Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year... A Fresh Palette!

With Christmas now backstage... awaiting the final curtain call for the year 2010 tomorrow evening, it seems appropriate to revisit... and to take stock of the past year's events and changes to plot a curse for the New Year in both our personal and artistic lives.

I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my family members... sharing time with each... and small gifts... as we had agreed upon earlier. The agreed focus this year was to be "presence"... rather than "presents". It did indeed work wonderfully and allowed us to spend time together ... enjoined in the warmth of each other's company... sharing laughter... good food... music and board games - in the true spirit of a Family Christmas.

January will be a month for focusing my energies on my upcoming solo show at AyrSpace Gallery in Ayr, Ontario. I intend to work hard to produce the final "signature" pieces in the show. As has always been my custom in my teaching and artistic lives... I work in themes in order to explore a central "Idea"... coming at that theme from many different angles.

I have chosen to work en plein air to gather ideas and to paint outdoors in all four seasons... so the theme "Painting Through the Seasons" seemed a natural concept to develop and present at this exhibition of my work. Most of the pieces will either have been created totally... or in part on location... with a few much larger works being developed out of my earlier plein air work.

My daughter Allison gifted me with a copy of "Defiant Spirits" by British Art Historian Ross King. This well-written oeuvre chronicles the rise of The Group of Seven painters and lays waste the myths, legends and inaccuracies that have for too long been embraced as "the embodiment" of Canadian Fine Art production in the Twentieth Century.

Most Canadians have been enculturated to believe... and wrongly so... that The Group of Seven created a totally unique and "new" Canadian Art Movement. All Canadian artists and critics since then... myself included... have followed the furrows they laid down attempting to align our stylism and vision with theirs.... seeking a truly "Canadian" identity and voice.

My son Andrew, Allison's brother gifted Deb and I with a two year family membership to the McMichael Collection, located in not too distant Kleinburg. This collection of Canadian Art was created Robert and Signe McMichael to house their lifelong collection of Group of Seven paintings... at first in their log home Tapawingo... which would grow to become the mecca for Canadian artists and art lovers.

I visited this sacred place in my journey dozens of times... often taking my children and on several occasions my Tuesday Art Club students over thirty years. It has never failed to inspire and encourage my journey. It in honest truth... the very core of my artistic being. I unabashedly "feel" the energy of the Canadian landscape... and the pride in our heritage. But I have always recognized, having majored in Art History... that Canadian Art... including that of the Seven ... or Western Art in general owe much to the European Masters and Movements. How could we not?

The closing exhibition of 2010 that we visited as a family on December 30Th... to our surprise... was aptly entitled: The Defiant Spirits... and was curated by none other than the guest curator Ross King. The exhibition was simply a visual passageway for the book and King's ideas. How visually stunning... and intellectually it was! Everything came together: the book... the images and the ideas.

I am deeply blessed... once again... to have children who recognize my passion and who willingly share my deep and abiding love for the craft of making art. It is marvellous to be able to embrace and share common values and interests.. in this age of ipads and ear buds... ebooks and video games... where one is always remote from the other "interacting" individual(s)... with REAL people... face-to-face. I feel a dinosaur so often... choosing not to be involved with electronic toys (beyond this one).

Having experienced reading this book... seeing this exhibition... and in connecting through this blog forum to so many wonderfully talented and friendly artists around the globe... "I" feel much more connected... and in step with our common passion and craft. I more fully realize... and subscribe to this passage from King's book and note in "Sketches" The Members Journal Fall/Winter 2010:

"Van Gogh believed that greatness could be achieved "by working from nature... without imitating other people." But the painter's mind can never be wiped clean. Every artist no matter how innovative or original, is inevitably a fusion of prior influences and the legacy of artistic fore bearers."

So when we get down on ourselves... lamenting the fact that we don't have our own style... or a "fresh" idea... perhaps it would better serve us all just to get back to our easels... indoors or en plein air... and to push pigment for the sheer joy of doing so. Life is short... and each artist has only so many paintings he or she can make in that small space in time we have been given to enjoy! As Group of Seven member Alfred J (AJ) Casson so aptly put it:

"Time... is the only critic."

Count your blessings... and share your Joy!

Happy New Year... and Good Painting to ALL!

Thank you all... for your visits and comments!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All !

My post tonite features the stained glass artistry of my wife Deb. This angel joyfully adorns the top of our annual Christmas Tree. Each morning, I rise early... usually around 5:00 am ... put on the coffee pot.. and then head into the living room and light the Christmas Tree.

I return with coffee in hand and settle into my favourite wing back chair... and just take in the wonder of the colour and quiet. This is my ritual throughout the entire Christmas Season. This affirms for "Me" the rich blessings which "I" enjoy... and confirms that life is full... and that "I" have so very much to be thankful for.

Underneath the tree I see unopened presents... awaiting the excited hands of the younger Shermans on Christmas morning. I can't help but think that many children both here and in other parts of the world are less fortunate. They will scarcely have enough... or perhaps even nothing to eat... much less... gifts under a tree. Many will never taste the joy of freedom... sleep without fear. These are gifts the we, here in the Western World take so for granted.

