Thursday, September 11, 2014

Project (a noun) Peace... or Project (a verb) Peace!... Your Choice!

I had originally planned to write this post yesterday... but a pleasant change necessitated my delaying until this morning. It is not often that we have the opportunity to spend the evening with my two daughters together. Both of these joys of my life lead very busy lives... in places far afield from Rockport... so putting my writing on hold was an easy change/choice to make. My side still hurts this morning from the laughing and tom-foolery that we enjoyed together... but my heart no longer aches to see their faces ... or to hug and kiss them. I am deeply blessed... and deeply proud to have such fine young women as daughters!

Ironically, the origins for my initial post interest and topic surrounded the topic of change... as it applies to both my personal and artistic life. Those first thoughts before I actually sat down to write arrived in the still dark, pre-dawn hours of Tuesday... down at my dockside bench at the river's edge where... each day I enjoy my first cup o' java and await the first glimmer of light for the new day. Not a creature was stirring... nary an engine noise from the river to the south. Strange... after so many such visits that I could find new things... or better... things that I had overlooked in previous morning meditations. For the first time really... my eyes left my usual focus and preoccupation with the river and the familiar galleon-like island armada of silhouettes directly to the south.

The faint... but steady breeze out of the south soothed me so that I closed my eyes momentarily and shifted to smelling the air. There was a distinct and very different river fragrance... one that I have been privileged to experience over my lifetime... and one that for certain heralded the unmistakable entry of fall into these parts.

As I slowly opened my eyes, my glance was skyward. Above me ... directly overhead was another "old friend"... exactly where he should be at this time of the year. When one "trips" in wilderness areas... bereft of the light pollution which effects most areas near and around urban centres... one become exceedingly aware of the hidden magic of the night sky. Phenomena like the Milky Way... Aurora Borealis... meteor showers... and even the passage of air traffic and satellites offer evening entertainment reserved for the very few who step away even briefly from modernity.

Above me was the constellation Orion... "the hunter"... distinguishable by his two cock-eyed shoulder stars... but more by his three star "belt" and a knee to the lower right... and scabbard star low to the left. I well remember my introduction to Orion by my London Teacher's College Master,Mr. Brendon in his Science program. His astronomy lectures both dazzled and acquainted me with the wonders of the night sky and included many unforgettable others like Draco the Dragon... the Sister star cluster the Pleiades... Ursa Major and Minor... and of course... Polaris, the North Star - the navigational constant in the northern sky which guides all travellers and navigators whether on land or on the sea.

My attention was completely focused upon the still inky darkness above me. As I continued my watch quietly, I became ever more aware of how slyly morning strips away the darkness... and how one by one... each constellation disappears ever so gradually... star by star. It is indeed a magical time and a relevant visual example of gradual change occurring. Complete darkness gradually fell into the glory of full light. It points out how that kind of change... even in  our own life would be so much easier to adjust to... as opposed to jumping from the frying pan into the fire... or in shifting and changing our artistic styles like changing socks. Change should indeed be the goal in our lives... but it is the adapting to it that presents the most difficulty. It should be a process trial and learn...and not flip-flop... haphazard wandering.

In  my own work process, I do seek out new ideas and experiment with varied medias... subject matter and tools to work with. I value value critical advice from a few trusted and selective individuals. Rarely... do I make a change in a piece of my work without pondering such an intervention. In my own value set, my art is a deeply felt form of expression... one which I have cultivated as my own garden. I take great pride in the outcome... the achieving a state of finish for the problem presented in every work. Most often... the advice disappears ever so gradually in the process of contemplation... just as dawn displaces darkness. I hang on to my values.

All summer I have been staring at one particular painting in the Gallery... trying to summon up the courage to initiate a change to an area in the painting that troubled me. But I didn't know where to start. Many people commented upon its intrinsic beauty and the solitude that it depicted... but the compliment seemed aways to trail off with each viewer saying ... "But something isn't right in it - perhaps its too dark."

My art historian daughter Allison came to visit last week and accompanied Deb and I to tour and see new works. "Oh... this big one is new Dad - a lovely river scene. Where is the setting?" After explaining the exact location... she returned to her critique by adding: "There's one bothersome part of your painting... that for me lessens its strength and appeal. Do you want a a tip?"

My response was a rather deflated and half-hearted... "Yes"... because I very much trust her eye... her vast knowledge... and her good heart. I do look for her approval. She has always been a champion of my work... as has been Deb. Both have seen enough of my work to merit my respecting their opinion... and to encourage revisiting my reasons for excluding the sun. I think in retrospect, that perhaps its presence likely was suggested by Vincent... once again "whispering in my ear"... He does you know!

"Get rid of that sun Dad. I know what you were meaning to say... I get that. But it drags my eye away from what you really wanted to say... don't you think?" Deb immediately threw in her shovelful of support... it had been her complaint as well. I had long fended off changing.... but one week after that eventful discussion... I weighed in the criticisms with my own previous reservations and decided to relent... to change my viewpoint.

