Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blogging Benefits... and Benevolence

"Embracing Winter... and Life"- oil on canvas 30x24 inches

Embracing Winter...
Gnarled beech arms resolutely
stretching skyward
Soaking up the remaining precious
pink warmth
Of another day's sun.
Unafraid and uncaring of certain
Revelling in warmth and beauty of the
Steadfastly refusing to give Death his
One hour sooner than He deserves,
Nobly and with dignity
Deciding to die living...
Embracing the warmth of Life,
And not the chill and emptiness of

March 29th, 2008

There are many moments when I question why I continue to post. I will confess that I spend (too) many hours thinking about... writing... then editing... before posting. My wife often becomes upset that I continue to "waste" so many hours of my life that have very little to do... in her mind with painting. And in some respects, I would concur that my time might be better used... especially these days... when our imminent... and rapidly approaching move to Rockport should be my priority.

I'm afraid that I don't surf... "collect" or worry about my Friend registry... or look to either receive or offer "fluff" comments. I write to reach out and to genuinely share my thoughts... feelings and ideas... in the hope that these might help others who share my passion for creating Art. I guess that simply put... the need to help and share overrides any measure of common sense or practicality.

I had intended to complete the second and final painting to be shipped to my gallery in Nova Scotia, however a post by one of my dear Friends rocked "Me" to my very core. It struck me like a bullet - square in my heart... and I have yet to really comprehend and move on past the news. I was totally overwhelmed by the fact that this response came about as a result from news from the life of one... whom I have never met... and yet I "know" and respect "Her"!

I am... most certainly an incurable Romantic... "in love with Love itself"... involved by my feelings for all the inequity and unfairness that visits so many people in so many parts of the world. That vulnerability has cost "Me" dearly too many times in my life already... and yet... "I" can neither push those feelings aside nor ignore them.

The event that I am speaking of is no secret in Blogger land. It involved the tragic and sudden passing of Suzanne Berry's Soul Mate and Husband, Tim last Wednesday. It is no secret... because Suzanne posted the news of this tragedy herself on Friday. Given the level of loss... grief and numbness that this event would create in any of us... it seemed almost inconceivable to me that Suzanne could bear to reach out to her artist Friends online... for comfort and solace.

The continuing outpouring of genuine love... sympathy... and respect that her Blogging Family has delivered back to her, clearly defines the value and function of this social networking device. It reaches out far beyond the intended general use... even misuse of the blog. It reaches beyond embellishing one's artistic presence or making sales. It can be seen to have possibility to serve as an organ of connection... interaction and yes... genuinely bonded relationships between kindred spirits that would never be possible otherwise.

Tonight... my self-doubts and my feelings of guilt for using my time to be an active part of this medium... for even the twelve or so individuals who I regularly "speak" with and who make up my Blogger Family have been put to rest. One has to search one's own soul to understand the reasons for choosing to be involved... or not, or to describe the motives for so doing.

This evening, I wish only to reach out to my Friend Suzanne in moment of terrible loss to place my words along with the many other tributes she has received. "You" and Tim are in my thoughts and my prayers Suzanne! Oh... that words were enough! But in such times... I know the comfort of the presence of Friends and the healing power that Art has! I send along both to "You"... in the sincere hope...that they provide "You" some comfort!

From "Me"... to "You" Suzanne! There lies a great capacity within Art for healing. It saved "Me" from Darkness! "I"... am reborn ... a better "Me"!

Much Peace... Healing and love,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Reasons... to Smile!

Deb... with a good reason to smile- the first half of her Kay window commission safely delivered and hung... in all its glory!!!

Welcome!... to Rockport!

Winter Quiet... at The Anglican Church of the Redeemer!

A St Lawrence Winter Sunrise

Idle hours for one of the overworked Rockport tour boats!

Here is an eastward view from Rockport of The St Lawrence past Tar Island on the left. Note in the deep distance the three mile distance across from the Canadian mainland to the American shore. It is indeed a vast... and mighty body of fresh water unequalled anywhere in the world... giving rise to this area being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

St Brendan's Roman Catholic Church... and our Queen of Peace... guarding over Rockport waters.

