Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autumn Idyll....

"Waiting For Winter"-oil on canvas 10x8 inches

Autumn Idyll - oil on canvas 8x10 inches

Idyll: (noun) a scene or time of peace and happiness; a description in literatureof a picturesque and charming scene or episode

My blogging friend in Wales Rob Ijbema visited my last post "River Vesper" and commented that I must live in an idyllic place... and I surely do! Both the Oro-Medonte through to Georgian Bay and Muskoka ( The Thirty Thousand Islands) and Rockort-Gananoque in The Thousand Islands are in their own rights.... both Paradise! I am blessed to be able to call both my home!

Autumn... bringing with it change in terms of weather and activity... in both the natural and human worlds is a time for reflection and contemplation. It is also that wonderful part of the year that plein air enthusiasts look forward to because of high colour...waning warmth and freedom from insect invasions and interruption.

In short... idyllic well suits the conditions of Autumn for painting outdoors on location. It is a brief period of time... and can be cut shorter by rainy conditions that can dominate this entire part of the year. None the less... spirits run high to get "out there"... and to push paint in quiet places. That is indeed the case for "Me."

I have been fine tuning my eye and palette this week... working on smaller canvases in preparation for my annual foray to Algonquin Park to paint with my painting friend David Kay, who lives on the edge of The Park at Whitney... at the East Gate entrance. The weather this week has been steady showers and thunderstorms... so that impacted my decision further to wait for better weather... hopefully next week.

My last three images... all in the 8x10 inch format is not my favourite, or most comfortable choice of canvas to work on in the field. I prefer larger canvases ranging from 16x20 inch upwards to 36x48 inches... which allow big brush exploration... application and movement.

That said... I am very satisfied with the loose... contemplative and quiet nature of all three of these smallish works. I feel that they hit the mark and are evocative of a contemplative mood of that brief moment in time that we fondly call Autumn. I hope that you enjoy viewing them as well.

Good luck all... with your own Autumn painting... wherever you live! Get "out there"... and simply paint... and enjoy the warmth and beauty of your own world!

Good Painting to ALL!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn's Upon Us.....

On our way down to Rockport and all along the Thousand Island Parkway.... things have begun to change quickly... and colour now has begun to replace the deeper summer greens. Even the air is changed, as the leaves and field vegetation emit a pleasantly acrid odor that for "Me"... signals that Autumn has arrived.

Geese are now gathering in larger flocks and fly about in training flights preparing "new wings" and new primary feathers for the long migration haul toward southern wintering grounds. With corn and grain crops already harvested... they spend most of the rest of their time on the water... "tipping up" and feeding upon the aquatic energy-rich vegetation that is available to them now because of the annual the low water levels.

It is a magical show to watch... and be a part of... one that never fails to inspire and entertain me. One can never be a part of this wonderful natural drama... in a studio. It is a side dish... at no cost to the plein air painter. Others of my kind... like Phil Chadwick, David Kay and Poul Thrane will understand what I am getting at. We have spent many hours together sharing the magic of this brief part of the year... and I am grateful for their company...a reason for genuine..."Thanksgiving."

The painting posted this morning is small... but its large spiritual context is unmistaken. I think it wholly captures my deep and abiding spiritual connection to The St Lawrence River... Rockport... painting... and my deeply rooted connection to the peace and sanctity of the natural world that "I" am blessed to be a part of. I hope that you enjoy it too.

Good Painting... and Happy Autumn to ALL!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recapping the Rockport Paint Out Pictorially.... Part Two

"Your blessing is no more than being safe and sound for your whole lifetime."
- a recent fortune cookie

May the Peace and the beauty of this special place... Rockport ... somehow enrich your journey!

St Brendan's RC Church (Est 1889... and the Queen of Peace high above the harbour

A serene River beauty... even in the gloom

River dredge in the morning mist... off to work in the Islands

Cruisin' the Thousand Islands aboard a comfortable, modern Rockport Boatline vessel

Some artists getting ready for exhibition time at The Rockport Restaurant & Patio!

An Andress style inboard wooden river craft... still tickin' along!

The Boathouse Restaurant

Zavicon Summer Mansion... late 1890's vintage

"Boathouses on Zavicon Island" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

"Rockport Respite", Cornwall's Point -oil on canvas 24x20 inches

" A Blessing from The Queen of Peace" (1919)... to Boaters sent from St Brendan's RC Church"- oil on canvas 20x16 inches

For this post... I will simply share some of the pictures and my final three plein air pieces in this post. I think that they speak amply for themselves... and I have more than amply described my own personal feelings about the entire adventure... so enjoy!

