It seems almost surreal at times to be back living and painting here where my life really began and was shaped ... in the heart of the Thousand Islands region. Our first year has slipped away unbelievably fast. The wonderful and still warm memories of our hummingbird Summer and a bloom - filled garden... all staged against a vast and vitreous backdrop of ever-changing blueness, have within the space of a single month been transformed into winter whiteness against a wall of gun metal greyness. Within the past three days, Rockport... and the Paint Box Gallery Gang have found themselves quite literally knee-deep in Winter!
Winter it would seem... has decided share our residency here in Rockport and has added... at least in one man's view... yet further beauty still and the opportunity to make new, but changed painted views of the "New World" I discovered upon waking on December 27th! Pass the titanium white... get the winter gear ready... and where did I put those snowshoes since the move? Yes... shovelling out indeed leaves this old(er) set of muscles I carry about aching and more easily tired. But at the same time, being out in the crisp air and finding old shapes like simple masses of rocks transformed suddenly into snow sculpture somehow erases the aching. Strange... how we easily we often take the world around us... "for granite"! Winter brings wonder to children... why not adults... and especially for artists? Being "cosy"... is the easy route. But one misses what is the essence of winter... and can only be captured really by "feeling" it.
Who said... that snow is white? See the "River Spirits"... wispy remnants of lives lived on this magnificent River... released and set set afoot only by Winter's cold touch? Winter can become a vast and limitless gateway to opportunity.. to the eyes of one who dares to ... "get out there"!
I will close this post out by offering what I consider are my best painting efforts here on the River during 2012. There certainly were others from other places like Algonquin Park...which could indeed have "best" attached to them as well. But I felt that it would be appropriate to highlight subjects which have helped to reshape my journey and to offer new horizons. I hope that you agree with my choices and my reasons for choosing each of them.I hope too... that you enjoy them for your own reasons. That should always be considered by the artist when he offers his work to the world he lives in!
Good Painting and rich blessings...to ALL... in 2013!!!
"River Vesper" oil on canvas 30x24 inches SOLD
This painting fully captures my feelings about and love for the River. The words Saint Lawrence and skiff used side-by-side clearly capture the very essence of the symbiotic relationship which man continues to share with this vast River. This craft... shaped perfectly to perform so many functions in work and in leisure... mimic the form of the First People's canoe and therefore pays homage to the original people's heritage and their presence in this special Garden of the Gods... "Manitouana."
I painted this 30x24 inch canvas en plein air on Canada Day... in my driveway... miles away from its "real" location..."The Devil's Oven" across the River near Alexandria Bay, NY. Deb and I had taken a sunset cruise aboard The Rockport Boat Line's "Chief Shingwauk" earlier in the summer. I knew that this painting would be made... at the exact moment when it came into view. Everything was there to spell out clearly what defined the beauty of the Thousand Islands. Pristine water... the most ancient rock on the planet (Precambrian or Shield) rock and the iconic Canadian painting subject ... the majestic and wind-blown white pine which completely covered all lands on either side of the river. These features still remain the sole reason why so many visitors from around the world choose to visit the Thousand Islands... literally in endless droves throughout each and every summer and fall.
"The Past... under full steam into the Present" - oil on canvas 11x14 inches
This smallish canvas depicts the fact that though we clearly live in the modern Present. So much of who we are today is still dependent upon who we were... and where we came from. When we lose sight of this fact, we in fact diminish our accomplishments and surrender the opportunity and right to feel pride! The Empress reminds us of the fleets of such steam powered vessels that carried passengers and freight the full length of this vast river. The River was then in fact, the only highway. Today, this vessel carries its passengers in elegance sailing south-eastwardly down river.She begins her six day tour in Kingston, where the River leaves Lake Ontario... travelling slowly almost the full length of the River eastward to The Saguenay River end in Quebec and just shy its estuary, the Gulf of St Lawrence which leads into the Atlantic Ocean. (a distance of 1197 kilometers)
"Sunlit Path, Pine Island - oil on canvas 20x16 inches GIFTED
This painting was made totally en plein air on the island itself during a visit there during The Second Annual Plein Air Painting in Rockport event held in August of this past summer. The site is the small white framed writing refuge where John K Keats created his own wonderfully written masterpiece, "Of Time on an Island". The book chronicles the Keats family's love affair and residency on Pine Island... a residency that was bravely permanent throughout all seasons...for over a period of more than twenty years. The book led me to the Island... and the Island delivered me Fatefully into the Keats family's lives. Now... we are Friends... and this picture now hangs where it rightfully belongs... with the Keats Family on their beautiful and peaceful Pine Island! That greatly pleases "Me"!
"Islands Sentinel" - oil on canvas 30x24 inches
A sentinel?... Simply because for well over a hundred years, this light has guided vessels safely through the maze of shoals and hidden rocks which make this leg of the St Lawrence the most treacherous part of the River's shipping channel. As was the case with all lighthouses on the Great Lakes and elsewhere... these beacons were manned by keepers who lived either alone, or with their families continually on the island. Now... all have been automated and many are rapidly falling either into total disrepair, or worse... are being torn down. They are a link to our maritime Past... a part of the River heritage which draws the interest of tourist visitors.Is that not sufficient enough reason to preserve them? I wonder?.....
