Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring... Floods In!

Quite literally... Spring has flooded into the Thousand Islands area displacing the much reluctant winter to finally depart. Flooding can be seen wherever one looks. Towns and villages along rivers were encroached upon ... and many even threatened by rising waters of rivers and creeks. Farmer's acreages in the area became small lakes... in some cases leaving the homestead as an island... cut off from the main road. Numerous detours were necessary on many roads not usually affected by spring runoff. Waters on the Saint Lawrence River, on which Rockport is nestled ride higher than usual. All of this was due to an unusual large amount of snow and ice... and a too rapid spring melting and run off. A very hot sun in the past weeks has begun to offset this worrisome annual event. Things are drying up.

As we drove into Brockville earlier this week, I was overwhelmed to discover the flood of new pinks and greens in the canopies of the hardwoods and softwoods along the Parkway. No longer did their bare skeletal branches claw harshly at the skyline. The myriad of soft new spring pastels created a new and uplifting harmony... replacing the scraggily memories of a very long and cold winter. On the ground within the depths of the woods... fresh and delicate ferns had suddenly jumped from their winter hiding places... their fiddle heads changed to limy green fronds... ever reaching skyward towards the light. Ever more exciting to me was the sudden arrival of a vast carpet of trillium wildflowers... the provincial flower of the province of Ontario in which we live. This sight always whets and excites my desire to paint and I have in the past recorded this very special spring moment. A flood of floral friends tells me that Spring is fully rooted firmly ... though briefly in our midst!

A snippet cluster of the spring woodland carpet

Trillium carpet at Butternut Bay

Here is one of those painted memories... "A Trillium Triptych" - 3 oil canvases 16 x 44 inches

This floral explosion repeats itself even in our gardens. Each day another variety reveals itself briefly as a bud... then by day's end stands inches taller. Within a few days it produces its distinctive flower. Such power in this new sun!

In the backyard new faces and voices have joined our winter resident bird friends... all sporting their new plumage finery and making their presence known with territorial and mating behaviours. When joined by our Chipmunk buddies, Mr Chips and Scamp and a number of greedy squirrels... our deck and yard is a big top circus entertainment centre that quickly melts our weary winter worries away. The pure Joy of Spring quickly floods our hearts and souls...

 Deb's long awaited Ruby Throat Hummingbird "Mrs Bossy" has returned... just three days later than last year by my daily journal - AMAZING! Deb  had the feeder out and full of her favourite "roux brew" within the hour after coming to us at our patio table. Small miracles... large blessings! Deb's heart sings... every morning at our morning "Coffee Clutch"!

I love the bright American Goldfinch guys with their cheery "tweet-ing" n' "twitter-ing"... here shown busy... on line! HA HA!!

A surprise trio of Baltimore Orioles... shown below competing with the humming birds for the sweet treats at their two feeders. Such beautiful melodic music... right through the entire day until dark!

A quintet of White Crowned Sparrows with their chippy attitudes offer vaudeville absurdity and comic relief

 Here is the new feeder... a belated gift to Gramma by her grand Gals from Cranbrook, BC .This very special treasure and these Easter paintings on canvas... flooded our hearts and the floor as well with Spring treasures of Love... Joy and Hope! Thank you Sweet Girls... from your loving Gramma and Booce! These are real treasures! You sure touched Gramma's Heart!

Me and Gramma... by 8 year old Ava

My Shapes n' Colours by 4 year old Ella
Tourist activity in the village has jump started into high gear as well... as hordes of visitors deposited by tour buses flood into this very small hamlet and fill it (uncomfortably) at times for residents to overflowing. But this influx provides the necessary income for many businesses and individuals... including our gallery operation. So grin... and bear it!

This weekend is a holiday in Canada... Victoria Day Weekend.... traditionally the starting gun opening for summertime festivities in Canada. It will also be our official "Grand Opening" for Summer 2014. Deb and I just finished repainting the floor and rehanging my art... installing her stained glass and setting up displays of her jewelry and gorgeous new lines of handmade cards. The Gallery looks energized and I think... visually attractive to the eye. Time will tell... but the work has been done... a long winter now ready to yield dividends for our commitment and sacrifice. 

If you want to predict your future... Create it!

At The Paint Box Gallery our mantra is... 

"Art Matters... as does quality... service and our customer opinion.

