Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fickled Spring!

Spring has been playing tricks on us here in the Oro-Medonte! It has been a roller coaster ride during the past week... with temperatures bouncing from highs during some days of + 16C... then plummeting the next to -3C... cold enough to ice over puddles in the mornings and heavily frost windshields on cars.

At the same time, trees are leafing out and blossoming... "peepers" sing nightly in the swamps... golf courses have greened up... as have lawns that are now being mowed weekly. Strange!... very strange indeed! Even the much despised black flies have erupted in swarms... and are biting... a full three weeks before we normally have to expect them.

For the last two days ... I have been busy working in the studio getting three new pieces to send to my gallery in Nova Scotia. I lived in Nova Scotia for five years and consider it my second home really. I loved the friendly, caring people and the diverse landscape of the Province. I felt very much at home and was tremendously productive while there. To put it succinctly... it was ...."Heaven on Earth" for "me" as a person... and as an artist.Locals nicknamed me "The Winter Painter" because of my constant presence and activity in that season up and down the South Shore where I resided. I lived for a time in Chester... which proudly touts itself as the "Sailing Capitol of Nova Scotia... and later in a small, sleepy fishing village called Broad Cove further down the Shore.

The two subject sketches that I completed this week conjure up many happy memories of my time there. I painted the Red fish sheds/ boat houses at East Chester a number of times... and several sites in the famous Peggy's Cove as well. My wee boys and I "lurked" as they referred to it.... or beach combed up and down the coastline... searching for "treasure' which they exhibited in their "gallery"/shed... for any tourists who might want to visit. "They"... never appeared... but the treasure trove and activity never ceased to grow during our time there.It was indeed a "treasure"... rich in memories and new discoveries... which all three "pirates" continue to carry in their "chests"!

I hope that these sketches capture some of that magic for my readers... and that they motivate each of "You" to record your own.

I will close today's post with a thought that came to "Me" while creating the outline for my book "Two Voices-The Poetry and Paintings of A.W.Bruce Sherman":

"Art is the Garden of Humanity.
And we then as Artists,
Are its constant Gardeners".

Plant... Create... and tend your own unique Garden. Arrange it as "You" please... Expand its content as only "You can"... and share its blooms with the world!

Happy Spring!... and Good Painting All!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trilliums... Trout Flowers... Transience and Transcendence

On Saturday morning I awoke at 5:50 am to discover a blinding.. whiteout... winter... wind-driven rage outside. Within the space of an hour that sight was replaced by sunny, blue skies... but the cold temperature remained for the rest of the day.

On Monday afternoon... I decided to go out to paint and dressed warmly to prepare for the chilly weather. As I drove down Mt St Louis Road to my painting destination, I was stopped dead in my tracks by another incredulous discovery. The woodlands on either side of the road were blanketed in white! No... not snow... but rather waves of white trilliums! This is a very early date of occurrence for this annual stage of Spring's arrival.

I have include some jpegs to demonstrate this purely Ontario happening. The trillium is the official Provincial Wildflower for Ontario because of its wide range within the woodland areas across the entire province. It is always a "Transcendental Moment" for "Me" personally. It guarantees an end to winter's long reign... and signifies Spring's triumph!How these delicate flowers could prevail in such harsh cold conditions is a deep mystery to "Me"!

Fully enthused and encouraged... I proceeded down to Ingram Road... a favourite haunt of mine that has provided many successful sketches in the past. I call it affectionately.... "The Honey Hole"! I set up quickly on the brink of the hill where the 6th Line and Ingram Road converge and set to work on a 10x12 inch toned panel. In less than two hours... I was packing my gear and headed back towards home.

What a wonderful and uplifting afternoon... "out there"! Life doesn't get any better! "I" feel deeply blessed to be able to experience the true joy of "being fully alive"!

Good Painting to All! ... Get "out there"!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Love is in the air ..... everywhere!

