Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Perfect Space

Tuesday's class offered some new surprises. Firstly... Robin and I had two new enthusiasts decide to join us  for the final class in August on Little Hebrides Island. Fred Guild and his wife graciously offered us the keys to their private space to roam over and paint as we pleased. Given its privacy... its many panoramic vistas of the River and beautifully designed clutches of garden... this Eden was indeed the "perfect space" to inspire good painting!

The weather forecaster had offered less than perfect conditions for the day with partly cloudy conditions and the strong possibility of thunderstorms and rain. Those conditions failed to materialize and we enjoyed a "bluebird day" (blue sky and sun) for the entire paint out. The perfect place also offered many places and opportunities for shade, including a lovely gazebo complete with comfortable and strategically placed Muskoka chairs.This site offered a protected location and three magnificent river views. The scattered gardens along the pathways leading to the south side of the island and the home's entrance afforded not only interesting painting subjects... but shade as well.

In my initial planning for the day completed days before setting out, I tried to encompass a lesson goal which was both achievable... but challenging for each of the participants at their particular levels of experience. I had previously painted with Robin and Jane, so I had a handle on their strengths and basic interests. I knew that they could fend for themselves with minimal worry. The two new ladies were friends and came together... with enthusiasm to discover what this plein air painting was all about... and whether they could cut it. And they did admirably achieve that goal with panache!

Here... is the essence of the brief introduction. lasting a mere ten minutes that I offered as they sat under the gazebo. I wanted to keep it simple and succinct... open-ended, but with enough structure for each person to begin their day with confidence. I would then be able to evaluate strengths and weaknesses as they revealed themselves without holding anyone up and offer help as it was required on an individual basis. The main goal for the day coincided with the reality that we were painting in a "perfect space"... in terms of the numerous motifs and solitude that this island paradise offered each of us. The theme I chose focussed upon "Creating Your Own Space." Here are the cogent points in my short presentation to the group:

Space... on a purely technical level can be achieved by understanding and employing these tasks:
1. Space on your canvas or sheet of paper is two dimensional... possessing only length and width
2. Depth is the third dimension... and is "illusionary" in nature and must be created
3. Depth can be created in the picture plane using light and shadow, colour (warm and cool) ie aerial perspective  and elements of linear perspective ie size relationships through scale
4.The use of all three in combination result in the creation of the illusion of deep space ie. foreground... middle ground and background

Finding your own "perfect space"... in the face of the complexity of Nature in her fullness is a daunting task each and every time one goes "out there." Trying to replicate all that is in front of one can only lead to disaster and discouragement. One must learn to look for the abstract patterns... the larger masses... which are in their essence those strong compositional elements which pique our interest and form the design in our paintings.

Secondly... and most importantly, we must learn to simplify the elements... to translate them into an impression... as opposed to making an attempt to create a  photographic reproduction. Avoiding this pitfall can be overwhelmingly challenging to the novice plein air enthusiast.  I gave each member a 5x7" view finder cut from a piece of mat board to crop out a section of what lay before them. It would serve as a tool to help them focus and refocus their attention as they sketched and painted. Three made use of them... the other person didn't feel a need to use it. The three found it very useful in both the drawing and painting stages.

The painting session began with a laugh. The two new ladies chose a shaded site along the path with many floral opportunities and lots of colour. They had just completed their drawings and were laying out their palettes of colour... when the timed sprinklers went off... trapping them as they sat in the midst of geysers of cold water  - not great with acrylic paints! A "baptism-by-fire" entry into the business of plein airing! HA HA!! They were wonderful sports about it and quickly shifted gears... and locations... coming out into the sun to dry off. We all enjoyed the comic relief... and the nervous relief of being "out there" melted away for the remainder of our wonderful outing together. Plein air always provides unforeseen challenges.

Here are some of the opportunities that I introduced as  available possibilities for a painting. Each selected their own study and we got quickly under way.

 Robin and Jane under the Gazebo... deep into the Flow!

Both painting this garden theme that both found interesting

Over the shoulder and into Jane's Space

 Marsha at work...... before the sudden deluge!

 Marsha at work in the zone...

Nancy with the world to her Self!

We broke for lunch at noon and during the break I completed a "quick draw" watercolour demo to the lay in stage... promising to complete it at home later under my own steam and by memory to illustrate my belief that one must use the subject only as a springboard to begin the process and rely on the inner spirit and feelings to carry it to the conclusion. In this fashion of working... the work becomes truly creative in every respect.In summarizing... The space you create depends upon physical choices and specific knowledge as to how space can be created visually on a two dimensional surface. Your space as well has a spiritual aspect... if you have the courage to let your innermost feelings guide your brush and pencil in the process. Always remember. As Philip Jamison reminds us: "that the mind paints... before the brush!"

