Saturday, November 21, 2015

Longevity... Friend?... or Enemy?

In the Beginning...  

" A Few... of My Favourite Things" - tempera on drawing board 10.5 x 7.5 inches

I rediscovered this small intimate study amongst my eldest daughter Lisa's belongings in her studio on Kerry Point... a mere three kilometers east of Rockport. I had completed it in 1979 as a part of my undergraduate studio art program portfolio. I much later offered it to Lisa when she was decorating the many walls of her own new riverside home. The painting is a portrait of sorts because its compositional elements were carefully chosen and drew together a concise impression of my interests at that particular time in both my personal and painting lives.

The elements of this still life consist of my "uniform" at that time. I was rarely seen without my "one bag carried all" sketching kit... my khaki military-style hat bearing a badge which read... "Smile at Someone Today". Lastly, my trusty denim blue jeans... still my pants of choice daily.

The backdrop is Lisa's bed in our Camden East home in the special bedroom I had decorated for her. The antique arrow back chair... was one of a set of four that Joan and I had purchased because of their lovely lines and comfortable backs and seats. The set, also including a matching oval pine table still grace Joan's dining area in her home.

I was a full blown water colorist in that era with my interests directed towards the school of High Realism and the work of its North American masters (whom I admired greatly and emulated). They included American icon Andrew Wyeth and his Canadian counterparts Ken Dandy and Glen Loates.

My interests were in capturing exactness of draughtsmanship and texture... embedded in their moody and nostalgic milieu. While I did achieve a certain degree of pleasure and major sales success in following this path... there was always a state of interior restlessness to paint more loosely within me.... and more in the outdoors.

It was during this same period that I was working on obtaining my undergrad degree in Art History at Queen's University. As a part of those studies, I undertook taking "for credit" winter studio courses in drawing and painting. Over time... that I was first introduced to other media such as sculpture, printmaking, collage, abstraction, figure life drawing and color theory.

In this heady new environment, I was no longer painting specifically for either pleasure or sales. I was on a new pathway of discovery and vast change - the very kind of change that continues to propel my creative journey today. The new media expanded my artistic working vocabulary and horizons and launched my voyage of discovery and learning.

If my previous artistic awareness was not shaken to its very roots by these two decades of searching and playing... then it was surely my eight weeks of study and painting in Venice in 1989 which completely humbled and transformed me. This epiphany remains the pivotal point in my growth and development as an artist... a person and a teacher. The experience melded all three together instantly.

Longevity has such a hollow ring for me personally. There is a great hidden cost for striving only to achieve longevity in any field. Any struggle to retain it over a long period of time can only be justified in my mind when one can retain a truly honest passion for maintaining it in one's life. Using the term longevity in terms of "job security"... or in reference to Art is foolhardy. A loss of commitment in either direction results in a lack of growth... resulting in a lack of personal initiative  and fulfillment. Such conditions create stasis or equilibrium.

Longevity need not imply a lack of... or willingness to change. Nor should it imply a patently blatant "flip-flop" driven by boredom or lack of vision. Perhaps, in a sense... creating art is as organic as Life itself... and is therefore always seeking change as a necessary part of its existence.

Perhaps painting and Life flow... much like the river that passes in front of us... quietly, but ever moving towards its final destination - the sea. Since we journey in separate craft... but on the same river pathway we are all free to make individual choices about how we journey.

One could choose (foolhardy, in my estimate) to swim against the flow, or current. This would most certainly lead to rapid fatigue and likely abandonment of the task. One might also choose to rest at the oars and simply drift with the current... making little effort to do other than go where the current took one. That might include getting caught in an eddy... where one would remain indefinitely... justy going in endless circles.

My choice would be to steer the craft... row a bit... rest a bit and to seek out places of interest towards which I could encourage my craft to explore further. I would make no effort to back paddle against the current. I would rather use the memories of where I had been, or what I had seen to be included in the interpretation of what was before me. Simply put... I would choose to paddle

Fully in the Now... "cause Yesterday's Gone... and Tomorrow hasn't arrived"

I choose to pull forward this small painting image posted by me only a week ago. I need not create another tribute of Remembrance because none could be more personal to me. Its every detail and raison d'etre embody the continuing deep sense of loss and grief that I share with a particular family. But in the truest sense... it applies universally to any person or family who has suffered the loss of a son, daughter, mother, father... or friend through armed conflict.

I continue to hope and believe... that during these tragic days we can together find a place in our hearts to plant seeds of Peace and Goodwill. These can be shared with ALL our brothers and sisters wherever we live. Together... we can present a common force to displace and diminish the intended fear and chaos created by a misguided... deranged and violent few amongst us.

Let us each create Light and Truth through our own actions and work. Let us each... in our own unique way share these and the blessings of our own safe havens with those unfortunates who struggle to leave the darkness in which they currently are forced to live. Let each of us... in our small corner... Shine on!

In closing today's post, I offer a sample of Lisa's painting from the same era as Favourite Things. Her creative spirit which travelled alongside me then... continues healthily today ... on its own. "She" now carries the spirit of generosity blended with her creative strength in to her adult life. I can assure you that the time spent together mattered then. It still does... under her own terms.

It is in the eyes of our children that we live with and for... that positive change can have a chance to live on. "They"... and our Art... are the seeds of Hope that we can plant now that will yield the best chance for Peace and Happiness to succeed us... in a Future and Tomorrow... that we shall never see.

A Lisa "original" watercolor dated 1975. That would make her eight years of age at the time.
"We" are greatly blessed... and "I" am exceedingly proud!!

Happy upcoming Thanksgiving Day to my American Friends!...  My prayers to France and Africa!

Good Painting!... and Peace... to ALL Friends around the World!!!


  1. This is a wonderful post today, Bruce, and one that speaks to me completely. Thank you for sharing the words and the paintings - both are winners! We are all in this together but fear causes us to back-peddle and, like turtles, draw into our shells. We can't enjoy anything that way! Good Painting and Peace to you!

  2. Thank you Rhonda... for visiting... and for your gracious and supportive remarks!

    Fear can grip the hearts of us all and paralyze us... especially if we feel alone with it. It is only when we feel the warmth of solidarity and unity that we can summon up the courage to stand tall and defeat it.

    Good Painting... and Peace to you as well!

    Warmest regards,

  3. One of the strangest things we humans do, Bruce, is think, "I like them so they must think just like me; they like the same things and people and eat the same foods and..." and then we are shocked to find that people we like are often not like us at all! I still am continually running up against that and one would think I'd learn - afterall, I stopped being a spring chicken years ago. Hope you have a wonderful, creative, and light-filled week.

  4. Hi there Rhonda!... I think we will all continue to want people to like us and accept us. That's an intrinsic drive built into all human beings. Simply put... we're social creatures raised in families and communities that encourage and cultivate a need for belonging.

    Where that all goes astray is when we sacrifice out individuality or our values in order to be accepted... or belong. That decision not only reduces Self esteem... it cause us to resent those whom we seek acceptance. So nobody wins in the long run.

    Being more Self-ish...meaning respecting one's own self leads to healthier and more balanced relationships based upon Truth and reciprocity. The term selfish is unrelated in my thinking. It derives from and suggests not sharing.

    "No spring chicken"... or cotton pickin'... we all need to feel worth in all stages of our lives. Sometimes... we just have to demand what we deserve Rhonda... and believe we merit that level of esteem from others!

    Hope that your week and experimentation continue to yield new adventures and "good vibes" for "You"!

    Warmest regards,