Saturday, May 30, 2020

Learning... "to See"... to Create One's Own Vision

"Seeing"... Develops From Looking... But they do NOT Share the Same Meaning

A true Artist spends his/her entire lifetime searching for new thoughts... ideas and connections that continue to feed and motivate further voyages of discovery... to better their craft... their person... or their simple "thirst for knowledge."

Seeking to follow this path will demand  risking... sacrifice and a willingness to accept new beliefs... or possibilities For most artists who embark on this journey, there is likely little (if any) guarantee of wealth or acceptance. It is truly the path that the iconic American poet Robert Frost described in his epic favorite... "The Road Not Taken."

Making Art... is but one part of the voyage..The visual manifestation of the "inner voice"... or soul. The brushstrokes... when arranged poetically create a harmony and "being"... unlike any other produced by any other. Over time the practice leads to the development of a unique and confidentially different style which separates the artist's work from that of others.

"One cannot hold moonlight in one's hand. But always put your dreams in the Light. For without you...they may never be seen."

I would encourage an aspiring or beginning artist to carry a sketch pad... with tools of choice wherever you go. Record findings... reflections... simple notations that might inspire deeper thought and perhaps the meat back in your studio to make a painting. Make small "notan" sketches that can form building blocks and inspiration when time... and the "Muse" coincide.

I would encourage you to venture out with a simple painting kit (your choice of medium)... portable easel to a quiet destination where you can work in complete privacy and solitude. Keep your goals simple... and your expectations grounded firmly under you. Experience... DOES MATTER!!!

Finally... you will most likely find yourself driven to "copying" the scene as exactly as it lays before you. It will likely be overly fussy in detail at first. But as you become fore comfortable with the tools and Nature's "guidelines" ... emphasis on the GUIDE part!

Begin taking risks... until at last... over time you will gain comfort and fluidity to your thinking.... and "brushwork." Brushstrokes can be likened to musical notes... the sum total of these create a musical "score"... painting.

I would like to present a visual presentation here for you which I feel demonstrates clearly how  painting en plein air (on location) can result in improved results... if you are willing to risk.

"Last Vestige of Winter, Rock Lake" - oil on toned panel 12 x 16 inches

This plein air sketch was created in about three hours start to finish... in very low light conditions. But I was satisfied that it caught the spirit of what lay before me and had interesting shapes and ideas to be explored in better conditions... and comfort.

The embedded memory of this wee quick sketch continued to pique my interest. So much so, that on another sketching trip the next day, I returned to the location ready... and primed by the previous art-ifact (LOL). Here is the result of this adventure...

"Morning Shadows... Rock Lake, Algonquin Park"- oil canvas 20 x 24 inches

Changes???   Larger format/space to push paint. More obvious and pleasing to me though was the illumination added to the scene. It had life added.. a certain "joie du vivre" which speaks deeply and truthfully, I think from within me to the viewer.

Finished - success. Move on. Yes ... I did feel that way for a good many years. I felt a certain sense of triumph in "capturing" that location. Everyone that I had shared it with knew the spot immediately and agreed.

But something ... again deep within me screamed out to be addressed. Hmmmm...

So I stepped to it again back in the studio..... last week!!

There has been a VERY substantial shift and change in composition in this one. What is missing? Is that shape/form truly... missed? Or does its absence leave an opening for another and perhaps more pleasing interpretation and result?
I wonder...

I removed the right hand fir tree by "scumbling" and sanding it into oblivion. I was careful to repaint those areas changed with more pigment... lest the image  bleed through later

Here is the way I finished the painting. I am pleased. What are your thoughts... I'd be interested. What is accomplished... if ranching to take such  a drastic and destructive step away from the original concept?

I'm satisfied! I "own " it because I created it using new elements and removing those that I felt were less effective. Mother Nature is hardly perfect. What else matters??? Onward!

Good painting to ALL!

                           "Morning Shadows, Rock Lake, Algonquin Park" -
                                 Oil on gallery wrap canvas 16 x 20 inches

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter... Be "Hoppy!"

                                  "Rockport Resurrection" - For Allison

This is a different kind of Easter for certain. Any sense of celebration this year pales in comparison to most others... no matter our tendency to (over) chocolate coat and to place the great focus on family turkey dinner gatherings.

The streets are bare... and the rush in the candy departments and butcher shops is non-existent in my eyes. It is, at best... a halfhearted feeling around in a very darkened world... coated mostly in fear and apprehension not in celebrating.

