Friday, July 20, 2018

Don't Fence Me In...

Each summer, I encourage a wild swat of milkweed to root itself safely down the entire length of our entrance way to the gallery. Each year it increases in its numbers and density and in so doing... it attracts and encourages different types of butterflies to visit during each day in the summer.

The road crews nearly everywhere clear cut all milkweed and other wildflowers from along Ontario roadsides and highways. In so doing, they are unwittingly removing plants that allow bees to pollinate and with milkweed... they remove the sole plant upon which endangered monarch butterflies will lay their eggs for incubation.

According to a Toronto Hospital Fundraising brochure claim..."Each year, monarch butterflies across North America make the expedition from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. This 3,000 kilometre journey signifies the butterflies strength and perseverance and is a beautiful symbol of determination and courage."

It seems easy to explain why each of us in our family relate the Monarch's journey and the characteristics of this remarkable insect when we think of our daughter Allison's journey to battle with breast cancer. Several of her friends joined her mother Joan to release live monarchs to carry out their journey as a tribute to Allie's unkind and untimely leaving to go to a place that we can never hope to visit with her.

In my own case, I seek to create a natural free resting space for those that find their way to me on their long migration. Strangely enough, I have one mischievous fellow who visits every
day, who takes joy out of teasing me... as I try to catch her image with my camera. That game of hide-and-go-seek is not restricted to the patch itself. From time to time, she tries ... it seems to tease me out of the gallery to rejoin the game.

The tease finally captured... momentarily...

                          Another bewitchingly beautiful gossamer playmate... the swallowtail

Aside for the feeling of closeness that I feel to Allison... I am gobsmacked by the fragrant gift of the patch's perfume... gift enough for my efforts. But the total overall joy this wee space affords me is more than enough payment for my attention and effort.

The life cycle of this beautiful creature of Nature chronicles the distinct stages of its life cycle in a very visible fashion. I records the brevity of life itself... but the contribution that each butterfly makes during its limited lifespan. Each life does matter...

I will end this post with words that are not mine... but for certain they speak of the deep feelings of Faith and Hope that these winged creatures inject into my life.

One Day Butterflies

Aren't we all one day butterflies
not aware of time.
Searching for partners or honey
until Death kisses us.
Then in his arms, tenderly rocked
waiting for a new chance to fly away again
and join the dance
of the one day butterfly.

And to these wonderfully expressive words and lines I choose to add a painting which offers a similar message.

                                        "Don't Fence Me In" - oil on panel  24 x 20 inches

                                                                Dare to dream
                                                                              outside of the box
                                                     that causes so many to fall short
                                                                of greater things.
                                                                              Reach out and risk flying
                                                                  To Discover
                                                                               true Joy and Happiness
                                                          Which only the complete
                                                                                       Freedom to fly

                                                                        Soar onward... fearlessly!

                                         Good Summer Painting... and rich Blessings ... to ALL! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Gone fishin' !

Prelude to Summer

I have been struggling lately with my Muse... and for the longest time ... she was winning. I seemed to be operating at a stand still. The usual fare that I dish out seemed irrelevant. Even the landscape that I love no longer spoke to me as it customarily does. I lacked direction and purpose.

I customarily listen to CBC radio when I travel about... I find music soothing and the radio hosts... both male and female interesting and intelligent to share time... and ideas with. Simply put... they encourage thoughtfulness... and common sense thinking - a very rare commodity these days within so much of other media or government sources.

I owe the much-delayed occurrence of today's post to such a morning sharing/collaboration! I simply decided to "go fishin" - just do something [different]... for my"Self". Over a few days of "truancy"... here's what transpired. I snagged a "golden opportunity" to explore new ground.

River Boy and his golden catch!

Yellow Perch anyone???

Surprised????... Certainly not something that you... (or I) might have attributed as my subject matter or focus. It did please me to come away refreshed and once again focused. It too, carried my memories from out of my deep past here on the river... days when I hurried at first light down to dip a worm into the sheltered waters of that weathered white clapboard boathouse.

There in that place, I spent hours peering in great anticipation as schools of yellow perch scurried to snare my bait. It became a daily tactical encounter to entice the bigger perch to bite... before the fry cheated them of a meal... and me of the thrill of the capture. By gone days... and little boy ways!

This activity would repeat itself each and every morning of the two weeks that we rented this cottage at the Narrows Lane Road. It would set me out on a path of adventure of many fishing trips and a lifetime of many hours of endless pleasure... never mind the feeds of freshly fried perch.

If nothing else... this simply-for-fun project pays homage to that now completed chapter of my river life. Hmm... maybe a novel in the wings of my consciousness???

I wonder...

"Summer breeze... makes me feel fine..."

I began this post several days ago with the fullest of intentions and adequate preparation to carry out the task. And then... out of no where a suffocating blanket of summer heat and humidity descended upon all of Eastern Ontario, including the Thousand Islands region where we live.

We are blessed to live in this region of usually predictable weather patterns... especially during the summer. The winter comes with deep cold and snow, but as Canadians... we grow up with... and accept this fact. It is even a part of our unique cultural heritage. Activity and holiday celebrations during this season are built around the cold.

Here... at this juncture in my fish tale lies the necessity to further explain my delay in posting. The deep heat and humidity truly cripples my creative spirit and activity levels. It simply makes me feel ill. Earlier in life I regularly painted out in such conditions happily and productively... and often not even in shaded conditions. I am paying for that earlier indiscretion... BIG time now.... "Silly 'ol bear,"

Just prior to this deep heat wave.... my thoughts swept through events drawn from my early youth and the many idyllic hours of summer fun and life on the River. My most memorable experiences are usually tied into multi-sensory influences/perceptions blended with activities which relate exclusively to summer.

