Friday, March 29, 2013

"March"ing... Hopefully Towards Spring... and Summer

We are rapidly approaching yet another change in 2013, as we get ready to roll over March and hopefully... bring Spring from the wings fully on to the stage. Budding on the lilac bushes... six inch spikes mark the new presence of emerging daffodils... hen's chicks have begun to lose their ruddy winter magenta patina and the birches are showing their tell-tale pinkish red cast at the edges of the hardwood  forest cover. Creeks are open and running furiously and night time temperatures are not dipping below zero much these past evening.

This will likely bring a rapid halt to the sample syrup production. Trees head towards leafing out quickly from the first bud stage. A few days of feeling the increased heat from a closer sun, soon shifts the mechanism in the sugar maple from sending up sap from the shallow root system to the branches... to supplying the energy to the buds for the purpose of leafing out. This shifts the focus from sugar production to photosynthbrings the sugaring off to a final closing.

I did not make it out to actually visit a shanty in production...  but I will check it out this week. Maybe I'll be in luck. I wanted to create one larger painting to celebrate this unique springtime ritual in a new way. So often my paintings tend to be directed to simply painting the sheds or gathering process. But this year... I searched for another way to juxtapose and celebrate both the sugarin' off... and the coming of Spring itself. I fleshed out some ideas... and finally arrived at this scenario - one which I have indeed witnessed on more than one occasion over the years. This does accompany the predictable human gathering rituals... but "We"... aren't the only ones with that idea! Perhaps the "idea" to gather sap... might have originated with these wee gatherers... or others of their kind. Who knows???

This is my take on a pair of tiny Black-capped Chickadee hunter-gathers... busy in the hardwood stands This is my first day of work and it will continue until I complete the painting, hopefully before the end of the weekend. Lots still to do on this one... but I do intend to try to maintain the current loose and "painterly" style in completing the painting! It has a plein air ambiance at this point that I like. We'll see how our Easter celebration plans... a weekend visit from my son Bryn unfolds. Family first!

Stay tuned...

Good Painting!...and A Happy Easter to ALL!

"The Sweet Taste of Spring" - oil on toned panel 20x16 inches

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is Spring... If not Hope???

This sign at the front of our church in Hillsdale really says so very much to "Me." Hope is a faith-based support to enable one to make sense of life's many problems and to endure. It is not a passport which exempts one from the suffering. 

I have been revelling in observing the multitude of sudden new changes here in Rockport this past week. Everywhere... there are signs that, despite the presence of much remaining snow... sudden new changes  seem to fill each hour of each day. All of these signs draw one to conclude that Spring has indeed finally arrived!

The skies are filled with continuous ever-noisy skeins of thousands of northward bound Canada Geese on the way to their summer breeding grounds in the northernmost  reaches of Ontario. That unique "Goose Music" never fails to leave one filled with awe and it arouses the very same fire and excitement which each flock bugles constantly... as they push on to their summer breeding grounds. One feels as much a part of the change... as the geese do themselves. It is so uplifting to watch the cycle of change and feel life being reborn... Renewal! 

Resurrection seems an appropriate celebration to correspond with the coming of Spring. I have always wondered... Could it have been planned thus? Easter and Spring are synonymous symbolically... and perhaps intentionally. Who knows?... and would accurate dates really matter, or discredit the Christian celebration of Christ's rising up? Not for me.

Both celebrations centre fully upon Hope... and Life after death. Spring signals the regeneration of plants... birth of new animals and birds... a returning to longer periods of daily light. Easter as well celebrates a promise of ever-lasting life through Christ's sacrifice for Mankind. Regardless of one's religious persuasion... Spring with its obvious mystery and wonder offers witness to the "possibility" of that promise mentioned. Whether one chooses to "believe"... remains personal choice... based perhaps on simply Faith alone.

I choose to live each day in Faith and Hope... that the mystery which  I have observed, always with awe and wonder throughout my entire life will lead .... (somewhere???) beyond life and the plane of awareness as it exists here on earth. I cannot... after so closely observing and being a part of life here, deny the existence of Creator ... or Creation. I accept... that it merely "is"... and "I"... "am" but a very small part of it.