Wishing everyone Happy Spring. May many blessings flood your life!

Good Painting... to ALL!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"My Parents... led me to who I am."

This provocative thought was a page header title for an article in the August 17th, 2013 Toronto Star. The article preceded my Mom's birthday by two days... so my mind was already in a reflective plane of thought about her. As I have related in this blog countless times before, my Mother greatly influenced and shaped me as I was growing up. Certainly... some of that "shaping" was the necessary and day-to-day kind that all mothers take on in their rearing roles. Yet there were so many other more sublimely offered lasting lessons that came more from the way that she conducted her own life... as I watched quietly and admiringly from a distance. She taught... and led by example... with me..and host of other admirers following. Mostly... that occurred without her knowledge that I was doing so.

I remain deeply grateful to "Her"... each and every day that I face now without her encouraging and loving earthly presence. I remember her blessings in  my own fashion... separate from any of my siblings. I honour her by trying to conduct the kind of life which blends the good things that she presented... but without ranker... I forgive those few things that she carried out in her own life... that I didn't admire. Strange... that on Mother's Day... that I should choose to reveal that she had some qualities that I have not carried forward. There are no saints really... just "good people"... who demonstrate their sense of Humanity... which includes making mistakes... and then.... making up for them.

What I have come to understand after becoming a parent myself... is that children do not come to you with any sort of manual. Most everything we use to accomplish our rearing task is done in trial-and-error fashion... and often on a minute-to minute-basis. Logically then... ALL of us have screwed up along the way on the job one way or another. Many of our rearing strategies were learned from the way we ourselves were raised. Thus nurture helps shape or own way that we parent.

I'm sure that each of us... mother or father have had those moments when we genuinely feel that we failed to hit the mark... and in hindsight (which is always 20-20) would have handled a issue in question differently. It is totally amazing to me... today... to see how much smarter my parents were... on a day when as a teenager... or even as an adult, I felt that they knew nothing. Age along with life experiences should increase one's level of wisdom. I marvel at how wise my parents were... and how trivial the very few mistakes they made were in comparison to the sound preparation and advice they offered me in my growing years.
I feel ... forever grateful and blessed for the contributions and sacrifices that they each made... either singly... or together on my behalf.

On Sunday. Mother's day, 2014... when I visit them at their resting place... I will offer my thanks to them both. I will silently remember their gifts and our wonderful shared and now treasured moments together. I will pledge to them... my continued effort to care for my own children and partner... so that at the end of my journey their teachings and my own may together shape the future of their own wee ones. Already, both Deb and I can see firsthand that some of our "not-so-wee"ones are already well underway.... and in so doing offer the Sherman and Marginson names great honour.

The Toronto Star have dedicated a full page each day over the last weeks to a visit to the kitchens of fallen Canadian Afghanistan soldiers. In those kitchens mothers and fathers have been allowed the privilege and dignity to offer insight into the special lives and the loss that they have had to shoulder. It is so very poignant to hear their words and to bear witness to the way they have coped with this unspeakable loss to any family. It makes my life seem so much simpler... and the small daily blessings that I take for granted too often - gifts of immeasurable wealth and richness. Let us.. in peace and safety... think on this special day... of the countless mothers everywhere around the world who face similar loss and grief whether due to war or illness.

I would like to share this lovely quote from another Toronto Star story of last year. It is a tribute to her lovely son plagued during almost all of his nineteen years of life by schizophrenia. Kit's battle was an impossible one for him... one that ultimately he lost that battle. But never did his family... and particularly his mother give up on him. They supported him right through to the tragic conclusion of his struggle. On the Friday night before he died he told his mom that he loved her.

The family shared their story openly with the readers of the paper. It touched my heart greatly... and I have kept this quote and Kim's smiling picture in my studio. In Lesley Skelly's own words... one can begin to more fully understand that intangible and unmatched special bond between a mother and child:


Let us be thankful for Mothers (and Fathers) who share this rarest of rare form of love for their children. Let us honour them by serving others with the same love... kindness and generosity that we ourselves received through them.

I love you ... forever Mom! Happy Mother's Day... to All Mothers!!!

"Heard It on the Grapevine"

My Mom gave me my love of the Natural World... and all of its birds and creatures.

"Simply Daisies"

We shared a love of wildflowers.. especially simple field daisies. This was a Mother's Day gift I did for her kitchen in 1986. It now hangs in our own.

