Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sympathetic Resonance

The Beach Boys understood the concept and used it when they cruised to the top of the pop music charts with "Good Vibrations". Scientists and piano tuners make use of the physics involved when one tuning fork emits a frequency of sound that is picked up and repeated by a second tuning fork. They share a common frequency that harmonically links them... even without them touching.

 A similar sympathetic resonance exists between humans... given the right circumstances. Good feelings... moods and energy seem to elicit the same feelings from others around us.  However... the opposite is true as well. Negativity and ill feelings breed similar states and responses if we are exposed to "the downers" in our world.

It really comes down to personal choices for each of us. Being with positive and uplifting people enhances our spirits... our health and well-being... and our creative energy. Each of these personal needs combine to create happy... healthy and motivated individuals.

In creating our art... we strive for excellence and to be different. Both are difficult tasks to achieve, and neither can be achieved overnight. The words strive to me... denotes a lifetime commitment to a path of learning that is exceedingly demanding of our time and resources. I have learned from my own experience... that despite having made many fine painting friends along the way... the downside is that this means we must search most of the time... alone.

If we are not alone physically... we must be alone intellectually to work out and to satisfy our own unique interests and needs. Often they collide... or are out of step at least... with those around us. WEe must strive to be our own very best critics because listening too closely to... or mimicking those we admire truly defeats the very goal of creation. We will never find the True Creative Self... that is contained and housed within each of us.

We should endeavour to self-critique continually... and ferociously... ridding ourselves of inferior ideas or works. Some paintings we make are cul-du-sacs... dead ends that lack depth or a level of quality that displays individual growth and excellence. Not all works deserve a signature... nor a place on the wall. They can be kept to remind us where we have come from... or they can keep us warm on a winter night in the fireplace.

There are pieces that deserve further thought and consideration. Laying them aside where they can be seen allows for germination and perhaps a new direction of thought and action. Here is an example of  just such a piece that I have just spent "extra time" in the studio. It has lain around for a full year and quite frankly was one step away from being "frisbeed"

The painting was completed under very poor weather conditions last November. It was a typically dreary November day on the river... and I sought refuge from the weather under the eave of a friend's cottage. While the height above the subject was interesting to me... I could not resolve many parts of the painting because of having to fight with the canvas between showers. It lacked light... and most truthfully reflected accurately my own dismal interior feelings about the day.

Here is that grey and dismal plein air canvas... round one... to Mother Nature!

                                             "Taylor Central" - oil on canvas 20x16 inches

I even returned to the original site at the best time of day to take advantage of better weather and lighting conditions. Still... the spirit of the place failed to move me enough to warrant reworking the canvas as I often do on occasions like this one... Second "verse"... same as the first!

So I made the decision to scratch the subject and not to waste further time trying "to make a bad painting better." I sanded away all of the peaks of pigment thoroughly and set the canvas aside for a "rainy day" ... in the studio. It was pre- toned for action at least!

Last week, my painting pal Frank and I went on a painting misadventure... our purpose to catch the last bit of fall colour hanging' about. Lots of digital images returned with us... but the day was a bust in terms of painting - disappointing for me!

A week or so later and I was sitting at my computer reviewing the pix we had taken on the trip and this p[articular landscape caught my eye almost immediately. At first... the reason was unclear to me why I should be attracted to this particular image. Then... as I looked over my shoulder towards the base of my easel, I caught sight of the recently sanded loser. It was lying exactly as you see it above... its original vertical position now horizontal. Here is the landscape image  that caught my attention.

Can you see what resonated in my mind at that AHA moment???

Look at the larger shapes in both images. These major compositional lines and shapes share an uncanny similarity. Any differences can be easily reshaped to conform to the similar traits that they share

This image below shows my lay in loosely and quickly painted response... making use of the digital image to guide my brushwork. You can see that I take liberties and seek not to absolutely copy the photo... just as I customarily do when painting in the field. This stage took about an hour to complete. I took a break and came back to finish in a second hour at the easel.

This is the finished painting... in my humble opinion far superior to the original grey flop. I hope that this exercise that I have shared with you resonates the great sense of accomplishment and joy that I now feel in having not given up. Listen to your head and heart. Paint what you love... with commitment and energy. Make the process fun. Accept defeat graciously... but ALWAYS on your own terms.

Have the courage to take chances... and fail. Walter Campbell has this to say about failure:

"Where you stumble... there lies your treasure."

                            "Autumnshine, Blue Mountain Road"  oil on canvas 16x20 inches

Good Painting!!!.. and "Good Vibrations"... to ALL!!!


  1. Stunning! Very painterly, a buttery gem.

  2. Thanks Karen!... Sometimes when you miss the bus the first time... the necessary wait produces a better ride! Did this time for me!

    Good Painting!

  3. A wonderful do-over, Bruce. Thanks for sharing your thinking process on this and what sparked you to do this one in an entirely different locale :) On the road lies everyone else but I'll stand here a while and just breathe in nature, alone or with a painting buddy :)

  4. Thanks Rhonda!... Glad that you like the "do-over"! Just as with your ink work... play mixed with risk often creates new avenues and roads to travel which keeps our creative juices flowing.

    Like your take on standing and breathing things in. Good to work with... or without company. Both inspire.

  5. Good morning Bruce. I think dealing with failures is one of the hardest things about painting. When we have expended so much creative energy, it's difficult to accept that maybe we should give up on something. This approach of yours has at least salvaged something from the original, and the result is a very fine piece of work.

    With watercolours, I usually just turn the sheet over and work on the back. However, after reading this I'm tempted to try sponging off a failure and working over the faint impression that's left. It wouldn't be very different from working on tinted paper, which I have done several times before. Watch this space!

    All the best,

  6. Good morning Keith!... Your words again echo my own sentiments about accepting "failure". With creative individuals the goal is to achieve success and acceptance. But within that framework of a need for success... is an inward drive to satisfy the Self.

    Self and ego are our strongest allies and motivators. But... they can become our enemy when they are blind to Truth. Most of us know when we haven't hit the mark.

    But for most... including my Self... "throwing in the towel"... "giving up the ship"... will never be in the cards - simply because it defies who we are... and always have been.

    We will always go back to the easel... or to the drawing board and look for a creative solution for ... saving of face and Self respect! It usually leads to new insights and growth.

    Just one 'ol painter's take...

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your cogent and wise thoughts!

    Good Painting... and Sponging (the good kind) HA HA!!

    Warmest regards,