Saturday, November 30, 2013

Becoming Winterized


"Pulling In Winter... Point Traverse, Prince Edward County" - oil on canvas 12x24 inches

A skein of migrating Canada Geese always symbolizes the transition from fall towards winter for me. Their noisy departure strikes a chord of melancholy and loss as the seasons pass.

"Pulling In Winter, Woods Side Road, Oro-Medonte Hills" - oil on canvas 24x30 inches

The loss of virbrant autumn colour in October... replaced by brooding skies... drab earthy colours of meadows and pasturelands...the more sombre and muted russets of oaks and golds of tamarack firs and other softwoods such as aspen and birch are another inland symbol of seasonal change. Gathering rookeries of crows add action and their own musical accompiment to this November novella.


Winter.. it would seem has fully staked his claim in The Thousand Islands region. Bays up and down the St Lawrence are skimmed over with their first ice, driving Canada Geese and mallards from their usual resting and plant-rich feeding areas. A full foot snowfall currently grips the land and the projected weather forecasts strongly suggest that it is here to stay... and with more to follow. Winter's icy reign has begun.

Fortunately, we were ahead of the game in our winter preparations around "Isleview." All garden clean up was out of the way, the car had its winter snows installed and our winter supply of firewood... a huge full face cord lies slit and neatly piled in our now empty Gallery - a strange and somewhat disconcerting, but necessary contrast from the summer scene there. Winter is a game changer... like it or not!

Yesterday was my first winter plein air outing. One's body is never really prepared for those first trips out into the full cold. In spite of all prior preparations and clothing adjustments... the body takes its time to adjust to prolonged work in sub zero conditions. Yesterday was no exception to that rule. However, in spite of the -10C temperature... the sun hung up there all afternoon and there was very little wind to deal with. The snowy cleanness of the landscape... the rich light and shadow at play and the River backdrop made my picture making pleasantly uplifting.

I chose to go out directly to a scenic overlook on the Thousand Islands Parkway just five minutes west of Rockport. That decision meant no walk in was necessary. To the west, the Thousand Islands International Bridge arched across the St Lawrence. Directly below me laid the Canadian Middle Channel and a pair of small islands. The 2:00 pm sun was warm... but definitely rapidly declining. Its rich light and shadow would soon disappear, so I decided on a "tail gate' painting party approach. That means tail gate of my van is open and one leg of my metal easel is stuck (unextended) into the back of my van trunk. The van serves as both a wind break with its lid an overhead roof in snowy weather. The sun was directly at my back and provided both warmth and constant light on my easel and my 10x12 inch toned panel.

My palette had been made ready prior to leaving the house, so within a couple of minutes I was right into my painting. I decided upon a colour block approach using light turpentine staining at first to lay in the basic structure of the scene.I then worked forward from that adding more pigment, paying more attention to values and hues. I finished up with a very small amount of rigger work to fill in some fine line work and called it a day an hour and a bit later. The sketch I feel, does indeed capture the elements of the interplay of a late winter afternoon. It is expressive... of the joy I feel in winter. It also marks a successful beginning for my winter plein air painting season.

"First Snowfall of 2013" - oil on toned panel 10x12 inches

My Friends, if nothing else makes sense to you on the subject of winter... its cold... and my crazy obsession with plein air painting in it, then perhaps these lovely and comforting words from "The Story Girl" written by Elizabeth Maude Montgomery are a high note to end on for today's post.

"The beauty of winter is that it makes you appreciate spring." May the Hope of Spring with her renewal add  warmth to your Soul and lives during the long winter months ahead!

Good Painting ... to ALL! Inside ... or out! HA HA!!

Post Script:

Today... November 30th is St Andrew's Day. In my Scottish heritage it is the celebrated birthday of the Patron Saint of Scotland, St. Andrew. Andrew was the name of my beloved Gramp Birrell and was passed to me... and then to my own son Andrew. Coincidently... I wonder... it is also the birthday of my first born child Lisa. So... Happy Birthday Dolly-Dolly-Dumpkins-My-Queen-of-the-Pumpkins.
"I" am with "You" today in love and deep pride... Today and Always!!!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

November Nuggets

Two days of gale force winds clawed away all of the colour remnants in even the most sheltered places. Here and there in the middle of the hardwood stands, the sienna and ochre young leaves of young beeches stand out amidst a now smoky greyness that prevails in place of the vibrancy and rich colour of October.

