Friday, February 6, 2015

Creating "Imprecise Truths... Using Reality"

"If facing the paper, your thought is 'I am an artist', you have no clue as to what to do. If the concepts of your function are,'I am a shape maker, an entertainer, an expressive symbol collector', then you have an explicit road map."

-Edgar Whitney (renowned  American water colorist and revered teacher)

I have only just recently been introduced to the work and philosophy of this iconic American artist by a fellow American artist friend. In the mere scratching of the surface of this discovery, I have already begun to see great merit and value into deepening my knowledge of both aspects of both his marvelous artistic journey and his philosophy related to painting. His wisdom and talent are exceptional.

The above sentence speaks so magnificently, and with unusual and candid clarity about what the goals of painting should be for all of us who paint. Simply calling oneself an artist... does not make it so. Even if we possess a rudimentary talent to begin the journey, one should realize that becoming an artist in the truest sense demands that one must pursue the goals necessary to leave a journeyman position during an entire life time.

I do possess very strong feelings about what constitutes being an artist and what I perceive as the current misuse of the term artist, but I will not use this blog as a forum to denigrate or to discourage others... or to arrogantly assume that my view is the "golden rule" to define what an artist is... or must be.

I maintain that each of us is entitled to express themselves, whether in words, actions... or paint. By so doing, we are offered a chance to enrich our lives... and the lives of others. What level we can attain for ourselves will be determined by exactly what we aspire to... and put into the venture. A rich journey will involve much self-learning and discovery.That journey will never end... for as long as we can continue to reach out and discover more.

In preparing for this quickly approaching solo exhibition, I have given much thought to what I hope to achieve in the end by accepting this daunting challenge. Despite having had more than a few positive solo shows during my journey... I still feel the self-doubt and uncertainty... when "lacing up for the opening face off" on this new occasion.  I have tried to view this as my first... to make it fresh and new - something that will represent my reasons for painting... and the joy that I feel every time that I pick up a paint brush to work.

In some respects... I feel that this exhibition opportunity can be viewed legitimately as fully retrospective. This past week, I have poured over a large collection of photo album-scrapbooks which chronicle my entire painting journey. The earliest photos present me as a young black-haired man... hardly begun the "toddler stage." That voyage progresses and emerges page by page... ever so slowly into what I have finally become - a painter.

A part of my self-education involved studying and at first imitating a host of other artists that I admired. That journey also involved much travel and painting across the entire breadth of Canada and much of western Europe. I studied in Venice, Italy for eight weeks in the 1980's. It was then that I was brought face -to-face with the inescapable truth about "what was"... and "what wasn't" ... an artist.

As I stood at the foot of Michelangelo's twenty-five foot monolithic marble masterpiece of David... I wept, partly out of of awe... but as well with some genuine sadness. "I"... realized for the first time. that I really played with crayons in comparison to this genius before me. That view was further consolidated by viewing the copious works of other vastly superior artists as I moved from city to city...  through church after church... villa after villa to contemporary artisan workshops. I had so much further to go... and perhaps, in my full lifetime... I might never really fully arrive and claim this distinction for myself.

In humble truth... today I am still voyaging. I have yet to arrive. But... "I" am more at peace with myself about these thoughts... simply because... in looking back over those pages... I see a much different man, inside and out. I find immense joy in seeing that my initial painting goals and motives are virtually unchanged. Though the thickness and color of my hair have indeed changed... the fire and youth in my soul has remained intact.

"I" am grateful... and deeply blessed to have discovered my....authentic self. At this stage in my journey, I continue, as I always have... to paint what I love and feel is important to me and others. I have developed a few voices which I choose to use intermittently to convey a certain feeling or view of my world.

As I move forward... painting by painting towards the rapidly approaching March 15th deadline.. I am trying to 'shift gears'... to create paintings that are much more than 'pretty pictures'. I truly hope that as a body of my thoughts... they will inspire and offer others the pure joy and pleasure that I have been fortunate to enjoy in making them. I hope that they encourage thought about the wonder and beauty of the Natural World we have been given.

