Winnie the Pooh, to Christopher Robin:
"Christopher Robin! I think it would help with this deception, if you would kind of open up your umbrella and say, "Tut-tut, it looks like rain."
- A.A Milne
As the Toronto Weather Gods had forecast throughout the week... rain and gloom crept into Port Perry just a scant two hours behind me. Oh dear! My worst worries and thoughts suddenly became reality. Not a peep of blue sky... or sun for the entire day. The "teacher" in me... the one who feels responsible for all of his charges was mulling strategies to deal with the cold... [real cold] reality that lay ahead.
Six enthusiastic individuals had paid Meta4 Gallery for the pleasure of my company for six hours... hopefully to introduce/encourage each of them to paint outdoors. I knew only two of the participants and only one of them had plein air experience. It turned out that another had equal outdoor experience as well. So, we were to be problem-solving our way through a rather gloomy prospect for plein air success. Given my recently acquired knowledge at the Eagle Point Winery event and my prior scouting results... I headed into battle with my "umbrella" opened wide... hoping that it would offer shelter and encouragement to the newly-formed... Port Perry "Group of Seven"!
"The human mind is like an umbrella, it functions best when open.
My "umbrella" is my passion for outdoor painting... in all seasons. When combined with my years of plein air work in every season... the two never fail to create an environment of possibility... a perspective from where I can always create paintings. For the novice plein air artist, it is what lies immediately in front of them that they feel they must record. On this particular day, they were looking for inspiration in an empty lakeside park swallowed by gloomy greyness, but as yet... minus the dreaded rain.
I assured them that we would be able to complete a painting, given the two hour weather respite... but only if we made use of the rain-less window of opportunity with determination and utmost speed. We began the session with a brief explanation of my carry in kit, followed by a selection of site [scouting detail] and then the two minute set up. What followed was a "flash" demo on a 12x10 burnt sienna toned panel. All of this transpired over the short span of fifteen minutes.
This is a modern view of The George Currie Grain Elevator which dates back 125 years into Port Perry's illustrious past. I felt that its presence not only had heritage value, but in painting terms, it could serve as a strong structure in a composition.
During this brief ten minute demonstration, I emphasized the importance of line... structure and shapes to create a strong composition of available elements. I stressed as well... that a "push n' pull " approach should be employed during this part of the process. In other words, draw in elements that you like... and push those out those that cause distraction, or bother you. In short....Completely own what you select to paint... right from the onset!
I chose the vertical format because it emphasized and echoed the central mill form. I used the "half" garden foreground element to anchor the foreground and to add some colour and brightness to the otherwise dull and gloomy atmosphere of the grey day and mill behind. I used the still dark foliage of the maple to the right to add a contrasting shape... and to stop the eye on that side. I moved the telephone pole from the actual centre of the site, choosing to use it to stop the eye from drifting off the page on the left. I added the yellow clad small maple... to break in front of the mill, thus making the mill less dominant. The bench held no interest for me... in this composition. This was totally about the mill... in relation to this peaceful park landscape setting!
Lay in reached roughly ten brief minutes start to finish. Now their turn. Choose your site... not necessarily the mill. Set up... all within ten minutes. One half hour until lay in is complete. Given the sky conditions... that is about as long as we will be able to stand unprotected from the rain that IS approaching.
Pitter-patter.... Let's get at 'er!
Despite their trepidation (and mine) about the time constraint and the imposed speed limit... all successfully reached the hoped for lay in stage within the time frame set... and just as the first drops of rain made themselves known to us. Whew!
We each quickly dismantled our painting kits and placed our gear and the paintings safely in trunks of our vehicles parked nearby. It was a short trot up to our lunch stop... "The Piano Bistro"... an elegant and popular eating establishment that the Meta4 Gals had prearranged and had included in the fee. We were ushered into a quiet room unto ourselves where we talked shop... shared experiences and simply go to know each other better. That warm homemade bowl of soup, served in tandem with a wonderfully hot... healthy and delicious slice of mushroom quiche prepared me well for the rest of a very [all afternoon] rainy session in the park. Given the option to paint in the indoor warm, dry ample studio of Meta4... all elected to head back to our bandstand cover in the park. And it worked out wonderfully!