I wish everyone Happy Easter! May you find Peace... Happiness... Purpose and the same Hope that I have found in my own life and chosen work! Keep the Faith...and

Good Painting ... To ALL!!
Rich Blessings..

 A New Moon rising in Rockport last evening... and with it... our Hope for further success and Happiness in our new personal and business lives. We are truly blessed to be Home!

This American Robin... with his uplifting "Cheer-up!" song one only one of vast legions of his kind who are now back and bobbing about our lawn!

Just one undulating skein of migrating Noisy... excited Canadas... thousands of feet up in the air.... themselves... headin' Home!

One large raft of flight-weary Canadas...resting... until they take to the air once more... more than likely not touching down again until they have reached their final destination at James Bay in  the High North. 

 Tight formation... constantly honking...reassuring each other and urging the flock in unison... onward!

These long... undulating masses of birds are Snow Geese headed to Quebec and then North as far as Ungava Bay where the summer. They are called "wavies" by the northern First Peoples, who hunt them and depend upon them for food and their goose down to fill their clothing. When one sees them... they so resemble white sheets on a wash line being waved up and down by the wind.  Native hunters actually wave white sheets in their blinds to decoy the birds to their awaiting guns.

These are but a few of the wonderful changes that I have enjoyed this past week. For those of you who might not be privileged to see these things... I offer them to further understand my own enthusiasm and joy in watching Spring finally arrive!

"Hoppy" Easter!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reoccurring Ideas

 This week has brought a potpourri of duties and responsibilities for me... each tugging and eating away at my time. All rightfully demanded my attention... and as is many times the case, they seem to cluster together and get in the way of my painting schedule. I felt this pressure simply because I had been mulling over an "Idea" in regards to "sugarin' off"... which has kept reoccurring like one of those nagging dreams which sometimes repeat and keep disturbing one's sleep rhythm. "Ideas" arrive quickly.. and out of no where for me... and then they percolate and distill and finally... offer a distinct direction. But the interval between actual entry of the "Idea" for a major painting project... and  full fruition can be over a number of years and exploratory studies.

The maple syruping season certainly started off late from what I have heard... and production was not going to be at record levels.  However... the necessary below zero nights and sunny warm days which keep the sap running seem to have fairly consistent for a lengthy time. I had wanted to get out to local bushes to find out, but time simply was not there to do so. Hopefully, I might not be too late to find some still at work... even if only at the cleaning up process to get some first hand facts about this year's run.

As I was enjoying my walk last evening, I took a time out and sat with my field glasses scanning the immediate view looking southward from Rockport over the vista which knits together Club, Wellsley, Mary, Pine, Cleopatra,Yeo and other smaller islands. The raking last light of the day floodlit white cottages which dot these islands... and all the while played with edges on the many floes and shards of drifting ice. This scene added to the quiet, made it a pleasurable and relieved me of much the weight of my earlier feeling overwhelmed by too many "jobs"... which had  intruded upon my intended painting during the week. "Still waters..."! High overhead... two golden eagles circled and swung lazily, but purposefully overhead using the thermals high above me, as they searched for one last meal opportunity for the day.

Suddenly, my eye caught the shape of the New Moon hanging pale, alabaster and not yet fully transformed... high above Wellsley Island. At that very moment, my mind left the River and I found my thoughts suddenly shifted back into the "sugarin' off " mode again. The moon had always been the trigger which kept dragging me back to this idea. Some "Ideas" simply require more thought and exploration in my own process. One begins to wonder... "Do I have the idea... or ... does the idea have me?" I wonder...