This morning I was moved to create this word thought/ poem. I send it out with much warmth and love to those of you who follow my blog... and who share my Hope for a more Peaceful and Equitable World... where sharing and caring might rise above cultural barriers and biases.

Merry Christmas.... Many blessings and Much Peace to all !... From "Me"... and My Christmas Angel...Deb!

Oh Christmas Angel!

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Please share your radiant light-
And send it down to Me.
Drive out Winter's darkness and set my heart free,
Help me to become the very best "I" can be.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Help restore the wonder
Of The Child... within Me.
Replace all the cares of these weighty adult ways,
And restore the many blessings of my sweet childhood days.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Stir the glad tidings-
And the Joy... within Me.
Shine on our families and friends, near and far,
To tell them how loved and important they are.

Oh Christmas Angel...
Perched high atop our tree,
Please share our Light with others-
Don't shine it... just on Me.
Sprinkle your blessings of Joy from above,
So that others around us.... may feel our evergreen Love!

Merry Christmas!.... Happy New Year.... and Peace on Earth... and Good Painting to All!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Solstice... the Return of Light!

A number of my West Coast blogger friends have chosen to celebrate the occurrence of the Winter Solstice by symbolically selecting lighthouses to mark the return of Light. Having lived most of my life on the shore of the St Lawrence River, Lake Ontario at Kingston and in Nova Scotia for five years... "I" share a love for these maritime monuments and have painted a good number of them.

There has recently been an initiative, dating to the 1990's on the part of The Canadian Coast Guard to de-staff manned working lighthouses across the country... arguing that it can save money by automating the remainder of its 241 major working lighthouses along our coasts. There are 50 staffed lighthouses remaining in this country: 23 in Newfoundland and Labrador, 27 in British Columbia.

Senator Bill Rompkey has been chairing a review committee in the matter and in the report offered by the committee suggested: "We've fallen in love with technology. It's become the answer to everything. There are a lot of times when it doesn't work. You need human beings to use the technology."

After discussing the issue with lighthouse keepers, businesses and maritime officials on both coasts, the committee has determined that the issue of de-staffing be put on hold at present until a full cost analysis and appraisal of other public services offered by lighthouses and their keepers can be properly evaluated.

Rompkey also stated: "That lightkeepers have a number of useful roles: search and rescue for those in distress, observing oil and other pollutions, monitoring suspicious traffic including drug smugglers, criminal excursions and illegal immigration."

In Ontario. a number of private citizen groups in a number of Great Lakes locations have adopted/ assumed responsibility for structural maintenance for lighthouse that had been threatened by demolition orders issued by The Coast Guard to insure their survival.

It is indeed beyond being a pity... it is a travesty that our government... small "g" fully intended... has so little value for heritage... or for that matter concern for the personal well-being of its citizens. We are a maritime country. It shall always be so. It makes sense to maintain a human presence in the business of guiding marine traffic along our many thousands of miles of often rugged and dangerous coastlines.

My first jpeg (appropriate for this time of year) depicts a "Light in the East" ... located at Rustico, Prince Edward Island. It has been replaced by an automated light. The second is Squamish Light in British Columbia... and I believe, is still manned.

May these magnificent monuments... to our maritime traditions here in Canada... shine on.. to light the way for mariners who so depend upon their luminous presence!

As well... May the True Light of Christmas light the homes and hearts of all my blogging Friends!

Merry Christmas to all... and to all... a good Light!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Came Calling!

Winter has been hesitant... even reluctant to fully enter our Oro-Medonte area for several weeks now. Snow would come and go... driven off and melted away by unseasonable temperatures and a warm sun. In late November... I was painting en plein air in little more than my trusty red mackinaw... not even requiring my usual light winter cotton gloves. One could find snow in pockets and along north-facing slopes... and in the curves of furrows running the length of farmer's plowed fields.

However...that all abruptly ended this week... as Winter stormed frigidly into our area... full force... and dead out of the North. We, at present have over 20 cm on the ground... much to the joy of local ski resorts and skiers. To the west... in the London-Sarnia area of Southwestern Ontario a state of emergency was declared today. The armed forces helicopters were called in to assist in the rescue of 300 motorists trapped on Highway 410. Last weekend... that same area recorded a weekend snowfall of 146 cm of snow. It is indeed an unseasonable rough start for snow removal crews... but much embraced by the 100's of school children who had three school-free snow days in the one week!

The weather has made driving both dangerous and even foolhardy. Many roads were closed early in the day today... due to the glare ice conditions caused by the blowing wind and wet snow accumulation of yesterday freezing overnight. These conditions really reduced any hope of visits to the Gallery on the weekend. We just hung out... and gift wrapped.

I have included some jpegs to demonstrate the above conditions... and have included a poem/ word thought that I put together early on Sunday morning. In think it expresses similar thoughts to the visuals sent along! Hope that you enjoy them!

Despite these inconveniences... I continue to love winter! It is a magical time to paint outdoors!

Good Painting to All... and Happy Holidays!

Winter Came Calling
The snow has come
The robin's fled,
And all the world is tucked in bed
The brooks are hushed,
The woodlands bare
Except for firs
Sprinkled here and there.

