Thursday, August 26, 2010

The R&R' s of Summer

Summer is traditionally a time for the essential R's to promote healthier and happier living for all of us... no matter our jobs or locations. It is a time when we spend time with loved ones to do things outside the structure... constraints and pressures of daily living. Rest and relaxation come in a variety of forms... usually decided upon by family together or through individual choices. I needn't spend time naming the ways... we all have our ways unique to our interests and rituals.

I have passed through this annual event with family... with Deb and alone at times just to think and... (another important "R" word for "Me")... Reflect... meaning "to form an image "of ... directions. "I" look in a forward direction to the upcoming fall and winter seasons and behind
Me" to the past... near and far to remember and resolve unfinished thoughts. "I" also take time to look around "Me"... sometimes to sketch... paint or write about the subtle changes that are occurring. This is my own most treasured form of rest and relaxation... and fortunately, I am able to share that with Deb... because we share these common interests.

After passing through this chain of "R" words we arrive at yet another... Refresh. This infers the process of reviving and revitalizing. This means, in our case to look at how we can add new "ideas" to our individual lives and pursuits... both personal and artistic. We have discussed some of these things and are now in the process of... "lining up our ducks". Let's call this last "R" word to describe this point as Re visioning.... or making a projected action plan.

My own is already underway. I am busy working at the commission that was delayed due to the earlier mentioned R&R business... and family events that necessitated giving my full attention to them. I currently have the 15x24 inch study piece at the three quarter pole and hope to finish it today so that the clients can see my progress and thoughts on the matter. We are meeting on the weekend to decide on the larger version once they approve thew direction of the study. Strangely... the delay has led to some interesting and helpful discoveries in my research and preparations for the piece... including a lovely and very early poem about the Old Mill. I am including images to show the stages of my progress with the commission to date. I'll keep you posted... as the commission proceeds.

Next on the docket after the commission will be a lot of plein air work... with the annual foray to Algonquin Park... always a highlight of the year for "Me"... and painting in and around our own backyard. So lots of work ahead. I have been offered and have accepted a solo show for January at AyrSpace... so that will pretty much direct my activities and energies up to Christmas. This is also a busy part of the year for The Paint Box Gallery as well... so... "plus du travail"... as the French say! Glad to be busy... doin' what "I"love!

Good Painting to all!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer in Transition

As in all things in life, change occurs continually. Seasons are visible examples to us that life changes and moves like a river... slowly but certainly towards the next in the cycle of the four that create the natural rhythm of our world and which govern the actions and lives of all creatures... including Man. Man plays as small a role in this pageant as any other creature... larger or smaller.

Summer at this moment... is indeed in transition... losing the vitality, exuberance and energy that defines its glory and richness in this natural seasonal cycle. Even now, there are clear signs of that transition, despite the harvest of plenty that abounds everywhere about us. Subtle as they are... signs like diminished daylight... cooler night temperatures and heavy morning dews... gathering flocks of birds and waterfowl feeding ravenously... coats and feathers molting... all signal in unison that summer is drawing to a close... again.

In our human world, sweet thoughts of rest and relaxation turn suddenly to preparation as well, to a return to work for some... to a return to classes for others... to a return to the rigours of rapid urban dwelling away from lazy cottage living and play. These transitions are already underway in degrees and soon will speed up out of a realization that summer is no longer in transition... but has left us entirely.

Personally, "I" have always followed the transition through the seasons orienting my painting patterns and rituals using specific natural "markers" that seem to present themselves more or less in a predictable order in time of appearance and succession. Each season displays its own set of "markers" to indicate transition or movement. For spring, the return of light is obvious... budding of trees... return of species... the icy solidness of rivers slivering their way towards becoming rushing black torrents of water and the appearance and smell of the deeply snow covered ground... ready to give birth to new greenery and woodland wild flowers.

I have always followed wild flowers from spring into summer to watch and measure the heady transition. There is an exactness about how these summer "markers" determine the passage of the season. There is a defined difference between spring wild flowers and those of summer. Spring wild flowers habituate shaded woodland and wetter swamp places and their lives are brief in comparison to those of summer. Summer wild flowers populate open meadows and roadsides... and defy the sun's mighty and relentless heat. They depend upon that heat and energy to mature and flower.