I have certainly played with the "Idea", or concept which draws upon the presence of the moon during the maple syrup months, mainly because night plays in heavily into the activities at shanties. The gather-to-boil operation goes on unceasingly all day and night during the run. In the older method, fires under the pans had to be stoked continuously with hardwood fuel until the product was completed. Then they required dampening down, so that the syrup didn't caramelize and burn. This can occur quickly when the temperature becomes too high or if the syrup is not drawn off soon enough. Sugarin' off is a precise and exacting process and is labour intensive... My "jobs" this week now seem pale in comparison. Shame on me!
 I have never spent a night in a shed, but I have talked often to families around Ontario whose members have spent all of their Springs doing so... and usually with a glad heart. Through their reminiscences, I do feel a kind of sense of "being there." It was a unique family time when hard work was tempered by laughter and sharings of countless coffees, teas... or "other" beverages, meals and catching up on life. It was all a part of the sweet maple magic tradition. It was the "gold standard "of that early pioneer economy.

I had hoped to create a large painting this season which drew together a number of previous studies and paintings which I have made over the years, but that will be a story... for another run, I fear! I did make one more study however... which will join the others as "seeds"... to encourage further exploring. I will offer it here, along with the others which form a body of thought... around which that larger work will evolve and come forward... whenever.

Hope that you enjoy this sweet news and views" from the bush"... up here in in the still Great White North!

This wee 5x7 inch memory painting created in February of 2009 is "sweet"... syrupy and just a form of playing around with colour, mood and form. I just push and pull memories from my past into and out of the picture plane. I would call the product simply a "shorthand" note-taking or composite overlay of ideas which "might" work... or not!

Here is an earlier study in a new form of a lino cut about 6x6 inches. It is an extension of the "Idea"... only on this occasion in 2006, my interest has shifted away from the shanty as a whole form and the time of day has shifted to a later hour and the picture format is square. I love the strong feeling of black and white to play with when exploring. I think this strategy harkens back to my early beginnings when ... like most young artists... pencil and paper are the primary tools... and colour is threatening. I feel comfortable in this medium... despite the fact that my technique is truly rudimentary and rough! Many "mistakes"... but the act of  play is fun... and the only real goal of the exercise!

At this juncture of my process... I shifted "voices." That is... I left my visual expression and crossed over... easily... and romantically to the "second language"... free verse. I have always enjoyed creating poems or... "voice thoughts", as I refer to them. Sometimes, they follow exact poetic form and even rhyme scheme. But on many more occasions, as is the case when sketching with pencil and paper... they are loose and painterly "etudes"- studies... as is the case with piano practising. Here is that "etude"... shades of "Moonlight Sonata"... HA HA!!

A Sugar Moon

Moonlight falls the length of the maple stand
Guarding all with silence until the return of spring.
Somber silhouettes in the winter night,
Their arms reaching... thrusting ever upward into the inky sky
In the vain hope of capturing the celestial disc.

The now deserted shack sits patiently awaiting
The return of the excited voices of those,
Who pass the long nights
Sharing labour... laughter
And their sugar secrets.

Will they return again this spring perhaps?

Not again... will this shanty fill with sweet smell of sugary steam,
Not again... will the empty pans now left to rust away,
Ever yield another gallon of liquid gold-
This sweet taste of Paradise found here lost... forever!

Dec 14th, 2006

Back to visual expression... and we arrive at this 7x5 inch nocturnal study done after an evening walk at Sheppard's Bush and Conservation Area in  Aurora. The focus on the one end and cupola/ ventilator area of the shed and the time of day are maintained .The treatment is still  "shorthand" and note-worthy at best!... Just play!

 This 22x18 inch vertically formatted canvas shown below was completed totally in the studio and is based on the note taking and shorthand of the preceding studies. While highly imaginative really, it deals with that feeling of "oneness" in the outdoors... being in touch with the land as our forefathers were. This painting deliberately avoids the presence people and man made objects which might not appear to be in harmony with Nature. The shack itself... made of wood... using the resources of the woods it resides in is unobtrusive and blends with its natural surroundings.

"Sugar Moon at Sheppard's Bush, Aurora, ON" - oil on canvas 22x 18 inches

"Sweet Dreams" - 16x20 inch oil on canvas is yet another take on Sheppard's Bush. Note the shorter shed area and squattier appearance. That was deliberate as well because I was demo-ing to a group from a pen and ink sketch in which the "real " appearance was shown. My message was to leave the well-used path and take ... "the Road Not Taken" approach ! Even the backdrop of fir was changed to further make my point.