I am passing along some memorable highlights of our day together on Lesser Hebrides in the form of jpeg shots which illustrate grandly some of the island's beauty and the the great enjoyment and work of our participants We bid farewell to Nancy ... as she departs for home. Hope that this inspires and encourages you to follow your heart and to continue the great success you enjoyed on your first plein air outing! Good luck with it! As for the rest of our group... we'll see you next week! It is necessary for me to reschedule from the Tuesday, as I have a previous appointment. I'll email all to find the best common alternative day for next week!

Our deepest thanks to the Guilds for so graciously sharing their Shangri-la with us! Hope to return again real soon for another island adventure there!

Good Painting to ALL!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Metamorphosis... Final Stage

I must apologize for the excessive length of my last post... and for perhaps a too deeply personal diatribe on my part concerning my interest in social metamorphosis. In reviewing the post this morning... to see where I left off it, I can clearly see that the post might have been originated from my sense of sadness and feeling of nostalgia which always arrives as summer draws to an abrupt close. This feeling dates back to my childhood days when my seemingly endless summer days of freedom on the River suddenly evaporated as the Labour Day Weekend approached. I have discovered since living in Rockport that my feeling in this regard is shared by some... who like me are saddened. Others are gladdened by the fact that the hurly-burly insanity which grips the village as hundreds of loaded tour buses descend upon us to board the tour boats... will soon draw to a close. This year for me as well... September's arrival will mean that "we get the River back." And I don't need to report to classes... either in a seat at the front, or in those front-facing! So enough of sadness!

I would like to use the remainder of today's post to showcase the "metamorphosis"... of my painting student... now my painting pal Robin Heberling. Robin had been keen in her pursuit of new skills and learning in her artistic expression even before our first plein air outing together. She meets regularly with other artists in her home town, but her experience was limited to studio painting. Her goal in joining my summer classes was to "get a leg up" on plein air painting. She recognized the gains to be made in this choice and had an ultimate goal to paint more freely and loosely - in a "painterly" fashion as the term goes. In viewing her paintings... the progression of very obvious steps she has made towards accomplishing this goal can be easily seen as the weeks have evolved. Along with the actual technical skills she is gaining... it is obvious to me and to her... that she is now painting with a very new sense of confidence. She now risks... without hesitation... and paints under her own power and vision.

The word metamorphosis clearly defines the artistic life and search for each of us who choose to paint... whether in the studio or en plein air... whether in oils, water  drawing media. There are no tricks to leap frog one to the head of the line. There is just Time.Time spent working.Time spent searching. Time spent playing.
Time spent using more than one's eyes alone to seek out new answers. "Seeing"... meaning understanding... which creates confidence only will be achieved through the passage through the metamorphosis of artistic growth... not unlike human growth and development.

Look at Robin's lovely crisp water colours... each full of vitality and richer colour than before she began her new journey. "She" is indeed a "Monarch"... a butterfly... now free to continue her exciting adventure and journey as "Queen" of her own Destiny! I sincerely hope that you enjoy and are encouraged by this post... and its application to your own struggle and challenging relationship with your own easel and brushes!

Metamorphosis... a process of systematic... experiential learning... in stages.

Lesson #1   Focus was on perspective and creating a focus. Mission accomplished!

Lesson#2 Chose this floral study over landscape choice. Added Seran Wrap texture at home. Focus was to paint quickly and to choose shapes that interested her from the whole flower.

Arrived for second lesson with these extra studies... "home work... not assigned! Guess which one was painted with a glass of red wine in hand?... Fortification of spirit! HA HA!!

\OOPS! Sorry! Tilt yer head!  A quick study of one half hour completed at home from photo reference

Lesson#3  On the waterfront!.. Eugene's Work Boat... another look at perspective.... and "getting the proper line and proportions" of a boat. Very difficult assignment! This one is PERFECT! Interest in water movement... help required! A nice study!

Lesson#4 Fred's Retreat!  A strong effort with little or no need for my help. I suggested some "sponge erasure" in the foreground reeds to make it less linear.

Lesson#5 - Captain Carnegie's House... Very little need to achieve this lovely airy water colour... just help in creating the transparency in the shadowed areas of the house.

Lesson#6 - A lovely floral in every respect. Completed...mostly... indoors in our kitchen but touched up and tweaked at home to attain her own state finish.

Lesson# 7 -  On location at the park in Gananoque. Tough because the light kept changing and the wasps continual interruption. She asked to watch me complete mine... wanting to see how I achieved fluency through speed of brushwork and decision-making. We'll post her final interpretation from the reference I gave her to work from!Here's my quick study... as it will remain... I think! It "is"... what it is a study!
Why work it to death????