We are fast approaching the 3rd anniversary of of our dear daughter Allison's tragic passing on April 26th, 2017. All celebrations are much less than they were prior to her untimely leaving. We depend on each other to band together to help celebrate these events... if for no other reasons than for the young children we adore and the fact that Allie expected us to lead our lives fully in her honor. And we do that.

Each of us has our own unique approach to doing this... and the situation this year will test that to its fullest. We can't be together and share company and meals. How do e accomplish this???

Here's my own personal plan.  My plan has been running in full swing for over two weeks now:

"I paint... therefore... I am"

I have created a virtual gallery of small quick oil sketches on 5 x 7 inch panels. I place each as it is completed on its own small easel. The rack has three shelves , each shelf capable of housing three of these wee gems as they appear from my easel.

The subject matter is purposely varied. Yesterday's sketch was a tribute to my now grown sons Liam and Bryn. It has a definite Easter "feel" ... being a still life holding their treasured personal egg cups. Bryn was Mouse... Liam the Loud Lion. Very appropriate!

 Overheard this morning: Liam to Bryn

"What do you mean... Easter is cancelled???"

Here is a shot recording the Grand Opening of our new and virtual Sherman Pandemic Paint Box Gallery. The virtual visitors have been very supportive and enthusiastic. Could this perhaps not... be just a joke???

I wonder...

I will venture out soon to pay a visit with Allison... at her commemorative tree planted in her honor on the Kingston waterfront in front of the Kingston General Hospital where she received treatment s... and finally passed. IT is the place where the Sherman Circle of Loved ones and Friends meet to honor her on special occasions.

Then back to my easel to complete another Pandemic Painting.

Stay tuned...

PS  Happy Easter to all! Stay Home... and Stay healthy! Blessings to your house from ours!

"This too... shall pass."

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Looking... and Painting... Thoughtfully

As artists, we are often led to believe that our thinking and painting must reflect a deep and highly intellectual idea... a novel idea, or unique approach. We then search relentlessly... and often actually contribute to the "blocks"to our productivity in searching thus.

One strategy that I employ in my own painting process is to cross reference various activities that I enjoy one to another. I love to walk... usually favoring early morning or late in the evening. That might mean being up before sunrise, or conversely after dark... especially on moonlit nights.

In both cases, I am seeking an uninterrupted solitude. It within these quiet spaces  when my creative mind can perform the mindful gymnastics and connect with the natural world around me.

I would offer these next few glimpses of paintings that represent the dividends  coming out of this approach.

"Jail Birds"- 10 x 12 inch oil on canvas

This light - filled, yet moody subject incorporates two (on the surface) unrelated elements. The building located in Hillsdale, for many years served as a jail to hold law breakers until they could be transported to a larger center for trial.

On the ground, oblivious to the location... blackbirds conduct their late evening meal... readying themselves for their fall migration southward. The color in the backdrop subtly alludes to that fact.

Sometimes... a simple observation in an everyday setting can elevate the smallest "idea"... turning it into a gem. The choice of a thought- provoking title adds even further to the appeal. Word play is as well... a valuable asset in choosing one's ideas to paint.

I have held this post in reserve for a very long time now... which is not at all unusual for me. I often by greeting cards in a similar fashion because the image and thoughts capture my imagination and visual tastes. Such is the case here.

I have not posted intentionally for a very long period of time and I has actually come to the site this morning to shut it down permanently. I spend a lot of time... thinking about the message and the artwork and the word content to support each post. 

Lately, I have struggled to maintain my optimism for Blogger as a social medium platform. That has not changed. I  am offering today's post to try... one last time to bridge the troubled water here and in the world today because of the pandemic threats.

I have switched my attention to Face Book and have been posting with good success and enthusiasm. I have been creating and posting small 5 x 7 inch oil on panel paintings with a short message. It has been well received and my Faith for the recovery process has been revitalized. So here is a sample you can use as a yard stick of worth. Head to Face Book... if it suits your fancy.

In any event, I offer blessings and prayers for each of the circle of friends who have been so faithful along my blogging journey. Stay well... and  STAY INSIDE... practice social distancing... if you must go outside!

"Down to the River, Ivy Lea" - 5x7
 inch oil on panel

"Homeward Bound, the Canadian Palisades" 
- oil on panel 5 x 7 inches

"Looking Up Loon Lake" 
- oil on panel 5 x 7 inches

"River B(U)oys... Waiting For Spring" 
- oil n panel 5 x 7 inches

"Guild's Boat Livery, Mallorytown Landing
- oil on panel 5 x 7 inches

"Spring... Spanning Winter"
-5 x 7 inch oil on Panel

Monday, March 9, 2020

March... the Time When Spring Tosses Winter to the Side of the Road

March is such a mysterious month. A month like none other really. It seems to change day to day... and if one is attuned... one will easily note that changes do occur hourly.