Around the corner to action central... The Cornwall Grill and Pub... open year round to River Tourists and Residents.

This mural depicts Rockport pioneer and boat building legend Edward Andress at work in the boat works during Rockport's halcyon boat building era.

Looking Downhill... our home on the right... then the Gift Shoppe

This will be our view from our kitchen and living room... minus the wintering digger and barge. The private patio and dock are for our pleasure and use. Guess where morning coffee will be served???

This is our next door neighbour The General Store Gift Store.... Andress House (Wendy's home) just on the bend on Front Street.

This is a wintry postcard view of our new home "Islesview"... and down the long lane is the future home of The Paint Box Gallery... at this snow-drifted moment... merely ... an "Idea"!!!

"People can change at any age. Where there is life, there is possibility. Even ancient beliefs can be overturned or replaced in a matter of moments. We are the river."

Barry Neil Kaufman

"Happiness Is A Choice"

We are busier than one armed paper hangers here at The Paint Box Gallery theses days... working item by item down a long line of tasks to finish up business responsibilities... setting an actual moving plan in place... arranging painters and tradesmen to ready the house in Rockport... changing address information... settling up household contractual agreements... the list seems endless!

That being said... I have the best organizer in Deb handling the "internal affairs" portfolio... which leaves me to be the "go-pher" and the "go-to" jobs. Sharing house responsibilities has always been easy for us. Each handles the jobs near and dear to their heart... with support from the other when necessary... or asked for!

Such is the case in household chores. Deb loves the cleaning and maintenance aspect of home keeping... and I do most all of the daily cooking duties. We share dishes and some household tidying chores. An equitable and acceptable division of labour that gives everyone what they like to work at!

First on the list was for us both to complete commission responsibilities. The first reason for a Paint Box smile... is the top jpegs of Deb's newest stained glass piece... half of a double window delivered and hung in Algonquin Park at our friends David and Diane Kay. They were both "over-the-moon" in love with the result! And well they should be- it lights the entire open kitchen space area with both light and warm colour.

We delivered it to them on Tuesday... had lunch and a visit and then headed home mid afternoon. Glad that we chose to leave when we did. Half way through the Park... it began to snow furiously and continued all the way back to Hillsdale. The driving was very hazardously wet and greasy at times. People refuse to slow down despite the poor conditions. We were glad to arrive home just after dark... 6:00 pm in this neck o' the woods these days!

This morning... I'm on to my second and final canvas slated to head to Nova Scotia. I'm hoping to make it a one shot go... a one day session... we'll see how it goes!

I have really appreciated the supportive words and comments from those of you who have left comments regarding this new adventure and undertaking. It is impossible really... to encapsulate those feelings we have through mere words alone. I hoped that the four jpeg paintings might act as a prelude to help you envisage this idyllically beautiful setting... but I think that perhaps some photo reference might add further insight for you.

I hope that you enjoy these first glimpses... "walkabout" into... our Tomorrow!

Good Painting to ALL!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Universe Speaks!.... Choices are made!

"Pulling in Winter" - oil on canvas 12 x 30 inches

"Time Stands Still at The Narrows"- oil on canvas 16x48 inches

"Silence is Indeed... Golden - oil on canvas 12x48 inches

"Morningshine-Chimney Island"- oil on canvas 12 x 48 inches

"The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see."

Barry Neil Kaufman

"Happiness Is A Choice

"Deb and I have been searching for a new adventure for our lives for the past three years. The Paint Box Gallery is such a strong part of our journey... a "raison d'etre"... a place to live... work and play... all under one roof. Even after a very careful search...finding an alternative location where that would be possible... and financially within our current means seemed to be almost impossible.

We searched real estate ads for locations within a two hundred kilometer sweep from Hillsdale... where there seemed a strong art presence and a sales viability combined with an living ambiance that we would enjoy. We visited so many communities and went through many possible locations... but the combinations we required simply seemed not to be found anywhere. It was truly discouraging!