The parade of succession begins with the much maligned dandelion hordes-amongst the worst enemies of the urban dweller. Skeins of white daisies dominate June, enjoined with and followed by black eyed Susans and day lilies as dominants which extend throughout July. Yarrow, or Queen Ann's Lace and chicory reign throughout the early part of August, as Susans retreat. By mid August goldenrod rules the meadows to the delight of busy honey bees... and are soon joined by purple New England asters for the final fanfare and curtain call for summer wild flower growth.

This wild flower transition so resembles a game of chess... each new flower creating a move-by-move transition towards a predetermined goal and ending. I decided to create a painting to depict this process using a sort of subtle game board format featuring each newly appeared flower as it appeared. I would add that the painting itself developed in much the same way. One flower at a time, but in direct relationship to others around it... and according to a conceived plan.

I first created a burnt sienna toned "ground" for the painting. I then applied green acrylic colours dropped... dripped and tilted purposely and randomly on a 24 inch square gallery wrapped canvas which I had divided into nine eight inch squares using vine charcoal. The next step was to draw in each flower carefully into its designated square using an Indian ink brush-pen. I accomplished this step rendering each flower on site... one at a time. Obviously this painting was not intended to be my usual rapid brushwork type of plein air piece. It took many hours of planning and execution to arrive at a finished state.

The selection of flowers corresponded to how effective they might appear in either a dark or light square on my game board format. The dark was determined by the dominant use of shadow in the individual floral square. That dark was determined and set at the very onset by employing light, scuffed shading with the Indian ink brush-pen around the flower parts.

Each floral square was painted from start to finish before moving on or considering others around it. I wanted each to have its own unique colour presence and form maintained independent of all others. At the conclusion of the piece, I spent a few days considering and balancing any glaring visual discrepancies... and making value adjustments as I felt were necessary.

Summer ... in Transition bears comparison to human existence as well. We share undeniably similar comparisons to seasonal change in human growth, development and aging. Summer is full of energy... colour... pageantry and warmth that takes us away briefly in spirit from the cold realities of daily life and ... Life's brevity. Autumn majestically trumpets the fanfare that finalizes the richness of summer and harvest in an unparalleled pageantry of brilliant colour that ends in a final phrase of quiet. Then winter swoops in bringing an icy finality... and silence.

Such is Life... both natural and human.... transition and change!

I lovingly dedicate this wild flower post to my Mom's memory. She was ninety-two years... young... on August 21st... and shared my deep love of all flowers wild!
Though Time and earthly matters do conspire
To blight sweet memory treasures rare,
I only have to look about me,
Or in my heart -
And "I" always find "You" there.
Love "You"... forever Mom!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Taking A Time out

We all jump headfirst into Summer with its multitude of much anticipated activiities... grabbing at every opportunity to be outside... cottaging, camping, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, barbecuing, travelling. On many of these occasions we often share these traditional summertime events with our family and friends.

Strangely... in this what we consider a sophisticated and advanced culture, that this summertime ritual of "gathering"has been with humankind for much longer than we'd guess. In nearly every part of the world and in most every culture, the peoples of a culture meet when food is plentiful and being harvested and the weather is moderate enough to enjoy gathering as.... a community/tribe/clan/family.

August was traditionally the month for the "gathering" of the Sherman clan. Our nuclear family members would meet on the lawn of our beloved "Shangri-la"... a simple cottage on the shores of the St Lawrence River and nestled in the famous Thousand Islands. It was always looked forward to and was the focus of a celebration of family birthdays. My Dad's birthday was on August 16th... my sister Christine's was on the 19th and my Mom's birthday closed out this birthday celebration gala on August 21st.

It was a great time for young and old alike. Lots of laughing... good summer food... burgers, corn, salads, watermelon... cool ones, lemonade and pop -something for every one's taste. We swam, croqueted, lawn darted and sang the time away... together and in full harmony. These were memorable... halcyon days, but as Time seems always to dictate... they came to an abrupt ending... and have since ceased.

The fifty-plus years of cottage occupancy by Shermans and this annual gathering was brought to an abrupt end when the cottage was sold. My aging parents were in declining health and my Dad required more medical attention than could be given in their home. So My elder brother Larry and "I" helped them to relocate in a seniors' living facility... aka nursing home... where they lived out the final part of their seventy-five year married life together.

My other two siblings live in Alberta and Vancouver Island... so that getting together becomes problematic given business and family responsibilities across this distance. The deaths of one's parents is in fact, by itself, a modifier of family interaction- at least that is the case in our family. Parents are the glue, or mucilage which binds a family together. Their passing leaves a very huge void that often cannot be filled or worse in some cases... permits family ties to become unravelled and petty grievances to replace love and respect.