This is one of those subjects which is created in the most round about fashion for me. The original idea was recorded digitally while onboard yet another Boat Line Cruise and was re channeled into a painting indirectly during a teaching class in watercolour this past summer. In August... I again used the watercolour rendering as my reference for an evening demo for The Rockport 2012 Paint Out. I wanted to demonstrate the process whereby a larger painting can be made from information gathered from multiple sources... mediums and interpretations. Its success firmly underscores my belief that plein air and studio work can... and should work hand in hand. Much of this final stage was purely "intuitive"... pushing what "was"... into a purer artistic impression! The word "painterly" springs easily to mind!
This is an example of a rapidly painted plein air painting started by "blocking in coloured shapes"... as opposed to drawing. The idea is to work quickly because the lighting effect is fleeting and the light and shadow interplay is the whole essence of... and reason for making the painting. The painterly quality of the calligraphic brushwork clearly demonstrates the rule that... "a stroke laid... is a stroke stayed." The painting speaks about light and rich colour. These are everything to "Me" in my painting process!
"The Grout's Magical Garden, Rockport" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches
This painting is "special to me for a number of reasons. Firstly... it was a "found" subject... one of those surprise experiences in painting when a subject that you have only looked at on a certain kind of day, or season... suddenly jumps out at you and begs to be painted ASAP! That occurred on a day early last summer when my painting pal, David Kay from Algonquin Park was here to visit and paint with his wife Dianne. I wanted to show David St Brendan's Church high on the bluff as a potential painting site... and so approached the church from another pathway that I seldom use. It was along this path that I happened to glance to my right... and BANG! This is exactly what had been there...waiting to be "seen"! David loved the scene... so we both jumped into it eagerly... and this painting emerged easily... "as if almost painting itself"! I think that it captures a lot of my own joy which I shared with Deb in making our own lovely and much-admired garden at "Islandsview"! It also acused me to reflect back to memories of my Mom's always boutiful yearly gardens at Narrow's Lane Road over fifty odd years.
"Bridging Summer, Little Hebrides Island" - oil on canvas 20x24 inches SOLD
This painting was made en plein air as a demo for one of my classes. These classes were so very special to me. Through this experience, we have formed a larger circle of friends who now share a common passion for outdoor painting... which no doubt will be revisited next summer when they return. Ironically as well... a friendship from long ago resurfaced... out of no where. The lovely home on Little Hebrides was conceived... built and is lived in with this old Friend's wife and family. I came to discover... after he invited me over for a "get-to-know- each-other" drink and a tour of his home, that Fred Guild had been a student with his twin brother Lawrence... in grade six at Front of Yonge Elementary School in nearby Mallorytown. Both brothers are now successful business men... and share two island spaces next to each other. Neither is any less down-to-earth than they were back in the day! Good things... and folks never change... they simply flow on naturally... just like the River!
This painting was purchased by Fred as a surprise birthday gift for his interior designer wife... and now commands a place of honour up on the upper level of this beautiful modern Island gem! I am deeply honoured ... and blessed! Painting creates so many unexpected blessings!
"Wind-swept Pine Island Retreat" - oil on toned Masonite panel
This painting was rapidly and intuitively painted at the very end of the day trip to Pine Island during the Second Annual Rockport Plein air Paint Out. I realized that I had less than a half hour before the sceduled water taxi pick up at 4:30 pm... and yet... this scene struck an immediate chord. I often carry out such exercises at the end of a winter painting foray. The cold and failing light demand a fast and immediate response... and often, one can fail to catch what one wants. But what's to be lost in trying ?????
This subject is a side view of John Keats's writing refuge... located "at the head"... as Grandson Peter Frost relates fondly. My view faces Rockport... almost directly in front of our own home Islandsview.... therefore the "connection" between the two symbolically entered into my thinking at the time! The painting again was formed by slashing in colour shapes... and then quickly with a rigger as last act knitted the pieces together with just summary amounts of essential detail to add interest and definition. "Simply"....Painterly!!!!
"Up Cornwall Lane, Rockport" - oil on 7x5 inch toned Masonite panel
I love this little "gem" for it stands for! It was painted in less than 15 minutes with one brush... pochade box in on a fence post... panel in left hand... absolutely no brush cleaning and surrounded by a throng of many visitors taking pictures and talking in voices that I neither understood... nor listened to. In the Zone!.... Alone!... Where does Time or the World disappear to? Why can't I paint this way... every time... or at the very least ... more often?
I would like to close out this post... maybe my final post for 2012 with the words which end John K Keats's marevellous language and experience-rich autobiographical novel , "Of Time on an Island". It surely sums up in a much richer and more eloquent fashion and... in words rather than pigment - very much about how I feel about my own River journey.... Past .... Present.... and Future!
"All that has happened is still happening, together with all that is happening at this moment. Nothing has changed in this always new and infinitely old center of our lives. We never feel homeless in winter because we know where we live. We live in a house on a stone in the middle of a river in the center of the world at the very heart of time." (p.245)
Thank you Keats Family.... Magsy, Vicky, Chris, Peter and Kelsey for the honour of permitting my presence on Pine Island and in your own lives! I am deeply grateful... and blessed!
Happy New Year!
Good Health and Good Painting... to ALL!!!