A world much changed
Where Winter reigns,
Where Jack Frost decorates window panes.
Where children play
And count the hours,
Til' old Santa's visit,
To your place... and ours.

The woodland worlds,
Once dark and green,
Are turned into perfect postcard scenes.
Each spruce decked out in an ermine coat,
On each hand a snowy fingered glove.
A place where multi-coloured shadows play,
With dancing sunlight from the sky above.

Winter... with his cold,
Seems to finally win the day,
Directing warm Autumn thoughts
Towards Spring thoughts... too far away.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trees ... Christmas Thoughts... Light and Musing

We are quickly approaching the time of the annual Winter Equinox. That date on our calendar corresponds to... and likely accounts for the practice our Christian celebration of Christmas... the birth of Jesus Christ, according to our Christian tradition. Symbolically... both events signal the return of Light to the earth after a long period of hardship and darkness and give reason for those who have been awaiting the Light's return to celebrate and give thanks.

The tree plays a central role in this annual Western World pageantry in almost every home. We decorate our trees with electric lights and shiny, colourful, reflecting decorations. earlier trees were adorned with small tapers to illuminate the houses... and fill the darkened world with Light. Yule logs were dragged into the homes and palaces of the rich with much pomp and singing to give warmth and light. Most modern homes are equipped with wood or gas -burning open fireplaces that become the centre for family gatherings.

Fire and heat... both initially being bi-products of trees... have drawn mankind from our first moments in history... into a dependent relationship with trees. While urban Westerners are less dependent upon trees and wood for these needs, rural areas are still partially dependent- and in other parts of the underdeveloped world they continue to be totally dependent for light, cooking and heat requirements.

Another aspect of our dependence on trees is focused upon our building and tool technological needs. We still frame and clad using wood... furnish and decorate with it and use it as a disposable natural resource for use as a commodity in trade with other countries whose supply of raw wood and lumber is unreliable, or non-existent.

So... we can rightly assume that trees will continue to be a valued and necessary partner in Mankind's pursuit of a sustainability of its presence here on this "Blue Planet". We will continue to depend totally upon the remaining forests of the planet to provide oxygen.... reduce carbon dioxide... and cover the bases in the many ways mentioned above... in all parts of the world... simultaneously.

As one of my regular readers mentioned in his comment, the old adage that he had grown from his youth hearing... still dumb founded and disturbed him... as it does "Me" as well.

"You can't see the forest for the trees." Think about that statement for a moment. What makes that so? "I" believe that Man arrogantly looks at all resources with a sense of collectivity. We look at the vastness and seemingly endless supply of trees... fish... water... minerals... atmosphere... species... with complete arrogance and disregard for the fact that each one of these seemingly boundless resources can be reduced... through arrogance and wholesale harvesting... to one.... then .... none.

We certainly accomplished it easily within less than one hundred years with the passenger pigeon... the bison... the Labrador Duck and if conservationist groups around the world are to be believed.... many single species are disappearing daily. No species or resource is limitless... nor can we afford to believe so.

We can make a difference individually... through better buying choices and use of resources... by educating our young and our neighbours through our actions and our willingness to speak out and assume an active role either together... or alone to change the flow of consumerism and unnecessary development through active and proper stewardship practices.

My question to "You"... in closing is a simple one really. Do "You" care enough to leave a rightful birth right for your children and grandchildren to enjoy in their lifetimes... or will we continue to squander it and take all of it to our graves with us?

Will "We... "pave Paradise... and put in a parkin' lot?" (Joanie Mitchell)

Paint a Tree... or a Forest of trees... for the world to "see"... and share it! Pass it forward!
Another folksy old "tree"truism: "The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree."
Think about that! What are your children and grandkids learning from your actions/inactions??? I wonder! Talk n' walk with them in forests. Introduce them to a tree!

This is my contribution from this week's plein air activity. "Birch Copse In Early Winter"- oil on canvas 24x20 inches.Yes... Winter has arrived here! Snow has fallen all day... every day for the last five consecutive days! Just in time for Christmas! Let it snow!

Good Painting to ALL!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Balancing Truth... and Fantasy

"One and all, we at some time fabricate a 'world of our own;' a world in which we are both creator and participant. Infants play happily with 'friends' unseen and unknown to anyone but themselves. Older children are able to weave highly descriptive tales, and delight in the intricacies of costume, character and plot. However, in only a few of us is the creative intimacy of these fabulous worlds kept alive, and nurtured, through the years that lead to adulthood.

To a select few is given the gift of recalling, revisiting and, thankfully reproducing their worlds of fantasy."

From the introduction by Leo John De Freitas
Arthur Rackham
British Illustrator
Edited by David Larkin

What a beautiful passage to encapsulate the core of most artists! We are without exception, members of a powerful fraternity of 'Peter Pans'... who refuse to relinquish their imaginary worlds and visions for the sake of gaining entry into the comfortable and 'taken- for granted' milieu of adulthood. How often have you been challenged and reminded sarcastically... "to grow up!" or to... "Act your age!"... from every corner of your life? We choose to live in harmony with each other , for the most part... and with an unusual and abiding respect for... and dependence upon the Natural World in which we dwell.

