We have been lately "buried " in a sense... and out of necessity in supporting our families through difficult events in their lives. I shall not elaborate here, except to say that these deeply distressing events brought forward the absolute Truth in life... that people... especially family and Friends are our greatest blessings. It is from this Circle of Life that we garner unconditional love... support and encouragement when life tests our mettle and our will to continue on. Each member of our own Circle well realize this fact... and recognize it as our mutual deepest blessing!
Lately... I have felt adrift truthfully from my creative side. I find not being able to work, or even think about my painting for too lengthy a period to be highly disruptive to my sense of well-being. Further to that situation... I feel similarly when "Me... and my Shadow" are apart for too long. That is... when there are lengthy periods without sun light... my moods swing downward and I feel anxiety and gloom in all that I try to undertake.
It has always been my practice and my solace... to simply pack up my painting kit... or not... and just trek out into the outdoors alone. It is here in my vaultless woodland cathedral of open space that my spirit finds Peace and new energy and I can truly re-connect and commune with my Self. All of my current problems and worries dissipate. Time... and the unsettled world about "Me" stands still. "I" can breathe again. This is my reason for plein air treks... NOT that my paintings are superior. Simply put... painting outdoors does something to ignite my creative spirit and my physical sense of well-being. I believe that these states manifest themselves in the work itself... either on that occasion... or later on in my studio work. The method is a sure fire tool in my creative tool box to retain balance.... objectivity and optimism.
On Tuesday, I found a bright, sunny and uncluttered space beyond my daily schedule nearing lunch time... so I prepared (too quickly) to get out the door to my planned destination and painting sanctuary at nearby Ivy Lea Provincial Park. I even had a particular site that I had long wanted to paint in mind. It was a perfect plein air day., Sunny blue skies... milder temperatures and no wind. By 12:30 pm, I was headed gear -in-hand (and on back) along the mile and a half trek I needed to make to access this particular site. The first two hundred yards had been plowed by the Parks maintenance people. Ahead of me lie the rest of the long trek... all of it covered by calf deep snow with about a half inch crust of brittle ice. It would be heavy slogging to get that distance and would certainly deplete painting energy and time. So I looked into the pine groves and realized immediately that the snow was merely inches deep there and that, in most cases was surface frozen. Following that course would possibly make the going much easier. And it did!
In one part of this tract I came upon cross-country ski tracks and was able to follow those right up to my intended painting site. How relieved I felt in arriving in good spirits... and with lots of energy. I looked over the setting before me and made an immediate decision to jump in. I set up my portable aluminum easel and the toned 16x20 inch canvas. Almost ready to get at it. Now for my paint box set up on the easel and I'm in business... or so I thought!
What's wrong with this picture?
Let's see. There's my carry in kit with extra paints, turps, brush cleaner and can,toweling, beverage extra gloves. There's my easel and toned canvas. There's "Me"... and my shadow. Where the hell is my paint box? Yep... it's where I left it... in the studio... in the flurry of [unbridled] anticipation! This event has occurred on at least a half dozen occasions during my thirty odd years of plein air trekking. Previously... the woods would have been ringing with self-deprecating and bleeped expletives. That would be followed by an instant and angry retreat that "dark cloud overhead" would accompany me back home. But that was then... and NOT to be in the Now that I currently reside in!
I decided to use this beautiful day and setting as I had first intended... though not with a painting in the game bag. Sort of like hiking...fishing... hunting waterfowl or grouse. Some days... it's just in the act of being..."out there." "He leadeth me beside still waters... it restoreth my soul." And it did! Here briefly... and in pictures are some of the reasons why I feel restored... and at Peace again.
The St Lawrence... open dark waters and the winged music of spooked... and rapidly departing American Golden Eyes And American Mergansers. No other sounds... save the drone of an odd truck or car crossing the International Bridge just to the east.
Empty summer trails... now gloriously empty... save the ski tracks left days ago... and shafts of sun light penetrating the soft shadow lands of the pine wood world on either side. Mine alone today!
Here is my site of choice ...The head of Virgin Island. See her shrine enclosure on the cliff. No watercraft services today. Come back in July... this cove will be full, as will the resident cottage! Painting it will have to wait for another day - when I think to include my paint box in my gear! HA HA!!
Looking westward upstream on the St Lawrence lies another boat house scene... coming your way soon. Stay tuned...
This took my mind back in time to the memorable lunch at Shirley's. That sketch could easily have been inspired and painted right within this very part of Ivy Lea Park. This white pine landscape scene typifies the structure of the vast Canadian Shield rock formation which extends across a vast part of Canada's interior. The granite and metamorphic rocks found throughout this formation are said to be the oldest on earth. The Thousand Island archipelago is formed by the combined effects of the glacier and the erosive forces of the river over milleniums.
This outing triggered my immediate desire and actions to make something of what might have resulted in a lost day. I immediately took that returned and empty toned canvas and opened the errant paint box and set to work briefly using the image from my monitor to act as a guide in setting up the basic composition. Only occasionally did I refer to the original image for prompting. Though the basic structure remains obvious... that is after all, the strength of this painting... the trigger which I believe makes it universally pleasing and perhaps even common to any one who might view it.
Follow the process in pictures... as it proceeds.
Original plein 11x14 inch plein air sketch
Initial lay in... very light... but structure is in place and space is pushed back some what. Foreground very sketchy in treatment... mostly verticals and horizontals.
Beginning to build detail in trees and lighting effects to the left side
Now... to focus on lighting and heightening contrasts... "push n' pull of colour values
"Fox Trotting Through Winter" - oil on toned canvas 16x20 inches... a few tweaks still to be added after a rest from the scene
Defining Fox Trotting
I choose to close out today's blog with a quote from a source which came to me from out of pain and sadness well outside of my own daily life. Because it added inspiration to my own journey... at a crucial time in my own daily life when I felt overwhelmed by the sadness that I was witnessing in the lives of my own loved ones... I offer it to you, my Friends. Perhaps you might see... and appreciate more fully the blessings of your own journey and circumstances.
This quote formed the basis of a eulogy given by a young man at the recent funeral of his beloved brother "Tim"... taken far too soon as a result of "one more senseless highway fatality from his family and community Here, he was not just loved ... but revered for his generous and giving actions and spirit. Life certainly isn't "fair"... that's just a human word we allow ourselves to use to express our inability to fathom the purpose of such a motiveless and unfathomable loss. I know that Tim and his family would heartily approve of this sharing... because you see... if anyone reads this post and finds solace.... purpose or direction in their own actions after loss... then "He"... continues to live on!
The challenges Tim left for us:
- take advantage of life's positive opportunities, doing our best to enjoy each and every moment
- find a passion or hobby to enjoy, an activity that expands the mind and creates a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment
- be stewards of the earth and work towards smart sustainability so many generations may enjoy the natural world as we do today
- maintain healthy bodies and minds so we can be the best for ourselves and those we love and depend upon us
- look out for those less fortunate and ensure that they receive the same opportunities as those of us who have not suffered want
- open our hearts and minds through open discussion of our love, hopes and fears
- connect with family and friends on a regular basis and through actions and words make sure they know that they are loved
I dedicate this to Tim Stevenson... and all of the "other Tims"... who left us far too soon! We are better for the "life better lived" that you left to encourage us. "You" will always be with us in spirit! I share belief in and try to practise the tenets of this quote. I feel deeply blessed... and at Peace.
"What goes around... comes around."
Good (Winter) Painting to all!