Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Warming Your "Winter Blues"... By Adding Colour

"Do whatever brings you life, then
Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions
Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" - Elizabeth Gilbert 

Perhaps my "thumbing my nose" at the complete absence of winter in our region was all it took for the "weather gods" to dump on me... BIG time... just to make their point. Yesterday morning and within less than twenty-four hours, our too- green-for-February grass and emerging daffodil shoots found themselves... as did we... completely buried under almost two feet of heavy... wet snow! Most folks seeming ungrateful for the unusually long reprieve from winter.... whined the "winter blues."

There would be ABSOLUTELY no shovellin' my way out of this mess. This storm had delivered a for certain TKO punch to those misguided fools, reckless enough to risk either deep lower back complaint, or cardiac arrest while on the snow removal job in their driveway. I simply removed our van from the driveway... and let our hired snowblower operator clear the long driveway... and bird patch... all within thirty painless minutes. I gladly paid him double his regular rate to remove this monkey from my back.

All the while, I was busy setting up down in the studio in preparation for a two day creative bonanza for Deb and I both. Snowbound... no. Studio-bound and lovin' it! Even my earlier plein air fever had subsided. The two feet depth of white cement and the -31C temperatures for several days formed the tonic necessary to put me back on my creative feet.... in the warm studio.

"Snow Job One"

I decided to treat myself to some looser painting challenges from earlier planned... but set aside studio projects. These, I thought would help offset the feeling of constraint caused by the tight architectural and small format projects that had been my recent fare. I had one black toned 7x5 inch piece of 135 LB watercolour paper remaining from the Lansdowne series... so my quest for freedom began there.

I love painting in snowy woodland settings. Obviously, they have been non-existent in the recent more spring-like conditions... or fleeting at best within recent memory. That  is where I started. Where better to choose from than at the "honey hole" at Ivy Lea Provincial Park... home for many of my plein air treks and painting subjects. Here is what transpired during two hours in the studio. I have references aplenty to replace an actual trek

Can you deny its spontaneous and painterly plein air look-alike quality? Can you feel the joyful fun experienced in simply following the flow? Interpretation... rather hard copy should be the primary goal in both studio and plein air situations. Painting from the heart... involves more than the use of the eyes. And yet... is there not a sweet feeling of.... "eye candy"... thru' enhanced reality?

I wonder....

"Full Winter Dress... for a White Pine" - oil on black toned 135lb Canvas texture Canson Water colour Paper

The day didn't end here either. Usually in  my working method, I prefer to work on...  and complete one project at a time. In so doing, I feel that my total thinking and energy is directed and devoted towards a single goal. Multi-tasking has never been my strength. I work best from lists and from extended, or extrapolated themes and ideas. Success depends upon full attention to task.

However... on this particular day,  my synapses were firing constantly... and new ideas were pouring out and almost demanded that they be recorded at least. And so I did the unusual for me. I laid out two extra drawings that would preserve the "fire" that I was feeling... until I could get back to them. Both were ideas that had been "in que" for far too long. But being able to haul them out on a fallow day... or in a high intensity moment offers tangible proof that sketch books and digital reference are substantial and reliable tools for any working artist.

More often than not for me... the lack of good ideas is hardly the problem. Not retaining them, or misfiling them is more the issue. I work at creating a reliable library to draw upon for inspiration. New projects fall into place as I feel the need to constantly "shift gears" to maintain interest and excitement in the process of painting.

"Snow Job Two"

This project has been on the back burner since Christmas... when I was creating the theme for Liam and Bryn's Santa Snowman at Peggy's Cove, NS. It was at that time that I re-established contact with a highly creative young lady who had been a grade eight student in one of my earliest teaching classes. Lois has gone forward in her creative life to create and enjoy a marvelously successful acting career with  the famed Shakespearean troupe for the Shaw Festival located at Niagara-on-the-Lake. She herself has "shifted gears" creatively multiple times now... adding an exemplary and award-winning teaching career to her accomplishments at the illustrious King Academy. In her recent period of retirement, she has begun writing and publishing anthologies of her wonderful poetry.

I purchased a copy of her newest offering entitled "Strip Mall Subversive" and was well rewarded for my purchase. I loved so many of her works in that book... but none more than one titled "Snowball Prohibition." It struck and immediate and powerful chord in my heart and deep memory. It left an indelible yearning to interpret it in a visual way... or collaboration using Lois' words to guide my brushes and inner child. I emailed her asking for permission to take on such a venture... and she immediately replied that she felt honoured that I would do so.

And so began "Snow Job Two". The Universe speaks in mysterious ways. I believe that "Ideas" are but energy within the Cosmos and that creative individuals can be in tune with these "vibes". In this case, an early poem penned by Lois in grade eight entitled "Splunder" chained itself forward to my having contact with her... to my purchasing her book of poetry... to securing permission to take on this project... barely underway. The actual painting, in my mind... will exist as only one of several links in a single creative chain. Together... they create a stronger and more lasting collaboration and result.

It  becomes more mysterious...

I had a canvas randomly toned with acrylic burnt sienna that had been sitting... "orphaned" for many weeks vertically on my easel. One night in January, I happened to turn quickly away from my computer table and screen and my eye caught sight of the canvas. Instantly... within that random mish-mash of burnt sienna brushstrokes, an image appeared clearly. And it spoke to me of "Snowball Prohibition."

No... I am not getting batty. Nor am I simply acting out of a romantic impulse. Before me lay a veritable strong figure study that spoke to me in the way about her poem... that I had previously imagined in my mind that I could develop.

I decided to photograph the "blank" canvas to substantiate my claim... and that picture was taken the ignored until now...

Can you see a figure composition on this canvas??? Am I the only crazy... and misguided one?

I will share my charcoal rendering from yesterday during tomorrow's short post.

"The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, but then stands back to see if we can find them."

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear"\- Elizabeth Gilbert

Stay tuned...

Good painting!... to ALL!!!


  1. Good morning Bruce, I think I can see a couple of possible figures, but it will be interesting to see which one it is, and how the rest of the composition works out.

  2. Good morning Keith!...Glad you see something in the way of possibilities as well.... Guess I'm not the only "crazy one"... or one with a wild imagination! HA HA!!

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Stay tuned..

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce amazing to think you created the lovely snow painting on primed canvas paper. I have used this paper before but mainly for thin oil painting glazes. I am wondering what your next burnt sienna base canvas will produce! We also had a suddenly fall of snow a few days ago, it often does that each year here in the highlands, just as the early daffodils are making an appearance suddenly the biggest snow fall will cover them! Today after yesterday was so fine and sunny we have rain here! best wishes Caroline

  4. The snow has certainly made you chipper! (Is it the feeling of getting back to the natural order of things?)The white pine looks just as glad to be adorned with the snow.

    Big Magic made it onto my reading list last night and I find you have quoted it here. Everything, it seems, is very connected at the moment.

    Best wishes.