Shedding winter's garments is such an uplifting "gift" from Spring... for all creatures... in both the human and animal kingdom. Everywhere one looks... there is ample evidence of the joy and exuberance that increased warmth... daylight and the increased energy provide for man, animals and the plant world.

Geese and waterfowl have passed through the annual migration and courting rituals and have settled into nesting... one pair per puddle... pothole or pond. Other species of bird life males establish high ground parapets... from which to sing and flash their colours... to dominate their areas and to protect nesting females.Human couples stroll hand-in-hand along waterfronts and beaches... or spend quiet hours alone on a bench staring into each other's eyes.

Yes... "Love"... in its many differing forms... can be seen just about anywhere during Spring. Love springs up from "within"... it must begin there. But it travels... and can be "caught". It is indeed contagious... if "One" is open to its possibility! Despite the myth that "true love"... is hard to find... it is really everywhere around each one of us. Whether we recognize it ... respond to it... or keep it... depends upon each one of us. We are indeed the "captains" of our own destinies... and that also applies to the inclusion... or exclusion of "Love" in our journeys.

The painting displayed on today's post is a favourite of mine. It was painted immediately after our first visit to Victoria, BC to spend time with my bother Don and his lovely wife Claudia... since they had moved there 15 years earlier. Don is my younger sibling by a mere 11 months... too close a gap for comfort... for both of us. As is typical with two young lads... in a VERY small nest... we warred continually and were too unfairly compared in expectations and accomplishments.

This period of time... shortly after the passing of our parents was the very first time that we met with mutual admiration and respect for the other... without fearing the need to complete or to live up to the standards of others.It was a moment of epiphany... and relief for us both. Fully embracing our love for each other... we now we are in touch with each other weekly by phone... and even physically when one can travel.Love is... finally... and truly... in the air!

"Life is a Beach"... in this painting today... is a real beach, It is called French Beach and is a popular beach on Vancouver Island where Don and I spent time alone on one occasion early in our visit. The next time we spent there, it was crowded with many other noisy sun lovers.... and love surely was in the air, but in an entirely different form!

In closing, Life... the Beach... is a place where we can choose to exist alone, amid flotsam left by storms and uncertainty. But Life... the Beach... can also be a sunny and wonderful beach...littered profusely with many fond memories... a place where love can be stored and shared... for years to come.

I have included some addition places where I unexpectedly... but certainly "found"....Love. Love can be found to be "positive"... and Love can be "negative". It can be hurtful... and it can be healing. It seldom can be expected to be lasting... without changing. Learning how to change with it and encourage it to grow is the key to finding Happiness in Love. Learning to love and respect one's Self... is the true starting place to receive and to give love.

Good Painting... and Hunting!... to ALL!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Twitter an Tweet! ... Ain't Spring sweet?

No.... I have not decided to morph my blog or web site... using these social networks as a tool to attract readership! I'm simply referring to the increased flurry of sounds and activities in the outside world here in the Oro-Medonte. I have again begun my hour long walks out into the countryside... "plein airing" in a sense... because I find this healthy activity not only strengthens muscle and cardio strength... but that it heightens my creative thought and makes "Me" observe... and learn... by "Seeing". I heartily recommend it to each of my visitors. It is a wonderfully enriching ritual of "cleansing".... meditation really... and preparation for the new day... before (or after) java!

The Hills' usual winter greyish cast broken by darker evergreen spears is pinkish and pale green everywhere... as the hardwoods, birches and soft woods leave their dormancy behind... and come to life. Every day... new voices are added to the growing birdsong choir. Yesterday I recorded 17 different species on my early morning walk... all busy at setting territories and attracting mates.Tamaracks are now budded... reclaiming their lovely evergreen ... dropped over the winter. Snow has disappeared... save for a few pockets in the deepest bush where sunlight rarely visits.

Despite all of this "Twitter and Tweet"... my post today is dedicated to the Canadian winter and to one aspect that continues to make our winters different than other places in the world. "I" am posting my latest... and my last winter canvas for the year. I started it before heading off to Algonquin Park and conceived it during the Winter Games in Vancouver.

