Saturday, November 22, 2014

Adapting to Seasonal Change - Part One

As we have sat watching... and enjoying our resident regular bird... chipmunk and squirrel  populations at our several feeder locations, a noted aggressive change in the feeding behaviours of all species. Even the usually playful and placid chipmunks have been going "nose-to-beak" with the five noisy and "bully-by-nature" band of blue jays to defend their favoured feeding territories.

It is most plain to see that the new skiff of snow... bitter cold temperatures and gale force gusting of sou'west winds off the river have forced them into new patterns of behaviour that deviate drastically from the expected norm. I firmly believe that the fear of hunger and competition for prime feeding territories fuels this change. These changes are based purely upon survival instincts. Even the jays display of aerial warfare with each other drew them away from their usual voracious pack feeding habits.

New arrivals to the yard... woodpeckers to the awaiting hanging suet station... juncos... cardinals... finches... and even a pair of wary crows necessitated an increase in the regular portion of feed. We now have five squirrel ":regulars"... and I dislike them immensely because they put the hustle on everyone... especially Deb's beloved Mr Chips (short tail). I routinely leave him private "lines" (ya... he's addicted!) of his fav food... small black sunflower seeds on the deck near his main hole. That spot offers Deb a front-row-centre view of him... filling his"bulging-to-busting" cheeks without stop... until not another single seed will fit in. A big gift... from a very small and shy  friend... for very little seed!

I pondered how much this change in all parts of the natural world seemed to parallel the new changes... preparations and activities of the human world as well. Gone are our thoughts of strolls in the colourful leaves... lounging on the patio deck soaking up rays... or sporting our best beach shorts, sandals and tees. Snow tires... winterize... wood pile and yard clean up form fragments of the new human vocabulary. Soon... one can add more ominous and dreaded nouns of winter to include:  shovel... salt... snow blower... storm warning... sleet... ice and blizzard... and FLU!!!

Buffalo NY and area is more than fully engaged in that conversation with these elements. The change there arrived viciously and without warning over two nights. What they face this weekend after the two meters of snow... a return to abnormally higher temperatures and rain might well lead to a horrendous and catastrophic situation of flash flooding for the region. Fingers crossed for the people in this area!

In Rockport... we have the yard clean up out of the way... a new more efficient fireplace insert in place (and tested) and a full bush cord of wood split and stacked in the dry Gallery space. Snow tires and winterising for the van were completed on Wednesday... so that we are as ready... as one can be to face the usually long and most often dark winter months in this part of Canada. Let it snow!

I have been fortunate to get in a few last "comfortable" plein air outings in the past two weeks, but the last one with Frank confirmed that future treks must include warmer clothing... weather watching... more careful planning... and common sense. Winter painting can become much more than simply uncomfortable. Under the wrong conditions... and with careless choices painting "off road" and alone is both fool hardy and perhaps... even life-threatening. Those are definitely NOT in my own personal winter vocabulary list!

Here is my first "snow painting" for 2014. Ironically... and truthfully, it was painted in the warmth of our common downstairs winter studio space with the rousing strains of Andre Bocelli's magically inspiring voice-instrument in the background. Now that's "winter" painting!

This "winter landscape painting" derives from an Algonquin sortie to Rock Lake on March 25th, 2010. This 12x16 inch oil sketch on panel was my favourite sketch of five completed during that paint out trip with my Whitney painting friend, David Kay. No one else seemed to agree until this past October. A young couple from Mississauga, ON (near Toronto) were vacationing nearby and happened to discover our Gallery.

They purchased three paintings and took them with them... but the husband was captivated by my "Group of Seven" ... as he described the sketch. He felt it too small for the space he wished to put it in his business office. He asked if I ever created larger paintings from existing oil sketches done previously. I "tongue-in-cheekily" responded., "Yes... just like the group of Seven"! I agreed to "biggen" the original 12x16 inch panel into a 20x24inch painting. I did caution him however... that the new painting would not be an exact facsimile of the original. It would be an extension of the "vision" I had wished to create at the site... that was diminished by a cloudy and ever-changing light source that day.