Our ten year sojourn here in Hillsdale has been wonderful... and as my paintings and words attest... the Oro' Medonte and Georgian Bay regions have been a place of great joy... serenity... peace and creative energy for us both. Leaving a well-established ten year business presence might seem foolhardy... even risky... and indeed it might seem so on the surface!

But the economic hard times being experienced everywhere else has visited Hillsdale as well ... leaving only ourselves... an automotive parts store... an automotive repair shop... and a too small post office as the only semblance of active business in our community. Both stores in the community have tanked... leaving little reason for anyone to stop as they pass through on the busy Highway 93. The increased cost of fuel... greatly reduced tourism have combined with the very great distance from Toronto to reduce traffic flow and then sales significantly.

Though our sales have continued to be there for us... mainly due to loyal customer patronage... they are much more sporadic and there is little or no growth potential here until the economy drastically improves, or a store is created within Hillsdale. Those necessary factors, we have decided are well beyond the realistic and viable window for our continuing to remain here.

You will recall that I attended The 1st Plein Air Paint Out for The International Plein Air Painters Association last September at Rockport on the shores of the St Lawrence River. You might recall as well that I had grown up at 'The Narrows"... located east on The St Lawrence River... mere minutes away from Rockport. During the Paint Out... I rekindled friendships dating back fifty years. One of those friendships was with Wendy Merkley (nee Johnston), granddaughter of Ed Andress, renowned St. Lawrence wooden boat builder. Wendy now lives in his stately and historic riverside home ... perched high on a cliff in central Rockport.

This energetic and intelligent lady was the driving force which made the success of the event possible. During one of our evenings of chatting together alone, she mentioned that she had overheard a rumour that I was looking to relocate my life and business. I indicated that it was indeed no rumour... but that we were at that time coming up with little success. She asked... if I might be interested in returning to The Thousand Islands... and Rockport in particular. I indicated that if I could fine the right opportunity... at the right price... that we most certainly would.

I will cut to the chase at this point to announce... that effective April 20th, 2012 The Paint Box Gallery and the two of us will be residing and operating in Rockport, Ontario. We will take up residence in "Islesview" right on the waterfront in the central business part of Rockport. Rockport is the home base for The Thousand Island Boat Lines... which provides scenic boat tours into The beautiful Thousand Islands. In short... it is a tourist mecca from June through to Thanksgiving in mid October!

Aside from being " a step up" commercially speaking... Deb and "I" ... are going Home... closer to our families... back to our common roots... and that form the very essence of my person and artistic spirit. As I have always maintained here in this blog and through out my entire lifetime... "The Universe" speaks... and offers opportunities. Whether one embraces these opportunities and makes them "Choices" is the sole responsibility of each person on their journey.

Deb and I have deliberated long and hard about this life-altering move and have decided together that it is a win-win situation that we cannot and will not pass up! So onward... to paradoxically "something old... yet as well, something new." We are excited... as is Wendy and her hard working development team in Rockport. Together... I truly hope that we can bring about a "Renaissance" for the Arts in Rockport! Count us ready to roll up our sleeps!

And Paint my heart out I will... with JOY!!!.... A new "white canvas"... on my easel... a place for my cedar strip canoe to travel freely!

Good Painting to ALL !!!

PS I have posted a few paintings from past forays to give you a first glimpse of what is to come in the very near future! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kisses n' Hugs... n' Tears....

" Oro-Medonte Overture to Winter"at Fowler's Barn Ingram Road - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

Being Valentine's Day.... it seemed only fitting to send along "something red" via my blog to celebrate this special day! Here is that something red... a sketch fresh from my easel today!

Kisses and much love to each my family members... (cyber) "Hugs" to my artist Friends... wherever you might be! Happy Valentine's wishes to ALL!!!

And tears?... Tears shed in memory of Whitney Houston... an unspeakable loss to all of her musical family... and the thousands of "Hearts"worldwide... broken by the news of her too sudden passing! I was so moved by fellow blogger Dean's tribute at his deanos-den@blogspot.com ... both his painted and written eloquent remembrances... that I sat down and penned one of my own to honour and celebrate her life of achievement and her gift of music to the world.

