Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finally... Drawing to a close

Though I at first found my Self up to my boot tops with the "frosting" on the Winter firs... I rethought the first impression I wanted... after "conferencing" with my trusty sidekick Deb. She has a great eye and often gives "Me" a perspective that sheds light on my predicament at hand. Usually I can work out my own problems... but this was one of those occasions when I required input.

Tomorrow... will be spent in "pushing and pulling" values in a few areas... but for the most part what you see in the jpeg posted is the final stage of the project. The canvases are gallery wraps... one and three-quarter inch stretcher bars. I paint around these completely to match the colour and the perspective at the edges all the way round. I'll get at that over the weekend to make my Wednesday delivery date deadline at AyrSpace.

Hope that everyone enjoyed the project as much as "I". I learned a great deal from the process... and would repeat such an undertaking again... after a rest!HAHA!!!

Good Painting to ALL

The Home Stretch...

Sorry that I didn't post my progress last evening... just too bagged after a long day of pulling things together. I had to make up some time over the past two days... and have done so. After looking at the jpeg for today... I am ready to drop the whole piece down to its original level to work up the flatter areas... particularly in the upper reaches of the Winter and Fall panels. Be prepared for some startling changes in those obviously unexplored areas.

I ended yesterday's session by carefully placing some of the vertical elements... more or less to break up the strongly dominant horizontal nature of this panoramic view. One can already see that it requires only a few carefully placed verticals to accomplish the task... so I will be very careful from here on in. "Little can say a lot." Leave something for the viewer to do in the experience of viewing. That's important.. "I" personally always feel!

Well... back to the "twin easels".... one for all around colour and the second reserved for the
"lights" of the and water elements. Keeps those lights "uncorrupted."

Good Painting to All! Stay tuned!....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Meeting of Seasons ...

An unfortunate mishap which happened on Sturday cutailed my plans to work further on the weekend. We had blizzard conditions and sub-zero tepmperatures here that deposited over a foot of snow. Travel was sketchy... but I needed a few items to prepare the evening meal... co I headed out in the weather to Craighurst... about a ten minute drive. I got there all right... but on my way into the food store... I slipped on a place which was unshovelled or salted at the entrance and found my feet above my body in a millisecond.

I landed on my elbow thankfully... which broke my fall... but the back of my head continued back and struck the sharp and unforgiving undercarriage of one of a long line of shopping carts. I was stunned for a moment... and knew when I felt my head... that I had a substantial head wound. I managed to stem the flow of.... and went inside... wad of paper towel under my ball cap... and completed my shopping. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the ER in Midland... and I came a way with a tetanus jab... and six staples in my noggin'... no airport departures for sure... evene tho' I did see stars for a brief second.

Today's session was fruitful and encouraging! I had mapped out a strategy to work up the mid to bottom portion of Winter (on the extreme right). This required glazing in layers of colour to the snow passages... then adding broken strokes of other hues to give the snow the lighting effect that I desired. I then worked at "knitting together" the two adjacent seasons to create a natural and gradual transition. I believe that I achieved that. I will tweak it more at the conclusion.

I then moved to the mid to left side of the project working towards the same goal... to create a subtle believable transition from summer to Spring. At the end of the day... I was pleased with the growth of the project. I can see the final state in my head at this point... so with the lay in nearly at a close... I will prepare my Self for the final push... adding vertical elements and a minimum of detail so that I don't lose the painterly quality already evident.

I have a couple more ideas I might consider... but there still on the back burner. They may... or may not enter the picture. Stay tuned for the next stage. MY deadline for completion will be Friday... or sooner! Delivery date for the show is next Tuesday!Keep your fingers crossed for "Me"!

Good Painting to All!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Foreground Sweep... Lay In's Near Completion

Day #5-Friday, January 14th

I raised the whole canvas about 2 feet and set to work working up the lay in right-to-left across the entire foreground. I felt that Winter and Fall at this point lacked a "presence" as strongly painted as the other two... and to maintain the soft gradation and tradition between the seasons... these other two had to "speak" out more clearly.

I worked quickly... washing in flat washes of diluted colour for the snow and fall foliage... paying absolutely no attention to any other purpose than to reduced the "blackness of the toned canvas. I did... however "reserve certain locations of black where I was still uncertain of the outcome I wished.(much as is the case in working a watercolour... when one reserves the white of the paper).

My next task was to add some variations in light and shadow in the snow passages... but lightly... just to infer where interest might be later on. At this point I also made some decisions and started thinking about how later vertical elements would come into play... and effect the horizontal feel already established.

My attention then was directed towards establishing colour and pattern possibilities in the foreground water... which occupies a very central part of the foreground space. I added some basic ideas for bull rushes... lily pads... shoreline ice and brush. Those elements were key to the process of "marrying" the seasons through acknowledging the slight changes in them from season to season.