I must say that in my "early" youth and teaching...athletics... especially football, track,baseball and hockey drove "Me" passionately. They were everything to "Me" then.I even tried my hand at coaching my son' Andrew's hockey team. It was at this time that "I" abandoned my interest in sports... partly due to my increased interest in my art... but mostly... due to the complete and utter disgust "I" felt because of poor adult behaviour and interference.

This brings "Me" to the new painting and the Winter Games thing. Like so many of my countrymen... "I" am proud of the unique heritage we have built here in Canada with hockey. The "Game" now involves international participants who never laced on a pair of skates before... let alone have a "program"... or female participants! "I" AM indeed proud of the fact that we helped introduce hockey to new venues. I was ashamed really of the GO phrase adopted by our Olympic Organizing Team: "Own the Podium!" I was ashamed too that "The (final) Game brought out so much animosity between two usually friendly "Neighbours"... and such obvious greed... for Gold!

My Painting... entitled "The Real Hockey Night in Canada" is taken (imaginatively) from a view within a stone's throw of our home and Gallery and depicts what "The Game" truly should be about: Playing for the pure love of the game... outdoors... without a rulebook... gender or size differences... without referees... fighting... spectators... or parents who steal childhood away by imposing adult expectations and structure... TOO SOON for children.More importantly... it teaches children to win with pride... yet humility... and to accept defeat graciously and with dignity intact... in sport... and in our later lives.

Mister Fred Rogers, another mentor of mine once said... "That play, is a child's first form of work".In my own teaching and family experiences, I concur and add that unfettered and child-centered play develops social cohesiveness... issue resolution skills... team play... fair play and most of all daily outdoor physical activity with friends.

This painting is respectfully dedicated to Pat Burns... another mentor of sorts and his family.He was a former coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but "I" honour "Him" because of the courageous and passionate manner that "He" has displayed in dealing with his terminal colon cancer struggle... and his final preparation to complete his earthly journey.

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Government with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Pat attending... "broke sod" to begin the creation of a new ice surface in Burns' home town in New Brunswick.Haggard... drawn... emaciated... but not beaten "He" whispered a profound and lasting message that "I" wish to "pass forward" to any "Other"... who might "understand"... and share it:

"I know that my life is nearing its end and I accept that.Don't cry because it's over. You're happy because it happened. That's the main thing."

So in closing this post... "I" offer that "You" put on a glove and get into the game. In so doing.... practise long and hard... play by the rules... with passion and determination to improve. Listen to your own heart first... but listen also to mentors whose wisdom will help "You" to soar. Lastly... remember to share your "Light" with others unselfishly. Pass it forward!

Good Painting to All!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Last of the Springtime Algonquin Adventure...the Demo

It was my considerable honour... and a privilege to have been asked by my friend and owner of Algonquin Adventure Lodge, Gertrud Sorensen to attend her Winter 2010 Paint Out and to give a painting demonstration and critique of the works of the attending artists. It offered me an opportunity to paint in the Park free of any costs and in the company of good painting folk whom I admire and have known as friends for many years.

I took my responsibility to reach out to those attending very seriously... as "I" always have done both my painting and teaching lives. I prepared beforehand... very carefully the method I would use in the demo and the painting technique that I would highlight in that activity. After all... it was indeed a "heady" and accomplished alumni of past presenters that "I" would follow... one being my own significant mentor and friend Poul Thrane... who would be observing.

I decided to start with a bare white canvas... not my usual choice. I paint on canvases and panels that are most always toned... in my tone of choice for the season.Usually an acrylic burnt sienna ground is my winter and spring choice.

I am well aware of the current trend in the use of non-toxic pigments and solvents. I have come up against much resistance and complaint in this regard in other situations... so I decided to use only odourless mineral spirits (OMS) in the demonstration to try and avoid... or at least reduce any possibility of complaint or real discomfort for those attending.