At a lay in stage.... Ready! set!... GO!

"A Quiet Day at the Tourist Bureau, Gananoque" water colour on Watford Paper 14x10 inches

My hat's off to "You" Robin! "You" should be proud of this summer's achievement!... "I" am!!! See you on Tuesday! We're off... across the bridge... to Fred's Retreat at Alcatraz Island. But that's another story... for another day! Stay tuned!...

Good Painting to ALL!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Metamorphosis- Stage / Part One

From the very moment that the word"metamorphosis" was first introduced into my thinking... its might has followed and directed my footsteps continuously. No longer can I recall exactly its moment of origin... for is now veiled in far too many layers of memory and experience to recall the precise moment of its arrival.

Nevertheless, I can offer that it was the very first of many "Epiphanies" which I have experienced on my journey to discover meaning and direction along this sixty-eight year pilgrimage.The wonder... even in its very sound... has continuously excited my senses and curiosity over my entire life time. The notion and process of something rather ordinary...  inert and dare I say even ugly being transformed through time and effort into something unexpectedly and unbelievably beautiful... has continued to intrigue me.

I believe... that my preoccupation not only with the word itself... but as well with the process of transformation and emergence has led "Me" to this very moment in the Present in all aspects of my own... "metamorphosis." My earliest exposure to this term and process... I can only guess most likely revealed itself to "Me" in a junior elementary school Natural Science lesson. The  subject was for absolute certain, the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. I can, in truth remember the exact feeling of awe and elation that entered my thoughts and being at that precise moment.

I believe that because I was likely about the age of ten... struggling in a very Mormon environment to become /emerge (at my Dad's urging seeing his example)... a "free thinker" to make sense of abstract and intangible images and teachings of "ideas" such as God... Heaven  and above all... " the notion of "resurrection'.... or being reborn or restored to life after dying. These were not only intriguing to my ten year old intellect... but at the very same time fear-munging to me as well. Heavy stuff for "a larva" to chew on"... let alone swallow... without questions... and hopefully some kind of answers!

"Don't Fence Me In!", a canvas 30x24 inches from several years ago... I think, naturally weaves together my spiritual and artistic intentions using the Monarch in conjunction the cast ironwork fence to create a very clear visual metaphor. One need not be deeply intellectual...or even "literate" in the sense that society measures expressive language to feel... and to fully understand what this image intends. The image states unequivocably the message that I have carried on behalf of my Self... and the countless children in our educational system who can only express themselves eloquently using another "voice."

It requires little imagination to understand the fear and uncertainty that this last term that the "idea" of Death instils upon a child who has scarcely begun their own earthly journey. The total understanding and acceptance of the "possibility"... and the certainty of Death, even in the human life cycle is a life time process totally which tests and eludes all but a select few of us right up to our own demise. Plainly and simply stated... it is scary stuff!

This first clue... the Monarch Butterfly... as tangible evidence of the Absolute wonder and mystery of Creation and the Creator continues to fuel my curiosity, thinking, my work as an artist... and my Hope... in the Fall season of my own life cycle. Though I have only once used the Monarch Butterfly as a subject in my paintings... I have fully embraced the notion of "metamorphosis" in my working artistic method. My process may always follow the same early stages of development... but the ending, I hope is continually subject to a different outcome in the "adult" or finished state.

As well, the concept of"metamorphosis" has become the basis of my spiritual belief system. My sense of place and  purpose in the Universe is based upon my firm belief that the Universe is governed by very precise fundamental Truths... and on every level of existence. We are but a single part in this complicated and grand scheme of organization... and subject to these same laws as much as any other species with which we share this earthly and celestial kingdom.

We are no more... or no less important... except - that we have the innate capacity to alter the workings and outcomes effecting this organization through our care-less development... use and misuse of its resources. We are the only current existent species able to assume "stewardship"... as opposed to the biblically spoken "dominion over" all things on land... in the air or in the water. The  outlook... and the outcomes... employing either of these two ideologies as our yard stick is critically divergent in terms of the sustainability of life as we know it... for all species... including mankind.

Back to the Monarch... and my main thrust in this post. Metamorphosis can be seen to play an intrinsic apart in the development of exploration... agrarian to urban growth settlement growth and technological development. It can be seen to be the determining force of current shifts in cultural movement and financial emergence around the globe. Combined with more efficient and faster passage of information through education and electronic stimuli... this metamorphosis has sped up in these areas of change so rapidly, that the outcomes no longer requires several decades.The transition pattern of the past has given way to an outright demand for necessary change for the masses in mere weeks. Social chaos and armed conflict has replaced normal change through developmental readiness and consensus for changes to be made.

