Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Mid Summer Dream

I enjoyed the unexpected privilege of beginning a new friendship ... and sharing a painting session with a talented... and budding artist. The visit was not quite unexpected because the artist's Grandma had earlier inquired about having this artsy-minded grandchild "come for a lesson" with me... as a part of a surprise birthday gift she had planned during the artist's summer visit with her. I knew only two facts about this young lady. Her name was Hana... and she was just turning ten years old. Not much to go on... to insure a meaningful experience for either painters involved.

I let my intuition... and  my many years of experience working with exuberant, young people in this pre teen age group to (hopefully) guide my planning for optimal enjoyment and success. Not knowing her previous experience and interests was in fact worrisome to me in the planning process. But as the hour of reckoning drew nigh, I decided that the "go word" and process that I would depend upon would indeed be Intuition. Children and I love to day dream... and "let it all hang out." However, even when employing an intuitive process... planning is still essential to success. Hiking can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience... one which arouses adventure and creative juices. But a route must be planned... and necessary preparations made beforehand to insure maximum comfort... enjoyment... and safety. Hiking and wandering in wilderness conditions are akin to driving and drinking under the influence. Neither experience should be undertaken. The same is true with painting in my experience and process.

Prior to Hana's arrival that morning, I had arrived at the idea of a purely intuitive approach. I then decided upon an obvious summer leaves element as a thematic guide for our brief two hour artistic journey. I took my morning coffee and tripped around the village gathering several leaf specimen "possibilities"... that offered differing characteristics and variety. With the subject matter taken care of, I had then to consider offering a variety of applications or treatments.... mediums and tools/materials to support this exploratory venture. This process for me had the teaching ring of preparing lessons again... and indeed... it was just that! HA HA!!

Experience has taught me never to stand unprepared in front of ten year olds.The experience can only leave you naked... and embarrassed... even in the short span of a forty minute skirmish! Preparation is essential for potential success and enjoyment in any activity!

Here is a list of the materials that I made available to Hana:

acrylic paints - limited to primary colours plus white
brushes three bristle brushes of varied widths -  one half to one inch widths and one pointed
two large styrofoam meat trays for palette and mixing
two large bottles of water - constantly changed at intervals to keep colours from muddying
one sheet of Canson 140 lb watercolour paper- taped and mounted on a wooden sheet
a printing brayer, salt shaker, strings, piece of paraffin wax, pointed Sharpie marker, primary style pencil, toothbrush (for spattering)
leaf resources - varied sizes of maple, white and red oak, fern, ginkgo, dandelion, lilac, grape, willow, sumac

The Start

Since neither of us knew the other... and the fact that Hana had no inkling of her "gift" until she toured the Gallery, it made sense to informally chat and find a common base to work from based upon her interest and comfort zone. It became immediately obvious to us both... that we had a "connection" and therefore a readiness to "do work" together. Exit Grandma for the next two hours! See ya at lunch!

In telling me about her home and school life... it was obvious that she was encouraged artistically in both places and her grasp of basic painting knowledge and vocabulary to more than strong enough to begin painting. I described my ideas surrounding a possible leaf theme and she seemed to be totally on board... and genuinely enthusiastic to proceed with my idea rather than any other theme that she might wish to pursue. A Theme now agreed upon... we then discussed Direction.

We both agreed that laying out a few varied leaf shapes within the image area would help stimulate creative compositional decision-making... yet not lead to unsatisfactory dead ends too early on in the process. That proved to be a very strong and helpful choice and the Play got under way. Within minutes, Hana decided upon a place and leaf that she felt strongly about - the sharp lobed red oak. She... without even hesitating added... "I think that "I'll repeat it in another part of the painting later... sort of an echo effect!" The image in my mind of an adult, working with a "child" disappeared at that very moment... and remained so right to the end of the paint out! In many ways... it seemed to me that the roles were reversed... and I became more of an Observer... and an Equal Learning Partner... and that felt good!