November is a month of transition... quietness and unpredictability. Light comes and goes almost too quickly to study or capture it in the field. It plays teasingly with one's vision. Then, in a few moments it changes or simply disappears... leaving one wondering where to proceed. November is a perplexing month to paint in and yet... there is that sullen beauty... that intangibility... that state of transience that I find intoxicating to view. If I simply gave up and remained indoors... I would miss these moments of contemplation and would lack a full understanding of the seasonal cycle.And there is something grand about the brooding dark woods... with flashes of green on lichen covered granite  and fernery remaining.

Structure plays an even more important part in my painting process during November, but I am not going to burden you with a "play-by-play" to bring you up to speed on my plein air work for the month. Me thinks... I often talk too much and moralize. It's "the teacher" that still lives within... and I apologize for that. So this morning, I am going to let the three sketches speak for themselves. This is my take on November in our area. I'll let you decide if... and how I achieved any semblance of structure in an overwhelmingly middle value landscape.

"Waiting For Winter" - 0il on toned 10x12 inch panel

"November's Sentinel" - Oil on toned 10x8 inch panel

                                       "A November Crossing at  Kay's Bridge" - Oil on toned 12x10 inch panel

I came across this simple, but lovely quote a few weeks ago. It seems an appropriate quote with which to conclude my thoughts for this post. It derives from the Canadian writer Lucy Maude Montgomery and in the highest literal sense, this short passage clearly demonstrates the powerful beauty of the printed word in its visual imagery. It clearly echoes my sentiments about the value and joy in discovering... and appreciating... and celebrating "the Ordinary" ... the everyday blessings of one's own life:

"After all, I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one and other softly, like pearls slipping off a string."

Anne of Avonlea

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Giving Thanks... For All My Children

This weekend marks the American celebration of Thanksgiving. Yesterday was designated worldwide as Children's Day. Does anything else we possess give more reason to give thanks... than for our children?Millions of children will come home from schools to share this precious weekend with loved ones. That is a part of the tradition families have embraced as part of their culture. Little does one realize... that in this short span of years, that the hour glass of sand is rapidly diminishing and a time when children will enter fully into the world of adulthood and that this home coming and others will cease to exist forever more. Our children will have their own spouses and children...with whom they will carry forward their own celebrations.

I have already reached this point of departure with my own "wee ones"... and yes, of course there is a degree of sadness in the loss of their presence. But I can truthfully say... that for each of those children... in separate families... there has been a fullness of sharing of traditions I was taught... things that I have always believed were important. There has always been time to be together... indoors and out and from this ... memories that will never die... because they are passed forward.

There are two lines in one of my lifetime anthems of song which I have tried to exercise and to live by with each of my children in their growing up years. The song "Teach Your Children Well", written by Graham Nash and performed by Stills Crosby Nash and Young contains these two lines:

"Teach your children what you believe in
 Make the world a place where they can live in."

So, in wishing all of my American Friends a very Happy Thanksgiving... perhaps you might give your children an extra long hug... a kiss... and tell them what blessings they are in your life! Just a Thanksgiving Thought from a Canadian Friend. Have a great weekend of celebration!

Thanksgiving 2008... our table decorated together... sharing daily grace and a Thanksgiving meal together

Sharing an October moment  in our beloved weekend Eden and hang out at White's Falls, Muskoka

December 26th...  en plein air... White's Falls... "wienering to celebrate Deb's eldest son Brad's Boxing Day birthday!

Three River Pals Andrew, Dad and I at the conclusion of our 5th Annual Thousand Island Canoe Trip 

Allison brings her beloved  Nanno to visit The Paint box gallery in Hillsdale. Nanno has gone to the podium with Allison to receive each of her degrees... and is a frequent flyer to Venice Summer School each summer

Forest Folk!... We... "speak for the trees!"... in our Canadian tuxedos!

Lisa, Mica and Bradie Boy join us in our passion for the wiener and White's falls!

