Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Algonquin Park....... Spring underway

I entered the Park's West Gate around 10:00 am.... primed to paint. The temperature was hovering at -10C and the windchill made it feel like -20 or more. Finding something interesting to paint was hardly a problem. Finding a place out of the influence that bone-chilling and constantly gusting wind was indeed the problem.

By 10:30 I had found such a haven on Rock Lake Road... nestled amongst spruce cover with some snow still hiding along the edge of the dark water creek and marsh... creating contrast and interest. The Park still has retained lots of snow on north-facing slopes and all the lakes still hold enough safe ice on their surfaces to make it likely that they will retain their icy cover well into April... which is the norm.

By 11:30 I had the 12x16 sketch to a pleasing level of finish... so I packed up and moved down to Opeongo Road... a favourite "roost" over the years for our plein air parties. Never have any problem finding inspiration for work anywhere along this quieter stretch of road off Highway 60. My first paintings in my Park experience were completed here thirty years ago... and still old views strike new chords... and lead to new and challenging subjects.

It was strange really... to find my "Self" alone in this setting. Even the usually bustling outfitters store was void of any human activity. Usually it is alive with interior permit seekers.... parties heading into the Park and tourists harvesting souvenirs... which exist aplenty in the store. Everything from power drinks... dried meals... clothing... whistles...bear protection... to footwear... field essay books on Algonquin... to decals, postcards, mugs, plates ... and yes... even that tacky, overly exposed Canadian Inuit "symbol" everyone was bombarded over the two weeks of the Olympics in Vancouver- the inukshuk in molded (plastic) rock. Whatever happened to native handicrafts?

As I looked over the Lake... a frozen finger pointing to the wilderness beyond... I marvelled at the stillness that Nature can command. The only sounds were those of boreal chickadees who flitted down to investigate my presence... piping their spring call... yes... they do indeed change voice in spring... all a part of recognizing that breeding will soon get underway.

I walked about around the empty parking lot and decided to walk back a piece to see if there might be something interesting along the shoreline of the rotting ice of Opeongo Creek which enters into the Lake at this place. As I looked back towards the store... it occurred to me that I had surveyed this sight so many times before... but never once had I felt the tranquility... or the "possibility" for making a painting. This was site number two for this foray!

The temperature plummeted towards the end of the session and the wind drove straight into my face from across the length of the ice covered lake...making seeing difficult and working very uncomfortable. I worked very quickly to get enough of the lay in completed... then packed up and headed back to the Lodge and a hot tub.

What a great start for the adventure! A two painting day!The jpegs shown with today's post are the "raw" results from the first day in the field. I'll post two per day until the four day trip and eight paintings are shared.

Good Painting to All!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Moving ahead....

Bryn and I spent about another half hour working on our individual panels to add some value checks, finish and detail. Today's jpegs are the final stage for each.It was a very intimate opportunity to share time and art together. I think that we both profited greatly from the day together. Whether "He" chooses to pursue painting further lies within "Him". I will indeed support further interest he might show.

The trip was a great teaching warm up for me. I will be in Algonquin Park this week from Thursday to Sunday working with a plein air group of painters who are booked into the Adventure Lodge in Whitney at the East Gate entrance to the Park. The owner and a long time friend and artist Gertrud Sorensen generously invited me to attend the event... present a demo on Friday evening after supper and to carry out a critique session on Saturday for the artists in attendance. Since I likely know most of the artists... it will be a relaxed atmosphere to work (and paint) in. I am very much primed and looking forward to a productive four day paint out. Hope the weather is as nice as the past week here. Snow still can be found in abundance there too in at least wooded and north-facing places. I am sending along yet another plein air piece to prove that Spring... despite its overall earthy-toned breadth holds places in reserve... if "You" are motivated to get out and search them out! Spring with all of its changes and transitions provides new and exciting subjects to paint.

I'll post and share the results of the Algonquin Adventure early next week when "I" return! Until then...

Good Painting to all!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring... and new vistas

Spring continues to melt away Winter's strength forcing him to retreat to north-facing sanctuaries.The smell of fresh earth foretells new activity will soon replace the still of winter.

Choirs of birdsong fill the fresh air... crows... red wing black birds... robins and geese with excitement and vitality. All the world is alive again. Little wonder that the Christian faith will soon celebrate Resurrection... for Spring is surely just that!

On Tuesday my youngest son Bryn, aged 12 years accompanied "Me" on a plein air sortie out into the Oro-Medonte. He has a project to complete along with other members of his grade seven class to research the life of a Canadian Artist and to study their style, then to replicate one of their paintings... or create one "in the style of" the artist they have studied. Bryn asked if "I" might be his focus.

"I" am honoured... and humbled that "He" would choose "Me"!

The day turned out perfectly... in every respect. Sunny... windless.. t-shirt weather for "Him". We packed a lunch and our gear into the van and headed out early in the morning... in search of a subject that "He" would choose. He remarked that it was not an easy task to decide upon a particular site-there were so many possibilities. After an hour of "cruising-not choosing", he announced that we could go back to a barn complex on the Big Chute Road near Severn Falls. That was fine with me because I had "eyed" that one as a possible stop... on too many previous occasions. Today... would be the day!