Art... no matter the medium does indeed transcend all human barriers and boundaries. It can often transcend even the darkness and sadness of Death!

Owed to Whitney

Like moths to the flame... some are drawn,

Far too soon they are flown... and are forever gone.

Their gossamer loveliness and fragile souls laid bare,

What remains... is but a scent of the gift that was there.

Minstrels they became... though not out of choice,

Twas their karma to wander... with their message and voice.

Their journeys were fraught... with dangers and pain,

Though they struggled to be free... they surely had to remain.

Fame and fortune seem, at first... to be a gift in return,

To ease the burden they carried... a salve for the burn.

But these gifts oft' are fleeting... and come with a price,

And often when withdrawn... yield to destruction, even vice.

The minstrel may be gone... and Time moves along,

The voice may be silenced... but never the song.

When the soul leaves this existence.. its short journey run,

The gift and its real life... have only begun.

The Peace and the Place... which they only seldom enjoyed,

Is now within reach... just beyond that great void.

The land of Peace that you sought... is now within view,

In the hands of the Lord... please remember that...

"I'll Always Love You"!

God speed Whitney!... and Thank you! May you now finally find eternal Peace... and rest!

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Yesterday's Dreams", Bush Island, Nova Scotia

End lay in result of painting session #1

Second run with the knife-Day #2 - Note new "ideas" creeping in

Final stage - Day #3 Cleaning up the "too" darks areas and more clearly extablishing the water and pilings areas to create a stronger... more readable foreground

Detail of impasto knifework on shed and in water surface

Addition of clothesline as compositional device and "colour surprise"

"The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see."

-Barry Neil Kaufman

Happiness Is a Choice

An aside...

When I first painted en plein air in this place back in 1999, I was drawn to its raw isolation and its remoteness. Rarely... did I encounter... even see any of its inhabitants... except on one occasion when a young lad of about ten came forward to greet me and to ask questions... many questions! He and his family lived in the weather beaten yellow home seen in the upper right of my painting and it was quite obvious that he lacked for many of the things that other children have and take for granted. It was these other things that enjoined us as kindred spirits. Age is never a barrier... when this is true!

He did however... have panache and an infectious smile. He seemed an "old soul." During the course of painting his home, he related how a lady artist came to the island each summer and that she had taken an interest in him because of his interest and ability to draw and paint. He asked if I would be interested at all in seeing some of his work... and I assured him that I am ALWAYS interested in seeing the art of others.

He appeared back at my painting location... in what seemed only mere seconds. He fanned out a fistful of his work on the grass and asked what I thought. I knew immediately why the "summer lady" took a shine to him. His ink drawings were marvellous... and I mentioned without hesitation that I really admired the portrait of the cat a lot. And without hesitation... he offered it to me... saying that he would be honoured for me to have it.

This young man... bright... confident and so generous really reminded me of another "small boy"... one who had been fortunate to have had many caring people to encourage his own life long journey. Art is the first expressive language for all children. They make pictures to describe their ideas and feelings... long before they master spoken or written expression. Their work is unbridled by rules... outside influence and instruction... or perhaps a better term ... obstruction! Even then... they paint and draw compulsively ... and with inner passion!

Sadly, with the increasingly earlier disappearance of childhood in our culture, the "child" in all children is made to grow up far too soon... and away from their love of picture-making as a form of personal expression. During my teaching journey, I was blessed to spend time with so many young people... helping them to recover their belief in their magic. And now... I find myself reaching out to "growed children"... greyed perhaps... by the rigours of raising families or a career... but not of spirit. It is NEVER too late to rekindle that belief buried under years of compromise and duty! Many of you are on that path... and it is a pleasure and honour to share ideas and that path to adventure. Art is for the young at heart. Strange! The word "Art" is contained within the word Heart!