Good Painting to All!... Fall is already getting underway here in this part of the world! Good colour and dramatic subject matter ahead!

Deb and I are off to Rockport again on Thursday... for another few days of enjoying this paradise and visiting. Maybe another painting or two?....Well see!

Stay tuned!..

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rockport Paint Out ... and Reunion - Part One

People's Choice #2
Ed Andress, Master Wooden Boat Maker's Craft Still Lives in Rockport
Oil on canvas 24x20 inches - Gifted to the Andress Family

People's Choice#1

Work Tug Ishpeming - Captained by Eugene Johnston

Oil on canvas 24x20 inches - SOLD to Ishpeming's Master, Captain Eugene Johnston

The 1st International Plein Air Artists Paint Out held over the past weekend in Rockport, Ontario... in the very heart of the famous and very beautiful Thousand Islands was a smashing success! Not only were we blessed with "picture" perfect weather on all three days... but the planning and hospitality of the organizers... The Rockport Development Association and the warm reception and hospitality of all Rockport village residents at large went far beyond expectation... contributing greatly to both the level of comfort and the painting enjoyment and success of the twenty-three participating artists.

Not only did we have a carte blanche welcome to paint anywhere within this quaint and historic village itself... we were offered ridiculously low priced water taxi access to outlying, privately owned island retreats that are normally not open to visitors. My second painting was made on Pine Island... the personal retreat for John Keats, an American columnist/writer best known and much-loved "Of time and An Island"... a book which nostalgically chronicles island life and life along The St Lawrence River... as many of us have been blessed to enjoy.

For my second painting site... I water taxied out to Pine Island with several other members to explore possibilities on the island. I chose to paint the boat houses of the mansion-covered Zavicon Island located a scant two hundred feet south of Pine Island... looking eastward down the River. I was joined by Phillip Chadwick, a recently retired meteorologist for Environment Canada in Toronto. Phil and I have an early connection dating back to 1967 to Brockville, Ontario... our shared home town. He was a student in my very first class... a grade seven class at Toniata School.

Phillip was a very gifted and exceptional art talent even then and has grown to become a recognized and very successful plein air painter in his own right. He offers lectures... as "Phil the Forecaster" which tie together his observations and thesis that the plein air works of the Canadian painting legend Tom Thomson record very accurate meteorological data of specific weather in time in Algonquin Park. His after dinner talks on both Friday and Saturday nights kept all of us attending rapt and riveted by the combination of his quick and lively humor... as well as the very demonstrably plausible evidence he provided about Thomson's skill as a meteorologist! I take great pride in having taken Phil on his very first plein air outing. I "fore casted" great things for him in this school of painting... and he has done us both proud! I was very proud of him on those evenings!

The entire group of participants welded together instantly as a common family. No one was left out of the circle. No one dominated or stood off by themselves. We shared every moment of the three days... in harmony... good cheer and encouragement. Everywhere one went... you would find others who were sharing common subjects without reserve or petty jealousy. How good it felt to be in the company of such sharing individuals... brought together under their common passion for painting and this beautiful natural kingdom.

The meals were both wonderfully and tastefully prepared... and again efficiently... and with reasonable costs. And after a long day out in the fresh air... no one was left wanting for more food. The portions were excellently prepared... and very filling!

The Rockport area is a place very familiar to me. My family had a summer cottage... no a home really located at The Narrows where the mainland nearly touches Tar Island. Our family use it in all four seasons for fifty-four years. I worked in Rockport as a teen at Ed Huck Marine and Caiger's Fishing Lodge... the very site of our first evening meal! The whole experience was a home coming for me... a blessing... a catalyst of renewal.

To be able to share my knowledge of the history of the area with the other artists was so gratifying for me personally. I met so many people, old friends of our family... and saw so many faces from as far back as fifty years... fellow cottagers that I had chummed with. How gratifying to know and feel that we shared more than wrinkles and years. We shared lasting common memories and a common joy that our presence still had meaning in the minds and memories of others. I felt so blessed.... to reconnect!