This 8x10 inch sketch  was last week's study... using a new "Idea" found while trekking en plein air out on the Ridean River region near Newboro. It represents a first push into a new idea. Where will it go???... Who knows. But here is a second run... and  further thought about at it completed this week. The joy of making paintings for me comes out of being able to search out new paths leading away from a set direction. The process is indeed a voyage of discovery. The truest pleasure ... is in the voyaging... and not the arrival. For at any destination... there must remain always... the opportunity to "sail" again.

"Out of Service... and Time"- oil on panel 8x10 inches. A jaunty... playful exploration of an idea... which will have its time... whenever...

Stay tuned

Good painting!... playing!... and fair sailing!... to ALL!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sweet Thoughts of Spring... Hope...and "You"!

Happy Spring everyone... even though we are still fully swaddled in Winter's ermine mantle of snow and cold! I think that under such circumstances...  little is to be gained by "grinchin' and  grumblin" or complaining about something which cannot be changed, or even hurried along! I choose to celebrate the fact that weather is one particular phenomena which cannot be governed or taxed  by any government. Also... there is comfort in the fact that in my area,  at least for the moment... all residents live under the same conditions, with no exceptions to this rule regardless of of income or creed! Pure equality and equal opportunity... as far as putting up with the weather goes! So one more time... Happy Spring to ALL!!!

I thought that I might offer some of  my images from past Springs and particularly those related to the Canadian maple syrup gathering tradition for those who are not fortunate to have experienced such a yearly ritual... and might not ever perhaps. So an early "Happy Easter Egg" for everyone... from this ol' Hare! Hope that these images lift your spirits and hearts to thinking Spring... no matter where you are! Enjoy!!

This pen and ink sketch depicts a typical rural sugar shack and its various parts ... before the new technology arrived. This shack owned and operated by The Smail Family and was located at Glen Smail, Ontario , south of Ottawa. It operated continuously each spring until the mid- eighties since their United Empire Loyalist  land grant was issued to them as entitled settlers in the early 1800's. It no longer exists... nor the bush tapped.

This is an ink rendering done en plein air at the shanty of our friends The McCutcheon Family in the Oro-Medonte Hills north of Barrie, Ontario. They are World Champion Maple Syrup producers quite regularly at the Royal Winter Fair held each year in Toronto. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.... Good !!! Great Syrup!!!

 "Up the Lane to McCutcheon's" an oil on panel 20x24 inches. I painted this en plein air during the run in February of 2005 and it quickly became my passport to travel with this family each Spring with my own family... for almost ten years. I am proud to say that it hangs in the living room in their brick home to the right in the painting! How sweet... it is!!! I am deeply honoured!

 A "retired" shed near Westport, Ontario.... typically abandoned in many parts of rural Ontario.

This painting of Sheppard's Bush shanty in Aurora entitled "Sugar Moon"... 24 x18 inches on canvas was gifted to a special friend who admired it! I will add a poem / word thought that goes along with this painting in my next post. The painting speaks really the same thoughts... but expressed slightly differently in pigment... not print!.... "Two voices"!

"Late Evening Shadows", Deloro , ON - oil on panel 16x20 inches en plein air painting. Traditionally sap was gathered using team and sleigh. Getting through mud and brush was achieved more easily even than using tractor. Plastic tubing has now replaced both methods and delivers the sap from the entire maple stand continuously;y while the run last.. The problem that the producer faces now... is the constant need for repairs to the on going and huge amount of damage to the tubing caused by marauding squirrels with a penchant for sweet maple water. Every method has its unique problems it would seem!

 "Team Canada... Two... at Afternoon Recess" - oil on canvas 36x36 inches. They do seem attentive to what's going on inside the shed... and they are indeed! The coats they wear greatly reduce the effects of cold. Hauling such a load through heavy bush and often muddy terrain really does work up quite a sweat. A rest is good for both man and beast. Believe me! ... It's hard work!