Recently, one of my Blogging Friends suggested that artists... including her Self... have larger than life egos and insatiable appetites for attention and notoriety. To some extent "I" could agree... if the use of the word ego corresponded to the dictionary meaning I found... that ego meant self-esteem. Then this would be so. Having the courage (out of a positive sense of Self) to create and display one's creations without fear of criticism or comparison is a positive attribute... that I only wish others could feel and practise in their lives.Obviously... like in other places of endeavour ... there are the others... but they are not from my own experience the average.

The Truth is that there is a distinct and radical difference between the term ego and egotist. An egotist is one whose elevated sense of self-esteem reflects only an interest in themselves and their less than realistic, or fair evaluation of their own self-importance. This being said... let's get back to Arthur Rackham.

I have singled out Rackham's work because so much of his illustrative mastery and oeuvre dedicates itself to less than Disney depictions of the his Faeries... or their magical kingdoms in which they dwell. The elves and sprites he creates are really... as De Freitas suggests "derivative of the bark and branches of the trees in which they live, and of the earth upon which they trod." Gnarled and exposed roots of massive beeches "are to be found in the long, knotted fingers of woodland imps." Beyond the forests of trees harboring these mythological peoples, "the trees themselves are often personified."

Perhaps it was this early introduction to the thought that Faeries and forests could be constructed... if only in one's mind that has caused "Me" to search out... record and trees and elements in the Natural World that support vision and extraordinary opportunities to let one's mind loose... the way that children do. I find it easy to find these "mind benders" - they seem everywhere... if one cares to "see."

I continue to collect old and out of print books about the great illustrators of the past. People like Rackham... Howard Pyle... NC Wyeth... Joseph Leyendecker... Everett Shinn... to name but a few. I was raised on their classic illustrations in classic literature from my earliest childhood reading experiences. Treasure Island...The Christmas Carol... Robinson Cruse... The Drum... Last of the Mohicans.... just to name a few I have in my collection.

The work of those brilliant illustrators provided a keyhole for "Me" to peer through... guiding "Me" to worlds which used art as a vehicle to transport "Me" beyond the blase and restricted world of a small community and limited school curriculum... into vast and limitless worlds of adventure.... fantasy... mystery... courage... and imagination.

As well... in my journey I have met a number of other kindred spirits who share my pleasure and my love for "things wooden." I have included some jpeg images to showcase their visions. I thank woodland hunter-gatherer Maia... for her wonderfully and meticulously beautifully crafted Forest Folk... my wood sculpting fellow artisan on the 7th Line Oro-Medonte for his forest filled with Woodland Spirits... which brighten my day on many an otherwise dreary winter day. They are but one of many kindred spirits who pass forward the love for our forest and tree legacy! Thank "You"...all!

The stump fences which profusely dot the rural landscape in our area and indeed across most of Ontario are the relics left by our settler forefathers. They were pulled and propped along property lines to mark land grants given by the Crown. They are natural sculptures... beautifully twisted... gnarled and weathered by hundreds of silent years of sleep along fence lines. I love to look at them... and realize the effort of the settlers... and the raw beauty of Nature's work.

This site is a forum to share ideas and discoveries in a non-critical fashion. It is meant to encourage sharing... positive discussion and to increase the awareness that the making of Art is a form of expression... deserving the same value as is placed by society... as reading or writing.

I truly hope that my "segway" journey devoted to Trees... encourages others to devote some time and energy to studying forests and trees. They are really often... still life... landscapes... portraits ... and sculpture... in their own right! And they live all around us... no matter where you live!
My last Tree post will show my own playful use of trees using what "I" call my intuitive style where reality and fantasy knit together to create opportunities for me to play... and work outside of the box... and my usually predictably dependency upon detail and what is in front of "Me". Stay tuned!

"I speak for the Trees!"... said the Lorax. And so have "I"!!!

Good Painting to all !

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving... to my Artist Friends in the USA

Our Thanksgiving Day celebration occurs here in Canada during the month of October... so it is well passed... and celebrated. But today... I wish to reiterate my thanks for the blessings of Friends... and share in the celebrations of those of you who are seated around "the bird" everywhere in the USA... or in foreign bases where your young men and women are deployed in the service of their country. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I had planned another focus for today...having forgotten the fact that Thanksgiving festivities did not belong to us alone. So I am sending along one of my Tree images to commemorate your occasion. It is a sugar maple... in all of its blazing autumn glory... a symbol of our own unique heritage. I think it a very appropriate image to enjoin us in giving thanks for the peace that we share within our separate countries... and across a shared and common border.

It brings to mind the wonderful and tender modern day parable "The Giving Tree" by the beloved children's literature writer (now deceased) Shel Sylverstein. This heart warming touching story... tinged though it is with sadness... presents through the relationship over a life time of a tree and a boy and poignantly demonstrates the power of the gift of giving... unconditionally... and the serene acceptance of another 's capacity to love in return.

Call "Maple Glory" my own "Giving Tree" gift to all of "You" in the USA on this Thanksgiving Day ocacasion... who faithfully encourage and share my own artistic journey!

