The outside Gallery has been closed for the season and all works carried in and hung in our studio and a second room... should potential clients wish to drop in by appointment ... or by chance. We are always open to either, but heating the outside gallery seems fruitless and too costly for the expected return. The cruise boats will shortly head off to winter dry dock in Kingston and many Rockport residents will soon disappear to southern climes until winter and the expected snow and ice have disappeared. The population and activity of Rockport will plummet.
November is indeed a month of transition... a month for battening down the hatches for winter which is not far off. The lawn mower has been retired to our outside tool shed. Outside raking and garden readiness and cleanup is now complete. Summer tools, hoses and equipment have found their winter resting places in the shed as well. Our first flurries last week justified those preparations. Winter could not be far off.
On a quick visit back to Hillsdale a week ago to visit our pals, the Hallyburtons and to attend the high school graduation ceremonies for two young Friends, we drove (unexpectedly) into into a world of white. With six inches of snow on the ground, the ski slopes of Horseshoe Valley were having an early dress rehearsal for the upcoming busy season... soon to get under way. Skiers would be smiling!
At 8:00 am oin Friday, as promised... our tandem truckload of winter firewood supply arrived and was dumped unceremoniously into the driveway... right at the very doors of our Gallery. YUK!!! This event erased any prior delusion for me that winter might be further off. We spent the rest of the morning carefully stacking the firewood neatly into "face cords"... one near our convenient side door... the other four in number on the floor inside the empty Gallery space. Pieces suitable for kindling were set aside in other piles to be kept dry in the Gallery.
By lunch break, we could agree with that old saying that "making firewood grants three heats." Fortunately for us both, we were spared the first two heats created by felling and splitting the wood. I will confess, that my aching bones and muscles were appreciative of having to deal with only the lesser cause of heat. Let it snow!... Let it snow!
My reward was a lonnnnnng ... hot soak stretched the length of our comfy tub with a .05 beer. That quickly removes all the aches and rewards the effort. During that soak ... my my wandered to more important things like: when... and where to get out painting! Didn't take long to come up with an anwer to both! Now... just the kick in the pants to jump start the process!
Defeating Numbness... by Warming Up to Winter
The first face-to-face with the rainy and cold chill of November, combine with the rapid decrease in light to diminish outdoor painting comfort on most days.These factors bring on a sort of "creative numbness" which can become paralysis for those, like myself, who favour plein air painting over studio painting. It is at this particular time that we find ourselves ruminating... that is finding any kind of substitute activity to replace the painting stasis... just to feel that we are producing something.
I personally step around this annual problem by trying something new. Once I have struck upon a strategy, I keep my eyes open for possible subjects and sites where the "Idea" and my interest meet. For this November painting season, I have decided to switch my focus strictly to Fall Structure as a theme. That concept will deal with looking within the actual November landscape and trying to translate it in terms of the expected changes in colour and landforms.
More muted earth colours, russets and golds soon replace the richer, gaudy hardwood spectacle of October. This more subdued pattern of colour and the sparseness forest forms combined with a stronger and darker fir presence. Now... with the absence of the too many confusing greens... the landscape form reveals itself more clearly in interesting... sweeping and often overlapping patterns. This is easier to read... more interesting to play with as compositional elements. Edges can actually create line in viewing the landscape thusly.
I see-sawed back and forth in my mind... trying to reason my way out of actually going out into the much colder temperature which hung for most of the day at +3C... in the bright sunshine. I had found a striking scene which I felt might serve as a possible site... but I knew that time was running out for the softwoods that formed the basis of its structure. By 2:45 pm... I knew that with the new time change that I would be working with a rapidly sinking sun and shorter painting time. I decided to give it a try because the site was only five minutes away and I would have the warm sun at my back and the scene in full light... with a blue sky and no clouds for the entire session.
I had already set up a new palette of colour in the morning... so everything was at the ready when I arrived at the scene. I had again added an unusual format feature and an extra challenge for me... a 12x12 inch wooden cradle board panel. .The lighting and colour was perfect... and within two minutes, I had jumped into the actual painting process. I looked at the scene for a few moments... placed the horizon line where I wanted it and then proceeded to lay colour in stainy (turpentine thinned) blocks... paying special attention to edges and contours for these initial colour blocks. It took less than ten minutes to establish a non-descript contour "map."
The die was cast. Now, I could begin searching out and placing specific and accurate strokes of colour to create more permanent... even final areas for the finished vision I had in mind. Remember... I always aim for an impression which I hope at least half replicates... but then interprets the realty before me. The "play" in this sketch lies in the tension between the complementary vertical golds of the aspens and birches and horizontal blues of the sky and water that surround them. Add to that.. the tension added by diagonal shadows and the tipped plane of the varied green grasses and you have the basis for my interest and what I hoped to capture. The entire process and painting as it is displayed... fresh from the field took about an hour.
Those last and noticeably colder painting minutes... the rapidly spreading shadows and diminishing light and colour on the softwoods reminded me that it was time to close. I was tremendously happy and encouraged by the result. I felt colder for certain... but no longer numb! I had triumphed over my indecision and felt invigorated by the success of my experiment. I will indeed proceed further with the "Idea"... the Fall Structure theme. Stay tuned for more...
The actual site... the basic structure is strongly present... but as you can see that the initial strong interplay of light and shadow and drama has greatly diminished. A few clouds provide interest.
Oh yes, my previous scouting trip revealed another completely unexpected surprise for me... but I had no camera to record it. A perfect time... to see if that surprise is still there to share with you. Still there... in all their magnificence and grace. Enjoy!
Sixteen Whistling Swans... A-swimming. These are the first I have seen in this area in my lifetime. Change is always a present factor in Nature.There have been a pair in this area all summer... mixing serenely and without incident with the very large flocks of resident Canada Geese and mallards.
Change is always present and an essential element in Creation. It should be so in our Art as well. Change begins with "You"! I hope that my adventure yesterday encourages some of you to bundle up and give my experiment a try... even if your sortie is with camera in hand to take structure-based subjects back to your studio. You might very well come away feeling re-energized and more optimistic about your own painting journey. Give it a try!
Stay tuned for more...
Good Fall Painting... inside or outside... to ALL!!!