Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Child's Play

It is the first day of the New Year 2014... a fresh white canvas to be made into your own masterpiece. It is the time for making New Year's Resolutions... hoped for changes in the next leg of one's journey. Many of such ideas and notions are soon abandoned and rarely make past the month of January. Life... as we all have come to know and accept, life often gets in the way of our best intentions.

I had not given much thought to making my own for this New Year until I came across a column in the Toronto Star newspaper written by Mark Cullen, one of Canada's "gardener gurus". While I have always admired his gardening skill, I must admit that I found his tone and presence somewhat arrogant and felt he carried an edge of superiority.

Somehow, in this particular column, that all seemed changed. His tone was more sincere... more personal and further on in his column came the revelation for that change. He had been diagnosed in May of 2013   with prostate cancer. While the cancer was treatable ... it caused him to re-evaluate how he was leading his life. He was financially successful... highly knowledgeable and respected and revered in his field. His new journey began while sitting under a mighty oak healing in his front yard. It was there where it was revealed to him where his Quest to find his True Self might commence. I would like to share his insightful resolutions with you. I choose to join him in trying to carry out this Quest... sharing his resolutions... but in my own terms and journey:

1. I will observe more. I will look further into my fascination with my own garden and environs. Though its bird songs are familiar to me. I will wander the fields and shoreline even more than I already do each and every day in search of new ideas and knowledge and with my eyes open wider.
2. I will create more.  Though my creative production is usually constant... like all creative individuals I can allow myself to get too far off my ritual in the studio and plein air painting. I will try to paint outdoors at least two days in each week. I will include new media to further encourage a healthy work ethic and variety in my work. I will continue to try and paint more pure... as a child would without too many rules.
3. I will feed and nurture more. Though I conduct classes... hit or miss each summer, I will seek to create more opportunities to share my painting process, as I do with this blog site within my community. I have always found that in teaching I open myself up to new learning as much for my self as I do for my students.
4. I will endeavour to share more.  I am very sharing by my very nature, but I am going to search out particular sectors or organizations where I can volunteer my strengths and energy to help others.
5. I am going to commit our joint energies as a couple to ticking off "bucket list" experiences.  Though I do not fear death really, I never will embrace dying's finality without an effort to live out each moment and experience as fully as I can... with integrity and dignity intact.

Now... back to "Child's Play":

The revered childhood educator Mr (Fred) Rogers provided hours of wholesome company for Allison, Andrew and I when we were growing up together and simultaneously taught us many valuable life lessons that still shape our family and personal lives to this day. He always maintained that play was a child's first work. I still hold that tenet to be true and offer it to you this New Year's evening... in the form of this painting just completed today.

I had so wanted to make a snow "person" with the kids when they arrived... but the weather gave that idea the icy... "cold shoulder"! It was impossible to actually make a snowman. However, the Universe delivered to me an alternative method to accomplish this "childish" Christmas wish. It came via my long time painting Buddy Frank Edwards' blog. In his blog ... he had "built" a snowman with pigment on a toned 12x9 inch wooden panel. That started my snow man quest. I asked Frank if he minded my using his "Idea"... and since we had made many plein air "snowmen" together over the thirty years we have painted "side-by-each"... the answer back was a big, "U betcha!"

Frank was a syndicated political cartoonist and illustrator in his day job... but we shared studio space... and the great outdoors throughout our adult lifetime. We have shared a life time of adventures and time together that will continue, I believe until one or both of us is finally gone. Here is my take on a snow-less snowman.... in text and jpegs. Sorry Frank...  but I need words as strongly as you need to avoid them.

My Snowman idea was completed indoors... in stages... given the constraints of the season and weather business. I had no plan or reference to work from... just my imagination. I had no partner to help me... so I invoked one of my muses, Andrea Bocelli to join me in the studio with his Cieli di Toscana soundtrack. Here is the result... in stages of this snowman's creation. I dedicate it to all of the "children"... no matter their ages... who have supported me and given me the courage to be my "Self." You are one of those special "children" Frank... so mostly for you!