I am going to take a breather over the weekend to be fully with family... but i will certainly be looking and evaluating my strategies for making the final assault on finishing the project next week. I am well on the way to "seeing" the final image already in my brain... on the canvas. As I said earlier... years of early thought and planning combined with decades of seeing this scene in all seasons makes the process not necessarily easier...but more "imaginable." The term I used way back... "Imagineering" is the act of creating from "Within"... a collage of what is first looked at... then "seen"... then felt... and finally brought into reality. The "impression" then is the embodiment of visual... spiritual and tactile responses to the outdoor experience!

Have a great weekend! More to report next week! Thank "You"... for checking in!

Good Painting to ALL!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Painting... In All Seasons

Ironically, the theme of my upcoming solo show is Painting In All Seasons... and today... I did just that! I painted in each of the four seasons in one painting session- a first for "Me"! HAHA!!Though it did take some getting used to in the beginning of the project... it is surprising how quickly the brain adjusts and allows one to shift without thinking actually between seasons... and in a single brushstroke to advance or retreat to another!

The trick is to keep walking back at regular intervals to survey the direction that you are working in. I do that always in my process either in the studio... or en plein air. That is highly evident when you see my painting location in winter... with its well-tramped pathway leading back about a dozen good paces. Remember that the painting is best viewed when completed from about the same distance. Moving up close reveals the "magic" if you will be between the "reality" seen 12 paces back... and the reality of the suggestions that create that distant perception.

The day began early and proceeded with only a quick break for lunch and a few shorter time outs to look things over and to give the back muscles a much needed rest! It went without a single hitch really... and I have been able to complete the second of the three horizontal planes... leaving only the foreground to be worked up... and that will come tomorrow I hope. I intend to elevate the whole project on saw horse to make the painting easier... and to spare my back any undue bending and twisting.

I think that you can clearly see the transition of the seasons moving from Spring on the left to Winter on the right. The transition is gentle between seasons... and each seems to flow into the next without being abrasive or jarring to the eye. I include a jpeg showing the mock up that I produced before actually starting the painting. I do so to illustrate clearly... that I "own" the process and canvas... NOT the other way round. I have attacked the project in the same manner that I paint en plein air. I can choose the outcome... and use what is in front of "Me"... merely as a starting point and guide. The final outcome... good... or bad... rests with "Me.

Hope that the project helps you with your own journey. Have fun! That's what painting should be all about! This one is for "Me"!

Stay tuned... for a further progress report tomorrow!

Good Painting to All!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let there be light... Pushing ahead

As I promised.. an update on the progress on the new Algonquin piece! It didn't take long to get into "The Flow"... and by the end of day one painting session I felt that I definitely had a handle on things!

Day#1-Tuesday, January 11Th

I decided to work up the lay in in the entire sky area first for a couple of reasons. Firstly... by putting in the differentiated sky areas for each season, I would create visual markers to orient my development of the four basic panels. The cloud formations and the sky colour are recognizably different for each season. Secondly... I could get the higher reaches of the painting as a whole developed enough... to permit me to elevate the entire piece early in the process by about three feet... therefore taking away the tedious and back-breaking work to be done in the lower reaches of the painting.

I accomplished the full lay in stage for the sky by the end of the first day- a good feeling and encouragement to get right back at it fresh in the morning. I will certainly have to "tweak" areas and modify tonal values all around... bit for the most art ... I'm satisfied with the good start and the direction I have !

Day#2-Wednesday, January 12Th

Today I decided to simply slip down to the next horizontal plane below the sky, which would allow me to establish the transition of each season... beginning with Spring on the left, working my way through the seasons in sequence... up to Winter of the right hand panel. I tried to show the "overlap"... or gradual time lapse between each season and did so reasonably well I feel. I will certainly adjust values and "push and pull" the boundary between the seasons as I wish later on.

I decided near the end of the session to push downward when I reached Winter to try and establish a feel for how the Autumn and winter will look... and how the bottom painted... will compare top the top. Surprisingly... I feel it is still moving as I had planned... or at least hoped for.

I will stress the point that the "Idea" for this painting has been in my sketchbook... and been distilling for nearly twenty years. Life is about "readiness"... whether we talk about child growth and development... marriage... or taking on a larger-than -life challenge such as this one for "Me". Planning is everything in making paintings. Working plein air for my entire career as an artist has taught me that at least. Nothing is more discouraging than failing to hit the mark... when you have "bitten off ... more than you can chew." I started with 11x14 panels in the beginning to paint on location... moving to 16x20 canvases and then 20x24 canvases and panels (now my preferred outdoor format)... was a HUGE leap of faith.

Tomorrow... I will move forward to hopefully lay in the middle ground area completely across at least... maybe further... but no rush. I have two weeks to complete the project... and I'm certainly on the money right now at least! Fingers crossed!

