Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumn ... Gets our Attention

All of those new sights and changes in the Natural World about us... draw to our attention that "the wheel has indeed turned". The too brief autumn pageant of change... heralded in these parts by the magnificent colour change in the hardwood forests in our midst... triggers a greater than usual urge by artists to get out into the field to paint. Cadmium reds and yellows... lying too long in repose in our paint boxes are squished copiously... and gleefully onto our palettes. This much-awaited once in the year opportunity to use colour flamboyantly... even raw-from-the-tube re-ignites bravado and does away the calm plodding regularity and care necessary for the artist to deal with the myriad of subtle summer greens.

Looking over this weekend's "funnies"... as I do routinely... that attention to fall's arrival and change is evident, even there in the world of the cartoonist... as this pair suggest... tongue-in-cheekily! Autumn distilled... and blended with humour. Fine Art.... within frames in a storyboard format... with balloons to "tickle the funny bone". All the world is a-flutter... touched by Autumn... as no other season can. Can you imagine a world without Autumn? How blah... that world would  be! Autumn... the purrrrr-fect metaphor to justify the acceptance and necessity for change!

I spent last Tuesday with my painting pal Frank Edwards.. aka "Loner"... painting on Amherst Island. This isolated bucolic island... is lost to mainland time even though it lies but a mere half hour ferry ride... west of Kingston and due south of Amherstview. It remains a traditionally agriculturally-based community whose residents either continue to make their living in farming and commercial fishing... or choose to commute daily to mainland jobs and locations in more urban centers like Kingston, Belleville and Napanee. These onshore areas offer job opportunities that will never exist on the island itself.

The few small businesses that exist on the island itself...  and could at best be called seasonal. Some even operate only when the ferry arrives or departs. It is a very loosely defined... and come-by-chance way of life. Not everyone could become an "islander"... even if the residents deemed you worthy to hold that title. As in all small places, and from my personal experience(s).... you are looked upon with some degree of suspicion... as "coming from away". One must be born an islander... to truly belong.

My "gallery" career began on Amherst Island at Stella Lodge at the invitation of its owners, Fred and Marlene Frolich. They had followed my early Kingston Market "panhandling/peddlin" days. Stepping up from offering up my barns and rural village subjects as matted watercolour and ink sketches in a farmers' market milieu... to a soilo exhibition in a bona fide gallery was a huge leap of faith for me... and them as well, I would think. But that leap of faith and graduation to painting on larger format themes has brought me to this very moment in my life. I could neither have imagined... nor even planned this journey. It just happened. But it did so as a result of a lot of hard work... many cul-du-sacs... and with patience and much sacrifice to arrive at today.

Heading to the Island via the ferry stirred many memories of that event... and the many occasions afterward when Frank Edwards and I painted on the Island together. It seemed appropriate to me... that on this day, we should be retracing our steps on a trail that has spanned nearly forty years. I know that he felt exactly the same. We travelled quickly through Stella... located right at the ferry dock location. Frank had painted up and down the length of Main Street in Stella with his Tuesday morning painting group over many months.

Though I would have preferred to stop the bus there, this was to be a day for He and I just to settle into a day of painting and camaraderie. We travelled over to the very sparsely inhabited south shore of the Island... where limestone shelves and smooth, storm-polished stones merge the landscape with the "big water" of Lake Ontario. We found many interesting sites, but finally settled into one that we both founds structurally appealing. Though the day was dull and overcast... it could not sully our common high spirits and joy of being together again... "side-by-each"... as the Loner refers to our relationship.

The ambient ... but  low light and glare certainly made selecting painting values a chore right from the beginning. Combined with the close value patterns in the changing tree colours... creating contrast and definition was a painting nightmare for both of us. Everything seemed "flat"... just grey. Then... when it seemed hopeless to struggle further in this location, the sun and blue skies came to our rescue. After a much needed lunch break and unending, friendly banter back and forth... we settled comfortably into closing out the morning's work.