We shared the day together... and at the conclusion of the session... I offered him the painting that I had made of his home. He was taken-a-back by my willingness to part with the painting. I told him that quite frankly... I much enjoyed his cat sketch to the oil... and to consider it a fair trade... one artist to another. I also assured "Him"... that we were equals... and on the same path!

Mission Accomplished! - "Yesterday's Dreams, Bush Island Nova Scotia"
oil on canvas 20x24 inches

Over the past two days I worked and reworked areas all over the surface... trying very hard not to totally disturb passages that seemed pleasing. Since I had placed lower values of colour almost everywhere at the outset... the raising of values... creating lost and found edges and applying heavier impasto where I felt it benefited was really quite easily achieved.

Yesterday was spent looking ... finding places here and there to be corrected to create balance and harmony... and bits of colour placed strategically to draw the eye around the composition. One "idea found" its way into the composition was the line of clothes... a predictable Monday morning ritual "detail"... in every cove or village that I ever visited Down East.

I think that this detail adds greatly to moving the eye... and serves as an unexpected "colour surprise." The gull on the roof... not easy with just the tip of a knife... is there... but not. One of many little details to search for on a compositional treasure hunt . So many other things that existed in the place in reality (though they exist still in my mind) have been eliminated from the actual painting. They are merely "clutter"... and must be winnowed away to leave the real kernels of interest. That's the art in painting!

I truly hope that each of my readers finds something in my adventure... to further their own journeys. Art is meant to be shared... unconditionally with the world... no matter "how good" it is is... or compares to others. Take courage to reach out. Your way of seeing the world will never be the same as any other. It is unique! I always enjoy visiting the sites of Friends to see what their world looks like. I learn from each of you as well!

I am currently reading a wonderfully uplifting book authored by Barry Neil Kaufman entitled:

Happiness Is a Choice. From Chapter I, Living the Dream comes this mind-changing phrase:

"to no longer believe in what is,

but to start to believe in what you want."

That was the real intention and goal of this exercise. To physically demonstrate that you can make your art what you want it to be.. not to restricted by "what is." Real joy comes out of watching your mind "imagineer" a new reality... one that is your very own. The act of creating through painting has been with me throughout my entire lifetime. It was a tool every day in my classrooms to motivate and excite children. And in one dark episode in my life... it became my recovery craft and has carried "Me" out of unimaginable Darkness and Despair. It alone... with a few good Friends provided Hope for a Tomorrow... that has become... Today!

I am deeply blessed!

Good Painting... and Adventuring to All !

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stick Handler Becomes... Mack the Knife!- Part 2

Turpentine washes provide a basic colour key to guide painting process

Raw pigment knifed in... providing texture and colour

"Hangin' On... at Bush Island, Nova Scotia" - oil on canvas 20x24 inches

Detailed closeup... note deep pigment and sharp edges

Another Day of Play!

After a day or so of deliberation... and uncertainty as to how to proceed, I made a decision to continue the path I had followed thus far... to "just let it all hang out." Rather than revert back to my usual path using my brushes, I decided to first lay in colour blocks using turpentine washes from remaining pigment on my palette... just to give me a colour key to work from... as is shown in the top jpeg.

Given the highly positive response from my readership regarding my use of the palette knife in the recent Algonquin sketches, I decided to forge ahead using only the knife to paint the subject... making the most of the textural strength that the knife offers to develop a weathered and worn look to this fish shed grouping on Bush Island, Nova Scotia.

The knife also offers so much leeway in mixing colours directly on the canvas... keeping them bright and fresh... and yet at the same time creating "happy accidents"... or "colour surprises," as I like to refer to these happenings. I worked from roughing in basic background shapes and colours to the grassy areas in the middle ground... before pouncing (with glee) on the weathered sheds and the maze of dark shadows in the piers and pilings.

This preliminary state of applying colour has firmly established the direction which I will build upon and follow all the way to completion. I will leave the paint to set a bit overnight... and then work back into the new textures and colour blocks... trying hard not to disturb strong areas which already exist at this early point. A couple of cups o' java and a quiet hour... just "Me" and the canvas tomorrow morning... and I'll be up and runnin' again !

