Saturday, August 2, 2014

Yesterday... and Today...August on my mind


Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as if they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hangin' over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

"Yesterday" - lyrics by the Beatles

I never really felt... or measured the deeply insightful references to the passage of time and life at the time that I sang and played this hit to many audiences with my The Counts Five "boy band". It was simply, as youth dictates even back then... all about Today... and Tomorrow... a bit. We lived on the cusp of entry into an adult world... with little life experience... or truly challenging moments or tasks... except to graduate from high school. Those days do "seem so very far away"... and yet they are still fresh and full in my own treasure trove of memories. I am indeed blessed... at this moment in my journey... not to be robbed of that wonderful human capacity and gift... to remember. Let us all count our blessings!

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure to once again spend time with John and Carol Philips in their cozy Midland home. We have shared a rich friendship that stretches clear back to grade five at Prince of Wales School in Brockville for John and I. My friendship had its early roots in the high school with Carol added... when we all three attended high school together throughout adolescence.

Music has been a mutual and binding ingredient in the recipe of our rich and lasting friendship. We danced our way gleefully through the fifties and sixties with our friends at "Teen Town" Friday night dances... where John and Ian "Hat Badge" Wilson spun the 45's from their dual collections to keep our feet a-dancin'.

Since then, music has continued to be an integral sharing part of our evenings together. John's passion for collecting music and music memorabilia quite frankly matches my own obsessive-compulsive predisposition to paint. In both of our separate teaching journeys, we have incorporated our passion into our teaching curricula to encourage using the arts as a successful vehicle and tool for learning.

John's entire basement has been dedicated to this Hi Fi preoccupation. All 60,000 of his collection of LPs and 45s are filed by musical genre and artist... just as you would have found or perused back in the 60's at any good record shop. John himself... is an encyclopedic treasury of knowledge of any musical genre... but particularly in rock n' roll music from its first notes. What is more overwhelming to take in... is that he has written and self-published a series of books specifically written as a guide for teachers at any grade level. These lesson plans have been expertly written lesson plans to weave music and life integrally into sure fire strategies to encourage students... of any age to become involved in meaningful discussion and learning.

John self-published... long before the self publishing industry that has burgeoned on line... with the dream of "spreading the gospel" he had practised successfully in his own teaching. Unfortunately, he discovered... as have most current "newbie" selfies that marketing anything requires huge amounts of personal time... specific skills and connections which few of us have at our disposal. He now offers his remaining sets at no cost... except postage costs to any individuals or teachers who might be willing to put "the gospel" to work for children. You can reach him at Tell him Hat Badge sent you!

Now ... back to  the Yesterday part of this post. While I was visiting the Badgers... I found myself surrounded by many paintings I had shared with them ... or that they had purchased. These grace the visually endowed walls and niches in every part of their home. It was an unexpected "rising of awareness" within me which clearly reflected  how much time and change had occurred in my own personal and painting journeys. Each of us lives too closely entrenched in our current daily lives... to actually gain any retrospective insight into these personal passages of time. Retrospective shows most always come after the sudden passing of an artist... much like the visual digital memory presentations... now an integral part of funeral wakes.

If I never am fortunate enough to be feted for my contributions offered in my painting and private lives, I can truly thank John and Carol for this impromptu... and totally unexpected wake... awakening.... Epiphany which I enjoyed on this one night sleep over! I feel greatly blessed to have such friendship and love with me on my remaining journey!

Here is a digital look at those paintings from my past froim their AWB collection ... stretching back to my return in 2000 from living in Nova Scotia. It was there in that beautiful painting-friendly province that I honed my plein airing experience and painting process. I customarily painted at least three days a week in the field and produced at least three paintings each day in formats ranging from 16x20 to full sized 30x36 inch canvases. They were glorious and richly productive times. One could paint three paintings... just turning the easel around... no need to travel looking for new and exciting subject matter. It existed everywhere... and I painted in every cove clear around the entire coast before returning to Ontario six years later.

This is an album cover design that I prepared for the Badger's 25th Anniversary "Hootenanny"... 413 Mildred Street rocked with music and laughter as we gathered to fete this remarkable couple. Though faded... "Oh Carol"... and.... "Johnny Be Good" still remain in their bathtub ship!

This fall swamp tapestry of leaf and water reflections was a type of subject that I often painted in the field. I painted this one at Gould Lake Conservation Park in the company of my long Buddy Frank.

This massive sugar maple painting from Moonstone in the Oro-Medonte dates 1990. A 24x30 canvas done in a single go... no additional work afterward. Again very "alla prima"...

A fog-shrouded "Dockside Conversations"...a 16x20 sketch painted while I lived  in Chester, NS in 2000

"Sunset at Finger Board Farm, Middle Road, Kingston"... a "quickie" 16x20 inch sketch... "run-for-the-sun" painted in 2000

"An Oro-Medonte Fall Moment" - a 16x20 inch canvas... note the heavy impasto texture... a hallmark feature and goal in my daily painting outdoors. Paint expressively... with a loaded brush. No changes ...
What you see is what you got!

"Headin' Up Jones Creek"... a painting that records my memories of spring fishing on that wall with childhood chums in the each year... knitted together with the cottage site that belonged to the Ballance family who lived behind us on Kincaid Street in Brockville.