Richest Blessings upon your houses... and Good Painting!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Finding Truth... Through Trees


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow hast lain,
Who ultimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

- Joyce Kilmer

This post is inspired by blogger friends Caroline in Scotland and Karen in British Columbia. Caroline has undertaken a personal challenge to devote a block of her creative time and energy towards studying and sketching trees. Karen chooses to live quietly with her husband and four dogs with trees. I have always been drawn to trees... all kinds because they represent perhaps one of the most adaptable species on our planet and can be found in nearly every type of landscape in all parts of the world.

Throughout the history of man... the tree has commanded the attention and respect of many great thinkers and creative individuals. Trees form the basis of our architectural needs... are sources of heat... sources of food and are the basis of so many utilitarian products that we depend upon in our homes and businesses. Trees serve an even more important role to all living things by creating necessary oxygen which we must breathe... and the elimination of carbon dioxide.

And yet... in spite of the necessity to protect and respect the role of trees in the survival of the of all life on this planet... mankind continues to arrogantly clear cut... slash and burn... and eliminate old growth forests at alarming rates and without any concern of the obvious consequences of this path to destruction for our delicate ecosystem.

As my regular blogger companion Karen so aptly put it in her most recent posting... "We", as artists are "the canaries in the mine"... so to speak. No other group is more closely attuned to the environment and the massive detrimental influence that we as a species are exacting from the planet. In our painting lives ... in all realms... we bear witness to the grim reality that precious natural wild spaces are rapidly disappearing. Sadly... these spaces are lost forever to the sprawl of unrestricted development and the greed of corporate entities... who seem not to have any conscience or sense of responsible stewardship for the interests and well-being of our children of the future.

I have always believed that education of the young is the sole hope for the future... but we are approaching a critical point where recovery could be impossible. We will simply run out of time... and resources will not matter any longer. Life... as we know and enjoy it at present... will itself be in dire jeopardy.

This simple... but eloquent poem by Joyce Kilmer is a relic from my childhood... and the early childhood diet of poetry of so many school children on this continent. I used it effectively, I think... to introduce the importance of trees into elementary education. I added other great creative children's literature like Shel Silverstein's classic "The Giving Tree"... and the Dr Seuss standard... "The Lorax" to create opportunities to cause children to think about and embrace "Green" ideals such as stewardship to carry into their future worlds.

With Christmas quickly approaching... we are a little more than a month away from burying our traditional central image.... the Christmas Tree with gifts for our children. Electronic toys and games... gifts for "thumb monkeys"... will likely be the main fare on Santa's List. Why not throw in a couple of these book titles under your family tree... and some time over the holidays sit in a cozy corner or chair... and share the joy of being together... and the message of hope and optimism that these classics offer to readers of any age. They're timeless... especially... for the "Child Within"!

I intend to join Caroline's challenge and will take up the challenge in my own way. I have done so in the past... gaining a strong personal a feeling of accomplishment and artistic growth. Today... I offer a few examples of previous Tree Adventures from the recent past!
Why not dedicate a few hours of your own time to offering tree images from your part of the world? By enjoining our energies and our brushes... perhaps we can paint a brighter picture of Hope... that others might see and support. What is to be lost? What might be gained?

"I" wonder!!

Good Painting to All !

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance.... Reflection... and Gratitude

No other day in the year ushers in stronger feelings of Gratitude for "Me"... than Remembrance Day. It is a day in my year where I always take time to reflect upon the blessings in my life and upon those individuals who have actively created those blessings.

Amongst a very large list of those countless friends and acquaintances who have actively contributed to my Happiness and Well-being are those names who live eternally in the hearts of all citizens of our nation - those who offered and laid down their precious lives and futures to defend and make possible... even in other remote reaches of the world, the precious daily gifts of Freedom that we enjoy daily in the Western World.

"I" am forever Grateful... and will always remember their precious gift to the living!

I have always gone to the cenotaph in whatever place that I have lived in to join with others in Remembrance and Gratitude since I was a young lad... when we were marched en masse as a school to the town centre to be part of this November 11th ritual in Canada. I will without embarrassment admit that I have never been able to participate without being tearful. I have seen family members "fogged out" and misty-eyed as they laid wreathes in memory of lost sons, brothers, daughters, fathers, uncles and grandfathers. Their loss... has always been shared... and is mine.

However, despite the fact that I had two uncles who served in World War II serve and return home wounded... it would not be until July 4th, 2007 that "the face" of war came to visit me personally. Twenty-seven year old Captain Matthew Dawe became that face... when he and five of his comrades simultaneously became names on Canadian casualty rolls and cenotaphs.

Matthew and my son Andrew had been team mates on a team in The Fort Henry Minor Hockey League during the late 1990's... and even then Matthew displayed that magical leadership quality and wonderful sense of loyalty that would place him in a position of military leadership. His father Lt. Colonel Peter Dawe, now retired was the coach of that team. Jan MacDonald and I helped out as assistant coaches... and lace tiers on many early, icy practice mornings. We were a family... not just a hockey team. When Matt was lost... we felt that crush and disbelief as well... and not just for that single tragic moment.

