for me... and stay tuned....

In closing out this post, I will candidly offer that The Universe ... once again visited me and laid the answer to my dilemma at my feet in the form of its usual "gift"... that is a choice. Yesterday was a beautiful and sunny day... perfect for  a perfect plein air foray. There was tantalyzing full colour everywhere about. But I decided to grab the already-to-go black toned 30x24 inch gallery wrap and jump on an idea that I filed away for too long and to get it under way. It was a perfect fit for the upcoming Winery event! I roughed in my drawing with white conte pencil and immediately set out my palette and jumped into the layin.

I had to leave the project... underway in the driveway because curious visitors down our driveway and into the studio for a look-around. within an hour ... I had sold two of Deb's handmade cards to folks visiting from Scotlan... a bracelet to  deux jolie mademoiselles qui etaient nous visiter a Paris... and a Madwaska oil painting to a nice couple from Edmonton, Alberta! BONUS!!! Didn't that warm the heart... the coffers and speed up the painting for the remainder of the day!

Point made?... Follow your heart and trust in the moment! Live fully in the Now... and you will discover that the Universe will conspire with you to find Peace... Joy... and unexpected Success! Get painting Gang!

Happy Trails to You!... (and Good Painting to ALL!)... until we meet again!

What is post on Journaling With Paint... without a "Post Script"?

I forgot to mention my Tuesday morning water media class with Friend Marsha... who is bitin' a the bit... ridin' hard... and would you guess it... she's a horsey kind o' gal and has her pal "Bullet" waiting for her autumn return... coming up in November in Florida! She is such a motivated individual... committed to becoming an artist... out of a belief that... "maybe"... she could! And she is well on the way to becoming that! She has the fire... the desire... the things that I admire... and dream of for all people! "She" has discovered her Creative Self.... "and that has made all the difference"... to "Her"!

I will ask Marsha for permission to post some of her paintings to show you her wonderful progress. I am proud to share a part in her success to launch her adventure! It is a privilege to be present and share that "AHA" moment... It is Sacred to "Me"!

This is my introductory study of several of the elements to be used in a still life with Marsh so that she is familiar with these elements isolated from the hole... and understands their characteristics. This will help to avoid overwhelming her with too many ideas at the beginning of the exercise. 

This is my watercolour study which we did together to help her understand the concept of choosing major elements for a composition... and then the development of a "massing of blocks of colour" approach to initially painting it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When Plein Air Challenges... Part Two

On Saturday afternoon , I excitedly headed over to Eagle Point Winery to paint a subject that I had noticed after the Friday  morning meeting. I was unable to paint that day because "I had other fish to fry" and had to set it aside until the next day. I was really taken by the interesting composition and the lush.. leafy foreground of  grape vines of varied greens and yellows. I had even decided upon a 12x16 inch format to accommodate the image.

When I got up early on Saturday morning... I soon realized that there had been a "killer frost"... the kind that is the enemy of all garden lovers. Such a frost usually brings the gardening season to an abrupt end. Only the hardiest and protected garden patches can survive the icy death that this kind of frost delivers. My own garden remnants here in Rockport certainly suffered greatly from its effects. I spent the afternoon today culling out those areas of the garden that were obviously done for this season.

So I arrived at the Winery half expecting damage... but I couldn't believe the devastating effect that the same frost had on the grape vines. They were decimated... as if a tornado had gone through the rows ... stripping off the foliage... leaving only a few leaves here and there... which had already surrendered their green beauty.
Needless to say... my enthusiasm for the scene was greatly altered. The vision of what I had seen the day before paled in the face of what lay before me!

Painting for me is totally about feelings for my subject. It is this emotional attachment which launches and carries me through the painting of any subject. I always have a clear vision of what I intend to lay down in paint. I often struggle to maintain that vision... and sometimes lose in the end. But not often. It is my nature to persevere and stick at what challenges me. In painting... it is that inner struggle with my Self and succeeding to meet the challenge in the end... that is the pay off... the reward.

I decided... half heartedly to proceed... even in the face of the rapidly dropping temperature and the raw cold westerly wind that blew constantly from beginning to end. I had also made a grave error in choosing my dress and was really feeling the cold by the end of the first half hour of painting. The cold and dampness of those first cold days painting outdoors in the fall really tax me. It takes my body a few weeks before it becomes acclimated to the cold. I paid for it on this occasion and found it both punishing and not enjoyable.