The smell of rain striking the sizzling hot pavement  is one such strong and reoccurring memory. Another is the feel of a soft summer zephyr ever so gently kissing my cheek. Neither sensation is linked to any other season. Both of these powerful memory inducers denote S-u-m-m-e-r...

These powerfully summer reminders link up with music and seem to possess the ability to turn the pages of one's life journal to exact "pages"... including places... dates... activities and specific people. This occurrence also displays the ability to link those sharing the same experience... creating an unbreakable bond between them. These songs become unquenchable and intoxicating anthems that we all share.

"Pass the bottle... Amigo!"

Where were you during the summer of 1972... when Seals and Crofts recorded their iconic summer anthem "Summer Breeze"? This summer anthem like so many pieces of music that get deposited into our memory banks along our separate journeys seem almost to link us together magically for the remainder of our lives.

Timeless they seem ... perhaps nudged forward into the present by a smell... a sound... or a sight that keeps repeating as a each new summer emerges.

It was only this past week while I was making my way to Lansdowne to do grocery chores that my constant radio CBC companion conveniently belted out "Summer Breeze". I was immediately transported back to 1972.

"It was a very good year"- a memorable summer for me.

Have you had the experience of having a song enter into your psyche... and having difficulty getting it to leave? It plays... over and over, despite many and conscious attempts to set it aside. It simply won't leave. Until it's suddenly vanishes without warning... as mysteriously as it appeared. 

Before the heat wave swept in so viciously in the week earlier, those sweet summer caresses followed a similarly rapid fire pattern. Summer breezes seemed to follow me everywhere I went. 

I apologize for the delay in posting... but life does get in the way at times. So I offer the "fishy excuse... and a YouTube sharing. Along with these, I include a very BIG and combined greeting to both sides of the River:

      HAPPY FOURTH... 
                    and CANADA DAY ...                             
              HAPPY SUMMER...

                              TO ALL!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My Art... Is my Armor

My life... like everyone's has had its fair share of challenges... disappointments and losses. I would offer that in each case, I have always felt able to "right my ship" and recover through involving myself in my art. I have always felt that the process of creating art was therapeutic... even healing on many levels for me. There is unquestionably a deeply spiritual and meditative connection within me that permits me to "slip the surly bonds of earth"... and to rise up.

Just this week our family were invited to be part of an unveiling of one of my larger Venetian oil paintings by the Art History Department at Queen's University. I had previously gifted the painting to be unveiled on this occasion to my now deceased daughter Allison. It had hung in her office at the university until shortly before her passing.

Shortly after her death, the Art History Department had inquired about the possibility of their acquiring it. Their intent was to have it hung in the graduates' lounge where it could remain as a constant reminder of Allison's presence in the very place where she had spent most of her academic life.

At the end of her academic career at Queen's she was acting chairman/counsellor for new graduate students in Art History coming to pursue their studies at Queen's. As well, she organized and taught at the Venice Summer School Program conducted in Venice, Italy. So it seemed to me appropriate that it should be returned to that space permanently.

The event was such an appropriate and moving tribute and honor hosted by the University. The fact that it was held in the lounge immediately following the convocation of her final Phd students made it all the more special. The gathering drew together several of these students along with several of Allison's teaching mentors and peers... our family members and a few selected close friends.

Several of us were invited to speak after the actual unveiling. Following the ceremony refreshments and  more conversations and fellowship followed. The day recognized and spoke of the power of Allison's generous gifts... and her continuing presence in our lives. I truly felt her presence...

The use of one of my paintings in such a setting and in such a fashion where it would continue to serve as a reminder of Allison's presence and accomplishments offered me the greatest feeling of satisfaction and pure Joy. This is an example of how such an instance and involvement of my art cloaks my spirit in a sort of of armor. I departed from this occasion uplifted and deeply proud that my art and Allison's gift became one... that it was entwined with her love of Venice.

                              "La Serenissima (The Serene) at the Molo, Venice" - oil on canvas 36x36 inches

Joan and I along with the painting and plaque dedicated to Allison's Memory and contributions

                               Allie's Family... her loving Brother Andrew and Mom and Dad

Armor... and Allies

I wish to conclude this late posting by dedicating this post to an artist friend in recognition of her generously unbelievable "Heart" gifts to our family. Though I have yet to actually meet her face-to-face, my blogging friend Suzanne Berry and I have shared  a rare friendship and spiritual connection.

Shortly after I completed my portrait of Allison and from out of nowhere...  Suz reached out to me and asked if she might "have the honor of painting a portrait of Allison as a child or young girl. " I conferred with Joan and we selected five pictures of Allison that we particularly loved.

A short three weeks later, a parcel landed on my doorstep from Suzanne which contained... TWO equally magnificent and touching portraits of Allison... one for each of us. What she was able to capture twice over... was the very essence of what Allison was throughout her life - inquisitive... searching... reflective and ever in touch with the world that she loved and lived in so fully.

                                               "Allison's Garden" - canvas 18x24 inches

                                                        "Little Dancer" - 24x18 inches

I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions to enjoy as we do... the gift with which Suzanne was able to produce in each of these two painting portrait masterpieces. The nuances of tone... and the reality of each as she designed it... flawless and intuitively brilliant!

Joan fell in love with "Little Dancer"... and I was more than happy and satisfied to have Allison in her Garden to live with me...

I salute the magnificence of your painting skills and gifts Suz. But even more... I reach out respectfully and with love to you for the generosity and caring that you have offered our family. Rich blessings... to you always! Our deepest thanks!!!

Love and Hugs,

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Love Points the Way...

                                                                   "How Sweet  it... was!"

Allie and Joan hand feeding the Chickadees at The Cataraqui Conservation Sugar bush Festival on April 4th, 2015.