A "bluebird day"... in another visit to our luncheon destination.The Piano Bistro could perhaps be considered the linch pin in the succession of High Victorian architectural gems which comprise the entire downtown Port Perry business district! It remains a very rich and vital community commercially... yet retains a special welcoming friendliness and an artistic flare and panache, rarely seen anywhere in my travels in Ontario. It is quite simply.... quintessentially Ontario living... at its very best! Also, I must add... Met4 and her creative lady force are one of leaders...the drivers and spark plug in that revitalization of the downtown core! Don't simply take my word for it. Visit it yourself... if ever you can. You are in for a shopping and dining thrill! Bravo Gals!
Our afternoon Bastion... The local bandstand pavilion! "Picture perfect" itself... I'd say!
So did "Foxy" Karen... a member of elite Seven who braved the entire day of rain... truly... en plein air!
Was it worth it Folks??? Karen's lovely smile says so! Does it matter who else does?... Bravo Foxy Friend!
Her finished effort en plein air... Says it all Folks! Warm and inviting!
Local artist and painting friend of Karen...Harvey "holding court" with a couple of the many interested townspeople who bravely ventured out on a nasty day to see us work!
Over Harvey's shoulder at the start...
Back again... nearing completion. Another Group Winner!
Laurie... pondering her way through the lay in! A great start Gal!
Laurie entering the flash finale stage for her first ever plein air painting... everything is in place and her result was SUPERB!!!
Alma... in her quiet comfort zone... painting her horizontally formatted subject with brushes (outside that comfort zone). She asked, " Can I possibly use my palette knife?"... Silly Bear!!!
Knifing her way through to finish... comfortably... and dry... still sitting!
Warmth... texture... serenely quiet and peaceful! Good deciding Alma!!! A gem! Totally en plein air...and you were there Alma!
Neophyte Plein Air Painter Paulette's first ever plein air painting! I celebrate your triumph over the fear factor Paulette. C'est magnifique! Bien Fait... et... Bon Voyage! Enjoyez-toi les aventures du futur... en plein air!!!
I did it!... Says the SMILE-Y FACE! ... : )
Then there's our final Groupie... Bill. Affable... witty and with his own way of doing things! I particularly enjoyed watching him shift away [in his unique painting style] from a purely impressionistic bent like the other six of us... to a combo abstract that rolled the impressionistic into it. It appears so wonderfully geometric in its hard edged construction and pastel restraint in his palette. They work to create his unique and interesting view!
"I got a feelin' that there's something missing...got any ideas????"
"Would a few darks and deeper values destroy what you wish to say?" I wonder????.....
Look at the dynamism and tension that he creates using line and highly directional brushwork!
There's room for all creatures in this Ark Bill!
"Fall Flash Dance at Currie's Mill, Port Perry" - demo plein air oil on panel 12x10 inches
It seems fitting ... that since my demo lit the initial fire, that it should be used to punctuate the closing to this already lengthy epistle. I have finished my demo under the same terms that I asked them to consider when they started to paint. Own your painting... from the start to the finish. This is my finish. Hardly the "Blustery Day" during which we shared time together. But it does, I think, speak to my total ownership of the process and most certainly reflects the brightness of spirit and warmth of friendship that we, as a group have forged in a single grey and unpromising Fall day!
As well... I have intentionally recreated a more historic and romantic view of Currie's Grain Elevator. I believe that a healthy respect for the past nurtures a sense of pride and hope for the Future. Perhaps... someone might see this wee demo painting and be inspired to fight to retain its presence in Port Perry! I understand that this question is being discussed and debated locally at this moment. Hang on to every morsel of the heritage that is so obvious that makes Port Perry so special!
I wish to say a special thank you to each of my Port Perry Group of Seven members for creating such an enjoyable and uplifting day! Thank you to Birgitta and the Creative Meta4 Gals for creating this opportunity! Happy Fall ... to ALL!!! Hope to meet... and paint together again!
I will end today's post with an appropriate quote from a poet that I much admire and enjoy, G.K Chesterton.
"And when it rains, look up rather than down. Without the rain there would be no rainbow."
All day Saturday... the Rain... was our friend and we played outdoors and everywhere together. And oh... what fun we had!
Good Painting !... to ALL!!!