I hurried the lay in and just get down what I could quickly. I know from experience that catching a cold in this early part of the season means carrying it along for the rest of the short autumn painting season. I decided from the very start to keep my stay short... n' sweet! I simply caught what I could... fully realizing that there were areas not resolved... and others that were laid in (to me) an awkward and ambiguous manner... without proper thought. In short, I was less than satisfied with the resulting sketch when  I finally packed it in and headed home at the one hour point.

Seeing the sketch against the wall off and on over two days convinced me to head back out this afternoon and to at least give it another shot. On this occasion there was little wind... I was better dressed... and "the doldrums" I had found myself in on Saturday had long since passed. I won't say that I am entirely pleased with the end result here. "The vision of sugar plums still dances in my head"... but so does the frosty nightmare of my first attempt. I believe that the final sketch contains elements of both the "difference" and the "sameness" of the original landscape that I was attracted to. Visually I search for reconciliation of those two polar opposite feelings.

I guess... I should be happy with the fact that I am healthy enough and live close enough that I had a second chance to revisit  to try and salvage whatever positive aspects I could. I believe that I accomplished that at least. For that I( am grateful. So... I will post the two for comparison. Somewhere between the two there lives the spirit of what I was drawn to. Sometimes in plein air painting... that has to be enough! On to the next challenge!

The fence element provides a strong serpentine compositional device to draw the eye around from the foreground back to the horse barn in the middle ground. The sky is active... and I warmed  up the otherwise cold timbre of the other colours to counteract the coldness that had crept into the landscape... and my bones!

The foreground vine areas are vague and indistinct... with too much of the tone colour showing thru' to confuse the eye.

"After the Frost at The Eagle Point Winery"- plein air sketch 12x16 inches on toned panel

The second version remedies both of these weakness to a large degree. I focussed my attention upon the foreground area and the existence of the curving horizontal furrows now made visible by the loss of the
vines... tidying up but not totally eliminating the burnt sienna under toning. I then pushed and pulled values on the roof of the barn and heightened the colours... which actually had risen since Saturday. I played with the three small maple saplings and even considered eliminating one. But I resisted that notion... knowing from experience that drifting too far from your original thought usually ends in disaster.

A stroke of good luck brought the session to a halt! My new friend John Sorenson, a member and President of the tiArts Group came out of the Winery and we became engaged in "vine side" chat. We share many of the same ideas. We both share a passion for creating... and above all a "live-and-let-live"... and share philosophy which we practise in both our personal and artistic lives. I very much look forward to more sharings with John. The chat had given a reason to bring the recovery painting session to a close.

The sketch as shown... warrants a C+... Satisfactory... on my own "gem" scale of worthiness. But in my heart of hearts, I feel that I achieved the best I could... given the circumstances that were beyond my control. First and foremost, I managed to maintain the "painterly" spirit of the initial session.The sketch at least provided me the opportunity to share this challenging adventure with all of you. The second and  unexpected bonus opportunity to share time with John... for the first time one-on-one, perhaps lifts the value intrinsically for "Me"... to the level of at least an A... for  Accord... Harmony. And I can live with that!

"After the Frost... or... Ice Wine Anyone???" - a plein air oil sketch 12 x 16 inches on toned panel
The sketch... "tongue-in-cheek" suggests, "When disaster strikes en plein air and it will on occasion... use the AA process for recovery". That is... "Advance and Accommodate... and not Abort and Abandon!" Skol! On to the next outdoor painting adventure!!!

Good Painting to ALL!!!... En Plein air... or in your studios!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plein air... or Studio....Different... Yet the Same! - Part One

"We've been told that's an orange. So we call it an orange. We've been told that's an apple. So we call it an apple. But you and I look at these things and see different objects- with the same name. I paint them in a still life and I set them down in what my intellect tells me is the order and the form in which they appear to me. It's a constructive process from beginning to end. No I'm no anarchist. I believe in total liberty, yes, but subject to man inner order, control- and laws"

- Pablo Picasso

Different... Yet the Same!