The Monarch, we already acknowledge faces grave consequences... and indeed extinction, as a result of the interruption by man and his intrusive actions which jeopardize the Monarch's habitat... specialized food supply... migration paths to wintering sanctuaries in Mexico. The monarch is but one species under assault. Birds... fish in all waters fresh or salt... amphibians such as frogs... honey bees which pollinate flowering plants and trees are others which come quickly to mind. Recent research indicates that this global problem has reached a state of critical mass.

Time... is quickly running out! Some damage is already accepted as irreversible. We have reached the very point prophesied years ago by Dr Seuss in "The Lorax." His work was not a child's tale. He had  hoped that the parent reading this wonderful lesson to an impressionable child cradled in his or her arm would both see the message... and act together within their generation to address the problem created by greed and arrogance. Now ... it would seem, the seed has been left in the hands of our children to protect and to nurture.

The Monarch... if I might belabour my metaphor a bit longer... represents each of us in the world. We are all on separate journeys... no matter our marital status or situation. We come alone... from who knows where and after a lifespan that can vary from individual to to individual... we depart just as mysteriously as we arrived... to who knows where. These are the great and unanswerable questions of earthly life... and the Universe. For you see... we understand that the Universe is constantly morphing along with Time. Both are undoubtedly linked one to the other... I realize and can comprehend  that fact. However... the likelihood of our discovering the knowledge to explain the sacredness  of of the two questions and this vastness to me seem out of reach. Our species will not have sufficient time to do so... and perhaps that is a good thing... given the abhorrent travesty which we have created in only a few thousand years... in the entire scheme of things!

I will close today in Hope... and not pessimism. Man kind has the wonderful ability to learn from our mistakes and the problem-solving ability and skills to develop solutions. He has as well... as can be seen in his capacity to think and act nobly ... as seen in the legacy of beauty he has created in the Arts. My Hope is... that "He"... "We" can set aside greed and the need to control the lives and destinies of others... and in so doing... not "fence ourselves in. That prison is the worst kind of imprisonment... and its needless! Here's to Hope... and more evidence of our ability to create and affect a beautiful final stage in our metamorphosis!!!

Stay tuned for Stage / Part Two... which will focus on another Monarch of sorts... an adult  "Butterfly" who I have most recently had the good fortune and privilege to discover... and to hold briefly  in the palm of my hand . I think "She " took flight yesterday during our painting time together... "free" to be her beautiful creative Self! Judge  for yourself next post!

Good Painting ... to ALL!

Monday, August 20, 2012

"When the Whipper-will Sang"

August 21st.... the day when my dear Mom was born remains for me a day to be celebrated fully... even though she has passed out of this life and is forever gone from it in the physical sense. However... "She" will never really be gone for as long as her children... grandchildren pay homage and give thanks for her countless gifts to their lives. She will be remembered always... by the now fully grown members of her cottage "Polly Wog Fleet, as they pass on their swimming skills and enjoyment to their own wee ones. "She" will forever be in my heart as I ply the familiar waters in and around these Islands... watch ruby throat hummingbirds' territorial antics... count fireflies and stars in the inky, sultry night air... or listen for the occasional  hoot owl's plaintive cry. She gave to me the knowledge and love of all of these things. She taught me to recognize and respect the rightful place of all living things in the Circle of Life.

My garden this year celebrates her in a very significant way. The garden has been an ongoing source of delight for the hundreds of visitors to Rockport throughout the entire summer. On more than one occasion, we have found several visitors right up and within the garden taking pictures. I wasn't at all upset at the "intrusion". I smiled each time to think that Mom would... and did share her own with so many visitors, even taking bouquets to shut ins and elderly friends. Flowers were her friends... and her gardens overflowed with her joy and satisfaction as she tended them faithfully.

In a loving tribute to her... I should like to share a few of the many "annuals" that I have created as a perennial tribute to her contributions to "Me" and my own family. Each and every August 21st... I add yet another "bloom" to mark the occasion. I offer these bouquets as well... to  Mothers amongst my Followers. Thank "You"... all ... for tending your own gardens as well!!

"I " will always love "You" Mom... ever remembering and giving thanks for those halcyon, still summer nights at The Narrows. That wistful,wonderful summer sound has disappeared... like you, but I shall always treasure those special nights with "You"... when the whipper-will sang! 

Love "You" Forever!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Releasing the Child Within ... to Create

"The painter should not paint only what he sees around him, but also what he sees in him. Should he, however, see nothing within himself, he should refrain from painting what he sees around him."
 - Caspar David Friedrich

There is so much truth in this statement and I sure their is none of us who is not guilty of having embarked upon a desolate mission of trying to "make" a painting... when we are unmotivated... low in spirit or overburdened, as we often are... with daily responsibilities. Paintings of worth most always have their origin when our passion couples intuitively and willingly with our creative spirit.

