Saturday, January 19, 2013

Redemption... A Second Chance

The title for today's post reflects a principle which I have tried to practise in my personal, teaching  and artistic lives all the way along in my journey. I believe deeply in this principle because of the fact that each of us is indeed "human"... and thereby both likely to, and necessarily make life choices which lead to errors in judgement and less than happy initial outcomes. That is life!

As human beings we live and grow through the sum total of our experiences. Many of these choices lead us down cul-de-sacs... dead ends, offering no gain or satisfaction, and very often on occasion personal pain and  suffering. The term" failure" springs to the fore much too quickly in my mind... a term that has been so  socially ingrained and integrated into our psyches and our measuring instruments for success and growth... that it serves more to impede growth and development than to improve it. "Fear of failure" is a very negative factor in today's society and carries with it an unhealthy aura of personal inadequacy... "making the grade."

If one can get their head around the fact that all of Creation... like human growth from infancy to adulthood... is a developmental process, built upon uniquely differing and  personal attributes, then the need for seeking "perfection" recedes greatly in importance for the long term. Each opportunity... using painting as an example, is a learning opportunity - a chance to discover/ uncover new knowledge which acts as a catalyst for developmental growth. Using a perceived less valuable result... if only to understand that it shouldn't be repeated then becomes positive. "Freedom"... is such an easy word to say - but to act completely within the parameters of that term is a more difficult task... for us all.

In my own painting life... I am constantly faced with dealing with that old feeling and fear of failure. I often find that I push on too far beyond my intended vision of what I want to paint... or worse still, I respond too soon to a direction without truly thinking it completely through. There is a very thin balance and edge between too much thought and being too slap-dash and drunken with the brush... to create harmony and a "painterly" quality in my process. Either can reduce one's feeling of satisfaction. I always try to reach a goal for each session... whether conducted en plein air, or in the studio and leave the painting "as is"... until I have had the opportunity to rethink and study the results... or possibility of changing or balancing passages. Usually, after this strategy is complete... I sign the work... and move on to a new idea... happy to leave things alone.

I would add at this juncture however, that there lies within me an insatiable appetite to look at "finished" pieces hung... even framed and to discover within me a continued urge to critique and change (in my mind) and I am glad then, to see the painting leave the gallery. It relieves that uneasy feeling (not unlike having to go to the bathroom urgently and having to hold it) when a client "gets the drift" and offers to relieve me of the painting. I paint to have my work go out into the world... on their own merits... just like my children.

Occasions do arise for me... when I do in fact have another go at a piece simply because something speaks to me and demands that I pay attention... even though I am busy at something else. I'm sure that if you have children... you can readily identify with this situation. It is a universal situation in parenting... or teaching. While it may be distracting... you inherently know that the need for your attention is justified... and must be dealt with before you can resume your earlier work. I currently have three such "children" in queue... waiting to be dealt with.

Each painting has merits... which I either couldn't quite get my head around at the time... or that I have since the initial painting experience had other stronger "possibilities" present themselves quietly to me.  If  I feel strongly enough that going forward might offer new insights or potential growth for my self... or the painting... I put it back up on the easel. At this juncture... I leave fear on the sidelines. I promise myself to follow my intuition and to let the cards fall where they may. This act of redemption requires that completeness of freedom to proceed at will toward whatever comes out of the experience. Absolution may... or may not be achieved, but change will have occurred physically and spiritually.

I am currently at work on a 24x20 inch canvas first created in 2006. It was a landscape incorporating a great horned owl. This painting was the culmination of a sketch made on one my winter plein air tramps in the Oro-Medonte Hills and an outing that our family group made to an owl field presentation at Saint-Marie-Amongst-the-Hurons in Midland. I was initially quite pleased with my effort... given that the owl, or wildlife in such detail was not at all my forte. I exhibited it and received luke warm and varying reviews. Despite its outcome and lingering presence in the gallery... I still really liked the landscape part... which was more my strength. I had purposely downplayed the lighting effects and interest in this supportive role for the landscape in a wildlife subject focus.

 So I spent a day and... "made the owl disappear"... with little or no difficulty. I reworked and slightly adjusted my darks and lights and added a few new highlights and signed off on it as done... or so I thought. Over the Christmas holidays, I happened to have it sitting nearby on the floor in the studio after we rehung the interior temporary winter gallery. For some reason... it commanded my attention, so I set it up on the easel and put a light on it. From time to time I came downstairs and just sat staring at it each morning. The landscape quality seemed too bland... and I felt that it needed something "funky"... if I was to spend more energy and precious time on a rehash. So I REALLY jumped off the dock... no wading... into an entirely different direction. I will let the pictures describe the action initially... and then add the necessary text to help those of you who aren't Canadian... EH??? It's purely a Canadian "take" on things!

"Solitude's Sentinel" - 2006

" Winter Solitude" - 2007

New directions... "Off the wall"... Tim Horton's Coffee... available everywhere in Canada

Playing with the landscape and lighting

"Canadian Winters and Tim Horton's Coffee.... Always Fresh!"
Oil on canvas 24x30 inches

For those of you unfamiliar... yet... with Tim Horton coffee here are some facts! This largest fast food chain in Canada ( now entering quickly into the US market place) was founded by NHL Hall of Famer Tim Horton, of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964,. It rapidly became an iconic part of Canadian culture and has risen to the point where Tim Horton's owns a 62%  share of the entire Canadian coffee market place and 76% of the entire baked goods (donuts) market as well.