 Each of these leaves comes from a different source. Each species has its unique shape, texture and colour and appears very different from the others. And yet, all are the same... because they all come from plants. Each plant's life force depends upon its being rooted in the earth. Each one... in it's own singular way functions for one reason - to grow and to bear fruit. Each accomplishes this in varying degrees differently and separately... across a varying life span.

Similarly, the human species... though sharing the same needs and physiology per say, we display vastly differing  features such as colour, language, music, religion or spirituality,ethnic and cultural traits. Though we live in diverse geographically different areas of the world, we do share intrinsic emotions, physical needs and desires for a common quality of life and the pursuit of joy and happiness. And like plants, we too... in our own individual manner seek to grow... learn... and yes...bear fruit.

One of the great benefits for me in painting outdoors for most of my life, is that I have  found myself constantly in a position to observe the inter-connectedness of all things in Creation. I "see" and observe behaviours in all that is around me... which though they come from vastly different species they closely mimic or follow the very same behaviours of human kind. Each and every time that I observe a pair of geese ready to step between their young and potential danger... no matter on what scale, I am reminded that love for a chosen mate and ones young are not reserved for the human species alone.

Each time that I find myself walking amidst a stand of forest, I now can see clearly the innate harmony and the sense of community under which trees "agree" to coexist. The "elders" shading the new growth on the forest floor. The richness of the past... in the form of nutrient... to enable the continuance of those who follow. Though they all strive to reach greater heights and the hope of a better life through finding "light"... each in its totally unique way does so, usually without impeding the opportunity of the member species nearby. Is that not "supposed" to be be the path of the human spirit? I wonder.....

I could, without any difficulty continue to offer example after example about this observed inter-connectedness in all Creation, but minds better than my own like Walt Whitman and David Suzuki have offered more developed and authoritative views than my humble observations. I wish only to suggest in this post that going outdoors, or painting "en plein air"  offers a great opportunity for the artists to observe and have revealed to them knowledge about how the Natural World operates which can never be fully captured in a book... a studio... a class workshop or on a dvd. That valuable asset can only be gained through experience in the field.

As human kind we have emerged and arrived in modernity through our common path towards this point as hunter-gatherer societies. Those instincts that our predecessors gained and honed through their struggle to survive are deeply rooted in all societies, both in the distant past and the present. I would offer that they are present in every man, woman and child... from birth. But I would offer that in today's "softer" existence the need to be a hunter-gather, at the best of times is peripheral for most folks.

However... most artists share a deeply embedded need and passion to search for meaning and knowledge... on a number of levels. Most share a more aware and positive view regarding a need for conservation. Most possess a stronger and more reverent of heritage and family ties. Most value and regard education as a primary need for themselves, their children and their family members. Most, in my experience and then in my own view... are more liberal and accepting of differences in others they live with. Most gather their data from the field...and return with their harvested kernels of knowledge... and paintings to be used in their home work.

Those areas of "sameness" ... in the face of their vast and varying areas of difference in their highly individual methods... mediums and preferences of subject matter serve to fuel the common need to create and express ourselves visually. We are all truly "different... yet the same."

There has been much banter about plein air painting being superior to studio painting. I would again argue my earlier point that both share similarities to the other... while at the same time differences. Both situations can be used to create the various genres that all of us embrace from time to time. Landscapes of equal quality and value have been created by artists of every calibre across the ages. One could argue that the prehistoric paintings found in caves around the world are indeed the first "studio paintings" by man.

And those red ochre paintings I've seen from First Peoples in our region and others around the world could arguably be really... the first examples of "plein air" painting. Where does that put the French... who first coined the word now used during the period known as the Impressionist era? Are both not valid examples of both painting traditions? Whether one paints inside or out... it is the light that is important in the process. Outside the light is natural "white light" and does indeed make colour mixing pure. However any studio worth its rent... usually boasts having a "North Light"... meaning that it is constant.

Still life opportunities exist in both locations... as do figurative studies. Lighting conditions... weather and time are factors which do indeed factor into one's method of working outdoors. Making decisions and using quick brushwork enliven those works completed on location. The skill of "seeing"... understanding is much facilitated by study done out in nature. Therefore, there is immense value in working out there. But that knowledge and the traits just mentioned can be readily applied by the artist in the studio... after he or she has acquired the knowledge and skill out on location. When that stage is reached... one can work comfortably in either place... and the final outcome can become indistinguishable.