I have included one closeup of one area to show the quality of the paint application... and the "freshness" of the bravura which the knife creates. Looking at the overall picture using a digital image... clearly revealed that I had made an error on how the two sheds linked right from the beginning. I corrected... using only a few slashes of my knife. It took very little time for the palette knife to feel comfortable in my hand... and for "The Flow" to get underway! A very freeing feeling!

Stay tuned... for Part 3

Good Painting to All !!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

More Stick Handlin'....Part One

Noted the shifted locations and structure in the composition of the middle ground and background houses. More change to follow!

Towels take away distracting edges... and provide lighter values!

Random brush stroke application... looking for general shapes ...

Note that the hand is at the end of the twig! It's not a pencil ! Accidental dripping counts as a bonus!

Note the fanciful and lilting quality of the lines produced by the twig styluses.

Centering the central image against the sienna edges. Note the almost haphazard application of the sienna strokes... and the roughness of the drawing... very uncommitted and loosely structured!

All methods of applying medium to the canvas can be seen here in their raw states. The first inkling of the finger painting adventure is here as well !

Yes... your eyes read correctly! My pointer is my blunt "nib" for dexterously blending in larger dark areas. Quick... effective tool for roughing in without reserve. Washes off fairly easily with soap... water and a tooth brush for nails! Latex glove works for the "faint of heart!"

This is the final foundation from which I will begin adding paint. Though it is a cacophanous collection of drips and splotches... knitted together by strangely drawn lines... there exists a central image .... of a huddled, broken down fish house structures and modest homes... centre stage... emerging from the inky darkness... ready to "speak." Details such as windows... doors, etc. are just markers to give positioning and reference points.

At this juncture... if one was too befuddled or unhappy with what was there in front of you... areas and flaws could be easily corrected with a brush of choice and white gesso... returning the area back to the original canvas state. However... I choose to proceed as it stands. Oil paint covers a host of mistakes! That is why I choose to use it as my primary medium... it's forgiving!


Well... my cold was not quite finished with me! I guess my Algonquin "fix"... didn't fix my cold! Had a pretty miserable week... but I guess this bout has everyone on the ropes for at least two rounds! In any event... head's completely empty, I'm sure... two boxes of Kleenex later!

I stepped up Wednesday morning to the blank 20x24 inch canvas that I had placed there two weeks ago now... to begin my two piece project for my Nova Scotian Gallery rep.... and decided to follow along using my "stick-to -play" technique to encourage creative thought and energy. I am pulling out all of the stoppers on this one... not to make it a presentation piece... but rather to act as a demonstration and invitation to follow along and discover how structure and direction can emerge... without being forced... from what in the beginning seems like pure chaos.

I first chose to reinterpret photo of a smaller sketch that I had completed en plein air almost a decade ago when I lived in Nova Scotia. That bothers me some... because I favour first hand contact with my subjects. This particular place, Bush Island... joined by a small causeway to the South Shore was a place I loved to paint because it was remote from mainland traffic. Much of this isolated village has changed... the "turquoisy" Cape house now a ghost... vanished forever. Heavens knows about the rest! When new money moves in... the Past moves out... no hint of remorse or conscience! That's today's world!

You will note that I get around merely copying... by rethinking and developing a thumbnail to rebuild and experiment with new structure for the piece. This adds a degree of newness and energy for me. You will note other changes perhaps ... as the process continues. My sticks... and my manner of applying both burnt sienna acrylic and ink to the surface... deter me from becoming "cute" and falling into my normal method of painting.

This Part One stage will carry us through the lay in and structural focus part of planning and execution. I have no set plan in mind... but will just let let the process and "Flow" take me where it wants. This segment then... is what I refer to as "Imagineering." Painting begins with an "Idea"... and this expands and develops independently... and on its own. I will really try to operate completely outside of usual safe zone of preparation and development. This really is stick handlin'... a rush... end-to-end.... Let's see what happens! Where to go from here???? More looking and thinking... and hopefully... "Seeing" a new path!

Stay tuned!....

Good Painting to All !