We set up side by side.. to affect easy tutoring and watching and jumped eagerly into the lay in process. Not surprisingly... "He" took to it and had great success on his own really. Bryn is that kind of independent thinker... curious... confident and committed to whatever task "He" undertakes. The 8x10s quickly took shape... and within the 2 hour window that "I" usually work with on location.

We packed up our gear and headed home around 3:00 pm... eager to show off our "catch-o'-the-day"... and we were indeed received with enthusiasm and encouragement back in the studio!

We will leave the paintings on the easel for a day or two and then add the final push n' pulls to finish them up. The two jpegs shown on this post are the "raw" field results... Bryn's on top... mine on the bottom.Note the individual decisions that form differences in Bryn's approach and mine. He was not merely copying ... or following. Those differences are important to note... and to retain.

The venture was a great March Break adventure for us both. Sharing time with one's children one-on-one... is both special and everlasting to both hearts.

Do take the time... whenever "You" have the opportunity.It costs ...little or nothing! Time is your best currency when "You" wish to travel with your child!

Good painting to all... and Happy Spring... wherever "You" are!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring moves in... for now at least

I journeyed down to the "Big Smoke" (Toronto) to meet my eldest son Andrew... who took me to a Toronto Maple Leaf - Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game and rib dinner beforehand as a belated birthday gift.

"I" felt as if I had entered an alien world... with all the hustle... din of noise... both inside and outside of the rink. We had a wonderful evening together... but "I" was so relieved to wake up... and get back down this morning into the sanctity of our cosy (almost noise-free) studio here in drowsy... slow-moving Hillsdale.

I kicked off the day's by completing the "run-for-the-sun" 12x 10 inch quick sketch I had nearly completed on my last outdoor session.It only required an additional 15 minutes of "puttzing about"... adding a few necessary value changes and "colour surprises" to satisfy "Me". It is the jpeg posted today and I feel that it rather succinctly describes our current weather situation here in the Oro-Medonte region.

Fields have been nearly stripped of snow cover... ochre-coloured grasses not seen since late November, now dominate the landscape. Many artists find this time of year and this earthen palette..."uninviting"... and not to their painting tastes. Again... I revel in this change... because it signals within "Me" a new cycle to follow - the beginning of maple syrup gathering. Creeks, streams and small rivers... for too long hushed by winter's frozen grasp... babble invitingly and run swiftly to create exciting crescendos of sound and movement providing countless opportunities for ideal picture-making subjects.

After a career spanning close to thirty years in teaching ... "I" feel blessed to be healthy enough to get "out there"... minus heavy clothing... without insect harassment... and mostly before the tourist hordes descend in large numbers.It is a time of renewal... it is Resurrection... it is rebirth in all its might and wonder!

In my own life, "I" free to paint what "I" want to... and to find Peace and contentment at this time in my life. Painting is not just business for "Me" ... or about money.It never has been. It is work...and it is not. It has been a lifelong and passionate journey of self-enlightenment... friendships... adventures and learning experiences which will continue...until "I" am no longer able to journey.

And even after "I" no longer journey... there might be a day.. somewhere... some time... when someone will look upon "Fugitive Snow"... as humble a quick sketch as it is... and remark:
"Isn't that beautiful?... Hey!... I've been on Gauthier Road in Oro-Medonte Township"!

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds-and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovr'ing there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue,
Where never lark, or even eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Spring IS... "High Flight" for "Me"! I don't fly... or soar per say... except in spirit. And especially in Spring. This wonderfully uplifting poem was presented to "Me" by my Grade Eight Teacher,Miss Mildred Hyde, who would later become my colleague. Both continue to nourish my Spirit. The poem's author, Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee penned this while serving Canada in the RCAF in England during WWII. He was killed in action on the 11Th of December, 1941...before it was ever published.Mildred Hyde passed suddenly over March School Break in 1969. Both are gone from this life. .

Sixty-nine years later,"I" find both pleasure ... and solace in remembering the timeless contributions of both."I" pass it on to "You"!

What "You" say or do...does matter!Believe that... and soar freely!

Good Painting... and Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring it would seem... has Sprung

We have enjoyed about a week now of sun and elevated temperatures into the plus side of things. Birds everywhere are in good voice... and creeks have started to open up and run black as they always do in early spring.Geese are getting rambunctious and noisy signalling a rapidly approaching new mating season. Local maple syrup producers have set out their pails and lines to make our annual liquid gold- Maple Syrup!

I headed out this morning intent upon taking advantage of the bright skies and warm temperatures to paint outdoors. I had a destination in mind... but soon found my Self inebriated by the colour and plethora of possible subjects... ranging from a small herd of frisky Percheron horses... to squadrons of aerobatic Snowbirds in still whitened fields.. to drumming pails of a roadside sugar bush. Where to settle into some serious work? That was a difficult task for this visually drunken sailor!