In closing out today's post... though my entire lifetime body of works do indeed openly and unabashedly exhibit limitations and areas needing much improvement and further attention, I can readily admit that in all cases... they contain "Imprecise truths... inspired by reality." That is... they found their genesis in my observations and experiences in the outdoor world. They are mine to claim... good or bad, I have been blessed to have been able to pursue this journey in good company and health.

I am pleased to note that Whitney concurs:

"Create the beautiful lie."

"Photos transcribe, when paintings translate."

If you see worth in my work and words... then you indeed do... "have an explicit road map." Use it as you will to guide your own heart and hand. That will please me greatly!

Good Painting... and travellin'... to ALL!

This 16 x 20 inch plein air canvas was painted on an unusually hot September afternoon. I feel it accurately captures the rich warmth of early fall color and "hotness" of the day that I felt in the process of painting it.

While passing by the same scene on another day... in another season, I found myself drawn  to photograph it... lest I forget to return. It presented another entirely different reason to paint it.

Later in the same week, I hustled over with a small 8 x 10 inch panel and dashed down this "run-for-the-sun" quickie sketch... which I later felt might become a larger painting... with some added lighting to add drama

This past week, I returned to the smaller sketch while searching out a suitable subject to relieve the week of tight painting that I had worked through to complete the Delta Mill piece. I had hoped to get out into the field to paint... but the temperature hovered below -24*C for three days and gusting high winds driving the wind chill into the very low -30's. Not only foolhardy... but dangerous to go out into.

I painted this 20 x 24 inch canvas in just over three hours... start to finish on the same day. It is painted in a completely alla prima style... looking for impasto texture and painterly brushwork to carry the day. I feel that it replicates a full plein air experience and product. Imagination draws upon many hours and treks out into the outdoors. That cannot be accomplished using photos or working primarily from digital photos. One acquires the feel and the knowledge gained form the great teacher... Nature herself to work in this fashion!


  1. I always agree with your artist philosophies, Bruce. In fact, I didn't even realize I was on your blog but I immediately recognized your thoughts as Bruce Shermanesque. Your art is always just stunning. I too have it in my head as to what constitutes an artist and I am seriously not one. I get too frustrated and walk away more often than any true artist ever would. Passion yes. Skills no. It just is what it is.

  2. Dear Friend Sherry! ... Good to hear from you again! was becoming worried when you weren't appearing on line.

    Having creative thoughts and even dreams are not any reason to relinquish your right to express your Self... either in word... or in paint Sherry.

    Perhaps your motives and aspirations are what is in question more than your abilities. I keep offering that you need only please your Self and find joy and purpose in creating. Being... "as good as"... or selling one's work should in my mind ALWAYS be secondary.

    Unfortunately... as I look around the web... I see too much of the other. Too bad for them!

    Maintain your passion for enjoying and creating art. Remain committed to being the very best that YOU can be!

    Hope that school... and everyday life is looking up for you in 2015!

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving such uplifting remarks!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, I keep meaning to find out more about Edgar Whitney. I don't think he is well-known over here, but I've seen many references to him in America, and he's always referred to with reverence. I can see why he would strike a chord with you, and with me as well.

    All the best,

  4. Good evening Keith!... The more I read his words... the more I realize that our journeys run in parallel - his... yours ... and mine!

    Try this one one for a fit Keith:

    "Plan like a tortoise. Then paint like a hare!"

    Ain't that the absolute truth!

    I will join you in reading to discover more about Whitney and his work!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Love the paintings as each one is so different and has it's own mood and colours. The second from top is my favourite as the cool winter colours are beautiful and the barns are stunning in their detail. I feel I am there!

  6. Good evening Lass!... I tend to agree with your choice. Just goes to prove that those we paint quickly... without too much thinking... and complete bravura tend to best capture that essential inner passion and response!

    Oh... that we could pull it off every time we set up our easels! But where would the sense of adventure be in that??? Like fishing... always the "lure"... of that "Big One" out there! HA HA!!!

    Thanks for dropping by and for your very astute comment!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Hello Bruce,

    These are gorgeous paintings! Warm greetings from Montreal. :)

  8. Bonjour Linda!... Merci bien pour votre visite ... et vos salutations de chaleur!

    Nothing at all warm here in these parts... but Spring can't be far off! adding my own warmth to winter has always helped to diminish the deep cold for me. Glad that it can do so for others!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,