Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Believing"... or... The End of the Beginning" - Part Three

The time since the two Paint Out weekend just passed has sped up... and blurred together. So much so, that considering where and how to write this concluding segment was proving  problematic for me. Summer has a  customary way of arriving too late... or uncertainly in dribs and drabs... and then evaporating mysteriously. One almost always...  is left with an empty feeling that this sweet hour of play and much-looked forward to respite from the long cold of winter has slipped away... leaving one awkwardly alone on the dance floor without a partner...  still wanting to dance.

The floral "clock" in our garden has been moving rapidly... lilacs, tulips, daffodils, irises and our blossoming apple tree and forsythia are now but a memory of the Past, while lilies are headed up and the daisies smile serenely... a welcome sweet smile from my Mom. The "bloom" which had I felt in sharing plein air painting time with the Towe family and my two days with old friend Frank in Belleville has worn off. Both were rousing successes from my view and both most certainly brought new learning and pleasure to all parties concerned. But Time is always on the move... and I have been drawn along by the current and flow of my own life to next challenge... Enter a cast of two... in some ways reminiscent of my own family of  four siblings... or..."The Ya Ya Sisterhood"!

My two weekend painting guests from Ottawa were two sisters... pleasant... intelligent.. highly sensitive and worldly middle-aged women. Both were gregarious, but in getting to know them better, it soon became evident that while on the surface they while were both very definitely loving towards the other and had been reared in the same nest, their life experiences had indeed created two very different and strong personalities. Each came to this plein air experience prepared with an equal willingness to risk and learn... but using entirely different methods and thinking. Interestingly, to me... both shared a level of self-doubt about themselves and their creative sides.

To create an equal playing field and comfort zone for each, I presented my plan to treat them both equally as complete novices... starting from "ground zero". I  began by presenting a short introduction to colour mixing similar to the start with the Towe family.  I choose to purposely use this term to describe this point... because the journey we were commencing together was in fact quite like the actual site "Ground Zero" in the aftermath of the destructive events of New York... or more recently, Boston. There exists a definite need to revisit the actual site where picture making ceased, in order to commence with reconstruction of a basic vocabulary to understand the process of painting... and courage to try.

It is my own premise that ALL of us first "spoke" and described our world about us... ourselves and our feelings in terms of our picture-making. As "primitive" and devoid of rules and technique that this early expression presented itself, that expression was pure and unaffected. Our picture-making then was a genuine and undirected response. It was a confident act which revealed the relationship we each had with the childhood world in which we lived... and played. Now, after finding our way through the rigours and responsibilities of an adult life, (the Dark Ages), we reach middle age. Here, we search for a Renaissance... or a reawakening of the search for individual meaning for our lives.

We all have lived (more or less) through creating and rearing families and careers. But now many of us have found a need for a personal Quest... a personal adventure searching for adding fuller meaning to our lives. Others of us never left the Art path, but our goal in our adult lives was focused upon achieving "excellence" through honing skills to create an individual style and creating careers and sales. Somewhere along the way, most of us lost touch with the child... and his or her unfettered creative joy. Now, we find ourselves trying to make our way back to where we first began the journey.

In many cases, I have met many people... especially women who wish to take up this search. I have made it my mission in these latter years to help guide people such as the Towes and these two sisters through the maze and back through Self-discovery... to that precious time in Never Land... when they "Believed"... and found simple Joy and a place where they belonged. In this Zen World...Life would no longer be defined in terms of parents values... our spouse's goals... or our children's needs. It is a New and Golden Age of Self-discovery... driven by our own actions and wishes.

It was so interesting to bear witness to the process, as it occurred for these two siblings. Both approached the process very differently. It was obvious to me from the start that their personalities strongly shaped their painting processes, as they tried to sort out new problems as they arose. As well, I detected that their sibling past continually played into their levels of security and feelings of success during the process. Both individuals... in my humble opinion, created two very capable and equally pleasing-to-the-eye paintings, but both were significantly different ion their approach, as was their individual feeling of achievement. Neither had any previous experience painting in oils. You can judge for yourself again the quality or appeal of their paintings produced by viewing the jpegs below.

Saturday Session- Mother Nature Steps In

I had kept an eye on the weather forecast and had expected very cold and rainy weather for Saturday and that in fact occurred, so we moved into the outside Gallery where I had set up a colourful floral still life... Plan B. Here are photos to record that session.

 A quick lesson on mixing colours from primaries.... tinting and shading... creating browns and greys...then value creations in a single hue. Whew... a lot to take in... but necessary to start painting !

The floral subject... daunting at first glance... but not if... your are selective in what you choose to leave in "your bouquet/ arrangement"

Here is my ten minute "flash dance" demo... purposely left vague and "in your face" unfinished. There does exist basic structure and obvious choices about using the subject. After lunch... I added a few details to move towards a finish. However, once again it was purposely unfinished... and at the end I scrubbed it with my painting knife. What remains... is " a ghost" of the original sketch. I stressed that it was never intended as more than an exercise and guide for their own starts. I promised them (perhaps) a future finish... using an entirely new technique!

