"A Dream is a wish your heart makes."
A song from Disney film Cinderella
written and composed by David, Hoffman and Livingstone
Today is my seventieth birthday!. I feel blessed to be able to share this milestone with my family... and Friends like each of you. Our earthly human existence is indeed... as the hit song title from "The Lion King" Disney blockbuster animated film suggests... "The Circle of Life."
My painting journey has offered me further evidence of this fact of existence. Everywhere I have looked and in observing the passage of the seasons, I see life in the full transition of change. Unlike many... I feel comfortable with my own place within this remarkable passage or journey. Life offers new adventures and further learning with every second on my clock. I waste very little of that precious time contemplating its eventual ending. I choose rather to optimize each moment as I am able... to its fullest sense... sharing time with those who seek to elevate and foster a positive and Hope-filled attitude.
I thought that I might share some of the highlights of my journey in this post in pictorial terms... selecting drawings and paintings that I have made in each of the seven decades that I have been blessed to enjoy. In so doing... perhaps you might be able to retrace the journey with me ... and see it for what it represents to "Me" - continual change. Becoming an artist is a journey... a process with no particular destination in mind... but rather a continual personal evolution and development... dependent totally upon curiosity... interest and a willingness to seek out and embrace change.
In this picture show... change is obvious. Art is a legitimate form of personal expression, a language like every other with vocabulary... structure... and a hierarchy of levels of achievement which can be improved with sufficient time and effort. I maintain that Art, like language... is an age-based developmental process. Art is indeed the first language of all children. We first desire to express our thoughts.... ideas and feelings in picture form... long before we can write either letters or words. Somewhere around middle school... all but the obsessive-compulsive child abandons the practice, usually for the remainder of their life time. Peer pressure and other more interesting opportunities... perhaps even the new and over-riding presence of the ability to write extinguish the desire to continue further.
Here is one boy's journey... in pictures.
I am three to four years of age in this earliest back yard picture-making session. I am drawing... vertically focused...while my brother Don... eleven months my junior... is colouring (between the lines) in a colouring book.
Here is a crayon rendering/painting... My version of the Last Supper completed during opne of my Mom's Sunday school classes. Unlike Michelangelo's version... Christ is at the head of the table... just as in our home. Dad occupied this place... as head of our household. Hey... they had art on the wall back then too... just like our house did! Note the "beardless one" with the red lipstick.... Mary Magdalen?.Or the waitress? HA HA!!! A child's eye view... reality-based in the present!
"Picking Apples In Miss Mott's Apple Orchard" - crayon and Manila paper
This crayon rendering was selected by my Grade four teacher, the kindly Miss Evelyn Mott to be sent to a Hobby Show. It was awarded a 1st Place and would become the catalyst for a life time of effort on my part to fulfill a "prophesy"... gently whispered into my ear by this loving soul:
"Bruce... If you continued to work at this over your life time... you could make a living doing so."
That mouthful of kindness resulted in my following her into the teaching profession. Like her... I had art every day in my classroom and attempted to encourage all children to express their ideas without fear of comparison or rejection. As well, I pursued my own career in visual arts to university and beyond into the world of exhibition and representation by galleries. I have quite successfully operated my own galleries over twenty-five years... a life long dream. I now paint what I like.
This 8x10 inch oil painting on art board depicts a view of The Thousand Islands Near Rockport from memory. It was completed on our kitchen table in early December... just after the birth of my first child Lisa. Being a new married couple with a new child... and teaching for $3150 per year... I had no $$$ to buy Christmas presents to give my family. I put this small painting into a used frame and presented it as our 1967 Christmas gift to my folks. It hung at the cottage until the cottage was sold. I retain it in my own personal ( unwalled) early collection. Art... from the Heart!
This was the decade when leisure time and job prosperity permitted me more time and interest in returning to my art. Though I worked steadily with oils... I discovered watercolours and Andrew Wyeth. For the next two decades I became totally committed to honing my drawing skills in pencil and sketching outdoors on weekends. I commenced an interest in pen and ink drawing... captivated by the sharp contrasty effects on the stark white paper. That interest eventually spilled over into the watercolours and I began creating quick light pencil drawings on a litho paper... added quick ink rendering and then added splashes of water colour to add interest and punch. My entry into the world of sales began... when I sat at the local farmer's market and began selling these wee paintings hand matted and wrapped in Seran Wrap at $12 a pop!