I think of Matt many days.... Andrew and I often reminisce about those frosty morning practices and breakfasts. How ironic is life... that Matt's very large public funeral would take place in The Constantine Arena -- the very place where our relationship began. Fitting I think.... but hardly "fair"! The Universe does indeed work... in mysterious ways! Life continues with reflection and sadness on this Remembrance Day... for Mattew's family... his wife Tara and his wee son Lucas... and each of us.

Today... I head to Midland... a place I have travelled to for seven consecutive years... to honour these fallen heroes. Be sure that "I" will cry... but not totally out of sadness. I will cry because I am proud to have known Matthew and to have shared a part of his meaningful life.

"I" will never forget! "I" am blessed... and Grateful and will pass forward your gift to all of us!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Risking Putting Re: .... Into Your Vision

I have one of my regular followers of this blog to thank for "kick starting" this post. She was curious and asked how I managed to part with, or sell works such as "The Dimming of the Day" since they seemed to have such a strong personal meaning for "Me."

I will honestly admit from the outset, that "I" tend to hold on to objects and feelings that are important to "Me" far too long and that "I" experience great difficulty "letting go" of these things. I carry them about both... with and within "Me" past practicality and reason. With my paintings however... things are a bit different in this regard.

Painting for "Me" is a passionate pursuit and coming up with ideas to sustain my interest and my productivity has never been a problem. Once I have produced a painting... and have seen it in a frame, I no longer feel any affinity for.... or compulsion to keep it around... no matter the content or personal statement. As a matter of fact... having them lay about makes me want to change them... even to eliminate some or all of the original ideas expressed.

I have long believed that my passion to paint had to be sustained and financially supported by the sale of what I paint. Sales permit me to continue... and to not be resentful of the money and time that I spend to travel... work and paint. That has how I have always viewed how my painting life should be conducted.

"Letting go" ... of an underlying original idea, concept or motive is more difficult for "Me" than selling the piece. I have even been able to overcome that barrier to a large degree since owning and operating our own gallery. Seeing them framed... and on the wall for longer periods of time has offered me the unique opportunity to "live with" pieces longer... even in different light. This new situation has caused me to take courage to... in some cases drastically... rework... or revise what I had considered a strong and finished work.

I felt after looking at these for prolonged periods of time and with ample time to reflect that there were two and very conflicting centres of interest. I spent time carefully reworking areas carefully to remove the "offending" less important focus over the past two weeks. Looking back at the experience, I got carried away with implementing too many ideas simultaneously. It is best... as I have learned through this freeing experience to say what you really mean to say... and say what you need say. Let go of the extraneous... support the obvious!

I am posting "before-and after" jpegs to illustrate just how I attempted to risk adding Re:... into a previous vision. The top one in each case is the original image... the second is the corrected and revised edition. I'll let "You" be the judge of how successful my actions might have been. I'm curious! Look forward to hearing your ideas!

Thank "You"... to Caroline in Scotland for the "nudge to post this idea!

Good Painting to ALL!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Dimming of the Day... A Different Road Taken

My goal as an artist is to always be open to learning... and to risk new pursuits ... to make me think and work... "outside of the box". It is sometimes a long reach of faith... and imagination to work completely in "the dark"... without the safety net created applying my usual rituals... "ploughing" in the same fields... guided by the same team. On this occasion... I really stepped into darkness when I painted an entire 36x48 inch gallery wrap canvas with a coating of acrylic ivory black as an under tone. Even my wife was confounded by my actions.

So began a much different approach to creating a large canvas... "turning on the lights"... changing night into day... a real live... in my face... Genesis! I will say that right from the first mark... with white chalk on that blackboard space... I experienced an epiphany of sorts... a sense of creative power that had visited "Me" only on a very few occasions before. And that feeling of power and energy never left "Me" ... from start to finish on this work. All of my synapses seemed to be firing simultaneously... I could hardly pry myself away from the easel over the four day period that it took to fully complete the canvas.

There were so many personal things from my own life drawn into its structure and making. Firstly... the site is White's Falls, Muskoka ... a very sacred and special place for my family. Deb, the two lads and I had spent so many hours together there.... fishing, hiking, wiener roasting, exploring and sketching... in all seasons. We even enjoyed our New Year's Day dinner there at the fire pit... on the last occasion... in a full blown blizzard under a tarp... drying snowsuits, mittens, socks and boots over a roaring fire. This is indeed a place of many memories... a sacred, spiritual place for "Me"... forever. A landscape that needed to be painted and recorded!

I kept the drawing part of the process very loose... limiting expression only to basic curves and lines... a map really. The entire activity took only a matter of minutes with the resulting drawing leaving "Me" with a feeling that I remembered fondly... akin to my being at the head of my very first class... chalk in hand... and in charge... full of purpose learning to be passed on... or so I hoped! I liked the direction right from the start!

I began the lay in process... deciding to pitch into the sky area first... the applying a generally similar lightest yellow light in the whole sky area and then moved quickly into applying patches of various green foliage values to the background area of the canvas. Next, I lightly established the vague presence and suggestion of the rock outcroppings in the painting.The greens were then introduced slowly into the reflections in the middle ground water area... finally tying that into the foreground area foliage.