"Three Bucket Maple" - watercolour 22x30 inches. This award-winning watercolour belongs to my son Andrew and currently hangs in his Rockwood home. The rusty patina of these buckets belie their many springs of service. At the conclusion of the run... all that remained was that the buckets were washed in soap and water... laid out in the sun upside down to dry... and then stacked away inside the shed in tall columns of tin... awaiting the next year's run! The maple bucket brigade!

"Team Canada One" - oil on canvas 5 feet x 7 feet now lives somewhere... "Down Under." An unscrupulous Ottawa gallery... once based (now, thankfully for other artists out of business) in Ottawa sold this piece.But I never was paid for it! Life ain't always fair folks! But life is about choice. Suck it up... and carry on! Focus on the positive and Present... let go of the Past. It's gone... and Tomorrow... bringing with it Hope and Promise... is already on its way!

Good Painting to ALL and Happy Spring!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More March Magic... and Mayhem!

March is truly an unpredictable sort... mild like a lamb one day... and fierce like a lion as the saying goes... on the very next. Most folks have become increasingly impatient with these mood swings of manic March... but I savour them in my own way. Strangely... I am uplifted by the sudden return of geese, American Robins, cardinals and red winged blackbirds and their spring voices which I know herald Spring's not-so-distant victory over Winter. However... at another level, I really am saddened to see the snow and ice of winter rotted away... and with it the glorious light and blue shadow which make being outside so very different than other parts of the year. I truly value each season for what it brings into both my personal and painting lives. Beauty ... can be found everywhere... if the eye of the beholder can recognize it... and celebrate it.

This morning, we are again blanketed in newly fallen snow - at least six inches of it at present, with the promise of at least another day or two more days of intermittent snow showers expected to fall in this area. No newly emerged green daffodil shafts can be seen this morning... and I hear no complaint. They will wait patiently... for their time in the sun until this "robin snow"... as farmers in touch with the natural world refer to this late and last brief blustering winter presence. It can disappear in a single day when the now powerful sun of the longer day attacks it in every corner. This is March... the "quick change" artist's only legitimate claim to being predictable. It defies being nailed down... coming and going ... as it pleases!

I choose to find activities linked to the irregular rhythm of this month to focus on. I have observed through many years of experiencing March outdoors that certain human and animal activities are predictable... and are interesting to watch... and to record with my paint box. Birding is one activity which can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors as well. Each morning, Deb and I both revel in watching the antics of our winter feeder residents, as new arrivals join in the feeding and territorial frenzy. Behaviours change... disagreements arise and the pecking order changes. Great fun to observe and discuss... as the new action unfolds daily.

It is that time again when the production of maple syrup begins in our hardwood forests. It is a perennial activity of renewal... a rite of Spring really, which has drawn families together to harvest sap from sugar maples for many generations in some families. It was exactly that in the beginning when pioneer families spent countless hours together... gathering... boiling off and bottling this Canadian "gold standard." For it was... and still remains a lucrative source of income for farmers even today, although the lion's share of money earned today in the industry is governed by large producers with modern technology production methods. In the early days, the money was used to purchase seed to plant the next years crop and to provide sugar products for the home kitchen for the entire year. Refined sugar was rarely seen or used in those early days of settlement. Change as unpredictable and uncertain as the weather of March has deeply effected maple sugaring.

Here is a the ventilator shed... typical of most early Ontario farms which now lays mouldering. IT will likely never hear the laughter... have heat in its pans... or the sweet syrupy smell of Spring. It is something that I treasure in my soul. It is something which I still seek out each year. No spring would be complete ... except that I visit... sketch and collect a few litres of the gold to create a delicious Sunday pancake breakfast. That happened last weekend... expect it will repeat on this one as well! I record these sugar shacks... or "cabanes-du-sucre' as the French Canadians describe them as I find them. They are quickly disappearing... as are the old tapping and pail-gathering and wood-fire boiled methods. Tubing now constantly delivers the sap steadily from the forest to the gas-fuelled evaporator. The production is seamless and the volume huge in comparison to the older methods. However, as to the taste? There is definitely something missing in the final product... and over fifty years, I have sampled my fair share to offer this judgement call.