I remembered a site where I could paint uninterrupted.. and where I knew the conditions would be perfect. I had painted Michael Holm's century homestead on Gauthier Road on another occasion, but felt that I had "missed the mark" on it, simply because I hadn't considered the best view initially. The old homestead... a still standing relic from our earliest French settlement in the Huronia area, bears the architectural trappings and detail that one finds in rural Quebec. Its mansard roof... minus the usual dormer windows is the giveaway factor. Such roofs were adapted to shed the heavy winter snow loads that both places experience every winter.

Michael came out for a quick visit on his way to do chores at his brother's nearby farm. Both were born and raised on this farm. Michael lives with his wife in the house... and they will likely be its last human inhabitants. This agrarian lifestyle is quickly waning... and with it the end of a part of our early pioneer history.I so enjoy recording these remnants.. and sharing time to learn of the unique stories that these simple living,hard working farm folk are so willing to share. My painting will likely at some point form the sole/soul record of this house's existence. That's reason enough to spend an afternoon painting... and enjoying... life in another time... at a slower pace!

After two and a half hours of pleasurable painting... I felt I could pay a visit just down the road to a small stream in a woodland setting... and add a small "run-for-the-sun" 10x12 panel to complete a great day of plein air painting... but... That's another story... for another day!

Good Painting to All... and Happy Spring!!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Few More Strokes...

The jpeg in today's post illustrates the few little details that I have added to the plein air sketch "Shoreline Sojourn". Very little more needed to be said except that I felt rushed because of the cold in the last minutes of the foray and I just "roughed in" the colour masses and values for the white cedar copse in the left foreground of the painting.

Back in the studio yesterday, I adjusted the greens from the deep darks within the copse... to the reddy-greens which caught higher light because they were located on the exterior of the mass. Cedars change their green to almost an ochrish-sienna hue at winter's end. It is a warm value and always provides an instrument to lift the tone and mood away from and provide complementary colour for the cold of the blue shadows. A few areas showing dark or lit bushes, trunks and branches in the upward masses can be seen to be broken by the (mostly) hidden trunks within the copse. These details add volume and just enough interest in the foreground to pique the eye's attention momentarily.

The painting is signed... the final act in the process before it can be framed and put on the wall.On to the next adventure!

Good Painting to All!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Tonic.......

February is, as always mostly grey and damp... as the winter ebbs.... slowly it always seems... to a close. I love winter when it is bright and sunny... and the snowy fields are ermine white. I never mind the cold really... but I do find the dampness and greyness defeating.

I have spent a lot of the month looking over sketches and photo references to find a project that would help lift my spirits and help me regain my focus and energy. Often, after large and demanding commission work, I find it difficult to "get back on my own horse" and back to my usual busy routine.

I have kept a vigilant eye on the weather reports and yesterday was encouraged to find that today we "might" expect a day of sunshine. So before turning in last night I decided upon a location that I would hustle to first thing this morning if the weather cooperated.

We are doubly blessed to live in a historically rich as well as beautiful region. Canada's earliest history began in this very region which was then known as Huronia... land of the Wendat Nation... or Hurons as they came to be known. The French led by Samuel de Champlain explored all of the region vigorously and gained the confidence and formed a strong alliance with this tribe of First People. They introduced them to Christianity, establishing a fort and church to develop a an alliance and relationship with them against the invading and warring Iroquoian tribes from Upstate New York.

The area I went to today is located along the shores of Georgian Bay, just north of present day town of Penetanguishene... a strong French enclave even today... and dating right back to the earliest French settlement. The site of my painting was just on the edge of Awenda Provincial Park... a beautiful and heavily visited park in the region. I snowshoed into the area located on Saw Log Point... the snow is still deep enough to make a walk-about uncomfortable when the crust yields to the higher and warmer sun during the midday.The trip out... when you are cold can be tricky and fatiguing. I learned that from such an early experience... but that's another story!

I traversed the shoreline looking for a good subject and decided to retrace my footsteps to a position that might give me some degree of cover from the cold north-westerly wind.These cedars helped out considerably. Though it was +2C... being in the shade and facing into the bitterly chilly wind made it feel more like a constant -10C experience. I was certainly happy to seek out the warmth of the van when the three hour session approached its finish!

The composition required no alteration or embellishment. What you see ... is exactly what I saw and painted. I was totally alone in this milieu, save for an odd curious approach by a pair of red squirrels... likely expecting a handout. No chance for that! I ate my lunch before strapping on the snowshoes... one less item to carry about!

The sketch shown in this post is untouched... done totally en plein air...a spontaneous response based upon a three hour experience. I see a couple of areas that I "might" correct. But for the most part... "I" am happy with the result.More importantly.... "I" am..... "back in the saddle again"!

For those of you who shy away from the outdoor experience because of the cold... "I" invite "You" to taste the elixir... the Spring tonic.... "my cup runneth over"!

Enjoy!... and Good Painting to All!
Warm regards,