Getting underway.... slowly... thoughtfully

Note the tonal structure for orange that she has arranged on her palette beforehand... and how she is in the process of grading those values in various parts of her composition

Note that she uses shapes that travel beyond the picture space - her idea!

From time to time... I would draw to her attention other resources that she might want to consider... and how they might be employed. And so entered the salt... the brayer... the marker... the string and the various brushes...and "spatter" technique as she decided upon using them. It was simply joyful for me... to watch her unbridled confidence in making decisions that I would walk away from... and to see them emerge as a strong compositional element. To see her automatically use colour values to push leaves forward and back... knowing that she had the ability to do so... without my interference was only one of those very joyous moments of learning that I gleaned for my own thought and even future application.

There was no indecision at all as to when she should stop... and as to when the painting was done. She quite simply and unceremoniously stated, "I think that is all that I have to say really!... What do you think?"
My answer was direct and immediate as well. I said "Does what I think matter Hana?"
"Not really... I'm quite happy with it." Lesson finished?.... Well sort of. I placed the painting to get a shot of it in a horizontal position... my choice.

It is rather "blah looking".... rather ordinary and elementary looking in comparison with...


"Hana's Pride" - "her way"
When I asked her to hold it in a nicely posed but relaxed position so we could record her tenth birthday bash at The Paint Box Gallery... she immediately held it in the vertical position without missing a beat. Further evidence again... don't you think... that this girl is an old soul... exceptionally creative already, despite her young years. Note the dynamism... as the leaves in the painting seem almost to tumble downward... and in layers of space created by her intentional choice of complementary colour hues and values.

Given future encouragement... and space to grow her Art independently... Hana could well find her way through life... journal ling her way with paint! I believe it possible... but life is all about individual choices! She is talented for certain - BUT has yet to become an artist. That will be a long journey... but she has all of the ingredients, even at this very young age to begin that life long adventure.... should she choose to do so.

The term "Artist" is so bandied about... and in my mind abused these days. This term of entitlement in my humble opinion is reserved for the very few who choose the "road not taken"... and over a life time build a body of work and a reputation that separates them from doodlers and hobbyists who work at it as a past time pleasure. An artist is driven by compulsion... passion and an unusual desire to work hard... despite the promise of receiving less money. They are willing to fore sake security of a full time job in the main stream... and live humbly from the sales they make from that avocational choice. In most cases... "Artists" are folks who forsake growing up... preferring to listen to their child within to light their way. If you get to meet one such person in your life time... hold... watch... listen and learn. Such people inspire the creative spirit which abides with us all.

In closing... I do not consider myself an artist because my journey to become one is still underway. I have stood  in awe and humility before the work of art like "Pieta" ... and the supreme "David". I know the difference and feel like I am yet .... "playing with crayons"... with far to go and much to learn. Yet perhaps... in fairness... the artist feeling is for all of us, our desire to belong because we share the passion and love of art... within each of our hearts. Let's hold that sacred and continue to believe that someday... we might arrive.

"Time is the only critic." The words of  Canadian Artist AJ Casson (deceased)... Canadian Group of Seven member. I accept that... and just choose to keep painting!

Thank you friend Phyllis... for bringing Hana to paint with me! Thank "You" Hana... for generously sharing your own Light and considerable wisdom with me! Happy Birthday Sweetie! See you... as you wished for... next summer on your 11th Birthday! 

"You" are quite simply beautiful... inside and out!

Good Painting... to ALL!


  1. Wonderful post! I absolutely agree with your thoughts on the title of Artist! You are certainly one.

  2. I totally agree with your every word, Bruce. And this is why I do not consider myself an artist, though I am one at heart. A bit of a difference there. Hana did an amazing job and what a cutie she is too!

  3. Good morning Wendy and Sherry!... Thank you for taking the time to visit and add your own thoughts about this post.

    I aplologize to all my Followers if I offended in offering my own definition of the term "artist". My very good... and well used tableside dictionary cleverly avoids any attempt to define the word.