 My Mom and Dad... together left the gift of music in the souls of all Sherman children

"Make a joyful noise!..."

Our newest member... Wee Mac! I've yet to hold him. Andrew is the best "Mom"... a guy could ever have! Loosen up the grip Dude! Give us all a hold! HA HA!! Enjoy this time Son. It is precious... and fleeting!

Note:  The Meetin' yer Grampa  outfit... Canadian Tuxedo and Jeans... Grampa -style!!! HA HA!!

Happy 1st Mother's Day Melissa! He's a keeper!... and to "You" Lisa for being the special Mom you have always been to my other three grandchildren. Lastly... but certainly not the least... Happy Mother's day to "You" Deb for being a Mom to each of my children and your own... in the very wonderful and loving manner that you have dones so. Thank You!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Day With Frederic Remington

I was indeed blessed in so many ways during the period that my younger brother Donnie visited us here in Rockport... and not just in terms of the warmth we felt in having him present, but as well in terms of other events and the many places that we visited together while he was here. No... it was not a grand tour of our old neighbourhood and our common Brockville, Ontario roots. Both of us have long been away from having a need to retrace earlier footsteps back there except to visit my folks grave. We both have moved and grown on in our separate life journeys to new people... places and significant spaces.

Don had only one request in our vacation itinerary. That was to cross the river to Ogdensburg, NY to tour the Frederic Remington Museum. Don is an ardent horseman who actively has saddled up each winter to participate in "cutting out" competitions in Yuma Arizona where he winters. He proudly shares our Grandfather Sherman's passion and horseman genes... or jeans - both work... and his love of these intelligent creatures. Remington surely felt the same... as was evident in his magnificent visual record of the role that the horse played in taming the Wild West and in Plains Indian life. It has been recorded that he commented that he hoped his epitaph might read, "He knew the horse." That certainly could be said of him!

I had toured the Remington Gallery earlier with my daughter Allison on one of her research-gathering expeditions to support a book publication dedicated to historical river architecture along both side of the St Lawrence and The Thousand Islands. I did enjoy the visit ... but mainly that enjoyment was based upon sharing the experience one-on-one with Allison. On this occasion though, I was to able to glean new insights and reflection into my own work through viewing the masterful Remington masterpieces.... merely a nose distance away. There were none of the usual high profile gallery restrictions re: space from the work, or even taking photographs. All of the very knowledgeable staff of volunteers on hand were ever so willing to chat and share their knowledge with us. All of these factors allowed me to come away excited and refreshed from the new knowledge which this experience revealed to me.

 I made my way slowly around the gallery several times. On each occasion, I  saw a different facet of the exhibition and Remington's own artistic growth and development. On my first tour around, I was overwhelmed by the power of his draughtsmanship... attention to detail and always impeccable design and composition. That awe was further deepened when my eye caught sight of these early sketchbook pages which Remington completed as a 15 year old cadet at the Highland Military Academy in October of 1876. Though it is obvious in these sketches that the romance and idealism of war and a soldiering life intrigued him greatly, he held no academic aspirations and could not tolerate its rigid restrictions. He felt more committed to the two "D's" dreaming and drawing.

The sketches shown here certainly confirm his unusual interest in military themes... but with a "rather average" proficiency and undeveloped skill in illustration. This sketch book is the launch pad for his voyage of self-discovery and mastery. It is totally amazing to compare these first humble and youthful attempts to the exceptionally competent level that he was able to achieve in less than ten years.We all have to start somewhere I guess... no matter where that might end!

He went of to Yale and excelled on the football field and did gain some art training, but left Yale... again feeling constricted and unmotivated by college life. His restless spirit yearned for more... and that included the desire to marry his future wife Eva. Her father scorned his hand in marriage request... citing the young man's financial instability. Determined to win the day,  Remington headed to the west... vowing to return a "successful millionaire" and to win Eva's hand in marriage.

Notes! Notes! Notes... Notans! Notans! Notans!... Sketch! Sketch! Sketch! = EXPERIENCE

He did in fact immerse himself fully into western cowboy life...mastering many of the skills of that lifestyle and during this crucial period, he built up a huge portfolio of work based upon his many contacts and experiences. By 1888, his drawing ability had improved to a level significant enough to garner him illustration assignments on a regular basis... working in pen and ink for Harper's Weekly and Century Magazine... just to name a few. Black and white illustration work allowed him to find a "day job"... but Remington realized early on that development of colour was essential to expanding into the fine art area.