Navigating the First Anniversary of Allison's Passing - April 26th, 2018

Strange... how that thief mourning bears down on and overtakes one with little or no prior warning.
We just passed through the much-dreaded first anniversary on April 26th and seemed to have weathered that dreaded day.

We created a diversion to bypass that sad marker by creating a festive dinner party for twenty of Allison's Family members... closest friends and Queen's University peers. The Olivera Ristorante in Kingston was chosen because (according to Allison)... "It was the only @#$*ing place in Kingston that knew how to make pasta... the Italian way."

And as the event played out... she was right. Everything... including the weather was perfect and the setting on Market Square was beautifully and tastefully decorated to match the wonderful food and friendly, efficient service. The room was filled with laughter and Allie's presence could certainly be felt everywhere around the table. The "Curator of Friendship" worked her magic... so that each of us attending left the restaurant feeling uplifted. The laughter and smiling said it all!

Navigating... exactly describes our intent to mark this important last moment in Allison's beautiful earthly existence. The word bittersweet comes immediately to mind, but to me the word has always extended the opportunity for personal choice. Choosing to accentuate the sweet more closely fits the timbre that Allie herself would demand of us.

As I looked around the long table... watching and listening, my mind (as always) injects art and symbolism. It struck me... how much like da Vinci's famous "Last Supper" painting that this gathering resembled that event. The interaction at our event was hardly choreographed... and at times sounded rather chaotic. But the presence of various conversations... around a central figure made me smile... "The Curator of Friendship"... was certainly centrally present!

Love did  indeed point the way... away from pain towards  Joy!... which meant celebrating Mother's Day in a slightly different way. I did indeed make my annual visit to my Mom and Dad's final resting place in Brockville on Saturday evening to spend time and place flowers of remembrance and gratitude.

On Sunday, Deb and I had agreed to drive to Kingston and to share our own personal Mother's Day with Joan. We treated Joan to an early brunch at a downtown eatery, Peter's Place and then drove to Allison's commemorative ginkgo tree to hang decs and to place a beautiful cluster of bright pink gerbera daisies.

This year, celebrating meant enjoining our separate celebrations to become one and I believe that like our anniversary acknowledgement in April... "being together"... made the sense of loss less heavy when three hearts shared the burden and added uplifting laughter and happy notes of remembrance.

                                          "Preserving Spring..." - oil on panel 12 x 10 inches

When the children were very young we shared magical moments and interludes with Mr. (Fred) Rogers. While many thought his program "too childish" and without the excitement and drama of the popular action figures of the period... Allison and Andrew... and I revelled in the precious moments of safety and wisdom that we recognized as "special"... even then.

Trolley, King Friday, Lady Evelyn and Mr. McFeely taught us things about ourselves and others that have shaped our actions and guided our hearts right into adulthood. Joan has graciously shared two "Fred" books that she had gifted Allison with in recent years. The magic of those early years remains... in every page that I read.

I would like to share one passage from the smallish book "The World According to Mister Rogers - Important Things to Remember" with you in concluding today's post. It seems so relevant.

"I believe it's a fact of life that what we have is less important than what we make out of what we have. The same holds true for families: It's not how many people there are in a family that counts, but rather the feelings among the people who are there."

During the course of family life, each of us comes face-to-face with the loss of family members. Those losses can be devastating to an individual member... and even to the health and well-being of the entire group.

If we can but remember... that each of us accepts and integrates loss in our own unique way... and that if we can keep our hands joined in love and supportive understanding....

Love will indeed... point the way
Safely through the grief and darkness
And back into the Light.

I am deeply blessed...

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Believe in MIracles"... and I do!

One year ago today our lovely daughter Allison Morgan was too suddenly carried off by the ravaging beast - breast cancer. All of her courage and determination could not stave off the relentless and savage attack upon her entire body.

There was little doubt that this heinous killer of too many young women did in fact achieve its goal to rob her of her health and her right to live out her already celebrated achievements. But what it could not claim... was any victory over her indomitable spirit and will to live. She maintained that right up to the very end.

Her courage and determination continues to fuel courage and possibility for each of us who knew her... loved her and respected her intellect and bravery. I get up and go ahead each day... determined to carry out the life she expected me to finish in her stead. I paint... therefore... "I am."

"Winter's Sweet Surrender" says so much about the grace and dignity Allie maintained during her valiant struggle. The coldness of Death has been overcome. What is left is the rich and lasting afterglow... signalling the possibility of Spring... ans Summer.

We shared the grandeur of Nature... the beauty of Fine Art... but never more than the art and Architecture of her beloved Venice. We shared something else which continues to bridge even the abyss of Darkness and Death. We shared an unwillingness to give up the miracle of childhood. We forged ahead in an adult world... attending to the necessary duties of daily life that come with "growing up."

But we always found time to bring out the "Child Within"... and to play together. She was never ashamed of her childhood toys... her Friends right up till the end of her life. Her Friends were with her at each convocation to accompany her to receive her diplomas. They were all gathered about her in her "sick bay" nest.

                                                                   Age Four... with Piggy

                                                          Ella in tux and Al graduate at Queen's

She and I shared a deep and abiding love of the Muppets... and in particular Ms. Pig her alter ego while I assumed that of Kermie. It was a match made in heaven... one which remains to this very moment. I miss that Pig that could turn on you and then kiss you in one foul swoop! It was magical!

In closing out this post today... I wish to say that our family is meeting and throwing an evening for eighteen of Allison's art associates at her fav pasta joint tomorrow evening. Bro' Andrew and family are coming to be with us here at the Rock for the weekend. Lots of laughs... good Italian food... and of course,we'll be tipping glasses of Allie's Prosecco to toast her.

I think she will be strongly present in spirits... smiling down upon us from somewhere over our rainbow...

I wish to share something very,very personal with each of you that Allie and I shared and believed in. I think that there is a message for us all  in it... not just for children. As a child... she "understood" even then. She was an ..."old spirit."