Perhaps... it is the human hand in touch with his land... or the ash present in the air which adds to the alchemy of the sugar house to create such an elixir... a tonic of renewal for Spring. Whatever the reason... I  to continue to look forward to... and actively pursue and enjoy another Spring - to savour precious life. I drink it with great appreciation... gratitude and thankfulness!

I am deeply blessed...

Winter ... again!

Cheery red breast of a friendly male red poll visitor!

This cardinal didn't travel to Rome! But isn't there something divine and awe-inspiring about him... or his voice???

"Retired... Permanently!" - oil on panel 8x10 inches

Good Painting...and Happy Spring to ALL!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March Break... A Place Somewhere between Magic and Madness

As I write today... ol' Man Winter has circled back into our area it would seem. It is snowing... BIG flakes... and they're coming down hard! On the previous three days, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. The skies were filled with skein after skein of migrating geese, working their way northward to their spring and summer breeding grounds. The grass on our lawn magically appeared and the birds at our feeders were all a twitter... animated by the sudden change in weather here. The ice on the River seemed to disappear before our very eyes during the day. There will certainly be no need for the annual trip up river by the Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker to break a path in the shipping channel to encourage an earlier start to inland Great Lake shipping. It is already totally clear from Lake Ontario at Kingston... right through to Quebec City and the Gulf of St Lawrence. One more sign which collaborates a world view on global warming and dramatic climate change!

I have spent the past few weeks working on my water colour and ink sketches which will form the basis for a new series of cards and prints that we will be offering visitors to the Gallery this summer. These specifically target Rockport and the Thousand Islands,... and hopefully, they will afford an opportunity for a steady income for us, based upon their quality... portability and low cost. I am pleased with the overall result... and once I got into the swing of things, I truly enjoyed travelling this old path way back along my earlier painting journey. The lively and loose approach felt comfortable to me... and I believe the exercise will help me find the same feelings as I now prepare to get back to my preferred medium of choice... my oils... and en plein air! Bigger canvases... and bigger brushes... and solitude - things which make my spirits soar!

March Magic... on the way! It wouldn't be March without revisiting as I do...the rushing dark waters of swollen creeks and rapids which carve away at winter ice and snow. I intend at least a couple of forays to some local sugar bushes to make some sugaring off paintings... and perhaps, even pick up some fresh-from-the-tree 2013 maple syrup. Reports from our syrup producer the McCutcheon family back in the Oro-Medonte Hills near Hillsdale,  indicate that it the run is well underway now. Let the good times and sap flow... Ken, Renee , Carley and Jesse! Wish that we were there physically to share as a family, as we have for so many seasons with your family! We shall be there... in spirit for certain! By all take time  visit the McCutcheon blog site at .Within their site you will find an overview of one of the most up to date producers... recipes and interesting maple facts. A great resource to gain an understanding of the process of gathering and making maple syrup and other products!

I will conclude today's post by offering the watercolour and ink sketches which I have completed and add to the other folio of my recently completed card sketches. Hope that you enjoy them for what they are - sunny... colourful and jaunty... quick impressions from my travels around Rockport and the Islands over the post year here! I hope that you enjoy them!

This sketch depicts the electric power house for Boldt Castle... constructed of beautiful pink Canadian Shield granite the oldest rocks in the world! It represents a very small part of the most famous of all destinations in the Thousand Islands... an absolutely must-see visit to Boldt Castle. This is a trip that I will shre with you on another post... it is worth the sharing!

This sketch represents Zavicon Island and the smallest international bridge in the world... or so the boat cruise guides tell the story! It actually lies fully in Canadian waters however... but it's a great tourist attention-getter! The large summer home was originally owned by the Woolrich woolen family from the USA.

THis sketch depicts a small summer home along a lazy channel, wending its way through the Islands just under the Thousand Islands International Bridge. One can see the Sky Deck observation tower... a place where one can gain a birdseye, panoramic view of the entire islands and channels! Breath-taking is the word!

This is but one of the magnificent high vantage points from the turrets of Boldt Castle... looking down upon Sunken Rock Light House... one of my earlier painting subjects and a demo. One can also see The Rockport Boat Line Chief Shemauk below... adding some scale to the sketch.

