Happy Groundhog Day y'all ! Yep !... today's the day that Wiarton Willy in Canada and Punxatawney Phil in most other places comes out of his winter hibernation to guestimate or forecast how much longer that ol' Man Winter will be a-hangin' about. If he sees his shadow, as the story goes he will head back into his burrow to wait out the remaining six weeks of winter. I put no store in this traditional soothsaying at all, but I surely understand the thinking behind it. The town of Wiarton near Georgian Bay has made February 2nd an annual weekend celebration. It is filled with events that encourage folk to come out and play... and spend their money. Both are good things for the Wiarton economy and sense of community spirit!
But I celebrated February 2nd in my very own way today. I headed out to find a painting site to complete painting # 2 in my own Thirty... Thousand Island Paintings in Twenty-eight Days Challenge. The temperature was still mighty cold here, hovering frigidly at -12C at 5:00 am in Rockport. The River was frozen straight across... once again when I got up for "Operation Sunrise." The "badder " news, however... was that we could expect snow showers throughout the entire day all around the area. Snow and pigment surely don't mix. When combined on the exposed plein air palette, they immediately make porridge. The snow leaches out every particle of the linseed oil from the pigment, leaving a granular residue on the palette that is completely unmanageable and useless. End of painting session!.... Maddening!
However, I had prepared for this eventuality last fall. I had ordered a new and deeper pochade box which would hold three 8x10 inch panels. My other trusty pochade was made to transport and paint on 6x9 inch panels... too small for my taste or needs outdoors. This new one, deeper and very lightweight easily carried the necessary painting supplies. No crowding! Backpack friendly too!
This morning, I set out in my van for a place that I have wanted to paint forever. It was only three kilometres down The Parkway, very near to Narrow's Lane Road where we summered as a family in my youth and where my daughter Lisa currently has a residence. This morning, I was about to open a satellite version of "The Paint Box Gallery"... within my van. I had it all planned in my mind and was totally ready for the first plein air paint out... complete with heat... comfy chair... classical music and a Pepsi to swig along to the strains of my favourite public radio classical music station WNPY. I reserved a place for a tallish tool box in the console between the two front seats... high enough to elevate the pochade to a workable height and just enough space to place me at an arm's reach from the pochade box.
"How sweet it is!"... crooned Jackie Gleason in 60's hit, The Honeymooners. This morning... "How sweet it was!"... to be warm, comfy and protected from the wind and snow outside the studio! It worked like a charm. I'll never be rained out, or snowed out again! Again, I made no attempt to completely finish the piece on location. I had all that I needed within my memory... a memory which predated the actual reality of today. Note the significant differences between the digital reference... used only to present my point here. My own "view" was entirely a Resurrection of sorts... completely from my past. I caught my first Northern Pike just off this island a bit... while fishing with my dad in a rowboat in our first summer at The Narrows. The digital image shows it as it is today - an upscale, renovated, well used and enjoyed summer retreat. Change is good!
This very small cabin getaway, in my memory though never had visitors during my youth... except... if you count our presence, when my cottage chums fished and swam from the island in our early teens. It was our tradition in early spring, to use birch poles left on the island by commercial fishermen to pole vault off shore and into the frigid May 24th water. One of those chums is no longer alive, so this painting is a remembrance and tribute to my longtime pal and fishing buddy, Bill Blanchard. Bill and his family also summered on Narrow's Lane Road. We hung out at the Narrow's and later, even into our early adult life. I think of "Him"... each and every time that I pass this very small island cottage.
The ways and workings of this Universe truly are mysterious to "Me." As i was laying my first stroke to the canvas, the classical radio host announced that the next piece came out of Venice. How strange! ... Second daughter Dr Jemima was actually there in Venice at that very moment! The Oratorio Juditha Triumphans by Antonio Vivaldi was the piece being played... and AntonioVivaldi is my favourite classical composer. For my tastes, he never wrote a piece that I don't fully enjoy and thrill to. His signature use of soaring violin virtuosity never fails to lift my heart into an elevated state of "paint-readiness'! This combined choral and orchestral piece was written to celebrate the triumphant victory of Venetian forces. With the aid of the army of The Holy Roman Empire they drove out the Turkish invaders at Corfu in 1716. It is used in allegorical fashion, using the biblical heroine, Judith in her defeat and beheading of Holofernes... to musically celebrate the victory of Venice in successfully driving out her Turk invaders. The allegory of Judith was also a favourite painting theme used by major Venetian masters like Artemisia Gentileschi and Caravaggio... to name but a few... for the same allegorical reasons.
I thought as I listened to this beautiful piece of music and was moved to think of my painting in the same allegorical vein. While the painting and the cottage itself likely create and satisfy a surface visual interest perhaps for most people... it is on another level, buried deep in my memory where it represents something else that others perhaps might not be aware of, or be privy to. My painting of Tim Berry operates at a similar dual level for "Me." On the surface, it satisfies the interest of the viewer I hope. However, for both Suzanne and "I"... the portrait represents something much deeper... and sacred. Both of these paintings celebrate and acknowledge the gift of love and friendship which will continue on... though the people have passed from this plane of existence. Do such feelings and these paintings not then.... repesent a form of Immortality???
Whatever way you may wish to look at these paintings, it is always my goal to reach out and share my painting process(es) and my thinking. Through the included digital images you will be able to understand that the day by itself was hardly conducive to encouraging the drama and colour that I have chosen to inject into the painting. What I am suggesting is that you jump fully in at some point in the painting process and truly strike out on an individual journey of truly creating, as opposed to merely replicating what is before you. In so doing, you will truly experience the total joy of ownership which comes only from this kind of painting path. I hope that you are enjoying my own Daily Challenge, as it unfolds. I have found it both stimulating and highly rewarding... and an impetus to expanding my own painting adventure in new directions! Plein air painting can be accomplished... without discomfort. If you want it be a "totally en plein air" experience... just paint with the window down! HA HA!!!
The satellite version of The Paint Box Gallery.... Go Van Go!
The subject as it is today... not really inspiring as it sat this morning!
Details for the Tar Island shoreline in the distance
The unfinished sketch in progress... pretty much as it was returned to the studio
The sketch finished and titled:
"L'oratorio per il 2 febbraio" Oratory of February 2nd, 2013 - plein air oil sketch x 10 inches
As Allison wrote to "Me"... now so many years ago: "Be Bold!"
Good painting!... to ALL!