In this jpeg below you can see the original plein air sketch entitled "Last Vestige of Winter" - which it did depict accurately.... minus any lighting effects and rich colour. The compositional structure of the sketch is absolutely what I wanted and I maintained it... for the most past in the second and larger version. I think that the substantial changes from the first to the second speak for themselves. I believe that the use of the first sketch as the creative "springboard" to a warmer... more universally appealing and eye-pleasing painting for a home or office supports my ongoing commitment to paint en plein air.

The sketch  faithfully records the attraction that I felt to this landscape and despite a rather iffy and ever-changing light... I feel that it "gets full marks" as a successful painting. I would hang it in my own home... simply because I have a certain affinity for "the raw" and unrecognized beauty... not usually appreciated by most other people. Simply... personal taste!

Here is the more finished version. While it conforms exactly to the compositional format and structure of the first... it can be easily seen that additional detail has been added... from front plane to back. One also can readily see the dramatic shift from diffuse lighting in  the first to a more direct and I feel... dramatic use of lighting used overall on the painting surface. The client loves this version... and has asked for "first right of refusal" to purchase the original sketch. A given! Now can you see and completely understand yet a second reason for sketching en plein air?

Whether the added income possibility lights up your heart... or whether... like my Self, you revel in the opportunity to "play" further with one already pleasing idea to extend it into yet another realm of "being"! All the "spade work" has been done in the first one. All you have to do... is PLAY in the second round. And that never fails to make my heart sing!

I will soon post a slide show of images in a second part to help describe how I developed the sketch into the finished painting. Perhaps that post will inspire and equip you to do the same in your own painting process.

This next post will also reveal my shifting into the "commission mode" further. I have five commissions to be completed by Christmas. Lots of work ahead. I am greatly blessed... and thankful !!!

In closing today... when one is open to change... whether in one's personal life or creative life and  is willing to adapt to it... the outcome is more likely to be positive... and certainly less stressful . In my own life experience, I have discovered and learned this... the hard way! Bonne chance!... Carpe Diem!

Good Painting!... to ALL!


  1. middle name. Normally I love it. Anyway, love the new incarnation of your first painting, Bruce. When will you and Deb set off on your traveling adventure? Will you let your lovely new home go to travel, or just take a season away?

  2. Good morning Sherry!... Change should be the middle name in all of us! Life without change is stasis. Life should be about a searh... an adventure... discovery. And especially about discovering "Who"... we really are... not who we've been socially programed to "think" we are!

    You... are searching... and that is a good thing Sherry! Do continue!

    The change from our current Rockport sojourn and Gallery operation... is really advance thought and preparation for the next portion of our life. We have no specific time frame in mind at this point... but it is not too far in the distant future.

    That change (we hope) will include opportunities to travel as both finances and health will permit. Our small business and the rigourous schedule that it entails make travel almost impossible. But the success and pleasure that our life style affords us makes it worth while... for now!

    Stay tuned for updates... they will most certainly appear here first... whenever they are to occur!

    Thanks for dropping by and for your thoughts!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, I love the first painting as it was so rich and full of life, it also requires imagination to bring the beauty of this painting to life! the finished painting is beautiful too yet it is completed everything there requires no effort for the viewer they accept the finished piece as the truth, yet in the first painting there is so much that the viewer can feel with the warm colours that make us remember autumn and the lively brushwork that reminds us that the wind blows and the sun shines on this scene and the water in the river has many colours! I hope you find your way to creating more of these beautiful imaginative works. best wishes from Scotland laddie!

  4. Hi Caroline!... Greetings back from Canada! Thank you for your visit and for your valid comments.

    Plein air paintings by their very nature embrace the spontoneity and the fresh, lively brushwork that are demended of the artist in the presence of constant lighting change and wather conditions.

    I love each genre for their own identity and strengths. Both satisfy me personally... and both appeal to the varied tastes of my clientele. Win-win!

    Be sure that I will be very busy painting during the winter months... both inside and out side. Painting makes me feel whole!

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,