Here is the very same vessel heading to Boldt Castle from Rockport into American waters at Wellsley Island's tip. These vessels carry over 150 passengers and the Line offers one and three hour cruises to visitors.
This sketch captures an early autumn monet and the Grout's quaint cottage-style home... just around the corner from our home. I have painted its lovely garden view from the rear. That's St Brendan's Catholic Church peeking over the top and down upon us! It is a favourite subject of mine... and a place where I go... just to think and often just be alone!

Stay tuned!... More March Madness... and Magic coming up!... I hope! Enjoy my views of Home!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter's Back is Broken... Spring Has Sprung!!

The clock sprung forward this morning- day light saving time was begun... and while rising at my usual 5:30 am time was darker than the day before, it did not take long for the morning sunrise to amble in. I quickly grabbed by hat, coat and my "cuppa" and headed down to my seat on the dock to watch Mr Golden Sun take charge.

This is the scene which I enjoyed... alone...while the rest of the village slept. Shards of ice loosened by the increasingly powerful  new sunlight slide ever so quietly eastward.... carried by the steady current unerringly towards their destination with the Gulf of St Lawrence and Atlantic Ocean. No brush could capture the drama and colour of this brief moment. Is is a kaleidoscopic panorama of wild and constantly changing colour. It leaves one completely in a state of awe... and wonder!

These vertical shafts of red give momentary warning that a retina burning red ball of fire is about to come suddenly into view... and within brief moments... this drama reaches its zenith... and the technicolour show vanishes as quickly as it came. It is these events which place a fire in one's soul... a fire that triggers great "ideas" to come forth.

The morning is not just composed of visual pleasure alone. The morning air at first light is filled with the voices of rafted geese... simultaneously speaking in tongues... sounds unlike their utterings of winter. There is a distinctly new excitement and energy which was absent scant days ago. Coyotes add their plaintive cries from the length of Tar Island. Cardinals serenade continuously... breaking their self-imposed winter silence to declare their territorial presence. Even a gruff voiced raven chips in his two cents worth. All the world seems come to life... at the same time. Spring... has indeed sprung!

I spent the rest of this morning varnishing all of the winter plein air pieces... another job done... and work ready for the Gallery re-opening in May. After lunch, I played around with a "toon"... just for a change of pace to lighten up and just have some fun. The subject matter is timely... current and Spring for certain in these parts... and others too as you'll see below!

Roll Up the Rim is a Prize Contest offered by Tim Horton's cup of coffee. Various prizes ranging from free food and coffee up to cars and cash are hidden under the rim. Roll up the rim.... and become an instant winner! Canadians love and look forward to this Spring time event! We're really easy to please... after a long cold winter! HA HA!! The Cardinals????.... well "they"... the birds... are here and singing their head off... but... behind the scenes????....Well that's a story for another day! Stay tuned... and look for white smoke!

I did this small 5x7 pen and water colour sketch to fill in yet another space in that Rockport greeting card project. A great way to end another day... in Paradise. A bit of work... a bit of play... and a bit of work and play to end a productive day!

Looking Over The Grout Home to St Brendan's - 5x7 inch water colour and ink on paper

Good Painting to ALL!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wonder... A Dispensible... But Indispensible Childhood Gift

These pictures of Deb's Grand Girls, Ava and Ella say everything really... that is necessary to substantiate a case for being in touch with the Natural World. Here, as you can readily discern, they are glued to a truly magical event... the metamorphosis and emergence of a Monarch Butterfly into Life. Their Father found the chrysalis, or cocoon in their backyard and brought it in for them to share. They had no idea that this black... lifeless-appearing container held such a beautiful creature... awaiting the right moment to begin its brief, but beautiful life journey. They learned a lesson about patient observation.They also learned firsthand, never to take what they see around them for granted. And they never shall! Each and every time that they see one of its kind flitting about as they do each summer, they will relive that precious moment of wonder and discovery. I hope that they remember to thank their Father for his gift of love and time that he offered here... and on every day in their still wee lives! "He" is a special Father indeed. Deb and I are both very proud of the Girls... and the loving Parents!