Liam ... on location and "at work with Dad"... in Kettleby on a very cold November Day

Bryn and I ...Sharing the path... and the good life!

Blessings by the Bushel

"There is such a place as Fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do know that it is fairyland until they are grown so old that they forget the way.One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over.Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart can ever find that fair lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must ever more be exiles. The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."

- Lucy Maude Montgomery from "The story Girl"

"We"... the Sherman Children... young and old wish all of our American Friends...

Rich Thanksgiving Blessings of Much Peace and Plenty!!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Techniques to Explore... and Further Develop Structure

When attempting to discuss the importance of the term structure in reference to the process of painting, it perhaps might help to compare it to creating architecture. In my mind, both begin with an underlying well-conceived plan or "vision."... In architecture, the visioning involves hours of creative thought, discussion and readjusting ... often by a joint team of planners to create a finished rendering to scale of the eventual structure to be built. When the finalized version is decided upon, there is little room left for deviation from the finalized plan/ blueprint through to completion.

In commencing a landscape painting, the process should begin as well with a considered period of creatively searching for a unique subject. That subject can then be passed through one's own creative sieve and an interior vision... or foundation can be created which takes it beyond the ordinary... perhaps even beyond the reality of what lies before one. Totally taking ownership of this personal vision carries forward the excitement and energy from that first moment of discovery and sustains it to the end.

In commencing a painting outdoors, I  usually begin my creative searching by considering  multiple positions at the site from which to paint. I rarely discover that "perfect composition" immediately... either from the car in passing... or in walking directly "into the picture mode." I find that visually playing with an intended subject teases and heightens my imagination and my creative energy. I mark several  potential spots on the ground where I feel strongest creative potential. I then play back and forth between these sites.... "imagineering" on site at that particular spot... until I find the one that most excites me to set up and begin painting.

1.  Developing Structure Using Blocks of Colour

In the preceding post focusing on structure, I was drawn to the interplay between opposing horizontals and verticals. I attempted to express and develop this interest in terms of using interlocking colour blocks rather than lines to lay in my foundation work. additionally... I began my painting process by choosing an unusual 12x12 inch square format which immediately shifted me away from old and predictable habits and outcomes. This forced me to view the initial compositional structure from an entirely new and challenging perspective.

I began my foundation work and searching by first introducing stainy turpentine washes to create my colour block pattern/ map which basically consisted of seven interlocking  pieces of colour. Regretfully, I didn't record this stage to be used in my post so I have constructed this small colour thumbnail to better illustrate that primary stage for you.

I gave no initial attention to correct values or line. Those were addressed slowly after initial lay in was reached and completed by pushing and pulling values and hues... as quickly and economically as was was possible... given that the late evening light was rapidly diminishing.

I added a few details with my rigger during the final ten minutes to add details like sky holes... sharp edges and brightness wherever needed all around the entire picture plane.  I felt that the end result was both painterly and rich in colour. These two strategies enhanced my original interest in the interplay of the horizontals and verticals and certainly made my day enjoyable and fruitful.

"Autumn Softwoods and Shadows" - oil on cradle board wooden panel 12x12 inches

2.  Building Structure Through Painting in Short, Flat Planes of Colour

I decided to return to Ivy Lea Provincial Park... now deserted and quiet in search of a suitable woodland motif. In the past, I have often pulled myself out of a lethargic attitude towards pure landscape painting by seeking out interesting... almost still life in Nature patterns and shapes within woodland settings. I find the combination of unusual terrain... shapely moss-coloured rocks with water and trees provides me stimulating relief from a too lengthy horizontal and rectangular world view. This new world is a virtual jigsaw puzzle to be pieced together and painted. This space usually offers dramatic lighting and shadow on the objects and planes previously mentioned.

This Park ... lying only five minutes away is a "honey hole" for me when I need a quick start or a strong need to be totally alone. One does not have to look long or hard to find subjects. They can literally be easily found looking in any direction. It is to "Me"... what Walden Woods was for Thoreau. I am deeply blessed!

Here is my Tuesday afternoon painting "campsite" that  I stumbled upon and decided to translate into a sketch. I was attracted to the unique shapes and positions of these massive granite "erratics"... huge boulders laid to rest on this sharp incline during the tail end of the last great glacial age. How many sunsets had they witnessed before they and I met today? I wonder!