    I have chosen to respond to your individual comments jointly because in tandem, they present perhaps a more accurate understanding of the impression I intended.

    As humans, we cannot resist the urge to classify and quantify everything we don't completely feel comfortable living with. However, more often than not... such behaviours separate rather than join people in the pursuit of understanding and learning. Hierarchies and elitism become rooted and discourage participation. That, in my view is unhealthy for the common man.... "Us

    Your wonderfully simple, but eleoquent idea Sherry.. "that I am an artist at heart" is perfect. If each of us can go out into the world carrying that very feeling within us... and sharing our own artistic expression and creative thoughts with others we meet... we then are creating harmony and fellowship in the world through our own art!

    If each of us can see passion and joy in the ideas and creations of others... then we are on the journey to becoming (better) artists. The journey has no final destination then. Each time we step to the easel.. or pick up a pencil and put it to paper to draw... or to write, we advance our own journeys and those of the others we meet.

    My beef... if I have one... is with those few who wear/display the term like a badge. Even the term "plein air" hardly elevates the painter who chooses to paint "out there" above the studio painter. The only advantage... and difference between the two choices lies in the fact that the outdoors teaches immediate lessons in observation. But the studio comforts... combined with inspiring music and digital references can produce the same result.

    The greater, and more relevant part of my post [focusing upon my observations and learning gained during my short time spent with Hana] better describes exactly what you said so simply... yet more eloquently than all of my blubbering and pontificating.

    Let us all continue to consider ourselves "artists at heart"... and to offer our creations to the world and to those who share our passion anmd choice to travel on this artistic journey!

    Thanks again... both... for offering your wonderfully thoughtful and valid comments!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  4. What an adventurous day that you both had. And what a lesson in confidence to be learnt by us all from Hana. It looks like she is a name to watch for in the future, I will look out for a post on next years painting session.

    Best wishes to you both.

  5. Hi Bruce, I was laughing out loud as I read this post; imagining you being constantly wrong-footed by this very talented young lady.

    I think if you feel in your heart, that you can call yourself an artist, you probably are one.

    All the best,

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post about Hana and her painting. She has such confidence and her painting is lovely too. I believe you have been traveling the road of the artist for a long time now Bruce it may be time to embrace this life and learn from the inner riches that one receives along the way. Don't be in awe but plunge in and live in the moment.

  7. Hi there Lisa! My paint out session with Hana was joyous and uplifting for us both I think! That is the magic that can occur ... when two kindred spirits connect and share time painting together!

    There exists no need to assume titles or roles. Age is no barrier... feeling comfortable together... learning from each other is the only purpose!

    A great day!

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  8. Hi there Keith!.... I was laughing inside... and out... just hearing this "old spirit" work her way through the exercise! It was an absolute joy!

    I do feel a genuine sense of being artistic... that is striving to become more an artist. But truthfully... I do feel more, as Gordon Lightfoot describes himself as..."just a painter passing through." And that's okay!

    Thanks for your visit and comments/opinions - both are much appreciated!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi there Caroline!... Thanks for visiting and for sharing your thoughts and opinions!

    My day with Hana was simply joyous and uplifting. I think that neither of us will forget the experience!

    As my place on the path and search for artistic learning... I have always lived within "the Now"... and I have been more than blessed by receiving my share of success and addition to the countless friendships that have arisen only because of my involvement in the arts.

    Artist ... is a mantle I choose not to wear - a choice I guess. Just my personal feeling... and I don't at all feel diminished by that one small quirk view of my self that I have.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  10. Hi Bruce thank you for your comment on my George Spencer trophy, it was kind of you to take the time out to write.

  11. Hi there Caroline!... Kindness and Friendship are a two way street when they mean the most. "Given and received"... kindness provides the impetus for Happiness and fulfilment... and lengthy Friendship!

    Thank you my Friend!

    Good Painting... and much more success on your journey!

    Warmest regards,