                                                  A very early Allie and Dad "Art-i-fact!"

Rich blessings to ALL!

I love you FOREVER Sweet Heart!

Saturday, April 21, 2018


As artists in any genre progress in their journeys, during the initial stages they depend upon teachers or mentors who encourage or provide insights which guide our search for knowledge and understanding for the act of creating.

They serve as a catalyst to fire our engine with  passion and they help create a deeper and more meaningful love and grasp of "fine art". They present possibilities and fortify and equip our tool boxes to move forward independently.

Often, we supplement direct exposure by taking classes... joining art circles and creating personal libraries of "how to" instruction. All of these resources do advance one's knowledge and confidence. However... at some point, learning comes down to the simple act of physical engagement and hard workdrawing... mixing colour and painting- for hours on end!

I chose to sketch, first in pencil and later moved to painting with oils directly on location... or en plein air as it is dubbed now, I discovered that my need to find "special subjects" to paint and to replicate them exactly taught me a great deal about composition, design and developing my own palette. At first, I was caught up with a relentless and often fruitless and frustrating search for the "perfect picture"... to copy slavishly.

Gradually, I came to realize that I didn't need that structure to make a "good picture." I discovered that Nature didn't always have it totally right either. That we could both benefit from that other's views and contributions to the process. It was indeed an empowering moment for me artistically to finally feel the freedom to truly create using my own imagination as the launch pad for my exploration and development of my own style(s).

A few of my earlier mentors had urged me to break away from a heavy reliance upon what's in front of me. I have since learned... and put into practice how to create a "new landscape" based more upon a cerebral and emotional interface... than a purely visual exercise based upon merely copying. I refer to this creative process as "Imagineering."

My last post included two small oil sketches, completed in the studio that were based upon that very practice. Judging from the responses that I received from those who viewed them, I achieved what I set out to achieve... with powerful results and a sense of "virtual realism"...  that was convincing and pleasing to the viewers... and myself!


I was first introduced to this term in my final year of high school... in an English class. The term was presented as a strategy that... when carefully constructed could be used to lift fiction convincingly into the world of reality. 

I was instantly captivated... not only by the notion of using a "flim-flam"strategy to conceal truth... but as well... I was totally in love with the musical tone that the word seemed to resonate with and that my ear was always searching for. In short... I am a"word junky"...   collector of words." To this day... I still love wordsmithing... cross wording... word finding. I am addicted to "the play on".. and
use of powerful word substitutes.

It is much like the daring and fresh new approach Picasso brought to a drab tonalist world of painting and a sculpture tradition whose very foundation was based only upon hewing out. He introduced and entirely new direction... a constructivist approach which is based upon an additive method. His ideas changed the course of Western painting and sculpture forever.


Verisimilitude... by dictionary definition suggests the quality of appearing to be real... while inferring that the opposite is true. 

It is the tension that is created within this sentence that offers one the challenge to take up the gauntlet and to put it into use whether in language... or on canvas... which is also my intent. To attempt it might seem easy. It's only lying.... EH??? HA HA!!

But early into the practice, you will soon discover that things fall apart rapidly when one is stripped of all physical references and devices... like cameras... tablets... monitors - the very things most of us have come to depend upon to make our pictures / paintings appear real.

Striving to achieve verisimilitude is not at all intended to report falsely.. or even to intentionally  mislead. Its purpose is to permit the artist to create using a freestyle approach entirely dependent upon a more personal interpretation. The interpretation is more largely based upon previous experiences and interior ideas derived fully from within.

The process is challenging and requires years of experience and practice in drawing and painting and must be combined with a solid background in painting outdoors if one wishes to play with it comfortably. The sum total of the three sources of gaining information is a strong visual memory... a library of unending possibilities and details and effects to draw from.

As I mentioned a few weeks and posts back, I had been "stuck"artistically... and spiritually. I found it difficult to undertake new projects after the large mural project was in the bag. The two small sketches in the last post opened up a floodgate of energy and ideas for me. One of those ideas was this very large canvas that had been kicking about in our studio storage area. I purchased it with a "sort of"... kind of notion of what it might be finally used for. But that was two years ago.

All of the time that I worked on the two smaller ideas... this mainsail glowered scornfully at me from my easel. Six days ago... I set sail with much gusto... hanging over the foredeck rail with anticipation and new energy. Here... still a work in progress for at least another day or two is the "New World" that I discovered.

Truthfully... I can't really say "Where" the landscape truly "exists".My only truthful response is that what now exists in the reality painted on the canvas owes its reality to the amalgam of visual details stored in my memory... and my heart.

"Winter's Sweet Surrender" - oil on canvas 36 x 48 inches

This landscape could easily be found here in the 1000 Islands... or the Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands District... or anywhere in Quebec or Nova Scotia... where I have painted continuously during my career.

What is more important is revealed in the title of the painting. I'll leave each of you to make what you wish of it all! I'd love to hear from you with your own interpretations though!


Stay tuned... I'll post it in its final finished state later on!

Good Painting to ALL!!... and Blessings

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Just another day at the office...

"What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn't become an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought. I am constantly preoccupied with how to remove distance so that we can all come closer together, so we all can begin to sense we are the same, we are just one." - David Hockney  pg 198

(From "The Artist's Mentor" edited by Ian Jackman)

My moods have always been influenced by "fairness" of weather and the amount of ambient light. I find myself struggling whenever these catalysts for Joy and a feeling of well-being are either missing or delayed for long periods.

Late winter, when the ground is stripped of white virgin snow revealing the dirty grit of winter and where the temperatures are unstable and can vary greatly... these conditions present a time of great challenge for me creatively. Very often these feelings can immediately follow a project where my limits have been challenged to their utmost levels.