So in closing... Plein air or studio painting share differences and also similarities. One is not superior to the other. In fact, each can support the other... and can work hand in hand to make one a better painter... blending painterly speed... with disciplined and detailed planning. My best advice is to give both some of your time. Sketch... on location?... or larger paintings crafted over hours of painting in the studio? The question of which one is superior can best be answered with this question? Which one steals.... or captures the senses? That one... wherever it was painted... is truly..."superior"!

Just one fella's thoughts!


This photo was taken on last Friday after a newspaper interview that I was involved in as a prelude to an upcoming show that I am a part of with the tiaArts group of painters. The event is being hosted by The eagle Point Winery on November 16 thru' 18. As I came out of the main building I noticed this wonderful landscape opportunity begging to be painted, but I had other business to take care of back in Rockport... so I put it on hold until Saturday.

This is the "same" scene on that very next day! The same place?... Yes...  well almost... but with some differences added by Mr Jack Frost overnight!

 The "same"... but "different landscape"... certainly many of the elements that I was first drawn to which encouraged me to think about painting this lansdscape. But here is the "different" version that I set out to paint... en plein air at temperatures less than 10c... and a stiff head wind all the way through the outing!

"Ice Wine Anyone ?...After the Frost at Eagle Point Winery" - "raw" plein air oil sketch on toned panel 12x16 inches.

Icy and cold conditions here! No dallying ... just get it all down quickly! A raw wind creates "raw interpretation! It is what it is...

Stay tuned for the "studio enriched" version! .... It will be "the same... but different"! HA HA!!!

Good Painting... indoors and in the studio... to ALL!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Somewhere Beyond Looking... There's "Seeing"

From "The Song of Life"... a lovely poem by the English poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow there is this thought-provoking thought on the subject of the value of Art. It reads:

"Art is long, and Time is fleeting."

I find myself living in the midst of a society driven by electronic technology and speed... where legions of frenetic multi-taskers take pride in their ability to process umpteen tasks simultaneously. Their level of productivity and worth are measured by their ability to do many things in as little time as possible. I was one of these converts... long ago now... back when I thought I "wanted to go somewhere" in my life and ambitions. I too, prided my Self in being able to complete long lists and to deliver to everyone else in my life... until the Light in my soul fairly vanished and life itself in every form seemed without purpose. That was in ... yesterday.

My life changed and began to bear fruit and copious blessings when I made the decision to leave the "gerbil wheel"... or my body did and I set out on "The Road Not Taken" and have built my life on more on Today... not forgetting yesterday... but certainly not focussed upon Tomorrow. I have chosen to live fully in "the Now"... "and that has made all the difference", as Robert Frost noted. In "the Now"... in each hour ... of each day, I take time to "see"... and not to merely look. To savour... rather than just to taste. To fully enjoy... and not just to try. My life is in fact, a buffet of blessings... chosen by "Me"... from which I sit down to a sumptuous meal to savour... enjoy and digest. My table fare is different every day. I never tire of the menu. And my "palate/palette" is enriched by my discoveries and adventures.

Blessings in my mind represent those things which arrive in one's life... unannounced and unexpected. They cannot be planned for. Neither are  they monetarily driven. They simply... "are"... a gift offered momentarily and mysteriously by The Universe... or The Creator. Both are synonymous in my thoughts and belief system. Science and God in my belief system co-exist and work in tandem. They are "One"... in the same! Both command a sense of mystery... awe and wonder. Both defy total human explanation... or control. This view permits "Me" to first discover... to examine and then finally...be used to determine what meaning there is in what I am experiencing.

Blessings come to "Me"... and "Us"on a regular basis. Not because we are special... or we are more worthy to receive them, but merely because of a change in our mind view. We search to find meaning. We are "open" to spending the time required to go beyond merely looking and noticing... which are simply cursory acts of going through the motions of daily living... to digesting a single moment and pleasure and savouring it... accepting it for what it is. Perhaps,  if you are working artists like we are, you might be driven to think beyond the moment, or record it in a few words or a simple sketch, to be developed further when time permits.

I am at present reading a wonderful wee guide book, a New York Times Best Seller by H.Jackson Brown. It is entitled " Life's Little Instruction Book". His mantra ... "Live Learn and Pass it on" is indeed my own as well, as my posts and my life journey attest. It is a book well worth owning (discovering)... reading(tasting) and digesting. Beyond savouring... it is an ideal book to give a friend,... or a child leaving to enter the world on their own. It is remarkably easy to read. A good book that can be read  and savoured bit by bit as I have done... over a number of pre-sleep or morning ritual "quiet times."