Can you see the elements that I mentioned clearly in this photo? Despite the appeal of the natural composition, I had reservations about the right hand pine's value in the painting. I felt that it rather cut off the edge of the second erratic directly behind it. So, I "imagineered" it out of the composition and as well... added and subtracted shapes on the forest floor at will. I decided to roughly lay in contour drawings of strongest lines and shapes because there was such a complex interplay of these elements to deal with on my 10x12 inch canvas. I would have liked a bigger canvas to work on right from the start... but had trucked in this smaller format in my back pack to reduce carry in... so.... "beggars can't be choosers" became the rule for the day. Make it work!

Someone had carried down a picnic table from a campsite high above this site down to the water's edge, Beside the table, they had constructed a fire circle of small granite chunks. This set up added greatly to my comfort and to the ease of reaching my equipment and having a sit down to ponder the work as it proceeded. Here is my start.... intended ony as a kind of shorthand framework on which to hang my many brushstrokes... consisting of short flat planes of thin colour during lay in. I was more interested in having the strokes mimic the way planes fell... trying to capture their individual directions and variances in colour.

Just shapes n' lines... nothin' much!

Building structure everywhere simultaneously... stroke by short stroke.

Close up view of the interlaced strokes of "broken colour"... each stroke with its own colour and direction

Lay in stage on the way to completion... FLAT! FLAT! FLAT!.... Now .... turn on the lights!

Thank goodness... the light's back! Go for the gusto... or it'll be gone again... for good!

The basics are there... but where's the punch? Step up!.... Play!... RISK!!!
"Say what you mean and mean what you say" time!

"Let there be Light..." it pushes an ordinary painting to a higher level

"Autumn Angelus" - oil on canvas 10x12 inches.

At this point ... the sketch whispered done. I sat quietly... watching and listening at the picnic table as the day light gradually failed. I felt reverence and "Oneness" that  many who toil on the land and understand it must . The word "angelus"... evening prayer sprung into my mind. I said my words of thanks to Him for the blessings of this day and my life... packed up my gear and trudged tired, but contentedly back to my van.

Having structure (ritual) in one's daily life surely contributes to one's Joy and Happiness. Structure also contributes to the success of evocative paintings.

Don't you think?....

Good painting... to ALL!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lest We Forget... Heroes and Friends

It flurried here this morning, further adding to the numbness that we all experience as the harsh reality of winter's cold physically sets upon us. Gone is most of the ribald hardwood colour of October. Pockets of browns and russets linger in the waves of oak that sweep the landscape... as do glimmering golden remnants of softwood copses engulfed in their midst. The landscape takes on a silent sullenness. The River cleaves out a less inviting... even threatening gutter of gun metal greyness before us. River traffic is now sporadic to non-existent... a dangerous place for the unwary or foolhardy. It is a highway to only the most hardy and experienced "River Rats" who must travel travel it daily until freeze up to finish up their island projects begun during summer.

November is a bitter-sweet month for me personally. It is on one hand looked forward to joyfully because we celebrate my eldest "child" Lisa's and my second youngest Liam's birthdays... both at the end of the month. But lodged in the middle is Remembrance Day on November 11th. The dullness and pervasive grayness of November seem conducive to a sense of mourning and loss.

I have always physically gone to cenotaph ceremonies and taken full classes when I taught during my entire life. Like so many other Canadian citizens, I do so to offer my ongoing gratitude and respect for the sacrifice of all Canadian service men and women... living or not. Their sacrifices have offered me and so many others the personal freedom and quality of life that few other generations... past ... present or future will ever be granted. I am blessed... and forever grateful for their gift

Captain Matthew Johnathan Dawe 1980-2007

Since July 7th, 2007... Remembrance Day became personal for me when my son Andrew's close school and hockey chum, Captain Matt Dawe, Company "C", 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia Light Infantry perished with five of his company and an interpreter in a single road side bomb explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. For his Family members, his Brothers-in-Arms and his many Friends ... and "Me"... Remembrance Day will forever have a face- Matthew's.