When I went home with over $700 in my pocket... I realized that I had something worthy to offer and stepped up production. I continued to sell these for a number of years and gradually raising prices and added professional matting and framing to the mix. That exposure attracted the attention of a notable local gallery owner and it was then that I entered the real fray... when she asked that I intersperse a number of larger format paintings. The solo show called "In and Around Kingston" completely sold out. I was launched... and motivated!
Pretty "ordinary" by comparison to my successful new Rockport Souvenir card series... but still the same 5x7 water colours and ink on a 5x7 inch format! A full circle! HA HA!!!
Here's an example of the stipple tone technique ink study... focus sing on drawing accuracy and composition.
The eighties found me living in Camden East Village (north and west of Kingston). Here, we owned and operated The Gingerbread Gallery in our century old Ontario rural village home. I continued to combine daily teaching with weekend painting sorties. Success followed me to village and I customarily invited one artist friend to share shows three times per year. They were well received and sales were at a peak for me. I even did free lance work on the side for Harrowsmith Magazine which was published in the village. These were magnificent and uplifting times in the arts! It was at this time as well... that I met a hugely important peer/mentor, a Danish artist/ Friend, Pol Thrane. It was he who introduced me to Algonquin Park. Those two friendships... and influences continue to direct my current and future painting directions.
This is an example of the quarter sheet plein air watercolours that I produced on these initial Algonquin treks. This one... completed in the late afternoon of a crisp autumn day features one of the lakes close to the West Gate entrance, Brewer's Lake. We did trips to Algonquin in autumn, spring and winter. I experimented with various "tricks" like wiper fluid and alcohol allow water colour painting in all of these seasons. But I found no success. So, I began the process of returning to oils... this time in the company of political cartoonist Frank A. Edwards.... my adult life long painting pal up to this day. We persevered together with the oils and that led to us sharing The BrushWorks Studio and Gallery in Kingston for three years - another turning point in my development.
"Aubrey Aggatt's '48 International" - This style of water colouring evolved from my interest in Andrew Wyeth and Canadian realist Ken Danby's work. Painting in "High Realism" fashion was a time consuming process and required wash after wash of careful chosen and laid colour. While I greatly enjoyed it and learned much about applying colour... it was tedious and limited my getting outside in every season. So, I left a "safe" route with good client base and stepped back to my oils. I realized immediately how freeing this was for me creatively because the medium matched my spontaneous personality traits and removed the ever present possibility for failure in watercolour on full sheet projects
This diminutive 12x9 inch plein air canvas was to become my launch on a journey that would last through the next three decades to the present. Though I do use water colours intermittently both in the studio and en plein air when weather is suitable... I prefer to carry on with my oils. This sketch certainly doesn't look at all out of place in the overall chronology of my work. It bears many of what I consider the goals and the hallmarks of my interests... principally my preference for texture and painterly brushwork.
Here is a small selection of plein air pieces from this decade.
"Bruno's World" - oil on panel 30x24 An exact moment in the daily life of Pol Thrane's Neighbour Bruno Rapscu... as he and his pal cruise into view with the day's wood supply.
"Downhill in Newton-Robinson" - oil on canvas 16x20 only one in a series of paintings that I made on consecutive trips to this rural hamlet. I like to work in a series to tie together an overall picture and concept of the place. Still my method.
This is one painting made on location in a series of visits with my son Andrew to the Kensington Market area of Metro Toronto. A fascinating place with colour... action and unlimited painting opportunities... if you don't mind a huge painting audience!
My painting paradises have shifted around greatly in this decade. I have lived and painted in Nova Scotia... Kingston... Aurora... Hillsdale and now finally back in Rockport. I have also been fortunate to have visited and painted in Quebec, The Rockies, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario,Vancouver Island, the Bahamas, the Barbados, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. These opportunities greatly broadened my horizons and offered me rich adventure... and a healthier respect for my own country.
I am content to be finally back in The Thousand Islands region... back to the place where my life journey began... the cradle of creative spirit and Soul. I hope to enjoy many more hours and years of painting and sharing its magnificent beauty. Here is a final batch of plein air work from this decade.
Vancouver Island, BC
The Rockies, Alberta
Thousand Islands , USA
In closing..."Hakuna matata!"... No worries for the rest of your life!
Wish great dreams... and then set to make them come true!
Rich blessings... and Good Painting to ALL!