On Sunday morning... we headed out for one last painting foray of choice... for one final go at this pristine painting paradise. I remained on Front Street and painted the entrance and alley that led to The Cornwall's Restaurant and Grill. The Rockport Boat Line loads its passengers from tour buses... en route to a Thousand Island cruise nearby. People came and went for lunch at The Cornwallis and Boathouse Restaurants. There was a continual stream of passersby during the course of the painting session. Due to the many questions and reunions that kept coming and going... I was unable to completely finish the painting. I'll take it from the lay in stage to finish tomorrow... from memory

I was deeply embedded in my painting thought... you know the feeling, when I recognized a familiar woman's voice behind me. That voice belonged to a woman, Janet... from"way back when" who came up from Cleveland, Ohio each summer with her family to their haunt on Tar Island. She now lives with her husband Don Pedersen and lovely family in Oregon. I had not seen her in at least twenty years.

How joyous the reunion for us both! Our now..."ancient history" could be better classed as "a crush"for us both... as opposed to a "squeeze"... in nature. We were simply friends... and common members of a cottage family/community that water skied... swam... danced... wiener roasted and hung out incessantly each summer during our teen years. Romance bloomed momentarily... and I might say was more often than not... was the result of "cross-pollination"... and sharing. Another blessing delivered!...

The greatest blessing occurred at the final scheduled event of this Paint Out event at the Boat line Patio. All artists were invited to exhibit their paintings to the public at an informal wine and cheese social under the auspices of the RDA. The event was well attended by citizens from all around... local dignitaries and press reps from local newspapers.

None of the works displayed against the surrounding benches were signed. Each had a numeral assigned directly below. Artists were not permitted a vote. Votes were democratically cast on a small ballot given each person... no matter their age entering the one entrance to the patio. They were given the two hour period to view all of the works and them they were asked to submit a single vote for their favourite painting of the lot - a difficult decision... given that each of us submitted at least four or more paintings. The ballots were then placed with the official on the door and were then tallied to determine the three favourite paintings in the exhibition. There were many very different... yet equally beautiful paintings presented.

How surprised I was... to learn that two of my five paintings were awarded First and Second place. I have never painted expecting awards and really have not followed the competition and juried shows route... except on a few occasions. I have always painted for myself and for pleasure. To be awarded two awards by people from my own heritage community really touched me. It will be a memory I will always cherish fondly.

This entire event... from start to close reflected a very unique situation... a situation totally governed by generosity and sharing. I wish to thank all of my fellow participating artists... now all friends... Wendy Merkley, her husband Art and her hard working Rockport Development Association team... The Rockport Boat Line, Andress Boatworks for the excellent water taxi service, Rockport and Island residents who permitted us to share their truly magical properties .. and our fabulous dining hosts at Caiger's Fishing Lodge and The Cornwall's Restaurant for their fine food and impeccable service and hospitality during our most enjoyable stay. Be assured that we will each carry the "Good News" about Rockport... and share it wherever we go!

Until the 2nd Annual Rockport IPAP Paint Out next September... a HUGE Thank You ... ALL for this incredible painting experience!

Stay tuned for Part Two and more pix and details... and Good Painting to ALL!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Interfacing With the Universe...

When two things... or people interface... they are in the act of a mutual linking... interaction one with the other. Whether that act of interfacing is either accidental... or driven by one of the pair... the final act of their linkage or interaction is determined by mutual agreement to move forward.

When two people... even total strangers meet... someone must initiate further action between the two by some response that is both recognized by both as nonthreatening... worthwhile and authentic in purpose. If these conditions are met in the minds of both individuals... then the initial interaction can proceed into further conversation ... and even towards the building of a long term and lasting relationship. That is a simplified... yet human example of how interface can occur. Some might define the initial contact as an act of Fate... or Karma... or serendipity. As humans... it is always one of our basic needs to classify and define what is at first new or unknown to us. That act... in a small manner offers comfort I suppose.

We all accept the term and existence of "The Universe" as scientific fact... and grammatically defined the term as "the whole of all existing matter, energy and space." But the question remains, as to how one brain can perceive and deal with that and seemingly limitless expanse and concept of existence. Many people ... including myself, have given a large amount of time and thought to try and get our heads around that term and concept. And in my own case... "being of little brain" in comparison to these greater minds, I have rather generalized the term "Universe" when I refer to it... as a rather large and unending "Creator" of successions of opportunities that one can choose to respond or not to during our daily and earthly lives. In my own way I personify the term Universe.