At this point, most of the canvas had been worked on to some degree. I decided to add a few more highlights to the rocks... grasses and introduced a few orangish trees to break up the vast amount of green. My next step was to create some individual forms to represent specifically placed fir trees... massing them as I felt a need to create a unifying rhythm within the painting. Note how some of the black is intentionally left to form line and crevice. Colour is compartmentalized carefully to preserve this intent.

I then directed my attention fully to the foreground which had been ignored really to this point. I had used a digital image blown up to 10x8 inches as a reference along with a small pen and ink sketch that I had hastily laid into a sketchbook a year prior to doing this painting. I knew even then... that some day I would make this exact painting. The scarlet maple so attracted my attention on that day... as the sun retreated and we prepared to depart. It dominated the scene... even beyond the beauty and strength of the fading sunlight. It was exhilarating when the reds and oranges were gingerly added... and reached almost raw-from-the-tube alla prima application to the leaves. The complimentary colours really worked well together to create a very strong foreground image.

I played around with the "muddle" of dead juniper branches that were present... but didn't really help the compositional flow that I had envisioned. So... I improvised... "let it all hang out"... just like a jazz group loves to do when they "jam". The result was again pleasing... and seemed to contribute to the direction that I was hoping for. Much of the rest of the remaining two days was devoted to that "push-and-pull... adjusting of values and hue... "tweaking" areas with darks and lights... to enhance and create sparkle and finesse. The last focus was on remaining "black holes" that remained here and there around the canvas. I did not not want opaque blackness appearing dominantly... so I added darker values... but with colour... in the shadowed areas.

As the final painting session was coming to an end... and I was in the process of resurfacing from the subconscious level that one visits ("The Flow" takes "Me" there)... I became aware of the music that Deb had been listening to. Strange how the Universe speaks! The raspy, plaintive voice of a "regular" songbird in our studio ... Bonny Raitt was in the midst of one of our favourites...The Dimming of the Day. All the world was right! Mission accomplished! From darkness into the light... and back. The end of a great day... and a great learning experience!

"You" might want to give this one a try... on a dreary... no direction kind of day... that we all suffer... from time to time! Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul !

Good Painting to All !

PS Do Google....Boonie Raitt and get an earful and soul full o' Dimming of the Day!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventure... and Misadventure In Algonquin Park

I just returned from a second trip back to Algonquin Park. I was looking forward to a couple more days of fall plein air painting with my painting pal David Kay. I was delivering a load of wholesale frames to David that he had ordered from Deb and we were going to sketch for two days.

As I approached the West Gate entrance at Dwight, the weather took a quick turn for the worst. It began pouring rain and looked like it would continue for the remainder of the day. Since David and his wife Diane were not to arrive back in Whitney from a shopping trip to Bancroft... it had been my plan to paint my way to their place and to arrive late in the day for supper.

It seemed a waste of money to purchase the necessary day permit to try and paint in such a down pour... so I decided to gather photo reference along the way in lieu of trying to paint. Thus began my Algonquin Misadventure!I stopped at a high bluff overlooking a beautifully panoramic view of Source lake and jumped out excitedly to take several useful photo references. Upon returning to my van... I discovered that I had locked the driver's side door upon jumping out. I was now standing clad only in a light shirt... looking at a completely locked out situation five miles in either direction from help in the cold rain.

My first response was of course panic... followed by several minutes of copious self-deprecating name-calling. Finally, I decided to try and hail a passing vehicle to try and hitch a ride to the nearest Park Authority. After three badly failed attempts... I returned to the van to seek another plausible solution. I tried my cell phone... but found it out of signal range in this corridor. I thought that perhaps I should find a large, heavy rock and gain entry by smashing the passenger window- a costly choice that I wisely decided to leave until there were no further possible choices.

I considered trying to walk for help but my woods and canoeing experience told me two things. When lost... sit down in the woods rather than wander aimlessly. Think... and make a plan. The canoeing rule is the same. Stay with the canoe. Never try to swim to safety... the boat floats and buys you time! Reason prevailed and I returned roadside to try and hail a passing vehicle. As my luck would have it... the next vehicle... a white half ton truck driven by a young installation technician stopped and offered to help me find a solution.

Corey Dolan of Arnprior was on his way to a job in Burke's Falls. He carried with him a full tool kit and a tire iron. Within an hour, we managed to wedge open the door frame (without causing damage) and insert a braided piece of stove pipe wire to lift the inside door latch. MY misadventure drew to a satisfactory conclusion... thanks to a stranger's generosity and good will. We shook hands... I said many thank yous and I asked for his business card. His good deed was not going to go unrewarded!

The rain unfortunately continued into the next day... but David and I headed out to Opeongo Road, knowing that there were good subjects to work at. I arrived earlier than David and had completed a small 8x10 inch canvas along the highway and was well into my second attempt on a 14x18 inch tamarack theme on Lake Opeongo Road. We spent the rest of the afternoon painting together and "talking art"... just sucking in the muted beauty and quiet of a setting that a week before had been hectic and overrun by "autumn leafers"... as the locals refer to them.