To demonstrate how the subject must first be visualized... simplified... or seen before the painting process is undertaken... I selected one obscure and unrelated India ink sketch dated April 2003 to use as my subject for the demo. I would be relying then purely upon memory and a line guide to lead "Me" forward into the painting process.

I quickly covered the entire 16x20 inch canvas in a thin... very transparent OMS wash of burnt sienna. Mistake number one! Immediately two complaints about the "odour" were registered... along with the departure of the odour-offended from the room.

I pushed ahead at a more hurried pace.... using a shop towel to remove (subtract) areas of tone to create light... while using raw burnt sienna to establish (add) darker areas in the composition. I elected to not use the "odourless spirits" further to again reduce its "noxious" presence.

I jumped into the lay in stage... prematurely, I believe... to again speed up the demo process. Mistake number two!

Mistake number three occurred almost immediately after... when I placed a tree smack in the middle of the picture plane cutting it almost in half horizontally! A "no-no" compositionally!!! YUK!

Without anything to act as a medium... or anything to clean my brushes... I began a fierce struggle to establish tonal values and distinct patterns of dark and light... for me to feel good about the painting. The demo had become a trial and I realized that a finished painting was out of reach... at least for that evening. I added some very pure lights and darks to at least indicate where I might go with the painting under better circumstances.I laid down my brushes and simply conducted a discussion based upon questions and answers to conclude the evening. After a full day of painting... this one number three for me... all of us enjoyed the remainder of the evening in conversation and reminiscing.

The critique on the next evening went along very smoothly... due to the fact that there very good pieces in both watercolour and oil and a varied range of subjects and techniques. Everyone went away encouraged by the suggestions and comments by the group and myself. Everyone a winner... with some new "food for thought".

I was very discouraged with the "orphan" and tossed it carelessly into the carrying case I have in my vehicle... not worrying at all about harming its surface. And harm it I did... causing scrapes all over its surface. I tossed it into a corner of the studio and pretty much wrote it of as a "scrubber".... a casualty of a demo gone bad.

Anyone who knows "Me"... will tell you that I NEVER give up on anything in my life... except for people who are intentionally hurtful to others. The "orphan" deserved better treatment than it received by me. I will leave it to you to decide whether my afternoon of work... long after the initial "disgraceful showing" merits a badge of "Redemption". Note the changes and decisions that could still be made... even after the start was completely dry.

The message? Never give up the ship! Rethink! Reshape! Revise!... Then Resolve... to win! I feel I did here !" Sweet Dreams" has been given a second chance... and "I" a valuable lesson about assuming ownership and captaining my own ship.

I have always maintained that in the process of teaching... one can become an active part of the learning process by simply being open as an equal member of the "circle of learning" in that process. By setting aside the notion that one is directing learning... and replacing it with a position of receiving knowledge, allows one to grow along with all others in the process.

I learned a very useful personal lesson during this demo. I will not use solvents during teaching sessions. I will instead use acrylic paint to complete the initial composition and toning portion. I will conduct the layin and finish parts of the process using mineral oil in the place of any solvent. It is vegetable oil based and is non-toxic and odourless in nature.
Good Painting and Happy Spring ... and "Sweet Dreams"... to ALL!

PS: It should be noted that ALL of the "friendly" solvents in the marketplace... as
"odourless" as they are advertised to be... or as perfumed as they are packaged ARE in fact TOXIC and harmful to one's health. They are best used outside the studio in the open air ... if used at all.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back Into the Park to Rock Lake

Saturday proved to be warmer and less windy, so I agreed to meet David Kay and Gertrud at Rock Lake to paint together. On the way to that site I stumbled upon a just thawing spruce bog that "begged to be painted"... so I set up and cranked off a quick 20x24 inch panel.... "Winter Waning in Algonquin Park". I have decided not to put any finish on the panel... I like the fact that it captures the raw transition from Winter to Spring... and the rich reds that first appear in the swamps and bogs to herald Spring's triumphant return.