Both of us completed our paintings rather quickly... focusing upon highlights and constructing darks and lights to "ramp up" the much needed transfusion of contrast and light... to better define colour shifts and structure. I can't truthfully state, even now... that the result is not totally pleasing to me. But it is...  what was there... and as I could translate the impression that I felt at the time.

We decided to head back to Stella and perhaps find a second interesting site close to the ferry to finish up the day. That plan turned into a village "walk-about" and a tour down memory lane. In retrospect, that was indeed... the best "dessert"- a fitting conclusion to draw a sumptuous "painting feast" to a close. The ferry ride back to the mainland again flushed long and deeply concealed traces of other such Amherst adventures back into my consciousness - I felt deeply blessed to travel back in time to other days with my pal Frank!

In closing out today's post on this rainy and dreary morning in Rockport... I offer that painting success is not to be measured only in the final state of the painting...nor in its potential future saleability. Each painting that Frank and I have made together... records those precious moments along the many trails we have travelled together in our long association. Many have indeed been sold by both of us afterward. Some remain... to record... as they do... something very special in both of our lives - an unusual and ever bound Friendship which we have forged together. Therein lies true value... something that no amount of $$$$ can buy!

"Just Another Day ... in Paradise"... an oil on canvas 12x12 inches... "side-by each" with Frank's gem of an oil on panel entitled "South Shore in Autumn".

We have always travelled together on the same trails... but... we have always travelled and seen things in a distinctly different fashion.

Neither overshadows... or outweighs the strengths and values recorded in the other... just as it "is"... in our Friendship!

Loner... deep in thought

A handmade net winder/dryer relic from Amherst's fishing past

Lazy day autumn living in Stella. No one home!

No"pedallin"... nor much "peddlin" goin' on here today!

W. Brown  & Son... General Blacksmith ... now "shoeless "... but still... "standin' tall"! Much the same as it was when I painted a mid-sized watercolour to be included in my first solo outing at Stella Lodge... in August thru September.... 1976!!!! Where have the years gone???

Stella General Store and Post Office... first building that you meet coming off the ferry into Stella... entering into this untouched island remnant from another time.

 "I"... am greatly blessed to be ... "Tonto" ! Happy Trails Loner...

Happy Fall Painting!... to ALL



  1. Thanks for taking us with you on this tour of the island - and the memories it brings. Lovely paintings and a great post of interesting photos and talk :)

  2. Good morning Rhonda!... Thanks for "tagging along"... on this Amherst adventure!

    Autumn is a wonderfully inspiring time to get "out there" to paint... and especially in the company of a kindred spirit who knows and respects your passion for plein airing and the outdoors!

    Thanks for joining us this morning... my great pleasure to be your tour guide and interpreter!

    Happy Fall... and Good Painting Rhonda!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Both paintings are flawless, Bruce, but the texture and light in your own piece grabs my heart. I so love the autumn. That photo of the blacksmith place, Brown's is it?, is gorgeous!!

  4. Good morning Sherry!... Thank you for your flattering comments! We love autumn too... so fresh... vibrant in colour and mood!

    What better place to celebrate it in paint... than this plodding place... two steps behind modernity... always! True peace and solitude.

    But it does underscore clearly... the reality that there are indeed sacrifices to be made to have peace-aplenty in one's life. Are you willing to pay the piper?.... I am!

    Good Painting!... Much Peace Sherry... and Happy Fall!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce, sounds like a perfect day - a bit of painting, a bit of reminiscing and some good company. I'm glad you've had some good weather for all those autumn colours.

    All the best,

  6. Hi there Keith!... Indeed a perfect day for the Loner and Tonto. Just one of the many trails and adventures that we've shared over the many years.. "ridin".. "side-by-each HA HA!!!

    The colours have just come up so quickly. Must get "out there!

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Good Fall Painting !
    Warmest regards,