Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Disbelief... to Belief... to Believing

My work on the mural has been stalled... brought to an abrupt standstill firstly, by neck and back injury caused by the unusual stooped painting position that I endured for the five days that I worked up the painting. Secondly... because my request to have it placed in its proper vertical position... to date has been ignored. I continue to ice the effected areas.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege to share my plein air foray to my "honey hole" at Ivy Lea with two upbeat Ottawa ladies. Both were (somewhat) anxious to give outdoor painting a try. One had been to my studio for a prior studio still life session and plein air session with her sister three years ago. The other had never painted at all... let alone en plein air. Neither held the belief... or any hope of "making a painting in one go." My task went far beyond giving them an art lesson. It remained to me to lead them to... believe... in themselves... to take courage to try.

I had chosen Ivy Lea as a site because it was quiet and peaceful. I approached a friendly and generous octogenarian resident Eric Truesdell (affectionately called the Mayor of Ivy Lea by summer folk) to seek permission to once again paint on his riverside property. That was accomplished without difficulty so we set about selecting a site that pleased the ladies. A piece of cake! Here is the site... complete with breeze... shade and the rich light of summer. Does life get any better???

Denise's choice... good foreground ... middle and backgrounds

Lead In - Meditation... to Activation

I feel it essential to shore up confidence for novices to outdoor painting. The landscape can be so intimidating in its raw state... and overwhelmingly paralytic because of the immense detail that is set before one. A few minutes of personal contemplation should be undertaken... filtering through the vista of information... transforming mere looking into "seeing"... a path way to begin. This more or less approximates my own daily morning ritual of meditation at the dock... and usually the practice prepares me to go forward with a sense of purpose and peace in my day
I set up my easel very quickly and had them follow. A split palette was laid down for each box.  I had toned all three 11x14 inch canvases with an acrylic burnt sienna ground to reduce glare from the hot sun. I handed each a small thin stick of vine charcoal... assuring them that this small tool and a piece of shop tool gave them the power of correction of any "mistake". It would allow free play... until a path emerged to begin painting.

At this point, I invited them to sit down in one of Eric's on site Muskoka chairs to watch me demo... to gather information... and the courage to commence their own plein air painting adventure - another healthy dose of "seeing" prior to any painting.

Mapping ... to blocking in form with colour

I proposed that our focus would be identifying and laying down essential lines... such as the horizon... or any line... straight or otherwise that interested them visually. This I assured them would provide a sort of preliminary map to guide their painting journey to follow.

The demo was purposely short. I wished only to ignite their own imagination. I stressed the point that everything in the lay in was likely to change dramatically... that it served only as the foundation upon which to build surer and more permanent strokes and more correct passages of colour.

"Lucy ... the lefty" elected a view that was in the sun... and a painting perspective that ignored the sky area so completely that it caused me to seriously question her strategy. I kept that to myself and she provided ample reasoning for that choice and very compelling evidence at the conclusion of her canvas that she made a good choice based upon her inner vision. Bravo Lucy!... You are no longer a raw novitiate!

"Shady Lady Denise"... Preferred the shade of the shoreline em and young maple. She also chose an unexpected and unlikely strategy to "row the shoreline"... several hundred yards closer to her island and cottage subject. I had truly not expected such a viewpoint. But the cardinal rule in being with new plein air folk... is to honour their choices and to enable their vision... with support rather than judgement. Bravo... brave Denise!

 Here are two very happy faces at the conclusion of the day's painting. Very different and diverging approaches... but two very successful outcomes for a three and a half hour painting adventure!
Bien fait mes deux amies!!!

Lucy conquered the immense empty space in the lower two thirds of her composition admirably... choosing to create the complete calm and mirror-like reflection... of another day. It is a convincing and richly imaginative tribute to the portal of her own inner vision. Also... it is a HUGE step forward on any level into competent painting practice.

Denise's "rowing" strategy as well admirably achieved her onset goal to draw her shoreline location right up close to her main island and cottage subjects. She anchored the foreground with the red dock and created and adhered to the conventional foreground-to middle ground-to background formula. She competently managed to include her interest in the clouds as another success.

Post Script

There is no greater joy than to see someone... who previously could not envision themselves as a capable creative individual succeed. The picture shown directly above captures and records such an "Aha" moment for these two beautiful (and now younger) women.

True Happiness lies in sharing one's own Passion and Light with those willing to dream... and then to courageously follow those dreams. Dare to dream. But as well... Dare to Share!

"Any dream can come true... it can happen to you...
If you're young at (he)Art"

Good Fall Painting!!... to ALL!!!

 Rough demo... completed in about twenty minutes. Basics are there... needs fine tuning

"Reflecting Upon Summer, Ivy Lea" - oil on canvas 11x14 inches

Finished back in the studio the next day... some quite deliberation and corrections. A nice bonus added to the joy felt in these ladies company. Note that my view incorporates aspects that I admired from each ot the two ladies' works... Denise's "row boat" strategy combine with the calming influence of Lucy's languid and inviting summer calm. Students do offer mentorship... if one pays attention!


  1. What a wonderful day, full of surprises for you all! All three paintings succeed and are so different, standing looking out at the same scene - you all used your artistic licenses well :) I hope your back is better soon - back pain can put you out of commission for a long time!! Take care and don't injure yourself again on the mural - hope they adjust it for you so you can finish it.

  2. Hi there Rhonda!... Thanks for stopping by... and for adding your own observations and thoughts!

    Yup!... Everyone's artistic "licence" to travel the road is different... but somehow there is that common thread centring around risking... and commitment... no matter how long one paints.

    The back thing is still hangin' about... and reminds me to pay attention. I have already made my own adjustment in the mural process. Whether they do and when... is beyond my ability and concern.

    Fall painting is only days away... and that short period of pleasure will be accorded my fullest attention. Frank and I will be "out there"... it has always been our favourite time to paint together.

    Stay tuned....

    Good Painting to You Rhonda!
    Warmest regards,

  3. 3 fine paintings for all of you, Bruce. Love Lefty's result and your own has my heart swooning. What a great day this was!!!

  4. Good morning Sherry!... Thanks for checking in... and for your encouraging words!

    Yup!. Everyone was a winner on that great summer day shared at Ivy Lea !!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce, yet again your inspiring tutoring has achieved outstanding results. Who would have thought that these ladies, especially one who was painting for the first time. would have produced such confident work. Not only that, but a good time was had by all, by the sound of things. Well done!

    All the best,

  6. Hi there again Keith!... Thank you for these thoughtful and encouraging words!

    You know the drill my Friend! Paint what you feel... and have a passion for. Then share it. Everything else will follow ... as it can and will. Empowerment produces the best work!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,