Being open to the exciting possibilities around you... or showing a willingness to reach inside and release emotional responses to deeply felt thoughts can often lead to a break through... or at the very least, a few hours of satisfaction... meditation and solitude. All of these are cathartic outcomes that by and large outweigh the intrinsic monetary worth of the painting itself. All contribute to a feeling of inner wellness and peace.

Yesterday, my class consisted of just one student... but her enthusiasm...wonderful spirit and strong desire to learn made the one-on-one day together highly valuable for us both. Since the weather was "iffy'... thunderstorms in the forecast off and on for the entire day we decided to work indoors and on a floral still life at my suggestion.

I decided to throw out another challenge to Robin. I suggested that since she wished to achieve a looser quality to her watercolours that we... together... would embark on a day of "play... for the sake of play"... with no intent at the start to follow our regular pattern of tight planning and drawing and to let  the result emerge as it would... no worry about or focus on the final outcome.

I opened our 10:00 am session by reading from a book which I own and treasure above all others. It is a book which has greatly shaped my own personal artistic and spiritual growth. It is , in itself...a full and rich  curriculum of self-conducted study for any artist in any medium. It covers all of the bases... in plain, easy-to-understand language. The book  is written by an American watercolour icon, Philip Jamison and is entitled; "Making Your Paintings Work." It is unfortunately out of print. However, in Googling Amazon Books I found that several copies are available for purchase in both new and used condition.

Here is the quote that served as my introduction to our "Play Day."

"Many artists are greatly enamoured with children's art and wish they could get some of the childlike glee back into their own adult art. Children are uninhibited and simply pour forth whatever comes to mind, at times producing delightful pictures. Adults, on the other hand, can accumulate so much knowledge through study and their association with others that they are hampered in their ability to be free and spontaneous. Thus, their art can become tight and laboured.

An artist must have moments of playfulness, away from serious work - time to be carefree and frivolous, and just enjoy the use of line and colour without any concern for the outcome. Time spent in this way may produce nothing, or it may produce a whole new world to explore. It is certainly not time wasted."

So... with these words as the engine of our effort on this day, we jumped fully into the floral still life that I had previously prepared for us to work with. I must confess at this point that the flowers used in that set up were far from random selection. August is the Sherman month of Birthdays. Today... my wonderful Dad would have celebrated his 100TH Birthday! In my wildest imagination... and even now, I can't get my head around his ever becoming that age? And yet... I never ever thought that "the Boy" would be 68... and "He" is! My sister Chris will be-- on the 19TH and my beloved Mom would have celebrated her 96Th on the 21ST. August was always... the "gathering of the clan"... a festive occasion for our family!

 Back to the flowers! Black-eyed Susans, Field Daisies...any wild flower are family favourites... and thus the choice black-eyed susans, chicory, Queen Anne's Lace (Yarrow). Weeds to many... free flowers to our clan! Our cottage on the River dining table had a constantly changing clutch of these throughout the entire summer. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post... when one transplants something from "Within" into one's art... there is a stronger likelihood of commitment and pictorial strength in what is produced on the canvas.

We sketched only light geometric representations of floral shapes... paying absolutely no attention to details such as petals or leaves. We selected only flower shapes that strongly interested us and literally re-composed our own impression of the bouquet in front of us. I suggested that we crop the earthenware vase... using only the upper third. We added a few diagonal lines emanating from the centre of the floral shapes to represent the strong linear presence of the chicory stalks. Down with the HB pencils!... Enter the Brushes, water and paint!

We commenced the painting portion by laying in a light neutral ochre-like wash around the floral area and while it was still wet... dropped in some warmer drops here and there as we pleased of burnt sienna... yellow and cerulean blue... allowing them to mingle as they would without manipulation. I did add a touch of salt to one corner of mine... just to demonstrate its effects on the colour to Robin. Yes... it did give a grainier effect at first... but the excess water all but eliminated it in the final outcome.

We let the wet-in-wet dry down a bit and then selectively... then  playfully added mixtures of darker greens to form somewhat of a mass where the leaves and stalks came together at the neck of the vase... but we were careful not to lose all of the white of the paper too soon. We then turned our full attention to loosely and transparently adding petals and buttons randomly to the susies. Just stating them was our goal - no detail or attempt to finish them.