Thanks for all of the comments and support from my Followers! Hope that these posts encourage you... to broaden your own horizons... and to take reasonable risks in your own journeys! Stay tuned for further updates....

Good Painting to all !

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Something Old.... Into Something New

I am busy getting ready for the solo show at AyrSpace Gallery in Ayr , Ontario opening on January 28th. The theme for that show is Painting In Four Seasons... and will feature a combination of plein air sketches and studio paintings that chronicle my impressions of the Ontario landscape... as it passes from season to season.

Each season will occupy a single wall and each wall will contain at least one large painting as a main focus... with other smaller paintings and sketches grouped around the central work to give the flavour of the season.

Painting outdoors in all seasons has always been part of my method dating back to the very beginning of my painting journey. While I enjoy painting in all seasons and in all weather... strange as it may seem... I prefer painting in winter. Winter is a time when light is the most varied... shadows the most beautifully raking and transparent. Colour is pure and objects that are normally overlooked during other parts of the year... stand out starkly against the whites and blues of winter. Even the wind takes a hand in sculpting marvellous snow patterns and deeply enhances movement and light and shadow.

I decided to attempt a major piece for the show that would embrace my joy of all seasons and in particular... my great love and affinity for the northern wilderness aspect of Algonquin Park. I have painted for close to thirty years in the Park and always look forward to my forays at various times to that inspiring painting destination.

One particular part of the Park holds special significance for "Me" because on most of those occasions I have been in the company of a group of fine painting companions... some of whom are no longer with us. This part of the Park centers upon the area around Opeongo Lake Road and Costello Creek. In the last few years, this particular area has become very "homogenized" really... due to the Ministry's efforts to improve the Park and thereby increase tourism and use. Not a bad thing... on the surface. However... on the other side of the coin... this new influx of tourists and the impact they have on the landscape and the wildlife takes away from the original raw wilderness attributes. Increased access... particularly to bus tours in the high seasons makes being in this part of the Park or the Highway 60 corridor through the Park... very difficult to enjoy... either as an artist or a hiker.

I decided to create a challenge for my Self ... to create a single canvas that demonstrated the changes in seasons in this particular place. In other words... one will have the sense of passing from spring through summer and fall... back to winter on that single canvas. Doing that has required a lot of thought and planning... frustration... and uncertainty! Achieving that goal is far from being accomplished... but the task is underway. "The Devil hates a coward!"... the old saying goes!

It began by deciding upon the actual dimensions and format for the painting. I have decided on a painting (on canvas) format that is composed of four equal panels of 36x72 inches. That makes the entire project 12 feet wide x 6 feet tall. ... and believe me... that's a TALL order!!! The painting will be painted on the floor and on box horses because of weight and height factors... and because I hate ladders! I further decided to tone the whole canvas... BLACK. The effect of this toning will make the piece crisp and bright.... much like the recent Birch Copse piece... I hope!

Today's jpegs show my sketch and photo references developed to begin the planning... as well as the scale of the work... the "loose"white chalk line drawing guide to allow the actual painting to commence... and the "concept". Tomorrow... the fun begins! Stay tuned!

Wish "Me" luck!
Good Painting to All!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rural Requiem

If one was to search for something that could be considered the symbol of America... or Canada one need need not look much further than our forests for an answer. As difficult as it may be to accept such a statement in the face of skyscrapers, automobiles, space age accomplishment and the current cyber world that most of us are trapped in... or party to ... it was the "tree" that gave us our initial leverage on pioneering and developing our path to modernity... as we know it today.

William Cullen Bryant, a beloved and respected early American poet stated that "the groves were God's first temples" and he embraced the notion of creating Central Park in New York... the first designed urban park in North America and that refuge today stands as a monument to the thinking then... that trees and forests formed "the backbone of America."

In looking over my own artistic journey and the library of books that I have used "to school" my Self... I came across five books dating (in reprinted versions) all written by Eric Sloane. Those books in tandem with my numerous books on the Group of Seven... would form the crucible in which my own vision and artistic direction would be forged. The equivalent of Sloane in Canada was C.W. Jeffreys. Both were fine painters... but it was their pen and ink renderings of Americana and Canadiana that drew my attention to what would become my lifelong focus and pursuit of "things wooden"... and in particular the recording of Canadian barns.

Things wooden... include tools, utensils, decoys, carvings, canoes, boats and architecture... particularly barns. I was blessed to have been born and raised in a part Canada where many barns... derived from American, French-Canadian, British and European traditions were still present to be sketched and studied without having to travel more than a stone's throw to do so.

I continue to sketch and photograph barns ... searching them out and to record them before they finally vanish due to the mindless sprawl of urban development. Many of my sketchbooks and my photo reference materials from the past house ghost images of these relics... already gone forever along with our rural traditions.