I was so troubled by his loss that I actually created a painting to help heal my own deep feeling of loss... numbness and helplessness... that this brilliant young comet that had lit our sky so briefly had been extinguished forever. I hoped that my painting might keep his memory alive in a small way, so I gifted it to his wife Tara and his infant son Lucas. They were grateful of the gift... and I felt less numb simply by "painting out" a part of my grief.

I was approached back in September by a Victoria Edwards, a graduate of Royal Military College making Matthew and all of his family members a part of her alumnus family. She had, by chance stumbled upon my blog entry and the picture of the painting which I had given to The Dawe Family. She asked if it might be possible obtain permission to have the image enlarged as a giclee image on canvas to be hung in the Band Room at Royal Military College. I told her that would feel highly honoured to have that occur... provided that Tara Dawe be contacted to add her permission as well.

I later read in the September 2013  issue of  the RMC on line publication "eVeritas" that the reproduction was presented on September 28th at RMC Club Annual Dinner. It would be permanently hung  in Yeo Hall in the Pipes and Drums practice room beginning at the 60th Reunion Weekend festivities. What a gratifying feeling this gesture offers to everyone involved. I am deeply touched by this gesture. Art Matters... in a very special way.

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on panel 12x10 inches
 Gifted to Mrs Tara Dawe and her son Lucas

I apologize for preempting my previous focus on the value and necessity of structure in painting. However, this post was necessary and a more fitting post for today. I will most certainly post the paintings I have created in the interim after Remembrance Day to complete my thoughts and ideas regarding structure as the backbone for successful landscape painting. Ironically though, this small still life tribute painting "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" truly boldly embodies the same important role and strength in its structure. Its simple structure based upon four elements clearly defines visual focus... composition and intended symbolism in the work.

"Heroes Were Once Children"

In closing, I recently came across an article relating to a headline for a child's book review in the January 19th, 2003 edition of The Los Angeles Times. The headline read:

The illustrated children's book, entitled : My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was written by Christine King Farris and illustrated by Chris Soenpiet (Simon and Schuster-2003). The book is a stirring autobiographical account of her shared childhood years and memories of this Human and Civil Rights Leader... expressed in words and images which stir courage and better understanding of a simple reality that all of us are capable of becoming heroes. True Heroes emerge not from their dreams or vision alone... but more from their lives of selfless actions and deeds. In many cases, they act unswervingly and passionately with the full knowledge that they might sacrifice their own lives in order that their dreams are actualized.

In the book , when Martin faces alienation from playmates simply because he is "Negro"...Mother (Dear) King offers: "[Whites] just don't understand that everyone is the same, but some day it will be better."

"Mother Dear, replies young Martin, "One day I'm going to turn the world upside down."

His selflessly driven lifetime work and sacrifice have done so forever for his people and the world at large.

In the same way that Dr King was simply Martin Jr, a wee, insignificant and innocent boy... he did not merely dream of the mountain. He took us there. And on the top of that mountain... "somewhere out there..." Martin.... Matt Dawe and a host of other "Heroes and Friends"... stand forever immortal in the hearts and minds of those who knew them. We, who choose to remember... will NEVER forget them, or their sacrifice. Their torch has been passed. Hold high your own Light and make it shine however it can... if only in simple daily acts of kindness... and they will be remembered... on each and every day of the year.

Attend a cenotaph celebration on Remembrance Day or Veteran's Day, November 11th. Seek out at least one veteran... and personally offer your gratitude to them and their comrades. Let them know that their service mattered then...  now... and always!

Much Peace... and Good Painting to ALL!

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Numbness... and Strategies to Defeat It

November, scarcely a day old... has certainly lived up to its predictable billing. Daylight Saving officially ended two days ago. Dreary wetness... gale force winds and too much darkness already prevail. All on the heels of the Oktoberfest pageantry of rich colour so inspiring and uplifting to this outdoor painter. Unfortunately, the necessary chores for winter preparation have been the order of the day for Deb and I... interrupting my painting schedule. Interruption can be the creative person's baneful and mortal enemy!

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.

"Autumn Softwoods and Shadows" - oil on 12x12 inch wooden cradle board panel

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!!!