We added some of the rigger lines to note stem positions and a few more distinct leaf shapes... topping the longest chicory stems with pale purplish-blue florets. We revisited the areas around the bouquet washing in new layers of wet colour which left harder edges than before. At this point, I introduced the concept and visual value of lost and found edges. We each applied this technique in our own fashion to create this effect, where we pleased... and as we wished. We decided to break for lunch.... a good opportunity chat... to review the process and to discuss where we each might proceed.

It was clear after lunch that some very wet areas still existed... so I offered the use of the hair dryer as a tool to speed up the drying enabling us to fill those final few minutes of working time adding a few touches and details, or perhaps glazing in stronger colour here and there. We even included acrylic titanium white in our arsenal to recapture a lost area or to strengthen a weak area opaquely. Though not a traditional watercolour tactic... even frowned upon by purists and juried shows... we owned the process and chose NOT to have rules!

I am posting the result of my day's effort here today as a birthday tribute to my Dad, Sis and Mom. I know that you would join "the Boy"at this "Play Day"... if you could. I have thrown in a card that was pinned on a cupboard door in my Dad's basement" "Inner Sanctum." He too... valued solitude and time for meditation. I carry on that  ritual religiously... each and every morning. "I" implore each of you out there... to... "Keep Smiling!"

I love you ALWAYS sand FOREVER... Dad, Mom and Chris! Happy Birthday!!

Good Painting... to ALL!!!

 "Summer Smiles" - watercolour on paper 10x12 inches

Cropped version with Dad's card

PS Stay tuned for  my posting of Robin's piece! She has purchased her own copy of Jamison's book! Better hurry for your own copy! Unbelievably low prices!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Be Prepared!... The Cardinal Rule For Success En Plein Air

Success and enjoyment in plein air painting depends upon many variables. Some like choice of painting locations... temperature and choice of materials  can be planned  for in advance. Others such as weather are fleeting and totally unpredictable at the very  best of times and must be accommodated on the spur of the moment. The cardinal "rule" (of thumb)... in my box carefully adheres to the ol' Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared!

In earlier days I used to drive around with a painting friend for hours... often either "settling" for a second rate  site as the painting light began to fade... or worse still... we would return on occasion with absolutely nothing to show for the exercise... except futility and a sense of being beaten. This needless undoing came as a result of our own stupidity... allowing ourselves to be caught up in finding... "the perfect composition."

I have long left those days of dejection behind and I really owe my present success in most always obtaining at least one good sketch per foray to to a prior set plan and decision to commit to one site or specific small area  interest... rather than just conducting a driving tour. This also includes setting a specific time for arrival at the site to prepare mentally and physically for the intended painting activity for the day.

 I usually scout the area (if it is nearby) the day before... looking for prime material and landscapes which trigger a positive feel.In so doing... I not only know in advance what is available at the site... but as well it affords me the opportunity to plan for the sizes and numbers of panels or canvases that I might use. That's a time saver and reduces carrying needless supplies and equipment... less to forget!  HA HA!! Done that... more than a few times!

I have been teaching a small class each Tuesday during the month of July and that will continue throughout August as well. I purposely kept it small and open-ended in the registration part... allowing members to participate as they wanted to or could... given often busy summer plans that include visitors and family events. That has worked very well for everyone. The small size of the classes permits more one-on-one time with each participant and a stronger opportunity to develop a very strong relationship with the individual and the group.

Having to prepare thinking about the needs and individual mediums and strengths of each of the learners is a daunting task... one that I have ALWAYS taken personally ... even during my elementary school teaching career. Every student matters! - Plain and simple! So site locations... predicated weather conditions... proximity to necessary "comfort" needs (for the ladies especially) and painting needs particular to each participant had to be well considered beforehand.

In selecting a possible a potential subject for my class... I have to take into consideration the participant "variables" as well.- variation in medium... variation in both studio and plein air experience... variation in painting process and knowledge... and most of all... variation in confidence. All of these variable  factors will add into'...  or take away from the success and the enjoyment for each of my class members. That must be considered in my advance preparations.

"Fred Guild's Retreat, Little Hebrides Island" - plein air oil on canvas 16x20 inches

Looking Twice... and a second view to be considered!

For our fifth outing together... I decided to take them to the "Fred's Island Retreat" site... on Little Hebrides Island five kilometres east of Rockport. They had admired my earlier 16x20 inch canvas in the Gallery and wanted to give the subject a try. I knew that the location was very close to the shoulder of the very busy Thousand Island Parkway... but that  there was plenty of shade and numerous location possibilities close together for our group of three on this occasion.

I knew that if they merely tried to replicate the format of my earlier canvas that both would find themselves overly challenged by the complexity of the entire subject... as I was. So I suggested that perhaps we might investigate the possibility of using only a smaller section of my original composition and the actual site to create an entirely new composition. Using my digital camera, I cropped out the area that I thought had a real strong composition... based upon simpler perspective, detail and masses. I showed them this cropped version on my 3 inch digital screen... the equivalent of the trusty rectangular mat board view finder that I used when I first went outdoors painting.