A vertical 18x14 inch toned canvas. I rapidly sketched in a gestural line drawing using an India ink brush/pen. The elements are strongly obvious... all basic elements are present... in a setting I understand!

I decide to make it a nocturne... including my Christmas Star which on a clear winter  morning is due south of our home. I revel in its being there and watching it move as the morning progresses toward sunrise.

I establish a St Lawrence landscape feel for  my emerging plein air snow man.

Let there be Light! ... further imaginative play run wild. Children have no stringent rules for making snowmen. They just play... and unforced... joyful magic happens! That's how I felt throughout the entire process!

This is where time seems to vanish... cold or light doesn't enter into the picture? Remember being late for supper... because.....

Deb "put on her mitts"... and joined into the final fun. The snow and colour for the star were her ideas. Thanks Babe!

Well... here is the finished painting. Time to go upstairs for some hot chocolate... HA HA!!

This painting will not be offered for sale. From the first stroke on the canvas to now... it has a purpose for the future. I am proposing to my entire family that this personal Christmas Snowman... "Winter Star" be given to one of my children each Christmas to be exhibited for the entire Christmas season in his or her home. I will provide a special box and at the end of each Christmas visit... the painting is to be passed to the next person on the list... so that a continual tradition of sharing my gift will be created. It is never to stay at one home or become the sole possession of one "child."

My wish is that even after I have passed into time... my "presence" ... through this painting will encourage my family present and future to reach out and share our sense of family and the true spirit of "Giving." It will also serve to remind each of them... to NEVER surrender their wondrous... creative and joyful "child within"!

Happy New Year ... and Good Painting ... to ALL!!


  1. love the story, the sentiment, the idea….. and the painting is full of subtle, sparkling strokes of color and light.
    Happy New Year, friend.

  2. Hi there Mary!... Wouldn't the world be a lovelier... safer... more honest place if "children" led the way for us???

    Imagine! .... "Snowball wars... followed up by a round of hot steaming hot chocolate... blended with joy and laughter! HA HA!!

    Thank you for your encouraging presence and words Mary! Know that my nprayers are with you!

    Rich blessings... Health and Happiness in 2014!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. What a great tradition to start, Bruce!! This is just such a fun piece and proves to me that you are indeed a snowman (with all your plein aire jaunts); after all, he IS wearing your coat and hat...

  4. Good morning Sherry!... Thanks for making your first New Year's appearance and for your enthusiasm abour my newest piece.

    The whole purpose for doing the piece was jusy to play... to have some unguided fun... the kind of fun that we all enjoyed as children... living in a land and time that ran on its own time and had no rules to be followed. Shinny and road hockey was played with no referee or adult supervision. No time out was spent in the penalty box... anyone could play... no matter their skill. The game lasted for as long as everyone wanted to play...and the score was forgotten before we reached home. The sole purpose was out door play... with friends.

    This "snow" artist indeed loves what he does... and does what he loves... mainly because he loves and needs out door time and a brush in his hand to be happy.

    Tonight, he is wishing on his Christmas Star that 2014 is a year of adventure and Good Painting for himself and Friends like you Sherry!

    Warmest regards,

  5. LOVE snowmen in general, but this guy is extra special! His has a pretty fluid stance of a painter, not stiff or icy at all. I love the idea of passing him around -- I call dibs on next year! And I hope that Xmas 2014 will bring us a chance to actually build one, and to return inside for a warm meal and cup of hot cocoa made on a stove...that works because there is power! Although we could probably do both on your trusty wood stove, Dad! Pioneer style!
    I think he also needs a name. Maybe Frank?
    Love Allie xoxoxo

  6. Good morning Sweet Heart!... What a lovely wake up gift to discover during my "Operation Sunrise" ritual this morning! Deb and I are anxious and excited... ready to share time together later today!