This is a portrait of the Philip's family home on Sherwood Street in Brockville gifted to John. I painted one of Carol's family home on James Street as well. Same direct approach dependent upon strong and expressive brushwork. Honest... one-shot impressionistic canvases

This nocturne aptly entitled "The Davis Girls and City Hall at Midnight was painted on site... when the streets were empty... except for these two inquisitive strolling sisters... who stood by and watched and talked my ear off. They asked if I would put them in  the picture. I couldn't refuse. Brockville is a place... "where everyone knows yer name"... friendly"!

This last painting... a plein air 30x24 inch canvas created in the beautiful Hallyburton garden... where Deb and I where married. This still life entitled "Bounteous Blessings" features a cornucopia of fall blessings... all held in my Grandfather Birrell's garden wheelbarrow. That wheelbarrow was gifted to our dear friends Rolly and Grace to remain as a symbol of our Gratitude... Love... and our continuing presence in their Eden. I held on to this painting but decide to gift it to Carol and John as a token of our love and support at the Celebration of the Life of their beloved daughter Laurie last summer. John and Carol both sit with the painting in their morning ritual coffee club.. " and the [Friendship] beat goes on... !"

We are deeply blessed... and yet, never free... any of us of the trials... tribulations and challenges that Life offers each of us during our journeys.


Today is the first day 
Of the rest of my life 
I wake a child
To see to see the world begin
On monarch queen
And birthday wonderings
Want to put faces
Walk in the wet and cold

And look forward to growing old.

To grow old is to change
To change is to be new
To be new is to be young again.
I barely remember
When my memories are stolen by the morning
Blotted out by the sun's hypnotic eye.

Album Rhymes and reasons by John Denver

 "Afternoon Delight in Rockport Harbour" -oil on canvas 10x12 inches  SOLD

What a delight it was to be painting in the village... alone with my long time painting pal Frank... high atop the St Brendan' Church promontory. "Nothin' could be finer...". another memory marker on a very long journey shared by the Loner and Tonto!

"Lazy... Hazy... Crazy Days of Summer - oil on canvas 10x12 inches

This is my most recent plein sketch.... this one done "ashore on this side o' the river".. with my painting pal Paul Taylor of Rochester NY. It depicts a typical humid summer day.... in hayin' season! Can you smell the newly cut hay????...... "How sweet it is!".... Memories flooding the picture plane!

I am currently deeply entrenched in a largish commission... "in my smooth style"... per the client's request. Not my favourite... either. But that's a story ... for another day.... and my next post!

Stay tuned!...

I had a young visitor visit me yesterday in the studio. She asked if she could... just browse. During our conversation of a half hour ... we shared many common threads in our parallel lives. She is a biologist... and I...  "just a painter... passin' through"

She left me this wonderful thought which I will carry forward... and I pass along to you in closing this post:

"The only way to fully understand and appreciate Nature... is to take off your shoes and walk in it barefoot for a bit"

When was the last time we did that?

I wonder....

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


  1. Hi Bruce, thanks for sharing this look back at your past work. The standard has always been high, and the Badgers are lucky to have such a nice collection.

    I was struck by that line about Nature; it's so true in both a literal and a metaphorical sense, and it even has meaning for a plein air painter.

    All the best,

  2. I've been waiting for this post to appear, Bruce. It kept telling me not available, but at last here it is and is a delight to read. I love all of your paintings, as I always do...and do I detect a bit of a Van Gogh relationship at one point in your work? How wonderful to have such good friends for so many years. I wish I could claim the same. I am also so saddened to hear that John and Carol lost their Laurie. Your gift must mean the world to them.

  3. Good morning Keith!... Thanks for dropping by! How very nice to share this early start in the day with you chatting.... and sippin' my java! The marvel of this communication technology!

    It was wonderfully uplifting for "Me" to be "reunited" with the Badgers and their collections... not just of my own work... but also the works of so many other artists in other genres and the markers in their lives shared together as family. It was good to be back in their safe home!

    That Nature line is a remarkably powerful line Keith... one which I feel that we share and understand. It struck a chord in my own heart... as it has in your own trekking heart. In Nova Scotia... locals called me the "Winter Walker". It is because I chose to walk... and work in winter... strange to them. But I have come to know that season so intimately... and really.... have a preference for painting en plein air in that month while others shun its cold. Just some other rambling thoughts...

    Thanks again for always dropping around to talk a bit. I enjoy our conversations and hearing your thoughts.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  4. Good morning Sherrie!... Thanks for dropping in this morning and for sharing your thoughts about the post!

    I'm sorry as well for ther "delays" in your reception of the post. That situation was caused by my editing process. Often in my writing process... as in my painting as well, I have a change of thought, or direction which brings about a totally new direction. Sorry about that!

    There is most likely "a touch of " VanGogh.... and every other artist that I have admired along the way Sherry. I believe that artists are merely "sponges"... folks who pay attention and subliminally "borrow" strategies from many sources to refine their own style and growth as an artist.

    The loss of Laurie has been immense for us all. Laurie and I shared a very strong connection. I well knew the path that she walked... and we trusted and loved each other in a very pure and profound way! I miss her still... and never more strongly than when I visit their home. The piece of "Her" that belongs there... is ironically present... but sadly absent in the same breath.

    Thanks for your words!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,