Both liked the suggestion and new view... so while they were setting up (both like to sit while painting)... I set up my regular fashion... standing... with easel off to one side so that they could watch a quick lay in "demo"... using burnt sienna oil washes to establish the basic forms and structure (as shown in the upper jpeg). When I reached the conclusion of this first step... I stopped painting and made myself available to encourage and suggest... as each needed until they too reached the lay in stage in watercolour and acrylics. My "wash" entry approach closely resembled their own individual  approach using water media... putting all of us basically on the same page as far as initial technique went.

Stage 1. Tonal start... just the basic masses and important lines

Stage 2. Basic coloured masses and placement of bridge structure

The next stage was to demonstrate the laying in of darker green masses to replace the burnt sienna toned areas with those features. I moved all over the canvas simultaneously to create full coverage in temporary thin coloured  passages of all areas ... water... land and sky masses. No attempt was made to bring any one area into a state of of finish at this point, but rather to serve as a transition platform/foundation from the tonal lay in into colour. This strategy, I hoped  would  approximate the necessary process of  laying in of washes to build water media pieces by means of gradually layering of transparent colour.

 Halfway into the painting ... light's on the move... Halfway out of the shade!

Both participating artists easily reached this same stage quickly and confidently working , for the most part on their own. I continued work on my own demo painting so that they could watch as they liked and use what interested them to define areas  and adjust the myriad of green values using heavier darks and lighter lights on their own works. I then had them stop to watch as I worked up the water areas... first in the distant passages and then the foreground water which was continually changing. I dropped vertical shafts of loosely painted dark green reflections from the trees on the island first and then proceeded to adding the horizontals into the darker areas of vertical shadows. This emphasizes the influence by the sky and the wind effects on the water. I strongly emphasized that one must make a decision about these and then lay them in .... once! Otherwise, the values become greyed down and lose their vitality and freshness.

At this point, both people were at a point where they (and I) were tiring. It is without any doubt a challenge to paint en plein air in the summer because of the overwhelming presence of green everywhere in the landscape. It forcefully underscored the wisdom of our original decision to limit our day's focus to a smaller area of the larger picture laid out in front of us. The full scene contained too much information and detail for someone with limited experience to attempt.... and a lean window of time to accomplish that task. The light had changed  rapiudly and dramatically on the island part... as I had predicted, but I had taken a photo of the lighting on the island that we wished to include. I would jpeg this photo to each to serve as a reference for each... when they did their (studio) homework on their pieces before the next class.

Note my further cropped version in the painting... AND... that white sail! What a gift!

I ended the class by placing the bridge roughly onto my own canvas and by quickly adding some cat tail details in the immediate foreground to illustrate the work that I might play with back in my own studio at a later date. I would again emphasize the need to control the urge to try and include too much detail... for the sake of detail in the foreground because doing so would reduce the overall harmony and structure of the subject as a whole.

Stage 3. Final result of the plein air class. Still a few strokes to be added... but not ... too many!

The obvious success and joy experienced by all of us on this lovely summer plein air outing can be directly be attributed primarily to PREPARATION - both physically and mentally prior to the actual foray. When the number of variables are reduced beforehand... those that must be faced can be met with much less worry and frustration. Painting en plein air should  always be as  rewarding an experience... as is possible and not made into a punishing test of endurance. As is the case in swimming in deep and unknown waters... Never venture too far from shore and when in doubt... or if necessary... wear your "life jacket." Be prepared for the unexpected... and where possible... paint with good friends. They make the day and shared experience much more enjoyable!

Secondly... success often arrives in the form of surprises... like the cropped view plus a "happen stance" arrival on the scene... as the sail offered us. These come out of the intended looking beyond what is in front of one... beyond the "big picture"... to a hunch... or impulse! Follow your heart!... Paint what you feel!... Paint whatever serves your passion! That's the real goal for anyone who paints!

Teaching a painting class is a daunting task akin to exhibiting publicly for the first time. There is risk... but weighed with the opportunity to grow as an active learner given a teaching role... the benefits and opportunities for personal growth and development are worth the risk!

Happy Summer and Good Painting ... to ALL!!!