His contrite inability to "become schooled" continued as he searched on his own to create his own palette and painting style in oils. As I toured and looked more closely at the exhibition seeking to understand his path to this end... it became obvious that he merely approached the colour issue by gradually shifting the spectrum tonally using watercolour and India ink washes and the "grisaille" techniques. Both approaches helped him to develop a  painting process based upon a monochromatic (one colour/black) approach. This learning strategy helped him create nuances and variations to  model form... volume... and create light and shadow.

Watercolour monochromatic painting. Note the attention to detail and the overall move of calm he creates in his varied poses. He creates a "moment"... one of of rest from a long and dry ride on the plains.

Another grisaille piece which compositionally juxtaposes a static foreground pair with a diagonally moving middle ground group receding to the distance ... all wedged by a wall of firs and distant mountains. Again notice the individual and realistic quality that he creates for each figure in the composition.

Black and white interpretation greatly enhanced Remington's ability to enter the activity of adding paint to drawing and design. Colour, as you well know and understand complicates most artists' initial entry into a development of a painting style. I share Remington's belief that beginning painting from this perspective is empowering. Books on colour theory are good for some artists... but others like R and I do not thrive on this approach. Painting experience... is as valuable as schooling... and "book learning." Set your own tempo and goals. Develop self-discipline by scheduling regular times to paint. Just plan... and paint!

I could spend  months of posting my thoughts and impressions following each tour, but I hope now to encapsulate my findings with a quick summarizing view and check list on Remington's method:

1. He was passionate about his subjects... horses, cowboy life, the disappearing Wild West and Indian way of life, outdoor subjects and landscape painting
2. He developed his artistic tool box choosing his own ideas, time frame and preferred mediums
3. While he shared his own  path with other notables such as NC Wyeth and Charlie Russell, he remained true to his own personal search for expression rather than to copy... never comprising his ideals
4. He travelled broadly in America and Canada... but spurned things European and embraced painterly  impressionism and other movements which shaped western Art in his time only near the end of his life
5.He focused upon and constantly refined basic elements which shape all "good art"... resisting playing it safe
6. He worked prolifically and maintained a very demanding schedule in painting and sculpting, producing nearly three thousand works of art and 23 sculptures
7. He made time to seek solitude to think... observe and gather ideas from the natural world

I have been overwhelmed by this unique learning opportunity and will long benefit from this experience. The opportunity to probe the painting surfaces of his many paintings... particularly his St Lawrence River landscapes and his sublime and ethereal nocturnes (at which he excels). These in particular offer future food for thought and direction for my own work. I better understand my own process and directions... something that I too struggle with on my journey.

What Remington achieved in his too short forty-eight year life span provides a model for all of us who struggle to find our Selves. Art is a journey and should not be considered a destination. Such a point of view marks the end of learning and future growth and development. Here is part of the collection that I viewed. I offer it to you for your own search!

This is a statement he made in regard to creating his bronze sculptures. Each of those sculptures freeze the action... every creature and figure anatomically correct... a bounty of exact detail to wrap these forms in unparalleled excellence. The same can be said for his paintings in each of the genres.

Mortal wounding and ambush on patrol...

Pointers making their way through the icy waters and shrouded in fog... one moment and one floe at a time

" Hauling in the Gill Net"... frozen upon the very crest of a wave... a moment in time

"Howl of the Weather"... the bow penetrating the wave... frozen at the end of a long prying stroke

Midnight Rendez-vous faces fade into the shadows... lost edges prevail over line... an intimate moment

Remington's Boat House-Studio on Chippewa Bay, St Lawrence River

Quebec Club ... shadowed shore captures the transient end of day light... a golden moment

The Rough rider Charge on San Juan Hill... an important oeuvre... one which catapulted Teddy Roosevelt in his gubernatorial campaign. Reminiscent of the quality of great Civil War and British commemorative battle paintings. Many figures capturing many instants.

This "cowboy coffee" moment painting captures that round the campfire end of day ritual that these range riders cherished. It is Remington's last painting... and fittingly... it remains unfinished. Such should be the ending note in the lives and work for all artists.... an unfinished moment! Our last masterpiece remains ever in the making!

Good painting!... To ALL!!