Looking into the ravine located just to the east of our building a new pink haze dominates the crowns of the trees. That haze is attributable to the newly opened buds... all within the same hours today.

Other new "happenings" coincide with these just mentioned. Every day this week, skeins of noisy, excited Canada geese... migrating to northern summer nesting grounds high overhead signal yet another annual change.

Noisy American robins dart here and there perhaps in search of food... but more likely are establishing territorial claims.

I could go on with observations that tell me... that spring is in the air. However, I have chosen to couple up my most recent painting completed this week with a poem entitled March... ironically written exactly eight years ago on Friday, March 9th, 2012.

Ironically???... I wonder!


Yester week's deep drifts of powder are all but vanished,
Bone-chilling cold... by a warmer sun has been banished.
White isles of snow in a tawny ocean of brown,
The air is perfumed pungently by the smell of bare ground.
Winter's ermine mantle has become rather ruddy,
Sullied by the rain and by thawing fields muddy.

High winds play tag through the now budding bough,
The quiet of winter replaced by new birdsong now.
Long quiet streams awaken from their sleep,
The dark rushing waters have a promise to keep.
Together... these harbingers trumpet the arrival of a king,
The coronation of Hope... and the arrival of Spring!

Here is the initial white chalk drawing on a 24 x 30 inch birch cradle board  panel, toned with black gesso. I find such mapping easy to interpret and easy to change randomly if necessary'

The painting process nearly always begins for me with a lay in of the lightest area... the sky. I work slowly through the middle ground... leaving the forground to be resolved last. Here, the greater amount of detail and exact colors are placed  to draw the viewer deep into the background.

Here I have "danced in" the snow patches and posts which create an interesting visual composition and pattern. All that remains to be done now... is "to push and pull" tonal values to balance and correct earlier interpretations. I also take time to add in what American Impressionist Master Emile Gruppe called... color surprises, This strategy encourages the brain of the viewer to search for these bits of eye candy.

Here is the final product... "March... a Time When Spring Sets Winter By the Side of the Road."

I hope that you can feel the joy that Spring delivers to my soul. Whether in verse ... or in paint the Natural World and its wonders continue to sustain me and to help me to continue to believe... the "Goodness exists. (Thank you to a fav Quebecois writer/novelist, Louise Penny for this wonderfully uplifting thought,)

Happy Spring Painting... to ALL!

Rich blessings of Joy and Good Health!

Monday, March 2, 2020

"What a Difference A Day Makes... " Part Two

And what a difference - when one is prepared physically and mentally to paint... be it inside or outside. It is the state of mind that sets the tempo for success in creating anything.

Certainly on this occasion, the weather was more than cooperative... providing sunny conditions and without gusting winds to provide further discouragement.The extra snow that had fallen overnight further created interesting contrast and shadows to enliven the dull grayness of the previous day.

I considered scrapping the first misfire, but decided against it.. just to prove to myself that something positive is gathered simultaneously along with "failure." It is a point of view really. Is it really total failure... or could it be changed into a... learning opportunity.

I had seen David's quick and successful response... even in the drabness of the first outing, so why not keep the perspective and shape into my own new view using the positive aspects offered today! Onward...

I will fast forward the process right to the finished result. One two and a half hour session... and done. Sign it!

"Spring... is just around the Corner" - oil on canvas 10 x 12 inches

Sure is beginning to feel that way...

Good Spring Painting... to All!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

"What a Difference... A Day Makes..." Part One

Yes... the title of my post for today is derived from a soothing hit pop single by Dinah Washington in 1956. Today... some forty-four years later her soothing voice "speaks " still to me and rekindles a sense of peace and possibility.

Combine this with the plein air painting experience that I was blessed to share with my long time friend David Kay and one can easily understand how painting... and music can shape one's state of happiness.

Today's post comes with  a strangely unexpected  twist. Scarcely one day after the huge success we enjoyed together at Smuggler's Cove, David and I came face to face with winter weather that was much less encouraging, or forgiving... especially for me!

Heading out to our second site located right across the road in historic Barriefield Village, we recognized immediately the challenge ahead of us. The wind strafed our roadside set up. So we decided to paint under the overhanging lid of the trunk. It was indeed a very cramped space, but despite this fact David immediately launched into his usual setup... including two bungee cord straps to secure his easel to the trunk of my van.