On this weekend," "I" choose to look back remembering and cherishing those halcyon days... and more importantly to count my own blessings... one by one. A shiver of sadness rushed over "Me" while I searched for birthday cards for sister Chris.... and for my Lovely Lady Bug wife Deb. Her birthday became my way to bring that happy ritual forward to the Now. "We" celebrated on August 10th in a wonderfully uplifting and fulfilling way for us both. I truly believe that life can present a continuing opportunity for celebration for the Living... of our small daily blessings.

"We"... abandoned duties at the Paint Box Gallery and headed off to spend a few days travelling the roads in Southwestern Ontario, particularly around St Jacobs, Ontario. This area is the farmland homeland of a very large Amish and Mennonite Community. The St Jacob's Farmer's Market is renowned for its rural earthiness and plethora of products ranging from produce, meats, furniture, leather goods, corn brooms, world-famous heirloom quilts... to handmade whirligigs. mailboxes and children's wooden toys.

We gorged ourselves on visits to many good galleries and craft shops.... fine food and more than a couple soft ice cream treats. "We".... took a Time Out. We are both back on board... full of new energy and exciting "ideas"..... ready to "rock n' roll " !!!!

My "Happy Birthday" from "Me" ... to those "I" love and cherish forever... comes from a small book that I found and purchased in St Jacobs at the Stone Crock Restaurant Gift Shoppe. It is very small... but is powerful in its simplicity and Truth. "I" hope that "You" might enjoy An Amish Portrait-Song of a People by Merle Good... as much as "I".

We watch the past and create the now -
And wish to plant before we plow-
We hear "goodbye" in each hello -
And wish to stay when we must go -
We seek for peace in time of war -
And watch the rich receive the poor -
As day makes night a fugitive -
The living dream,
The dreaming live.

-Merle Good
An Amish Portrait-Song of a People
Published by Good Books Intercourse, PA 17534

Hello to those "I" simply know... or those "I" love -
Whether here on Earth...
Or those who rest Eternally... Above.

Good Summertime Dreamin'.... Take a Time Out... with Family!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back... From a Breath of Fresh Ayr

"We shape our buildings: thereafter they shape us."
-Winston Churchill

Early on Friday morning, I journeyed over to Ayr, Ontario... some two and a half hours distant from Hillsdale to take part in a plein air outing and the evening opening of a group show entitled "Summertime and the Living is Easy" at the newly emerging art@ayrspace gallery. Jill Yuzwa... a personable and energetic woman has created this new gallery space as a local initiatives project to encourage and develop a venue on behalf of local artists and patrons who have a passion for making and buying art.

It is a bright... airy space, once the site of Jill's now deceased parents' Home Hardware business on the typically central "Main Street" of this quaint rural village. Ayr is steeped... along with many other surrounding villages in the traditions of the Scottish settlers who remained in the area to settle on farms granted to them for their service to Britain and Canada during the War of 1812.

Complete with its original elaborate and beautiful tinned ceilings, well worn... but restored hardwood floors and grand open space, it is a perfect place to elegantly exhibit and sell art. Jill's honesty and friendly nature will be assets that help establish this new gallery as a "destintion" for art lovers and collectors from the numerous larger cities around Ayr. It will require only time.... loyalty... commitment... productive and imaginative forward thinking by Jill and her stable of talented artists... to bring this initiative to its successful zenith .

I personally am proud and honoured to contribute in whatever way I can as one of her "ponies" to make the gallery successful!

It was wonderful to set up directly outside the gallery and to paint the heritage of this special place... and to meet the local citizens... young and old to answer their interesting and genuine questions. "I" consider helping to educate others about making art to be my responsibility as an artist. It tells people that art is indeed a part of their daily existence... that heritage is worth remembering and preserving... and more importantly that painting is not just a hobby... or simply "play", but rather a passionate, lifetime pursuit that can justifiable be considered legitimate work.

I arrived in Ayr around 12:30 pm and was set up and painting by 1:00.... I had scouted earlier and had decided upon the streetscape posted in this post so that no time was wasted... and that what I was painting would strike a chord with local viewers. I worked quickly as is usual... but still had time to converse with passersby and answer their questions. Some went immediately into the gallery to see more of our works... others, I noticed appeared at the opening later in the evening.