That is the case at present. I feel "out of steam" after the large scale mural project that I just completed. The question always arises within me... "Where do I go next?" I thoroughly enjoyed the "big brush" opportunity on that vast white wall and have directed my attention towards finding another such large scale project to maintain the momentum created by that challenge.

I have indeed lit upon an idea that I believe will work for me... but the 36 x 48 inch blank canvas simply stares back at me with contempt and the start remains tantalizingly at arm's length at the moment. This standoff has continued for over a week now... creating uncertainty and personal disgust.

To break the deadlock, I have decided to step back from the grandiose adventure of the larger real estate and have decided to complete warm up scales... just as a pianist must to limber up before a major concert. These two 5 x 7 inch panels represent this flash dance preparatory artistic fandango.

"Summer ... in Retreat" - MacLachlan Woodworking Museum 5 x 7 inch oil on panel

The idyllic and pastoral quality of this piece... is woven into the tight compositional framework creating a tapestry fusing together natural and man made elements. These are further enlivened by rich color and flora.

"Windswept Channels" - 1000 Islands west of Rockport - oil on panel 5 x 7 inches

This small painting... provided extemporaneously through recall... and yearning for those soft summer breezes that are still some distance in time away from the cold currents of winter 2018. It is a deeply felt personal view of my paradise that ties my soul to this special place.

Both step beyond a simple classification as landscapes... because both contain elements either obliterated by man's hand... like the plain white farmhouse in the first sketch and the actual sense of place in the second. It surely exists in my memory... of  years of "memories" through this sketch. Quite frankly both record  memories that I experienced that I have maintained and now pass forward and enjoin you... the viewer... and me!

I contemplated completed a few more before fully launching into the major project. But this afternoon that canvas is in place... levelled and ready to receive pigment and big brush strokes - an activity that never fails to gladden my heart and to whet my creative juices.

Which will win out??? At this very moment, I am not totally certain. I firmly believe from my experience(s)... that all human development(s) is based upon internal readiness... and timing. At least... I am underway.

Stay tuned...

I hope that in some way... this post and others that I share in some way support and further  Hockney's views which opened this post... which run parallel to my own.

Rich Blessings! ... and Good Painting to ALL!!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good... Friday???

The coldness and finality of Crucifixion and the constant reminder of ultimate sacrifice of Christ is visually arresting here in Rockport Cemetery.

As a young person being introduced... and indoctrinated into the Mormon faith which my parents had chosen to embrace... I was left with many unanswered questions about its doctrines and teaching. I must readily admit however, that we were encouraged to ask questions and to speak openly within a group of our elders.

It did disturb me though... even then, that men and women were subdivided and met in separate groups and there were differences in the distribution of power and importance in decision-making.

One of the questions that arose with in me very early centered around the celebration of Easter. I did most certainly understand the weighty consequences of the cruel penalty of the agony and eventual drawn out death suffered by those unfortunates who faced this fate. This led me to always wonder how one could actually consider the dark Friday when Christ faced this ordeal and perished as being in any fashion... "Good"?

Easter as I experienced it and Christian belief played it out was joyful celebration and seemed "out of step" with the dreadful event that had preceded it a scant two days earlier.. Not even in adulthood  was that confusion in my mind's eye of the idea of such a treacherous Friday being in any way "Good".

Here... in my Garden of Hearts gathered to celebrate Allison's continuing presence in my life... this granite heart-shaped stone displays a certain crucifix stance... piercing the cold remainder of winter's snow. Behind it .... the only bit of color emanates from a "Miss Kitty" figure that she jabbed into my garden, teasingly... to offset and chide me for my ongoing complaints about summer "interlopers" who most often have no regard for private property. A reminder of tolerance.

 I decided to give further thought to the notion of today being "Good"... again because I felt no real good today. Two days ago Allison's Mom, Joan, Deb and I went down to the site of the ginkgo tree which had been planted in Allison's memory by her Queen's students.

Joan had picked up some inexpensive Easter eggs to hang on the tree... not being able to see it remain bare. Allie always looked forward to such festivities. She never relinquished that "child within"... and never felt it necessary to hide the fact that she felt comfortable letting her child out to play... in front of anyone.

Deb had spent the whole week and had lovingly crafted seven lovely stained glass eggs to be added to Joan's. That gift lifted every one's spirits to a higher plane... and certainly added unexpected elegance to the decorations. I'm sure... that Allie would have been smiling down upon us.

I did some serious reading to try and find a different perspective about seeing the "Good" in this particular Friday in the face of this gargantuan loss that we as a family have suffered. Strangely... some pieces did fall strangely into place that made some sense. Perhaps... they might as well help some of you to make sense of your own loss... if you too search for peace and solace.

Within the Christian framework... Good Friday does indeed mark the flogging... the agonizing trek of Christ to Calvary... his crucifixion by the Romans on the cross and his lingering death while his loved ones looked on helplessly.

That scenario roughly parallels Allie's ordeal... stretching out over three years and culminating in her eventual death on Wednesday, April 26th... at 7:30 am. Note that the details remain specific.

However, it is at this point that changes occur for me. Her death brought with it an ability to  redeem  myself for the deep and encompassing anger and pain that had totally gripped my consciousness. By seeking therapeutic counsel, I was able to confront these paralyzing feelings that kept me in bondage.

Since achieving this resurrection of my previous positivity... creativity and Joy... even momentarily, I have been able to achieve new meaning in my life and have learned to focus my thoughts and memories upon pleasant moments that she and I spent together.

As well... I can actually feel her presence in the world about me that she and I loved and shared together. We were kindred spirits in life... always. Death has not been able to destroy that connection and bond that we shared as human beings.

My Chicks... feeding chickadees last February at the Cataraqui Conservation Sugar bush. Who'd have guessed this would be our last sugarin' off celebration?

