Monday, November 26, 2018

Unfinished Business...

I rarely have a painting project misfire and allow it to hang about. Even in the field when I am working en plein air and directly from nature... rarely do I carry home  a "start" that has misfired. I am accustomed and never reluctant to simply "scrub it" on location, rather than have it haunt me back in the studio.

However, yesterday morning a smallish twelve inch square that had been toned with black gesso and partitioned with a white chalk pencil into four quarters caught my attention. I remembered that
I had taken the canvas along with my paint box and easel to the large lawn of my landlord located directly across the from our home.

The location affords one a very picturesque and high perch overlooking the river. The combination of the rich colors of the maples and the gazebo and the dramatic river backdrop captured my attention immediately. I anxiously dove in to work from a plan from somewhere inside me by attacking adjoining quarters with two separate views from what lay in front of me.

Unfortunately, or perhaps not... Fate intervened and drew my session to an abrupt and unavoidable close. Rain pelted me... drenching my enthusiasm and sending me scurrying for home. When inside, I simply tossed the black orphan unceremoniously into a dark corner of my shared downstairs studio workspace with Deb.

That plein air misfire remained untouched and unnoticed from late in the fall of 2010 when I had first begun painting it... until now. Had its presence and potential not been drawn to my attention by my wife (and most trusted art critic) Deb... it might well still be sitting with its face to the wall unnoticed...and unfinished.

Given that long delay in proceeding, I futilely searched my mind for any semblance of an idea or direction to stimulate my movement... or my interest to resume action. Pitching it still seemed the best way to remove the roadblock!

Strangely... a recent and wonderful discovery that arrived seemingly (by chance???).. or by way of a  richly written murder-mystery novel by the award winning Canadian writer Louise Penny. The novel provided me a new and totally unexpected spark of inspiration to forget about what my earlier actions and idea might have intended originally.

Her writing spoke to me and challenged me to reach within and to search my memory reservoir for any prior event that might provide me a structure upon which  I might build  a newer concept and direction. That new concept would not be bound by those previous stalled failures which blocked my movement forward.

Looking at this malnourished body of unfinished work, I searched to associate what lay before me under the light of my easel to some semblance of such a memorable event. From somewhere in the dust and cobwebs of my teaching past, the black canvas shouted, "Come play!"
And I did.

A single growing memory chained steadily with others to form an increasingly strong and pleasurable visual image. I recalled endless hours of pleasure and Joy for me in a yard filled with many children. What was called "yard duty" by many of my colleagues remained to me a "breath of fresh air" from the restraints of classrooms. Even then... I preferred to "work" en plein air!

You see... Life is about choices. Those made and those passed over.  Joy and Happiness so often are  related to attitude HOW we perceive simple pleasures and daily opportunities. Life is then... purely a position of personal perspective. The choice for all things and outcomes is indeed based totally upon these realities and our combined willingness and ability to recognize and make something good from them.

This once half resolved wee painting owes its existence to many influences. Beginning with its rediscovery by Deb, its painful breech-birth and exile to the corner ... followed by an eight year hiatus in limbo might have prevented its second look. Not really the usual schedule of events that usher a painting into a promising life or future.

The next... and totally unexpected influence in its creation was the serendipitous  intervention by Louise Penny's novel "Self Portrait" into my painting process. This magnificent and intriguing novel literally fell off the shelf in The Beggar's Banquet Bookstore and into my hands.

I am now on my second award winner by Ms. Penny. It too provides a rarefied reading experience. My reading habit and ritual has been regained! I am truly blessed. My bedtime companion has returned!

Oh!.... And by the way. Did I mention that these novels are totally based upon art themes... locations and characters? But that's another story... for another day!

And finally. The completion of  the 12 x 12 inch canvas "Fall Four Square"was re-energized and returned into reality... powered by a simple school yard game that I was honored to share with grade school children. I offer this canvas as a token of gratitude to each young participant who shared the pure Joy of sharing time and laughter for many recesses spread across my twenty-seven year teaching career.

Being a trait. Something that I am proud to say I continue to cling to and value. It sustains "Me"... in the worst of times... bolsters my Faith and offers me Hope.

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

PS As with many things in both my and painting lives, I think ... work... play and paint - and taught using a thematic approach. One good thought and solution often leads to another... and another.

Stay tuned...
 "Let the games begin!"


  1. How interesting Bruce, the tale of your painting and how after quite a few years managed to get finished! I do like the design and the feel of this work, let there be more to join it! Happy reading to you and lets hope this post from me gets through to you this time! Best wishes from a very rainy day in Scotland. Caroline

  2. Good morning Lass!... So wonderful to be connected once again an to hear your "voice". Glad that you like the now completed "unfinished symphony." lol I actually have another such piece already well under way to completion as well. It is certainly more demanding... and way out of character for my comfort zone... but nonetheless it has been rewarding and challenging... and isn't that really what we as artists strive towards??? I wonder...

    Enjoyed your current work and direction too. It helped inspire me here on this side of "the pond" to finish. Thank you for that! Good painting and sunnier days! Rich blessings of renewed heath an Happiness Caroline.

    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, your story reminds me of someone (I think it was Geoff Hunt of the Wapping Group of Artists) who said that when a small panel had gone badly, he liked to use it as a frisbee to vent his frustration. I wonder how many potential gems went floating down the river!
    I'm glad you rediscovered this one and finished it. The chequerboard effect works beautifully, with the contrast of simple and more complex squares, and the whole piece has a warm feeling to match the season.

    All the best,

  4. Hi there Keith... Thanks for your visit and "spot on" observations regarding the "rescue operation" of this small square project... and like Geoff Hunt... I have "frisbied" my own share of misfires! HA HA!!

    You will love the next project that I hope to post... soon?????... However I have been laid up for the past two weeks with a very painful dose of sciatica on my entire right side..... YIKES!!!

    You will love the project... I'm anxious to get back to the easel to finish and post it!

    Stay tuned...

    Warmest regards and rich blessings!