I hastily set up the canvas on my easel outside the Gallery.... and simply went at it. But I promised myself from the start that I would not repaint the entire painting. I would edge into the change gradually to remove the "offensive" sun and  perhaps shift the lighting slightly to manipulate another take on the light and shade interplay which holds the picture together. A few value changes in the foreground dark pine to break up the too distracting dark masses of shade were the last changes made.

I will leave you to judge the success of the undertaking for yourself based upon a comparison of the before and after jpegs. It can be said that the other two critics... have been silenced... and satisfied.... as have I. Thank you Allison and Deb... for fuelling lift off... and for being... "the third eye".

                                First Impression - "River Magic" - 40x30 inch oil on gallery wrapped canvas

In closing today's post, I have decided to extend the change even further... given food for thought that I "dined on" during my grocery trip to Gananoque this morning. I always listen to my local WNPR classical music station when driving alone... both for the lilting music and for the thoughtful commentary. I find both soothing and inspiring.

The commentary that I listened to triggered a memory that exactly thirteen years ago today... at 8:46 am, I was returning from Midland to my home in Kingston following a visit with my friends John and Carol. It was, of course that very apocalyptic 911 moment in every one's life... when the world at large too suddenly changed and became so disorienting and filled with confusion for all of us. It as well changed the world that each of us would personally live in from that moment onward... forever. Those effects of that moment... today... are never more obvious than when we enter and return on trips from Canada to the US.

While it was a devastatingly shocking and an outrageously inhuman atrocity against innocents... it was for me an epiphany of sorts. That single act of terror and unequivocal evil... strangely flooded my being with a sense of Peace and resolve to appreciate my blessing of life each and every day forward from that moment in time. It offered a powerful reason to embrace Hope... rather than fear and Hope-less-ness. I truly believe that each of the thousands of victims might agree with such an approach.

If each of us can hold out our own candle of Light...and Hope... together... we WILL extinguish whatever evil and state of Darkness which besets us. I am changing the title of this painting to "Requiem"... in honour of all of the victims of 911... their loved ones... and the countless number of young people who have served... or have offered up their tomorrows and dreams in foreign theaters to preserve our right to Peace and Freedom... wherever we live. Thank you...

This painting project is but one of many in my long career. I am truly hoping that the newer version helps to project to each of my friends who read this... a greater feeling of Hope... Peace... and a willingness to risk change in their own lives and art. Rich blessings to all!

Much Peace...                                                    SOLD
And Good Painting ... to ALL!


  1. Yes! I agree with your daughter! I LOVE this! Funny how improvements are made by removing something, and not by adding more.... "Less IS more!"

  2. Hi Bruce, the re-worked version is definitely better: there was a conflict in the first one, where you were trying to show a lot of colour and texture in trees, while looking straight into the light. It takes courage to change something that we have got used to looking at in a certain way. A new pair of eyes is always an advantage!

    All the best,

  3. Thanks for dropping by and weighing in your own response to this "project" Wendy.

    "Less... is definitely more" for us all. We too often lose sight of the value of simplicity... even in the way we conduct our daily lives... and in so doing destroy the opportunity for peace and equilibrium that creates harmony and contentedness. That is so for making a painting as well.

    Glad that you enjoyed the new and improved version!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  4. Good morning Keith!... Thanks for your visit this morning and for your supportive response to the re-worked piece.

    None of us are above "missing the turn" while we're deep in thought painting. It takes time to re-assess what we really wanted to say... and to "let go of the bone" that we have been playing with. It's a deeply personal process ... you know that... and surrendering is never an option.

    The "third eye" intervention by a trusted follower can often ignite the act to risk a change... as it did in this instance.

    The back lighting certainly contributed significantly to the original problem... as did that "Whisperer" that I mentioned within the post.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Once again, a great post, Bruce! The rework on the panting worked wonderfully. Thanks for being you.


  6. Hi there Dean!... "Thanks ... for being you!"

    Your constant encouragement and presence is always upilifting and inspiring! We share so many similar values and a passion for sharing our work!

    Blessings back to you Dean!
    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Hey Bruce,

    Thank you for sharing a spot on your bench with me. Though the solitude of morning
    reflection is often a bit of alone time it is nice to know that we are not singular in this practice. It is soothing at times, as we watch a before dawn shooting star, that we secretly shared the experience unknown to the rest of the sleeping world.


  8. Good morning Jeffrey!... Your most eloquent words in this morning comment... merely heighten the joy of "Today"... that is well underway for "Us"... yet perhaps has been sadly missed by "the rest of the sleeping world".

    Life is about choices one makes!... Thank you for sharing these moments and words this morning.

    Good Painting.... and Reflecting!
    Warmest regards,