This is a still life using a cup she brought me from Venice... a postcard sent while she worked there and the final roses before the frost. I miss those impromptu gifts and frequent heart gifts that we exchanged!

What I Learned From Searching Out the "Good" in this Friday

Search within and without... for the answers. They are most certainly present in your daily life and treasure trove of pleasant memories. I found my own easy to access and immediate in their therapeutic influence.

Most members of my immediate family have provided immense emotional support. Their support more than compensates for the disappointing actions of others... who for whatever their reasons, have been unable to "be actively present". Perhaps time will change this...

Thank you to the hosts of my friends who stepped up and have supported me... particularly my blogging family members . Your constant presence and encouraging words on this blog continue to inspire my creative spirit. Thank you all!

My books and reading have yielded so many answers... as has music. Throughout my life, I have been able to gain knowledge and direction in my personal and creative lives.This morning, I gained insight into the development of the the actual contents of this lengthy post. I make no apology for its length. In simple truth...I paint and write... always to connect with my Self... and then "You".

In closing, I offer this favourite song of mine... handed to me years ago by my dad. The song has always resonated with a sense of Hope and Faith and the potential... in myself and others to survive... and contribute. It was written by the famous comedic figure Charlie Chaplin... as strange as that might seem. 

What a "chain letter" of Hope.... Charlie... to Nat... to my Dad... to Me... and now... to you! 

Pass it forward!


Happy Easter... to ALL!!... and "Keep smilin! "

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Both Sides Now"


The satisfaction I received with having completed the BIG project with a small and limited tool box had scarcely registered for me when I found myself already in the throes of thinking about another project... one which I had placed for too long on the back burner. The project itself was pushed forward and encouraged by a comment from my friend Keith Tilley in his comment regarding "the BIG." He readily recognize my underlying message and reason for undertaking this huge project.He commented, "You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to make good art." He got it!... and that was payment in full for me for the effort. I hope that some of you "get it" too... and take courage to risk taking on the BIG in you own lives. Dare to dream! Thank you Keith!

 I  finally decided  to either dump this draft which has been circling around unfinished for far too long in my mind... or simply to delete its sketchy commentary and move on. Like a troublesome sketch or painting, not all starts deserve a finish. Some merit a good scrubbing off early on, as opposed to "saving them" or, putting a frame around them. Most of the time when painting in the field that decision and solution arrives very easily and painlessly.

However, in this particular post I kept finding myself drawn to a very cogent consideration before deleting the "idea". The post quite clearly defines how forcefully and effectively that music plays into my thinking and how important music has been to my painting process over the years. Though I am very eclectic in my musical tastes, my preferences tend to lean towards embracing a blend of classical music with Canadian folk traditions.

Another reason for "keeping the faith"is that it provides me a long overdue opportunity to thank two very special friends, Carol and John Philips of Midland, Ontario. Our bond of friendship stretches back... far into our "primordial past,"a simpler time in public school when school chums played marbles together in the schoolyard. During summer vacays,... we swam together during the seemingly endless hot summer days and played Red Rover until darkness ... or our parents' call  summoned us to head home, bringing that day to an abrupt end.

Later in our adolescence, we danced our way through high school at "Teen Town." The local Masonic Temple was the Friday night (lightly chaperoned) hangout where Jivin' Johnnie  spun 45's every Friday night along with his pal "Hat Badge" Ian Wilson. More than one "first love" was kick-started on that dance floor... mine amongst them.

Time and distance have thankfully been unable to separate us and we have remained friends ever since. So I would like to offer this post as a tribute to this couple o' blessings in my life. You Two... have truly made all the difference in my many and varying lives, Thank you BOTH!! I love you ... forever!

This blog's title derives from a blockbuster Joni Mitchell hit from the sixties. The melody and its lyrics speak to me still and never fail to carry my heart joyfully back to those simpler times and life moments.

All three of us have seen and experienced "Both Sides... of life, ever so clearly... to reach the Now. Mine arrive with Allie's passing and theirs... unimaginably, through their own tragic loss of two of their three children - both gone treacherously... and tragically too soon.

 I could never understand how they as people and as a couple survived this tsunami of a continuous life time of grief. But they did and I bore witness throughout the ordeal. It has been their example...  and their constantly joyous presence and their continous contributions to my life that has encouraged me to undertake my own journey to recover renewed purpose and Happiness. I owe them a great debt of gratitude for their generous and unconditional love.

Like most in my "Boomer Generation," Canadian Folk and rock n' roll music formed the main diet for our listening and dancing pleasure. I find that many of my compatriots remain locked into that tradition even today. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family where all types of music was valued and played. My Dad was a local musician of considerable note, very respected for his unerring and willing ability to successfully "sit in" on piano in any musical genre. All Sherman's and their children have gone out into the world with music embedded deeply in their hearts... albeit in a variety of different ways.

"Both Sides Now" borrows from the musical spirit and genius of Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell. I have deeply admired and identified with her on so many significant levels. We both share so many crossover commonalities in our values and lives. We both have performed music. Both share a rebellious nature and idiosyncratic traits in our persons and our  thinking. Both of us share a love for creating art. A large difference between us in fame does not play into this from my view... nor does it matter.

Through her beautiful music... I have come to truly know and respect her on so many levels. I have chosen to share and expose you to a newer cover by Joni of "Both Sides Now," It is soft and mellowed out... minus the bopping care-free  version from the past. I selected it to present to each of you... because it speaks so eloquently and intimately to the listener. It's worth the listen... start to finish in my view. Enjoy... 

                                                                   "Selfie" ... by Joni                                                                                     
Is this not "Me"... or "You"... or not everyone who has lived life... on "both Sides" of youth... and experienced life "from near and far"??? And still somehow "it's life's illusions we recall"... and if we are honest.. none of us "really fully knew ... [or understood] life at all"... till Now... in these later years.