Spell bound... in the clutches of mystery and discovery.... Indelible knowledge!

True mirth and Joy!... A three-ringed seat at the Circus of Creation... No price of admission!

I will turn my attention way from the girls' experience, though not away from the subject of wonder because I have chosen to discuss how one can continue to keep that "Child within" in each of us alive... still arduously searching and seeking out wonder in our hum-drum daily lives. Choosing to paint outdoors... or en plein air, as the "go phrase" describes the practice these days, does not necessarily elevate any artist above others who paint in the studio from sketches or digital files. However... painting outdoors during all seasons does give any artist who makes the effort an edge in providing a vast treasury of knowledge which Nature offers through more than purely visual stimuli and experience. Just walking "out there" on a regular basis avails one of experiences that both enrich and familiarize one with the graphic detail and situations which arouse both wonder and the creative spirit.That opportunity  to grow and learn does not depend in any way on one's proficiency, or level of achievement as an artist. It's really just like an "open book exam"... offered by enlightened educators who teach and focus upon focus on things other than regurgitation on teacher-based and biased "exam" items.

Consider this quote as a launch platform for your own artistic journey into a vast Universe of Possibility and self-initiated discovery:

"O young artist, you search for a subject - everything is a subject. Your subject is yourself, your impressions, your emotions in the presence of nature."

These are the words of Eugene Delacroix... lest you think them mine. They are however, a perfect simile to describe my own feelings about how I enter the creative process fully on my own terms for the most part. Inspiration lies in my passion within... and without. It is derived directly from my years of experience outdoors... whether painting or not. The two however, have become virtually inseparable... for one meshes almost seamlessly with the other. It becomes such a pleasurable experience and past time for me that the painting success has become secondary to the actual act of simply communing and discovering more pieces of the puzzle that is... Creation. Simultaneously... "I" am... "One with Creation... and the Creator. I am in the only Cathedral necessary for "Me" to give praise and thanks. In my place of worship neither dogma... myth nor fear governs my thoughts or actions. Just Peace and a sense of knowing that "I" belong... on my own terms and Faith!

Still pokin' away at the 7x5 inch watercolour and ink sketches... More to post later on the weekend, or early next week. Havin' fun... "Cruisin' down the River"... amongst the Islands! HA HA!!!

One last thought from a famous and respected Canadian photographer who has haunted Waterton Lake in The Canadian Rockies for his entire life... seeking out solitude... inspiration and his own wonder:

"Art... is the union of idea and craft."

 Wonder commences with first light....

Constantly morphing... becoming another moment... filled with more wonder and majesty.

And out on that same ice minutes later... one of out four resident bald eagles takes up his early regular morning fishing spot... awaiting a possible breakfast.

A "regular"....rat-a-tatting hairy woodpecker at our suet cage

A winter plumage needy yellow American Goldfinch male.... making a seed withdrawal at our local food bank.

And a surprise and unexpected daylight cameo appearance by our nightly red fox... Guess bird seed is not his thing! The ears tell you he's not satisfied by our drive thru' offerings!

Just a dusky drama I couldn't pass up... though it plays regularly each and every day usually... right across the street from Islesview.

Last fall... on one of my tromps through Ivy Lea Park... long after the summer campers had disappeared... I found this wonderful inspiring site. Sat a few minutes and just drank it all in. Solitude... and Peace... "still waters."

Two weeks ago I was playing in my sketch book... long after the fall experience was anything more than a sweet memory... "Snippits"... shorthand for me to better search and understand...

A preliminary ink rendering to expand upon the possibility... still just that... "possibility

 But... "I" ... wonder!

Pretty much describes it for me accurately...succinctly. Craftsmanship only comes from ideas... and hard work...  consistently over time. There are no shortcuts!

I am deeply blessed... and offer that "You" can be too... and on your own terms!

I still "wonder"after all the years passed... just as Ava and Ella have just begun to... early in their wee lives! Thanks Mom and Dad for encouraging and valuing my wonder!

Good Painting!... and rich blessings!