Harrowsmith Magazine's December 2010 issue contains an article entitled "Ode to the Barn- A Vanishing Landmark". This post's introduction draws upon the shared ideas from one of Eric Sloane's books published in 1955... entitled "Our Vanishing Landscape."How ironic that Sloane... Harrowsmith Magazine ... and "I" should be aligned in our elegiac view of the sad plight of our barns! How ironic too, that my brother and I both contributed artwork to that same magazine depicting the declining population of barns back in the 1970's. I lived and operated the Gingerbread Gallery in Camden East, Ontario... the very place where Harrowsmith Magazine conceived and born.

This "green"magazine was aimed at "back-to-the-earthers"... offering editorial and state-of-the-art ideas and techniques that encouraged a Whitman/ Thoreau vision of self-sufficiency.... blended with the appeal for responsible stewardship to accompany land use. The meteoric rise and success of Harrowsmith was followed by the creation of Equinox their second success story... a glossy, eco-friendly Canadian version of National Geographic. In months, it became equally successful in grabbing a huge and responsive readership. Living in the small village of Camden East... being part of this experiment was one of my greatest blessings. It had the feel of family. It had a sense of community... where that term existed physically... beyond being just a word. They were both heady and halcyon days where the respect for rural life and tradition were given value and recognition!

Back to the Present... or sort of . I quote from another of my favourites from my library...The Owl Pen written by Kenneth McNeill Wells... and beautifully illustrated using the crisp woodcuts of his wife Lucille Oille. Wells was a highly successful columnist with the now defunct Toronto Telegram. They both became disenchanted with urban life in Toronto and purchased a rather dilapidated pioneer home in the Oro-Medonte not far from our Gallery. They chose "the road not taken".... long before it was in vogue in the 1970's. Their saga began in the mid to late 1940's... when homesteading was really the only life available to this beautiful, hilly and undeveloped area of Ontario.

The book chronicles their homesteading adventures and the hardships they encountered in finally discovering and enjoying the benefits and peace of rural living. The book is well-written... Wells is a trained writer whose heart and soul seeks to find a place out of the din. The wisdom of Wells' perceptions and discoveries further illuminate and give credibility to our need to retain contact with the land... and the traditions of stewardship that ensured its maintenance and survival for succeeding generations.

The demise and rapid disappearance of wooden barns from the American and Canadian landscape are simply visible scars of a deeper illness. It is the illness of a kind of greed that has no conscience... no plan for a sustainable future... nor more dangerously to us all... no concern for the land that provides food for the masses of population who depend upon it. The land that we are developing will never in our lifetime be ever reclaimable as an arable resource. That situation of imbalance is more damning to mankind around the planet... than the depletion of fossil fuels. Both are in fact not only inevitable... but imminent in this century.

My blog is indeed intended as a forum and resource for artists to openly share ideas, feelings and their paintings. It is also an opportunity to verbalize our awareness and concerns about the landscape and heritage that each of us enjoys. While there may exist differences in each because of location and culture... the observations we make are first hand beyond most citizens or politicians. Our cumulative voices ... together can perhaps provide "a canary in the mine" signal to those we meet and speak to... to address the very serious consequences we face globally... if we continue to be silent... and to ignore what we know we know is wrong... and is happening unchecked around us.

I earnestly believe in the "Power of One".... and that change begins ALWAYS ... with "Me." All revolutions of change in history have begun through the actions and hands of the "ordinary" man. All revolutions occurred because the ordinary man's interests and welfare were taxed beyond reason, or his physical well-being. Be assured that corporate controls such as we have already born witness to in the Monsanto seed monopoly and the various governmental-run boards for milk, wheat, corn, poultry, beef... the list is endless... have no interest beyond their ledgers and dividends to improve the lot of food producers... or consumers. These same injustices and poor management of land and crops existed in the time of the Pharaohs... and ultimately led to the rapid and eventual decline and fall of their vast and rich civilization.

I will end the post with a quote from page 105 in The Owl Pen... which I feel prophetically supports my appeal here:

"It is a queer thought, but a demonstrably true one, that except for the reeking manure spreader there would be no silvery old barns, nestling down among gnarled maples and beside quiet farm houses or gurgling creeks. Medonte would still be, or would be on the way to becoming again land of savage huntsmen. And our cities, denied the endless bounty of our fields, would starve and crumble. Famine and disease would sweep them.Nature has her own pitiless way of dealing with people who grow proud of their machines and indifferent to their soil, and in their own minds superior to the mound by the stable door."

Avarice and arrogance are solely the characteristics of Man.

"My name is Ozimandias, king of kings!Look upon my works , ye Mighty, and despair!"


-Percy Byssche Shelley

I have included a few samples of barns I have enjoyed painting... in various parts of Canada for your viewing and enjoyment. Maybe you have a few barns that might be interesting to record and share with other artists.

Good (barn) Painting to All !