Monday, July 29, 2019

In the Blink of an Eye...

I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the responses to my "Games People Play" project. Mainly because it bore little resemblance to my other interests involving landscape and still life. As is the case in the television and movie business.. we sometimes typecast ourselves by limiting ourselves to one genre. It can be greatly inspiring in the early stages of one's career... yet lead to repetitive boredom in the long haul. In our heavily burdened technological society, public interest is short-lived and best.

In a leap of faith, I have decided to journey back into my earlier interests now recorded  but nearly lost in the meat of my numerous sketchbooks. I hope to seeking out and rekindle my creative spirit based upon "old" ideas which were of interest to me earlier on in my artistic journey.

Many of those ideas were recorded when I fully intended to save them for future use in a time of artistic drought, or uncertainty. Twenty-five years later, time urban sprawl and development swallowed many those pieces of Canadian heritage... especially barns... homesteads and other agrarian enterprises. They exist... many of them, only in my sketchbooks.

I have always enjoyed taking on subjects and projects that no one else wanted, or valued. Even during my teaching years, I chose to work with students who others saw no valued, or believed in. Their life challenges became my own. Their failures mine. Their successes  and triumphs became my motivators. Likewise in my art, I realized and accepted that not all ideas and work is destined to succeed - on a given day. Sometimes, one had to wait to see it ripen and flourish in its own space and time.

In the Blink of an Eye

This phrase is an example of a literary device called an idiom. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent parts. For example: "kick the bucket" which in terms of its idiomatic use means dies. Or for the above idiom "in the blink of an eye" suggests an imperceptibly quick movement beyond possibility : "We lost our entire way of life, or fortune in the blink of an eye."

What do you "see''... in one fleeting glance... "or the blink of your eye?"

I wonder...

In today's post, I hope to investigate and play with that question using a rather unique approach to actually try to measure  my own ability to respond to that question. Commencing the task did not seem particularly daunting in itself to me simply because I have habitually employed that strategy for many years when I have painted en plein air.

Generally speaking, most of my small to mid-sized outdoor canvases are totally completed within two and a half to three hours. Stepping up to the easel and painting almost spontaneously during that time frame is very comfortable for me and generally provides me ample time to get down what I see... or want to say about the subject in front of me.

In the beginning, it was a huge leap of faith and challenge to leave the comforts of a studio to embrace this new kind of on site painting... on location, or plein air painting as it is called today. Working materials, methods and even clothing had to be adjusted to weather conditions and terrain. But learning was gained gradually over time to create a whole new approach to painting which provided greater realism and joy for the participant.

The most important piece of learning for me personally was learning to quickly construct a basic composition using strongest form and color to create a road map to guide an impression - NOT a copy. That ability has remained with me and is as valid today as in the beginning.

I decided to use this reliable tool to fuel my recovery  and return to painting after too many months without a brush in my hand... or art in my heart. My heart had been broken by Allison's untimely and tragic death.

My body was physically weakened by the constant painful effects of sciatica to a point where I felt there was little chance of returning to painting. To entertain such ideas was wistful and wasteful thinking. But time and perseverance has prevailed! I am underway again... ready for new painting challenges.

All Aboard!...

Today's post and project was conceived aboard a rapid transit train journey... coming and going between Kingston, Ontario... our home and Toronto Union Station in the heart of metropolitan  and downtown Toronto on October 10th, 2018. We had a scheduled medical appointment for Deb at Toronto Western Hospital. The early morning scheduling for that appointment made a safe and guaranteed arrival time almost impossible, so we elected to travel by VIA Rail. A great choice!

The travel time is slightly more than three hours ( on a good day). So there was ample time just to sit and look out the window at the passing countryside during the trip. I am a poor "looker". So that ten minutes into the trip found me cradling a small, empty sketchpad, a sharp nib ink marker and my trusty india ink brush/pen in hand... and searching for something to"busy my hands"... and mind occupied for three hours!

I decided to title the exercise :"VIA Views" from VIA car 5103.... with these parameters to add challenge:
  • a quick sketch experiment to arouse instant recognition and quick memory response times
  • to rapidly create a black and white expression of ideas based solely upon masses and shapes
  • 1-2 minute time limitation per sketch/theme/idea
 I could later follow up the exercise, if desired... to extrapolate upon selected sketches which showed the most promise for enlargement to small or larger formats... adding color 

Below rare shown the sketches that were completed in the suggested time frame 

#1 Densely Wooded Landscape - 9:40 am just a few minutes west of Kingston

#2 Broken Field Patterns - 9:45 am

#3 Sweeping Road and Barnscape - 9:50 am

#4 Homestead  (grey) - 9:55 am

#5 Another Destination - 10:10 am

#6 Summer Baled   11:00 am

#8 Barn With Cupola - 11:20 am

#9 Foreground Sumacs  11:25 am

#10 Trees and Trackbed 11:30 am

#11 Flooded Wetland Marsh - Cobourg  11:36 am

#12 First Glimpse of Lake Ontario - 11:45 am

#13 Cobourg Railbed Crossing 12:06 am

Overall...What does your eye see???

The first two sketches reveal my drawing rustiness... or perhaps my inability to quickly focus and record the information as it passed by my eyes and brain at lightning speed in a very densely wooded landscape. No chance at a rewind! Make do... is what appears to be the order of the hour in these initial attempts.

From sketch three forward to the very last subject, I see a more confident and capable  hand and eye  working together. The compositions look bolder and bolder - more like what I would expect. I truly enjoyed the experience as it revealed itself to me... setting after setting. Any one of these "quickdraws" could be made into decent oil painting subjects.

"Do you see what I see?"

I wonder....

I'm excited to share my discoveries... in COLOR!!!!

Stay tuned!

Good Summer Painting ... to ALL!!!

PS Every idea or project does not need to be a blockbuster. From the humblest of beginnings and inspirations come the most powerful of contributions.


  1. So glad I stopped by to see these wonderful sketches - they overflow with the energy of the moment. And yes, your building confidence is a joy to see - Bravo, Bruce!

  2. Thanks Susan for your encouraging words.Your own work evokes similar fluidity and "energy of the moment". Your circus trip was so beautifully captured and transported to your viewer directly into the action of centre ring!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hello Bruce,

    I've been having trouble commenting here - the comments disappear as soon as I click on the 'Publish button. If you're reading this, it must have worked this time!

    I've enjoyed following your 'Journaling in ink'! Such a productive way of passing the time, and I'll bet your memories of the journey are more vivid because of it. I can see the basis of future paintings in a number of them as well.

    I've always admired this way of making a visual diary, and it's something I've been meaning to try. Perhaps on the next visit by train to Inverness, which is a similar three hour journey.

    I'm looking forward to seeing where this leads you!

    All the best,

  4. Glad that you enjoyed the journey Keith! You're absolutely correct in saying that one's creative awareness and body needn't simply sit idly "gawking" in a speeding train.

    The brain's powers of observation and excitability can be trained to respond more rapidly and the hands will be dragged into the fray out of a need to be involved physically. That's my take on it after this exercise.

    It was highly successful... and at least made the time speed along more easily. Time will tell... if I can relate the initial response into further actual more developed ideas. I feel that some will...

    Stay tuned... and thanks for climbing aboard and travellin' with me Keith! Always enjoy your artistic insights... and company as a kindred spirit!

    Warmest regards,