    Each element in your comments harkens my heart back to a precious time when we carried out such simple pleasures together..., things like our ritual morning "double-double-special-specials"... "snuggles" together on the rug gleefully watching Mr Rogers... Hammy Hamster... Blustery Days and the Friendly Giant.... TOGETHER! Those precious memories that we made ... when "We" were young (er) have sustained "Me" throughout some very dark moments in my life. I love you and Andrew dearly... for helping me to create such everlastiong magic!

    Cocoa on the woodstove! What a marvellous idea! Let's do it... and a big "shin-warmer" will go along nicely with that! Purely pioneer style! HA HA!!

    Let's plot the Snow man's journey... to commence in 2014 together! A great idea!

    Deb and I look forward anxiously to your arrival this afternoon!

    Safe drive!
    All my love ... ALWAYS!

  7. Love your snowman, Bruce! Enjoyed watching him form under your skillful brush.
    Mr F. Edwards was my inspiration to get back into oil painting when I came across him at Wet Canvas around 2006.
    All of your posts are a treasure trove of thought and feelings, Bruce.
    Happy New Year to you, Deb, and the kids.!

  8. Good evening Dean!... Thank you for your ever kind support and words Dean. "You"... are one of those very special Friends who I admire greatly not only for their obvious abilities and passion for making art... but as well for their generous spirit and sense of humanity!

    Much Peace and Rich blessings in 2014 Dean!

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi Bruce, great idea to start the year with a bit of fun. Looking at the snowman's cap and jacket made me chuckle: it occurred to me that this could be a self-portrait if you tried painting outdoors in the weather you've been having! Brrrrrrr!

    Keep warm,

  10. Hi Bruce,

    Wanted to let you know that your gorgeous Christmas card arrived on Saturday, 1/3/14. I love it and it is going up on my wall, as is the envelope! I meant to let you know on Saturday but mail came late and I forgot when I was on-line yesterday morning. It is beautiful!

  11. Good morning Keith!... Thanks for dropping by!

    I fully intend to direct my work this year using the criteria of fun as the "tip on my javelin." The absolute freedom that I enjoyed during the creation of "Frank" (that will be the Snow man's moniker)... made me ever more aware of the absolute necessity of having fun in one's work.

    You're right in saying as well... that "Frank"... could just as well be Bruce... my first real "selfie".... HA HA!!... but perhaps not my last. That might be a new... and "fun" project too! Stay tuned... HAHA!!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    PS "Frank" will join Allison and Joan, her Mom to celebrate Christmas, 2014. That was decided during our lovely post-Christmas get together here in Rockport yesterday. She has always been a "rock" for me in my creative pursuits!

  12. Dear Friend Sherry!... I am indeed honoured that you enjoyed receiving the card and will offer it a place of honour in your home. So too... should your lovely card of this Christmas enjoy the same honour. I will do the same here with my treasured copy!

    I hope too , that you will read and re-read my thoughts penned to "You" on the interior of the card. Those are as important as the images on the envelope and card facre Sherry.

    Make being proud of your achievements and efforts be one of your resolutions for 2014. Don't always "harp" and focus on the small weaknesses... which by the way are present in every artist's work. Don't comapre yourself so much to others. Celebrate your wonderful Self! That would greatly please me!

    Good Painting!... and much Peace!
    Warmest regards,

  13. Bruce, that snowman is wearing your jacket and cap! is it you in disguise! I think it is a lovely idea to have a painting of yours for your family at Christmas. I remember many years ago sending my aunt an embroidery which I sat making for many months, now it is good to hear she still takes it out for show each Christmas! Happy New Year and keep warm during this very cold weather.

  14. Good morning Caroline!... You're right on the money with your observations and your understanding of my underlying motives for creating "Frank."

    The best way to maintain a tradition is the break the mold each year... and to manufacture/create an entirely new one... updating it each year as it moves along. I'm certain that my creative "children" will understand that this should occur... and they are each at liberty to use it as they may while it is in their home... then pass it along.

    Nice to hear of your "gifting" as well. Each of us can find a way to create lasting traditions for our loved ones!

    Happy New Year... and Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,