Here is a sample of just a few morsels of wisdom that Brown offers in his treasury of wisdom:

Live your life in wonder, and always leave some things to retain mystery.

Put on old clothes before you get out the paint brushes... Painter tip from AWB!!!!

Remember, your character is your destiny.

Pray. There is immeasurable power in it.

Never risk what you can't afford to lose.

Think big things but enjoy the smaller things in life.

Sometimes the heart sees what the eye doesn't.... Painter tip from AWB !!!!!

Call your Mother... and your Dad!

In bringing these Thanksgiving morning thoughts to a conclusion... I'll add these two final quotes from Brown worth considering on this day set aside for Thanks Giving:

It is not the responsibility of parents to pave the roads for their children, but rather to provide them with a road map. Think about it Friends... and Family members! Giving your children everything that you feel you didn't receive in your own early life, in my opinion is a tragic mistake which hamstrings both groups involved. Children never grow up appreciating the value of what is given  and received too easily. Rather... they spend the rest of their lives painfully learning the fact that one must earn their way in life. A journey into unfamiliar territory without a road map and prior planning welcomes wasted time, resources ... and inevitable disaster!

And lastly... for certain... except for some jpegs of gratitude sent from "Me" from Rockport with warmest thanks for your unflagging presence and support for Journaling With Paint:

"Feel blessed and you will be!"

" Bounteous Blessings"- oil on canvas 30x24 inches a plein air painting created in our friends' Garden of Eden... where Deb and I were married. I gave my grandfather's wheelbarrow used in his beautiful rose garden in thanks for their love and friendship. Grace added the bounty of that gift of Friendship.

 Have Faith... in your Self... your Art... your Family and your Friends!

 Look towards home... there often is a painting subject that close to you!... Stay tuned!

 My greatest blessing is Deb! I tell her that I love "Her"... every day and I kiss her Goodbye before leaving! Never leave the ones you love without kissing them and telling them that you love them. It "might" be the last time you have that precious opportunity. Life is uncertain... and often unexpectedly plays bad tricks... on us all!

 Birds always have a song in their heart... are grateful for your gifts and never give you lip!

 Find a small Friend who you can share your deepest thoughts and worries with! Mr Chips is ours!

 DO scratch my back... and I'll scratch yours!!

 There are wonderful designs in Nature... when you take the time to "See" them... vertically...

 or horizontally. Look at things from many perspectives! Look twice! Paint once!

 Find "still waters"... Solitude! It will restore your soul... and clear out the worry!

Accept new challenges. "Half the joy of achievement... is anticipation." - HJ Brown
Here is a bas-relief  three dimensional cast that was so poorly painted... that the owner who commissioned it couldn't bare to look at it. I took the challenge... and I think "won"! It sure made me think like a sculptor during the whole affair... and in acrylics as well! Totally out of my natural element... but I thoroughly enjoyed and learned new things about painting volume... and... behind things.

 Go out to Nature in differing times and weather! Light changes everything in making Art! Take the time to get "out there." Head out with sketch book in hand... painting kit... camera or just with your brain and eyes for a walk into the outdoor world.

 Sometimes you will find a subject that never needs to be imagined... it is simply beautiful as is!

Our table is simple... but the love in its preparation and creation is the product of two sets of hands in our house! Thank you for an exquisite pork loin masterpiece Deb! Both Lisa and I enjoyed both helpings of everything!

"Thank You"... For the Music Mom and Dad- oil on canvas 14x11 inches

And last ... but far from least! I give thanks for my loving parents. Their consistent encouragement, example, gifts and sacrifices helped to shape "Me" in becoming the person "I" am! Thank you for the "Music"... and for providing a road map which doesn't prevent me from getting lost... but never fails to help me to arrive "Home"... safely and joyfully!

"I" am "Home... and at peace in Rockport!

I am deeply blessed! Happy Thanksgiving... I'll be down for a visit later this afternoon!

All my love ALWAYS,
Your loving son Bruce

Good Painting ....
Rich blessings and Peace to ALL!!!!!