I dearly hope that my delving here into metaphysical things doesn't discourage or offend any of my readers. That surely is not my purpose. It is like all other posts that I write... an open opportunity to share and compare our thoughts, as well as our art and processes. In the last post I mentioned that canvas "L'Heure d'or" was special to me personally... and that I had always been at a loss to understand why it stayed around for so long... for over eight years.

But after witnessing the joy that the lady who purchased the piece shared with me in the studio, this act supplied a sort of comforting answer and closure for me. Her email of this morning... further revealing her pleasure in hanging it immediately upon arriving back home in Saskatchewan... even before she unpacked... further amplifies my joy... and the belief I have that paintings we commit ourselves fully to... will find their home "on their own steam"... as The Universe provides opportunity to release them from us. The Universe comes to your door knocking... but only after you have gone out in some fashion to the Universe beforehand.

Too often... we become discouraged and caught up in the value of immediate sales as a measure of success and acceptance. Too often... we yield or bend our principles and goals in favour of trying to procure these latter two by jumping about to "catch" the market... and in so doing... I think that we surrender that inner sense of accomplishment and worth that can only be felt by true... creators.

Yesterday... The Universe and I interfaced again briefly... and two other smallish plein air works that I truly enjoyed making found new homes... after many months of being moved and shuffled about in the Gallery. The one piece... "The Jumble" a plein air effort of 10x8 inches was fun to paint... rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Many noted that it was jolly... and fun to look through the maze of branches. That was exactly how it was created... painting using the negative spaces... as opposed to making it a tedious drawing exercise.

During the late afternoon, a wonderful family of four entered the Gallery... each member setting out to look about... independent of the other three. The young woman... whom I would judge to be in her mid twenties made her rounds twice and kept bringing both parents around for a conference at several pieces of various sizes. Finally she approached us at the counter and announced that she would like to have "The Jumble." That painting was waiting for her... and that meeting of the two gave me great pleasure.... far beyond the money value.

As it turned out... she had just graduated from Queen's University in Kingston (the Alma Mater for Allison, Andrew and myself) and was moving to downtown Toronto to begin her first job and this purchase was to be her first art purchase... for her first apartment of her own! Her parents added a second small 5x7 inch piece "Retired and Forgotten to round out their visit with us. Even their choice it came to be revealed was not based only upon the beauty of the painting alone.

They run a B&B closeby... and they produce maple syrup on the property. I have for a long time slowed my van as I pass their lovely yellow Cape Cod-style home on the Bass Lake Road... thinking what a nice subject it would make. Now... I know the owners... and have an open invitation to visit. What a wonderful gift back from the Universe... to meet such a wonderfully wholesome family... bound together... by genuine love for each other and choice.

I learned further from my conversation with her brother... just graduated from school as well that he was taking a year off from planned future studies, before heading off to teachers' college to work with children with special needs... using his interest and qualifications in psychology as a springboard. We shared that background interest. My teaching career... for the most part, dealt with the neediest of students.

No matter what your sense of spirituality might be... or whether it differs from what I have posted here... my hope is to encourage readers to pursue their own visions... never surrendering to not doing your best. But mostly... I simply wish to offer that belief in one's self is primary in succeeding at anything in life... and most especially when it seems the Universe and "You"... are not interfacing.

Sometimes... one has to go out to meet the Universe... to explore... to find new ideas that the Universe can offer. This can be accomplished by trying a new medium or technique... or painting en plein air... without regard for painting a masterpiece. Simply filling ones senses makes us come alive and opens our eyes to new and refreshing truths that help us to grow and sustain our creative spirits.

This next weekend, I will be at a three day 1st Annual Paint Out organized in Rockport, Ontario on the St Lawrence River... under the auspices of the International Plein Air Painters, a worldwide organization for plein air enthusiasts.... see of which I am a new member. Check out there site for details and events scheduled. The area is hardly new to me..

My family cottaged at this very area each summer for over fifty years. I worked in this quaint river village... and know and feel about it deeply. That area forms the core of my own Universe... physically... spiritually and artistically. I think that this "going out" to be with like-minded plein air painters will result in some great paintings... and new relationships! Stay tuned.....

Stay the courses! Reach out! And SMILE... even "whistle while you work... and you'll be surprised... at some unpredictable moment during that hard work... The Universe will indeed SMILE back upon "You"!

Good Happy Fall Painting to all !

Final Food For Thought:

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Change is in the air... or it should be!

