Saturday, November 14, 2015

"A" Words... Autumn... Austerity...Adversity and Adaptation

How appropriate that Autumn translates fall. Fall is often associated with loss as is the case in Autumn when there occurs a loss of foliage, colour, time and light. In thinking about the two terms autumn does indeed reflect upon a "falling away" ... or decline of warmth and growth that is associated with the high time of summer. It is, as well easy to understand the decline of our emotional high as we anticipate the approach of winters long and cold presence.

All that is visible around us in the natural world bespeaks loss ands a sense of austerity which for so many people develops into a deep melancholy and sadness. It is why Remembrance Day dovetails so perfectly with November. It seems that the two are austere and fitting companions for the same calendar month.

Austerity conveys and encourages other meanings for me personally. Austerity yields an opportunity for one to more fully explore and discover truths that otherwise lay overridden... or hidden in other seasons. Brilliance... in any form can be blinding to the "ordinary" eye. It tends to overwhelm and evoke a sense of awe... both of which unwittingly undermine Truth.

Austerity pares away the wrappings and trappings of colour and complex forms... to reveal new insights and possibilities. It encourages simplicity and economy of expression. It more readily encourages the creation of visually tacit... terse and provocative visual poems that defy painting conventions that are overly detailed and ornately structured.

                                                           The sentinel stands
                                                      To face winter's icy cold
                                                            Unyielding... stoic

                                          "November's Sentinel - oil on panel 10x8 inches

Adversity visits us all at various times in our lives. It has many faces - death, illness,divorce, financial misfortune, business failure, loss of one's job, disasters - the list is endless. Adversity is a reality that none of can avoid... nor deny at any length. It must be somehow dealt with eventually. We must be able to move on beyond the usual human question... "Why me?"... to survive and continue our journeys.

We can best navigate safely through these precarious waters using wisdom and knowledge from trusted family, friends and mentors. We need to progress beyond pride and fear to face our adversity with sound foundations of Wisdom and Truth. These sources can only be effective when there exists a mutual basis of Trust and Respect. Neither can be given... they must be earned.

Adversity in one's art creation can hardly be defined in terms of a lack of sales or critical comment. Adversity would more likely be attributed to our loss of powers of perception, or a physical disability which hampers or prevents working. Even in  these most feared circumstances, one can discover individuals who have risen above such challenges to continue creative lives. What comes to mind  in this regard... is my final A" word - adaptability.


Deb and I treated ourselves to a rare... and much deserved night at the movies last week. At the strong urging of our youngest son Bryn, we went to see The Martian, starring Matt damon. Do go and see this film!

What a powerful film masterpiece this is... for many reasons. The plot is spellbindingly brilliant and riveting. The acting skilfully blends the serious with the silly... fear with relief...empathy tinged with uplifting spiritual joy. The 3D cinematography combines with the Dolby Surround Sound to yield for the viewer as close to a truly martian experience for us who never will voyage to Mars... or wish to do so. The scientific information presented during the two hours plus completely baffles one's sense of time and space.

But most of all, it clearly reveals through Damon the complete wonder and breadth of the human spirit and our ability to adapt to adverse conditions and top solve problems . Therein lies a new sense of hope within me. A Hope that we, as a species can overcome the increasing ecological and political threats to our earthly existence on our fragile planet.

The complex and often vicious society that we currently live in (as is demonstrated in last evening's unspeakably atrocities in Paris) underscore our need for Hope and Faith and a pathway to world peace. But how is that to be accomplished in the face of such barbarism and unholy conduct under any religious grounds? Where does violence end... and at what cost - again?

It is scarcely a few days since I stood with many other residents of Brockville, my home town... to remember. In my own case, to remember a young man lacing up skates at an early morning hockey practice. Little did any of us know or dream, that scarcely a dozen years later Matt Dawes would offer up his life in the service of his country and the war-weary Afghans. Adversity!

All of us who remember Matt have undergone our own paths of adaptation... though I personally cannot begin to understand or fathom how his family has been able to move on and to cope. All that we can do is to move on and re-dedicate a portion of our time and energy to using our lives to promote... preserve and honour his and so many other lives that have been sacrificed to insure peace... or the hope for it.

I choose to make art which embraces Sharing... Generosity and telling Truth. I was deeply honoured to be asked to offer an enlarged giclee representation of the smaller original painting that I presented in Matt's honour to his wife Tara and son Lucas to be hung in the Band Room at Royal Military College, Kingston. It was presented to RMC at last year's Remembrance ceremony and now hangs in the very building renamed to Matt's honour.

                            "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on panel 12x10 inches

This small painting travels beyond being a "traditional" still life. It is my hope that all of its elements and design  encourage the viewer to respond in thought to the question offered by the title. It is meant to be a dialoguing device to stir emotional thought.... and to perhaps motivate peaceful action.
Creating art should go beyond representing "what is." It can... if thoughtfully pursued register "what might be". That is my Hope and my goal for my own work.

I wish to close out today's post on a positive note... simply to further share some favourite plein air "haikus". Enjoy!...

"The most important thing a painter can do is find a good place to sit."
- J.E.H MacDonald  (Group of Seven Painters Member)

In closing... come sit with me...while I share just a few good places of my own... where I sat and painted some plein air "haikus". Enjoy!

                                            "Autumn's Adagio" - oil on panel 8x10 inches

                                  "Galeairy Lake, Algonquin Park - oil on panel 8x10 inches

                                    "Sunlit Algonquin Highlands" - oil on panel 10x12 inches

                                         "Madawaska Relics" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

                                  "The Watcher", Combermere - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

                         "Autumn's Closing Act, Algonquin Park" - oil on canvas 20x24 inches

Good Painting!... and ALL!!!


  1. such beautiful paintings that cheer the heart, thank you Bruce.

  2. Thank you Lass!... You kind words "cheers this heart"... greatly... now that the winter cold is upon us. Gone is the colo9r ... pomp and majesty from the crowns of the trees... but is still lodged in my heart,... and yours! I am greatly blessed...

    Good painting to you!
    Warmest regards,