David and I said our goodbyes and I headed westward on Highway 60 toward the West Gate... content with my day's work and enjoying the wistful rain-darkened beauty of the remaining oak, birch and evergreen stands of colour in the distant hills and the many swamps on both sides of the highway. It was a bitter-sweet feeling to be leaving... bitter because I feel so at peace here in The Park... but sweet... that I was heading home to Deb and the Gallery.

As I approached Source Lake.... the location of the earlier Misadventure... my eye caught some movement on the lake side of the highway. There... less than thirty feet away were THREE bull moose blissfully grazing up to their knees in a bog. I quickly pulled over.... camera in hand... and headed slowly back across the highway to their location. Two of the bulls were immature with only nubs instead of a rack... but between the two stood a very sizable and obviously in-charge, dominant bull with a huge rack. They all continued to graze... paying little or no attention to me as I advanced cautiously towards them.

At one point the large bull raised his head while continuing to chew... then resumed his feeding. I moved towards an opening in the tag alders that were between he and I... being VERY careful to watch and be ready to beat a hasty retreat if his body language changed. Bull moose are VERY dangerous and unpredictable during their rut season. They view any intrusion into their space and territory as confrontational... and are more than prepared to drive out the "competition"- even human!

I was able to come within ten feet and kept shooting continuously (without flash). I had never in my nearly thirty years of coming to The Park been this close to this majestic animal. It was intoxicating... and an unexpected and unusual gift to share this time and space. Suddenly... his patience with my presence reached an end. He looked up and turned his head (and rack) to face me directly. By the changed and more focused look in his eyes... I knew that it was time to leave them alone. I backed away... still facing him ... VERY slowly and crossed back to the van... with its driver door open.

Sometimes... "The Universe" provides unexpected blessings.... gifts of a life time. I will always remember this "fifteen minutes" and cherish them always. Studio painting never offers this firsthand gift.

"I" ... am again...deeply blessed!

Good Painting to All!

PS I sent of a 10x12 sketch I did at The Oxtongue Rapids Road... not far from Source Lake... to my Roadside Assistant/ Good Samaritan.... Corey Dolan of Arnprior. Thank "You" Corey!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When Life Takes You Away........

It is no secret that every one's life is governed by outside influences and demands. Each of us has activities we passionately pursue without requiring outside motivation or direction. I would venture to say that each of us struggles to find a balance in our lives of "obligations"... and "preferences".

In short... life often has a habit of "getting in the way" in our individual pursuit of our art making and that situation in my own case is akin to feeling a need to go to the bathroom badly... but with no place readily in sight to do so. Painting for "Me" is a form of release... and not unlike going to the bathroom... leaves me relieved and less anxious about life.

Being unable to complete the demo begun at the Willowdale Artist Group evening was excruciating. It beckoned to me from the easel at every coming and going from the studio. But a trip eastward to properly celebrate Allison's 31st birthday and to meet with my dentist in Brockville for a wisdom tooth extraction took precedent over any whim or desire to paint.

We joyously, and fittingly celebrated Allison's special day with a fine evening of catch up and fine food at Chez Piggy's in Kingston... very appropriate because Allison's alter ego from childhood is MS Pig. And yes... I did show up at the tusk removal party at Peter Culp's Boardwalk Dentistry... and came away shy one molar. The Tooth Faery didn't even bother showing up to reward my bravery. I did get to pick an "adult" gift from Peter's "Tickle Trunk" for well-behaved adult clients! I chose an oven mitt that says:" Barbecue sauce covers a lot of mistakes". That will go to my son Andrew, Allison's "Bro" for his 29Th Birthday Bundle from Dad and Deb.

The "hole" has given me quite a bit of discomfort since Tuesday... so painting was not on my mind. But finally... I stepped up the easel yesterday and pushed forward... slowly at first.. but finally found "The Flow"... and the rest is history. Mission accomplished! I did indeed find the necessary bushes and cover to relieve my Self... artistically!

My apologies to the Willowdale members for the delay in delivering "the package. But I will confess that the hiatus did allow time that eventually worked to my benefit in completing the piece. I (bravely decided... with Deb's suggestion) to use my palette knife to "texturize" the bridge elements in the foreground... creating weight and strong visual contrast to the more even brushwork in the middle and background. I used the knife also to "edge" the vertical dead spruce with strong light. I think that these additional effects do enhance the overall effect of the painting. Just a reminder. The structure that I mentioned early was the basis for being able to go back to the piece after a long delay. It was easier to get back on board because the structure was there. Enough said!

Today's three jpegs record the process from the final studio 30x24 inch version at the top, followed by the 10x8 inch plein air sketch ... the demo lay in third... to a poorly photographed finished 30x24 inch studio canvas at the bottom. (I had trouble deleting this one)

Hope that the finished painting gives everyone insight into what I had striven to lay in originally. One can readily see the additional new directions that came out of the initial start . Nothing is in stone using oils. Change can occur with a few new brave strokes... or a swipe of the knife. "Painting With Courage and Conviction" was the theme for my presentation. I feel that this canvas fills the bill adequately!

Good All!