A Time When Art and Life Become One

Novelist Jonathan Swift said it best with this quote

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."

I would contend that an artist is an individual who incorporates that vision with their own unique gift and hard work to bring it into reality in whatever medium they choose to work with. We all do that in our own unique fashion. Whether fame is achieved in the doing of that, or not...  DO share your art with pride and conviction.

I found a Chinese proverb which I painted on the top of a side table gift that I gave to Allie to mark her under graduation. It read:

"One cannot hold moonlight... but may you always put your dreams in the Light... make visible what without you may never be seen."

"The Great Wall"... of Rockport

No... my reference is not to that iconic ancient wall that for centuries kept invaders at bay in China... it is rather my ironic and musing view that this wall here in Rockport performs rather the opposite function for the resident who has gone to the considerable expense to have it constructed. It is intended to keep out the influx of summer crowds of wandering visitors (many from China)... who do not respect the rightful privacy of residents and landowners in this very small village. This problem is more than annoying when the numbers expected each summer rise into the hundreds of thousand. No ethnic slur is intended ... just a revelation and reality check!

This year right through late fall and up until the first snow fell,  I visited with two stone masons who were vigorously trying to complete the most beautiful dry point (no mortar) stone wall just as you enter or leave the village. Despite the deep cold, they battled with the elements and the very deep cold, showing no apparent regard for their enemy.

I could not... not stop to visit as I passed by on my daily walks. I asked, "Is this work not hard on your body and particularly your hands?" They assured me each time that despite the fact that neither wore gloves and both dressed very lightly... they were warmed by their work and the progress that they made. It was their trade... but at the same time it was their Art... and their passion all rolled into one. And that serpentine structure spoke to me... as strongly and clearly to me as it did to them.

On each occasion, I heard sweet music long before they came into view. Each day that source of music changed... according to which mason was laying stone down. I mused how strange... or maybe not ,.,, that their wall had a very strong  visual  musical rhythm of its own.

Hmmm. I wonder...

The wall was at last finished and they have long since moved on to their next project which...  I've been told is in California, But their serpentine musical wall still commands my attention... my respect and demands me to paint it. And I have - twice already. I was very pleased by the result of my first wee 8x10 inch canvas. It really captured the afterglow of that winter day... as it played against the wall itself and Church of the Redeemer behind it. It definitely captured this very new... and remarkable modern piece of heritage. Here... two heritage traditions from different eras rest peacefully side-by-side. Out of annoyance and bitterness ... emerged beauty... and Art.

                         "Late Evening Light at the Wall and The Church of the Redeemer"
                                                  Oil sketch on canvas 8 x 10 inches

The wee oil sketch sat on the floor of our studio and each time that my eye was drawn to it, I was dragged into deeper thought, until one evening I decided to take my camera and visit the other side of the wall to see what painting potential, if any might lay there. My curiosity was rewarded and I uncovered what would become the very first painted view of this piece of heritage. It surely will not be the last, by any stretch of the imagination.

                                "Along the Wall to the River... and St. Brendan's RC Church"
                                                           Oil on panel 8x10 inches

Here in this quiet riverside hamlet lie the physical  and remaining reality of a deep and abiding schism which split the Roman Catholic faith apart during the period of the Reformation. Though the deep anger... bitterness and even armed conflicts have dissolved over time, "the spiritual divide" continues to separate God's flock into separate places of worship - by choice. The two paintings... each done on opposing sides of a physical barrier... Metaphorically still a "wall" exists and whimsically reflects that truth to me visually. Just the Joni in me... humming along to the tune of... "Both Sides ... Now!

"Closing Time".... Thank you Leonard Cohen!

Good Painting...  and my blessings... to ALL!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Further to BIG things... with a small stick

In the last post I shared a very meaningful and magical Venetian moment that I experienced so many years ago. Ravel's "Bolero" continues to be among my favorite  pieces of music in all genres that I enjoy. I still play classical music and Canadian folk while I paint. Both continue to add inspiration and elevate my creative senses and mood.

While I searched out a Youtube rendition of "Bolero" I fortunately stumbled upon the one that featured the "toothpick maestro" which almost replicated the tenor and fiery performance at the Fenice so many years ago.

I mentioned to you at the end of that post that this extraordinary performance prompted me to undertake a similar strategy during my most recent project. I must admit that the project defied a promise that I had made to myself and others nearby... that my days devoted to taking commissions were finally over with. Little did I know that one more remained... and a very large and challenging one at that.

I will spare you the details surrounding how this occurred. Let it simply be said that I "owed many kind favors" to the friend who made this request. The parts that allowed me to go forward involved kindnesses to our family and particularly Allie. So I stepped up... not to the easel... but to the long wall of what is to become his entertainment space for friends in the Rockport community.

I have worked steadily for nine days and will in all likelihood complete the project tomorrow. Here is the wall of acrylic pigment that I will live at Wayne's World.

This mural features a familiar favorite Thousand Island landscape... "Smuggler's Cove"... so named because it was a place used by rum runners during Prohibition to avoid detection from their illegal smuggling operations to the US. It is a picturesque horseshoe-shaped cove with much current and Caribbean colored waters. This vantage point is a view from the Ivy Lea Provincial Park boat ramp.

The centre part of the painting focuses upon "Virgin Island... so named because their is a niche containing Mary on the outward point. It was the site for summer cottagers and boaters Sunday Masses for many years. It has become a summer island retreat for a friendly US family.. each of them own one of my sketches of their island.

In the lower right foreground of the is the Dive Boat "Osprey"... one of Wayne's two boats from which he conducts his popular scuba diving business. Wayne is a true "River Rat" in every sense of the word. He has made his living and lifetime on the river and knows it intimately... like the back of his hand.This is surely why his diving business attracts divers from all over the world to use his expertise and superior equipment.