Episode One: Friday afternoon

I went out yesterday in search of a shady... quiet place just to work my palette back into shape without interruption or having to travel around looking for the perfect subject. We've all done that too many times in our past and often came home discouraged and frustrated and... worse still... without " bird in the hand."

I headed eastward out Mount St Louis Road... past Rumble's Mill... and beyond Mount St Louis Cemetery. I have always enjoyed this particular area because it is shaded ... quiet and relatively unsettled. Stones in this cemetery describe the early French settlement, dating to the mid to late 17oo's. This can be said to represent the earliest of settlement in this Oro-Medonte area... just a few generations after the Jesuits and French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in this area... then known as Huronia due to the tribal presence of the Huron First Peoples. This area became important to the French in the development of the lucrative fur trade route from Hudson's Bay to Quebec via the Great Lakes chain.

I swung south up the 5th Line Road and pulled into the shady maple grove that lines both sides of the road at The (new) Mount St Louis Roman Catholic Church... established in 1839. By a European time frame this is indeed "young"... but in terms of church presences in this part of Ontario... it easily can be referred to be at least "middle aged." Mass continues to be offered regularly on Sunday at 9:00 am... whereas many other churches of other denominations are either rapidly in decline... or already closed. Many now function as personal residences.

This plain country brick church at a crossroads reflects the faith and commitment that early settlers in an solely agrarian society had for their belief system. The church also formed the social hub of the community for any functions... with its white frame hall located on the same property. Today... it serves the same function for the community... but as well serves as a "coffee house' for folk music enthusiasts on Thursday evenings throughout the winter months.

I settled down to work quickly and was making rapid progress... when the light suddenly disappeared and thunder and lightning replaced it. All of my reasons... especially the patterns of light were gone... as was my desire to be located under such old and heavy maples during an electrical storm. I quickly began the taking down process... but sheets of rain were already drenching everything... outside of the canopy of shade under which I was working. A good choice of location for two reasons! I would have to take a "rain check" on this sortie... and hope for another similar day tomorrow!

Episode Two: Saturday afternoon

I headed back to the same location with my "rain check" in hand... and a renewed desire to get back to finishing yesterday's business. Everything was relatively the same with regards to lighting so the painting moved along nicely and finished without difficulty and finished in just over an hour. During the relaxed part of this painting process... my mind drifted about considering a lot of concerns and impressions that I have observed over the past few months.

Strange... how the plight of this one small church seemed so different than larger ones in more populated areas around it. What was it that enabled it to continue to function in the same manner as it always had... in the face of the same environment of financial woes and social changes that had challenged and finally defeated larger parish churches?

Things do change in all aspects of life... and only they that are willing to change with the times can either grow or survive. I think that will be true also for working artists for the next few years. This weakened economy and the lack of confidence in the money markets will certainly shape future spending practices of even those with affordable incomes - the backbone of art sales wherever you live.

I think that Faith in oneself and a sustained strong work ethic must be key factors in surviving in the new marketplace. Keeping an eye on... and adapting to market changes are certainly essential as well. That doesn't necessarily mean abandoning your own process and choice of subject matter to become a "market painter." Being ordinary... or following the lead of others will simply result in being rolled in with the others. Buyers today are better educated... and more discriminating than in previous generations from my experience... so that offering fresh new ideas... drama and higher colour will attract the eye of these new patrons.

Look for new ways to present your own ideas. Expand your repertoire. Go out on a limb to experiment. Look to new places to visit... portfolio in hand... with new ideas to promote your work. Take a look at your pricing and gauge it according to your painting and exhibition experience and the quality of the work around you. Sometimes we artists are heady on... but not always totally realistic about "who"... and "where" we really are in this rapidly diminishing... yet more highly competitive art world that we live in at present.

How strange... that a quaint wee country church can evoke more than a subject to be painted! When one is painting... en plein air.... there exists a space for such contemplative thought that normally is absent in the studio. Out here... all of the senses are enlivened... firing at full capacity. Out here... many of the worries... and the hurries and scurries disappear... allowing one to commune with one's soul. Painting should really be just that. Painting "Ideas".... from the inside ....out... to be shared with whomever might care to pay attention.

This very special and infinitely large space is not ... just a single church. It is a personal cathedral... without denomination or dogma... a sanctuary for celebrating and enjoying the gift of The Creator and His Creation.... and hence the title for this painting is simply...."The Sanctuary."

Good Painting to ALL!!!