Final canvas version: "Bridging Summer"- oil on 20x24 inch canvas

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finding... Sharing and Living the Simple Life

Our move back to Rockport has already brought many rich blessings into my life. Each new summer day yields more adventures and discoveries it seems... reminiscent of those halcyon days in the beginning when "the Boy" slipped quietly (so not to rouse the sleeping household) out onto his River at first light in search of new adventure... and fish! There was complete freedom then... an unabridged ... pick-a path ritual of rising and rowing that was for the most part determined only by wind direction and an inner knowledge of where the fish would be under the weather conditions. Even rain was a welcome opportunity not only to make fishing luck better... but as well... a respite from the sometimes hot, humid nights of July and occasionally August as well. Life was rich and the Boy loved... and valued  his freedom and solitude and drank it up with a headiness unusual to others his age... for "He" alone lived in this world of unbridled freedom and solitude.

Life since then has brought with it many changes. At one point the Boy was encouraged to "grow up"... to assume the "responsible" duties of an adult... to join the rest of the adult world on the gerbil wheel. "He" traded seats with the teacher for nearly thirty years  and provided thousands of faces he shared a room... and a year with opportunities to be "free thinkers" not curriculum-fed guppies in an enclosed "container." Being with children and their optimism and joyous nature permitted the Boy to live on. Sharing time and a home   with five children further provided an environment of adventure, discovery and play. Watching... as these "new faces" recycled his own footsteps and previous pathways created an invitation to get down and play again himself... with kindred spirits.

The Boy deeply  loved each of his "Group of Five " equally... yet recognized and encouraged their differences. He knew... and wanted them to follow their own hearts and journeys unobstructed... and under their own power as "He" had done. In so doing he realized that this would bring about their leaving. Life has its own way with all things and creatures. Humans are social creatures... and thereby require the presence of "others." At some point in life... the need for "others" must change.... and it has for them all now. For the Boy it is a bitter-sweet time. The "bitter"??? Now lost opportunities for more regular play... and visits that crop up only occasionally and when when Time allows. The wheel has turned almost full... leaving the Boy once again to his own resources  to create adventure... discovery... and Play!

The "sweet"?? The sweet arises from the "discovery"... no matter late in his journey that "He" too has found an "Other." And that "Other"... for the first time in his life totally understands and accepts the Boy and the ever-present Self which has always followed him about... his shadow! Yes... in a very real sense "I" have been much like Peter Pan - rash... drawn to the very edge of self-destruction by an impulse-driven nature and need... as surely as a moth is drawn to the fire. And like Peter... unexpectedly along my journey, I discovered Deb. "She" has become the kind ... generous and loving soul who has "stitched"... reattached my once lost Self... so that "I" am whole once again. She has supported me and my five and her own two unconditionally... giving unselfishly of her time and energy without complaint or motive of repayment.

Tomorrow... "She" will be 63  years young. Her vitality... unflagging energy and work ethic each day motivate me to work hard...push the envelope creatively... and to live in the pure light of Truth! Her skill in her crafts and art forms demonstrate her drive to always  strive for... and usually achieve impeccable perfection.A the very least she always does so  to the best of her ability. Yet it is the simpler side of life that she embraces.... and that I most admire and love. Her child... like my own...eagerly  rises each day to seek out new adventures... often just outside our huge front window looking out at our River... cup o' java in hand watching hours... turn into days...  turn into months. We revel in the antics of our ruby throat hummingbird pair... as they spar and quarrel over air supremacy around their feeding station. It would seem that disagreement arises from time to time in their sonic lives as well! HA HA!! We laugh and compare their antics with our own "moments."

Tomorrow we will book off early  head into Brockville to properly celebrate "her day"... with a simple meal out and trip the Cineplex-Odeon... at her request... to take in "The Dark Knight Rising". We live... love and play simply. We share a  common and unusual love for family and friends... creating art and each other. These are the basic ingredients in our recipe for livin' the good life at The Paint Box Gallery in Rockport.

I wish to close out this post proudly recognizing and show casing a few of the many new creations of my beautiful wife and soul mate. Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Much love and many more years of creating the good life... together!
Love ,

"A Cut Above... or a Touch of Glass!"
"A Cut Above... or A Touch of Glass"... Both work for me!

 Cardinal in the company of the 3-D Spidy!

 We love our wee American Goldfinches... real or in glass!

 Hang in there Mr Cardinal!

 "Big Bird"... our Resident Great Blue Heron!

 "Sunken Rock Light, Alexandria Bay, NY"

 Love... those Goldfinches... don't you?

 Jewellery... for the Girly Girl in you... Age doesn't matter!

 Simple Fare... for you to wear... any time... anywhere!!

 Deb's First Garden!

 "The Paint Box Gang!"... Partners... For Life!

Darned good life... when ya got a wife... like my Girl!!! Love ya Babe!

PS She'll hate me for posting this one!... but it's my all time fav! Look at the SMILE!!!!! HA HA!!

Good painting to ALL!