I finished the 12x16 inch sketch on panel at 3:00 pm sharp... took it inside ... changed clothes and had a REALLY refreshing "cool one" (.05 non-alcoholic lager)... while I waited for the other artists to appear and gather for the light but sumptuous and delicious summertime meal Jill had prepared for us.
During this informal meal atmosphere, I got to finally meet talented fellow artist and blogger friend Kim and her congenial and witty husband Harry from nearby Grimsby. Along with another talented artist and retired school teacher Hank Bos from Wallaceburg, Ontario... we three spent much time sharing ideas and experiences that will help us all along on our individual artistic journeys.... a very uplifting and rewarding bonus opportunity!
My painting...."Still A Breath of Fresh Ayr... After all the Years"... oil on panel 12x16 inches is my typical expressive and gestural response to a "found" subject that "I" find interesting and worthy of recording. Ontario "Main Street" architectural and heritage significant landmarks are currently disappearing as fast as they can be painted and recorded... succumbing to the "box store" convenience mentality of too many urban bedroom community consumers.
This painting will be made exclusively available... framed by mid week at
Good painting.... and Happy Summertime Dreamin' to ALL!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summertime Dreams...

"Summertime Dreams" has some double entendre in its meaning surrounding it in this post.

First of all, it was the title of a wonderful album release and song by the Canadian song writer and performing legend Gordon Lightfoot.... whose musical melodies and lyrics have been with... and inspired "Me" all along my artistic journey. This winter, my eldest daughter Lisa gifted Deb and I with a dinner theater... which included front row seats at Lightfoot's annual Massey Hall Concert. It was pure magic to listen... see... and feel the power of this incredible minstrel over the two and a half solid hours of hit Canadian anthems. The entire house was on its collective feet and refused to have him leave the stage at closing time. He returned with his long time band members for an additional fifteen minute musical interlude..beginning with "Just A Painter Passing Through". Can you identify with those sentiments?

What attracts "Me" to Lightfoot as an Artist... capital "A" fully intended and earned... is his unflagging loyalty to his fans.Despite having passed the seventy mark on his illustrious journey... he continues to perform and enjoy it... never tiring of the connection to his music and his legion of admirers. "He"is the epitome of an Artist who has relentlessly shared his gift of music and his "Voice" in all parts of Canada, the US and Europe.

His journey has not always been easy. He has endured bumpy periods and was forced to make sacrifices that most others could not face. Life "on the road" is both demanding of time and energy that can become devastating to family and interpersonal relationships. Add to that the act of creating and crafting the songs... alone. As an artist, one can easily imagine the price "He" and his loved ones have made over the breadth of his fifty year career.

At the moment that "He" stood on the front edge of the stage... directly in front of me... only a few feet away... "He" paused in the spotlight for a brief moment... then slowly spoke these words: "This next song was written for my children while I was on the road... and I dedicate it especially to them from me tonight."

That song, a long time favourite of mine left "Me" overcome and tearing openly as it did him at the mike as well. "If Children Had Wings" is a nexus really, connecting our two lives. I only hope that my own work as his has for "Me'... might somewhere... sometime... support another artist who also struggles to create... and finds themselves ...alone... wondering if they should continue... or if ... their choices are worthwhile given the costs.

On Friday... I will be painting...en plein Ayr... in the rustic and quaint village of Ayr. The theme of that show is "Sumertime... and the livin' is easy". Life has indeed been easy for "Me"... lately. That is simply because "I" am able to "dream" again... sweet Summertime Dreams. Through my Art my "Voice" has returned... and "I" feel a Peace and a Passion for life that seemed all but extinguished at one point.... "I" am blessed!

The piece that I have been working on for the past week that is used on today's post is a wedding gift being sent to my Brother Don's step son Jim and his "gal-of-choice" Alana. It is titled ... "A New Beginning-China Beach, Sooke, Vancouver Island, BC. This is the place where I first met Jim and Alana. I thought might be an appropriate subject and linked the title to words that I "copied and pasted" from their wedding invitation.

Sadly, we are unable to attend their wedding, due to our own business commitments... so it is our hope that this gift along with the artistically custom framed wedding invitation a la Deb will indicate our presence, love and blessings at their "New Beginning" nuptials... and for the remainder of their lives together in their new home.

Good luck Alana and Jim! Rich blessings along your journey!

Now back to the "think tank"...drawing board and easel in preparations to begin work on the new large commission... and to ready my Self for Summertime Dreams.. and plein Ayring in Ayr and the opening at Ayrspace 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday.

Good Painting to all... and Good Summertime Dreamin'....