Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends!... No Unfiinished Symphonies!

"Funny... how one moment can change a million after it."

Quote from the heroine in the movie "She Gotta Move"

This theme for this post is appropriate for a couple of reasons. Firstly... today we will turn over July on our calendars and move forward... full of hope and new expectations into a productive schedule in a new month. August has always a tough month for me in my past. As a child... its coming signalled the approach of an end to what had seemed scarce weeks before... to be a time of endless days of freedom. It wasn't at all that I disliked school, it was morethe impending loss of the freedom that I loved and enjoyed in this "free" time period. Those unbridled days of early mornings... fishing... swimming and exploring on my own.

As an adult "child"... still in the school system, I still operated in much the same way and looked forward to the freedom summers offered from meetings, planning and having responsibility for the lives of so many others. Having time to spend with my own family... vacationing and my painting were priorities in my summer schedule. I always looked forward to those activities and again... the approach of August always dredged up bittersweet feelings and a sense of loss.

As we ready ourselves to enter August this summer, that old feeling has returned... triggered by sudden changes and disappearances in our garden flowers and roadside wild flowers that foretell of summer's demise. August was, as well the "birthday" month in our family... with Dad and Mom's and my sister's birthdays clustered within the span of the middle week of August. It was always a chance for a much-looked forward to annual gathering of our clan to celebrate at our Narrow's Lane cottage. That once happy part of August is gone forever... leaving a permanent void in every August for me. But there remain memories which must suffice... and they do!

But enough said about old and unhappy feelings. Let's move on to the second "tying up of loose ends." Very rarely, do I leave paintings in an unfinished state. Seeing paintings against the wall... or on the easel in an unresolved state bothers me greatly. They loom before me as bothersome as an unfinished sentence... hanging without purpose or meaning. For me, each painting is an opportunity to dialogue... and as with any dialogue, it should be supported with a necessity to communicate a truth and to provide both parties with a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. A half finished painting is like a sentence cut short. To "Me" both violate that premise... and therefore must be completed... no matter the final result... or feelings.

Earlier in the summer, I conducted two teaching blocks and in each case I began with a short demo to offer insight and the courage to begin for my novice groups of plein air painters. In all three cases, I intentionally stopped work on the demo piece at the lay in stage and offered only a few glimmers of finish... choosing rather to merely give a bit of direction and then allow the painting approach of each to govern their own completion. I then could offer time and suggestions to each person on an individual basis ... as their problems arose. At the end of each session... I was left with an "unfinished symphony" of sorts that quickly found its way to the inside studio. Each morning, as I used my computer... those misfits glared at me... begging to be finished. As of this post... they are finally completed... long after the actual class... and without any reference except my own whim and fancy.

You be the judge of my efforts, if you wish to. I am pleased with the freshness and painterly quality of each. I believe that those plein air goals are still present in both!

This demo was very heavily impasto... and would have proved difficult to handle if allowed to fully dry. So I scraped the entire surface with a painting knife... leaving a readable ghost image of the original. I used this as my new foundation to search out a path and to create a new lay in. I fully abandoned any attempt to replicate blossoms or detail anywhere. I chose to paint being solely dependent upon intuition and joy to guide me.

Here is the newly established lay in mid point in the adventure... a direction in structure and colour firmly established

Just enough detail to help identify specific flowers... background worked with painting knife adds texture and interest around the vase and floral focus. Say "Done", Bruce!

"A Summer Rhapsody of Colour" - oil on panel 12x10 inches

Lay in as returned untouched from the field... merely a tonal structure of masses and an isolation of the subject which is this lovely summer veranda in the quiet of its garden yard

I totally reworked all areas of the 16x20 inch panel... correcting errors made in initial  session

"Simple Summer Joy - A Garden Retreat" - oil on panel 16x20 inches

The completion of these works reminds me that we often leave parts of our lives and goals unfinished for too long. Often they can pile up and become a creative traffic jam. Sometimes, such dalliance can lead to blocks which are difficult to resolve... that they greatly diminish one's confidence and undermine self-esteem. Setting a schedule and maintaining it are key ingredients to personal growth and development. This can only come out of stepping up to the easel and pushin' paint!

As the opening quote suggests... one positive step forward can lead to a journey filled with promise... satisfaction .... and total Joy! I wish each of you "out there"... all of these things in your own creative pursuit of Happiness!

Good Painting !... to ALL!!!


  1. There is such a feeling of Van Gogh in that floral piece, Bruce. And when you threw caution to the winds and painted with glorious abandon, I believe you were channeling Van Gogh himself. It is beautiful. And I do so love the house in your inimitable style.

  2. Hi there Sherry!... I can identify with your observations and Van Gogh comparison in terms of the bright colour and furious brushwork in the floral. Letting loose sometimes for me... arrives as a strategy when I lack confidence in my usual process. A nothing to lose... everything to gain gambit! Most often than not... this approach carries the day! Shift gears and dig in!

    The second piece ... as you have noted is indeed the landscape.... "Shermanized." I dislike being categorized in any fashion... but shifts away from one common stylism in style do emerge for every artist... thank heavens!

    Thanks for dropping by and for your great comments!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. What a demo, Bruce!!! This is done SO differently from your usual.
    I LOVE it. I just love the looseness of this piece, making it impressionistic. Well done, my friend! and your second piece is absolutely beautiful as well!

  4. Hi there Hilda!... Thanks for taking the time from you busy schedule to drop by and leave such uplifting and supportive comments!

    Sometimes a more brusque attitude towards one's usual "comfy couch" approach to painting offers more joy... and at the very least... a fresher and more intuitive response than usual!

    A change is... better than a rest! HA HA!!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce I love the first flower preparation work, it only needed some delicate detail in the foreground for it to look like a watercolour impression of a painting. I do agree with crimsonleaves that your finished paintings look like a van Gogh painting! I like the way you describe your tutoring where you start off the painting and then let everyone find their own conclusion with you walking round to help each student. Did you find that a better way of working and what led you to do that instead of painting right the way to the end of the painting and to let them copy?

  6. Hi there Highland Lass!... Good to be speaking with you again and seeing your works online again!

    A Van Gogh look-alike? That's a HUGE compliment! He was such a brilliant colourist and his brushwork evocative and richly impasto... all things that I humbly strive for in my own expression!

    I feel that a straight demo-ing process... while it is entertaining and has its own worthwhile merits, tends to lead viewers along the identical path taken by the demo leader. Copy ing is not necessarily a good learning tool by itself.

    To copy can indeed lead to learning... but the more valuable tool is to understand how "learning opportunities" from the demo process can be used and extrapolated to establish a new direction or insight into one's own painting process.

    Perhaps at the conclusion of my next class... after all are finished... I can demo my conclusion and they can understand that tail end of my process. And for me?.... No more "unfinished symphonies' to deal with... too long after the fact! HA HA!!

    Thanks for dropping by and for participation in this form!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,