It depicts the combination of wetlands pocketed amongst the Haliburton Highlands... a silent and sacred refuge for all manner of wildlife and flora.It is basically geologically the same landscape that the First Peoples dwelled and hunted in for thousands of years before the white race's coming . It basically has resisted the sprawl of development and the rape of resources... except for the logging off of the great stands of white pine during the mid nineteenth century. Even remnants of those first forest stands can still be seen and are now protected within the Park's boundaries.

After completing the panel, I packed up and headed down Highway 60 to the Rock Lake Road and easily found Gertrud and David together... and both well underway on their pieces. After a bit of tongue-wagging, I found an interesting woodland interior piece which grabbed my attention. It was the remnants of a fallen spruce... tucked in a grove of smaller trees which still hid and protected the last elusive bits of winter snow. I set up and worked at this natural still life "The Fallen"...on a 12x10 inch panel... completing it within an hour. It needed only a slight tweak here and there to bring it to the state of finish as shown in the upper jpeg in this posting.

We returned to the Lodge for some pre-dinner snacks, drinks and sharing. The chef had prepared a magnificent turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Gertrud provided red and white wines for each table. It was like Christmas... all over again... for this "Child"! We ended the evening with desserts... great coffee and tea... and best of all... the kind of fellowship which binds us as people who share the wonder and pleasures of creation!

"I" wish all of my viewers similar good experiences such as mine here in Algonquin Park... and Good Painting...All!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Good Painting... Good Accommodation and Food... and Good Friends

After a wonderful meal on Thursday evening our group of painting friends accepted owner Gertrud Sorensen's kind invitation to come to her home and studio overlooking Galeairy Lake. It was a wonderful evening of sharing ideas and stories... highlighted by a viewing of a DVD that documented the life of Doris McCarthy... a Canadian painting pioneer... a painter I have long admired (from a distance)for her commitment to her Art... and for energy and giving spirit.I left Gertrud's that evening... my own painting spirit further kindled by what I had seen in the documentary.

On Friday morning... after a good solid sleep and fine breakfast, I set out alone in search of new subjects down the old Madawaska Railroad bed...a goldmine of waterfalls,bog and swamp subjects.The ground was (thankfully) still hard frozen... but rutted badly from the late snowmobile and four wheel traffic. This rail bed has been a veritable highway into the back end of this area... but it has suffered greatly due to the lack of caring (and garbage) that the above mentioned users have inflicted upon it. The wooden covering on the one bridge spanning a section of the river has been so badly damaged that it has been condemned and barriers [placed at either end. A few ruin it for all.Sound familiar?

It didn't take long to back track and find a nice shoreline view... out of the cold wind... in the sun... with no noise except the chatter of ice shards along the river's edge. I decided to use the additive/subtractive method using the freshly toned panel method as my introduction to create a monochromatic study/base. It would serve as my method at the demonstration I had to conduct later in the evening at the Lodge. I spent a wonderful two and a half hours on a 16x20 inch canvas... "Melt water Reflections" and then headed into town for a steaming bowl macaroni-tomato soup and cup o' coffee.

Refreshed and re-energized... I headed back to the Lodge to see if my old friend and mentor Poul Thrane had arrived as anticipated. I was bunking with Poul for the rest of the trip and looked forward to painting with him again. Just before the Lodge site, I spotted his white van perched on top of the hill overlooking Shanie Ride's old log homestead... a favourite subject for many paintings over the year.

At 85 years young, Poul prefers to paint in the comfort of his van... comfortably rigged and "beveraged" to enable carry on plein air painting in much the same way we have always done over the years. I quickly set up my easel close by and lept into the subject with an energetic and confident manner. The painting fairly "painted itself" from start to finish and I was finished the 16x20 inch panel, "Madawaska Relic" entirely inside one and a half hours of steady painting. This painting is my favourite of the trip. Wish I could paint this way all of the time!