I, on the other hand tried to summon enough courage to even kick start my own set up. So blustery and punishing was the wind and drizzle, I even considered just watching David work. But I finally and reluctantly, I decided to join in "the fun" with him.

Though I searched diligently, I found no success in finding my own kit... including my paint box, or my paints. Then, I pictured them... nestled together in a warm corner of my small apartment studio.

Euchred - is the word that comes to mind. Another "E' word.  Embarrassed also comes to mind. David doesn't rub it in... but his puckish smile achieves a similar result. What a gaff!

At least I had my easel and a burnt sienna toned 10 x 12 inch canvas. David graciously offered a small pointer bristle brush and permission to dip into his titanium white on his palette. I did so and managed to carry this failed orphan home at the end of a very much shortened on location session.

Here is that misfire... unabridged in my studio. David came back with something much more substantial. Good on you David! Your inspiration will power me to step up to save face at least... on another day!

                                                       The drab site...

                                   The unfinished  "Black Sheep" version

Look at the rich color... dynamic composition and certainty of his brushwork! Bravo David! I'm inspired!!!

Stay tuned...

Tomorrow... and I'll be prepared!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Sugar Moon = Spring Tonic

                                                        Sugaring Off

                             "Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches

We are entering that magical and long-awaited time of year - Spring. Daylight arrives earlier each day... and lasts longer before giving way to darkness. Bird and squirrel behavior suddenly takes on overtones of chase and mating. Dormant trees show flashes of pinkness in their canopies and budding at the tips of each branch.

The waiting game imposed by winter's cold loses strength... thawed by the increased warmth of longer days and more direct sunshine. Spring has announced her short, but grand entrance bringing new hope and promise to all living creatures - even to humankind.

The moonscape, "Sugar Moon" shown above truly captures the magic of this season of change. It captures ever so eloquently the annual rite of spring which we celebrate here in Canada. A rite which has faithfully played itself out since the indigenous beginnings of settlement.

Later arriving European settlers learned the techniques from First Nation gatherers and have carried forward the ritual right through to the present day, introducing production and quality to higher levels.

As a plein air painter, I have been privileged over many springs to join in to this spring activity in many maple bushes around rural Ontario and Quebec.  It signals a sense of renewal for me as well... and confirmation that Hope lives on in my own heart for the planet  and for the survival of such natural wonders of "maple magic."

Plein Air Painting

In so many ways, plein air painting mimics the process of gathering maple syrup. Both activities are carried on in the outdoors in winter... both "tapping" the energy and resources found only in the natural world.

Sap is gathered from the spiles driven into the maple trees in the bush. It is gathered into buckets... or relayed by a series of plastic hoses back to a central gathering shed called a shanty. Here it it is fed on to pans, or into boilers for several hours. This reduction of water content, or boiling down creates a thicker refined sugary form we call maple syrup syrup... aka "Canadian liquid gold."

As plein air artists, we follow a similar pathway outdoors to gather information that we find "sweet" to the eye and imagination. We reconstitute the forms, contours, planes and colors which lay before us into a rough, sketchy outline which we usually carry back to the studio. Here we can adjust reality... to suit our tastes... "warming it by adding our own flavor/style. Sometimes... we even use this sketch to create a much larger and more powerful statement or record.

On Thursday, my long time plein air painting pal, David Kay arrived with his lovely wife Diane for a visit... and painting trip to my neck of the woods. We packed our gear into my van and headed to a favorite location of mine... "Smuggler's Cove" located at Ivy Lea Provincial Park. The site is a fair way off road, so we had to pack our gear in and out over a distance on snow covered trails.

                                                  David at the easel

AWB... in full winter armor... oblivious to all else save what lays silently before me.

I will leave the language path here at this point and will leave you to enjoy the pictures and paintings we made to record our activity. You can be the judge of our success. I will end by simply adding, "Though Mother Nature did her very best to challenge our enjoyment and mettle... both David and I reveled in the warmth and pleasure of each other's company... and the deep silence in "Manitouanna" - God's Garden of Eden."

"He leadeth me beside  still waters... it restoreth my soul."

And it truly did! A veritable "Spring Tonic" which my generation applied at winter's end to regain new energy and vitality.

Stay tuned for the adjusted final edition...

Here's my subject source...raw to the eye... accompanied below by my interpreted field version.

               "Spring...Carving Into Winter" - oil on canvas 11 x 14 inches

Plein airing in winter can be as pleasurable as in all of the other seasons. The trick is to be dressed or the weather that presents itself... and to be in the company of that special friend with whom you can share it. In this case... I had chosen well.