"Let the games begin!"..... on toned canvases 16x12 inches... which strongly encouraged their choice of a vertical format.

Michelle sets forth very strongly and emphatically in a well-developed line drawing. A great start!

Denise... a bit more hesitant and "airy" in her tentative start

Denise... quickly feeling more comfortable and gaining confidence quickly in adding paint to the drawing

Les deux soeurs a travail... cote a cote! Un moment merveilleux!!

Ideas and thoughts emerge rapidly... in paint

Denise... with a definite homage to Vincent! See it??? Raw colour applied with rapid abandon!

All around the subject first... and then to work to close out a successful lay in. Anybody hungry yet?

Lunch break... at Deb's Kitchen Kafe! YUMMMMMY!

Denise finished first... with panache... and JOY!

Two Beautiful Bouquets... Vive les differences!... See those smiles?
"I'm a Believer".... That says it all for me!

Sunday Session - En plein air in the Village

I had a couple of sites in mind, but deferred to the choice the ladies felt comfortable with... The Grout's Backyard Garden which had been the site for the Towe Paint Out. It was a sound choice because the subject and structure lend themselves to easy interpretation... and probable success for the novice outdoor painter. The scenario was the same for both gals... the one quickly  into action ... the other creeping in but with a sense of reserve that guaranteed her a comfortable experience. I completed a ten minute demo which stopped at the lay in stage to illustrate how the subject was supported by nearby masses. No colour direction was necessary after our first session.

Here is a shot showing the actual site with my vague quick draw lay in

Michelle jumps in confidently... basics are there already!

Denise... using her feeling her way around approach... it works!

Michelle approaches the lay in and lunch moment with satisfaction and gusto

Denise's scrubbed in... transparent lay in... painterly for sure!

We reached lay in by lunch time and we agreed to go down to the nearby Cornwall Pub for lunch... leaving our set ups as they were. We enjoyed chatting about the morning's activity and directions for the finish... and a sumptuous lunch as well! Back to the easels... both eager to get on

Michelle closes... speeding up her painting action... in lieu of using her usual precise and perfectly placed details. See the rhythm and flourish she has created as a result of taking chances?

Another confident finish... and HUGE smile of satisfaction for Denise!

And the winner is??? The smiles say... Both!!! Bien fait.... et encroyable... mes amies! These two beautiful sisters had never painted in oils... or en plein air before this weekend. Incredible!... That's the word!

It is never too late... or early to resume one's artistic journey. We spend so much of our lives just looking out the window of life... blankly as we travel daily... not really actually "Seeing ", or understanding what is in front of us. We live  a very "taken-for-granted" existence. As well... we really don't "see" the creative possibility that lies inside us all. It requires one brave and decisive moment where we reach out and risk going beyond the limitations we... or others have imposed... to discover a "Brave New World" where we too... can "belong"... and find more Joy in living. We each have a creative "voice"... our own unique way that we see and understand the world. We can find personal joy and share it with others... if we can "uncloak"... and relinquish all need for comparison to enjoy the true spirit of creating... en plein air.

Sharing the journey and watching the amazement and wonder of such an experience as this adventure with Denise and Michelle continues to motivate me to give classes. I very much look forward to meeting Denise and Michelle again... and judging by their smiles and departing words... I will... and Soon!

Bonne chance ... toutes les deux... et Merci beaucoup! Salut!

I will end this post by sharing a piece of Native American wisdom that I heard recently on a NPR morning broadcast for each of you to ponder:

"What I am.... I must become."

Life is the process of forever... "becoming" for all of us. Is it not?

Good Painting... to All !!


  1. What fabulous pieces both Michelle and Denise put out!! You must be a marvelous teacher, Bruce.

  2. Hi there Sherry!... Thanks for your visit and compliments to Denise and Michelle! They will be excited to see your response!

    Not a great teacher really... just a facilitator who genuinely takes pleasure in sharing time and a commom passion to create... in the outdoors!

    "I" am deeply blessed!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Good morning Bruce,

    Bravo to both Michelle and Denise, two very talented ladies. And you Bruce, are a wonderful teacher, facilitator, mentor etc. etc. Great job Bruce.

    All the best to you,

  4. Good morning back Joan!... Thanks for your visit and words of support to the two ladies! These encouraging words from you will add greatly towards further encouraging their new adventure into the world of plein air painting!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce, I've said it before but you must be a very inspiring teacher. The work these two ladies have produced at the first attempt is just wonderful.

    Keep up the good work,

  6. Good morning Keith!... Thank your for visiting again... and for leaving such a compliment!

    I've said it before as well... passion is something that is catchy and easily shared. Our common love for creating... out doors, I believe inspires others "to wonder". That in itself is an achievement... and often leads those with us ... to teruly "See"...

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,