It was one of these boats that transported Allie and the rest of us for two memorable private Thousand Island Cruises... at no cost to us. I will always be in his debt for this gift to us all, and especially Allie who would not have been able to visit the islands again in that last year of her life. A very precious and binding gift for me!

The helicopter in the upper left hand corner represents Wayne's newest interest. Since he was a boy, he has wanted to fly so he purchased this lightweight two passenger helicopter to complete this boyhood dream. He is currently taking flying lessons and has ripped down the helicopter to its frame and replaced all questionable parts to insure safety. He's a dreamer... who turns them into reality. I admire him deeply.

Here's the "toothpick" connection. I completed this entire 4 x 12 foot vignette... using only these brushes shown here. Surprisingly... I was astonished at the speed and the freedom that large arm strokes presented me during the execution of this large format.

A one inch bristle brush and a half inch sable dagger were the work horses throughout the entire painting process. I will be adding some "rigger work" for fine detail work tomorrow. Just a novel approach... running against the grain it might appear at first glance... but not!

Hope that it might inspire each of you to jump in and use some "outrageous" idea or approach of your own of your own... to make you soar... artistically and spiritually. You might come away as surprised and pleased as I have been with this exercise. A great winter tonic! HA HA!!!

Good Painting... and rich Blessings to ALL!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Power of Mothership... and Music

Today, Wednesday March 8th marks International Women's Day around the world. It seemed relevant and necessary for me to recognize and to celebrate all women in the world as they attempt to seek a better share of possibility and recognition as equals in all fields of human endeavour.

I have always been an advocate and supporter of women's entitlement to equality. I owe much of my own success in every facet of my journey to important women contributors. Each of our human journeys owes its origin to "the Mothership"- carrier and first home for all humankind.

My Mother with her endless love, sacrifices, generous spirit and role model left an indelible blueprint which I have carried forward into a present that she would never see, or experience. I have shared its content and values with my own children and countless students and friends since then. Through me... her legacy will continue to survive her and be passed on to women... and men that she will never meet. We will collectively carry her legacy forward with usd to places that she never could travel to or see.

Mom was just one... in a succession  of women that I would meet... be befriended ...loved and mentored by. She single handedly ushered me into relationships with other women that I would meet... teaching me to respect and trust their person, their wisdom and their intellect. There exists no barrier between us. She enabled me to embrace and practice my own egalitarianism without fear.

I am greatly blessed... for the presence and gifts of  Deb as well... and all women who enriched my life. I encourage each woman... wherever you live... whatever your circumstances, or goals to stand up for the rights you will only receive if you speak out against dominance or oppression. Change never comes without resistance or hardship. Peace will always come afterward.

There are many other men like myself who are willing to strive to make the playing field more level. Sometimes the greatest examples o f strength and beauty can arrive through the careful use of "small instruments."

Play on... with your own small instrument,or voice.

Music... from my Past

I was very fortunate to have earned the opportunity to visit and study for eight weeks in Venice, Italy in the spring of 1989. That adventure would form the basis of a change in artistry and my personal growth and development which has led me right up to the present day.

It too would lead my darling daughter Allison to follow my footsteps to Venice... and beyond. She ended up teaching and becoming Director of the very Queen's University Summer School that I attended as a student. It would become the very wellspring of her entire mission on earth. I am greatly blessed to have shared that gift with her. It enjoined us forever as equals.

While I was there, I was befriended by my professor Catherine Harding and another woman student Jean Smith. That unlikely close friendship ensued because we three were much older than the other students. Simply put... our interests are more closely aligned. While the youth cavorted at the Lido beach by day and boogied into the night, we three turned our attentions to cultural opportunities as they arose over the eight weeks.

I will always be grateful to these two women ior sharing outings like an evening of stringed chamber music within the very halls of Antonio Vivaldi's church where he was concertmaster and organist. However, the highlight for my entire visit was an unforgettable night at the dazzlingly beautiful Fenice Opera House. The entire evening... with its tapestry of sights and sounds still reverberates in my memory.

However, the tour de force for this evening would be the final piece... Ravel's Bolero. Words fail to describe or grasp  the emotion that I felt as I swayed in my seat... seemingly for hours, as the music raised from the almost inaudible... through to a crescendo of the entire orchestra thrown into a frenzied cacophony of duelling instruments by section in the tumultuous concluding bars and notes.

My attention was riveted on the elegantly attired, tall, slender, older, white-haired maestro... iconic  to the point of appearing almost God-like as he wielded his white baton. His every movement and gesture captured the inner passion and intensity that he felt... and brought to this performance.

Those movements were locked onto by every section player as the tempo and cadence lifted. It was magical... for them... and the audience as well. At its conclusion, the entire audience rose to its feet in unison... wildly demanding that they play further. And it did... on four more occasions. I shall never forget it. I cried then shamelessly... as I still do every time that Bolero transports me back to that special marker in my life. The power of Music... "in concert" with memory!

Fast forward to the present...

I was ready to head into Tim Horton's this morning to pick up a brew after my grocery run to Gananoque when my Classic am station struck into that very version of Bolero. It was at that moment... after being unable to proceed in for my java fix, that I decided to jump ahead and reboot my Venetian delight tonight to share it with you.

When I searched out a good YouTube version to share here, I came upon this very special... and significantly appropriate version for so many reasons. The orchestra leader uses a toothpick???... to lead the orchestra. Judge for yourself.....

"The power of a small stick"... in a BIG world! then be ready to visit my next post soon...which will further this idea.

Stay tuned... and enjoy Ladies of my Life - you know who you are.
And thank you... ALL!

I love You... Forever Jemima Puddle Duck and Miss You!

Love Dad