When Canadian Forces entered the combat mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan... so popular as moral booster was the chain and its products to both American and Canadian troops... that the chain expanded into the US market and established outlets at Fort Knox, Kentucky and the US Naval Station at Norfolk, Virginia. 
Today, 3355  Tim Horton's franchise outlets are spread across the breadth of Canada... even into the Far North. Currently, 745 franchises now operate in the US and 20 more have recently opened in the Arab Emirates.

What has all of this to do with my adding a cup o' Timmy into my landscape? Firstly... it is a very solid part of any business or pleasure travel itinerary for Deb and I. It is from my own view... a truly identifiably  Canadian cultural feature.... as Canadian as winter... hockey... maple syrup... the canoe... or as of late Roots clothing.

This is the upside of my decision to choose this piece of Canadian iconography for this painting. However, I have a less than admirable reason for choosing it as well. As a plein air painter, I travel a lot of back roads and enter many pristine landscapes on my travels. Rarely, do I make such a trek... that I don't encounter (too) many carelessly discarded Tim Horton coffee cups... tossed indiscriminately out of a moving car window... at a traffic stop... far down remote back country roads and at remote camping sites.

Tim Horton's has taken this issue to heart as a good corporate citizen and readily advertises and encourages a green approach which discourages such thoughtless littering. Tim Horton's also operates a totally funded  active summer camping program which it operates out of their own camp in Tidemark, Nova Scotia for underprivileged children every summer. As well, local Tim Horton franchisees sponsor and support local hockey teams and minor sports programmes.

So Tim Horton does indeed fully attempt to redeem their image as a good and responsible corporate citizen. My hat is off to Timmy... and I salute this truly Canadian cultural entity through this unepected  but I feel "redeemed" image.

My Redeemer liveth... inside "ME!
"Never give up the ship!"... That's my mantra!

Good painting... and ALL!!!


  1. Where are my normal observational skills this a.m.? I didn't even realize there was a cup of coffee on the fence post and had no idea what you were talking about with Tim Horton. Being a Blackhawk fan from way back, however, I do have a vague recollection of his name. Anyway, I love these oft repeated visits to this spot, Bruce. Each and every painting is magical to me.

  2. Hi there Sherry!... Thanks for dropping by and for leaving youyr comments!

    The fact that the cup was that well concealed adds comfort to my purpose. I did not want the cup to dominate the landscape... but rather wanted to allude to the two perspectives I have with regard to its being there.

    I much value opur continued friendship online and our sharings Sherry! Keep smilin'!

    Good painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Nice rework! The owl was a fun and pretty successful venture into the world of wildlife painting, but I love the concept and playful result of the new version! Very thoughtful indeed. Love that you take risks in your work like this! Keeps you, your clients and readers on their toes!
    Love always,
    Allie xoxoxo

  4. Hi there Sweet Paea!... Thanks for your votes of confidence... I can ALWAYS count on your good eye and mind to offer meaningful and trusted encouragement. Making art... as with most of life... is about taking risks and making something into something other than a "failure."

    You and I both call these ... "learning opportunities" and most always land on our feet with an entirely new... and totally unexpected new piece of learning!

    Adventure and discovery are important components which never fail to fuel growth and further development!

    Look forward to our get together... before you head off again to Venice! I'll call this week.

    Much love ALWAYS!... and thanks for your continued support and presence!

  5. Hi Bruce, I like the transformation of the painting. I am constantly surprised when I look again at old rejected paintings, after I have put them away and forgotten about them. So often I can see potential in them, even with the limited options for altering watercolours.

    Depressingly we have the same problems here with litter, especially beer cans. I just can't understand how people can throw them out into the countryside to lie along the sides of the roads. Strangely they don't do the same on their own front yards!

    All the best,

  6. Good Morning Keith!... Thanks for your supportive comments and for sharing your own thoughts here!

    Too often... we overlook "possibility" in our searchings and less successful efforts. Herein lies the the value of of keeping work and not destroying it immediately. Sometimes it requires the ingredient of time away from the work to gain objectivity and new thoughts and directions.

    The trash thing? A blight... by "blighters"... that end of the gene chain who little respect for themselves... let alone the world at large or others! I don't know the answer to that one. It seems just to be increasing exponentially... and in places one would never expect to find it.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. A wonderful evolution of this painting, Bruce!! The unexpected cup raises it above the owl.
    It was an education to see the many beneficial changes that occurred.

  8. Hi there Dean!... Thanks for your wonderful critique of this piece. It was fun to play with... and is always the case, the new avenue of thought that I had open up to me increased my enjoyment ... tenfold!

    Sometimes in our work... the "unexpected" works for both the artist and the viewer. It would seem that this is true in this case! Glad that you enjoyed the post and the painting Dean. I much appreciate your input and our online connection and sharings!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards

  9. wow, you really are wonderful. the evolution of this painting is fascinating to see!!! i'd never have the courage to do this and you make it look so effortless. i absolutely love the finished painting, although i loved each incarnation!

    and i'm sure the painting is coming along just beautifully. take your time, i'm so honored that you are doing it. i appreciate and look forward to every stroke.

    happy creating my friend. and i love the water background on your blog.

  10. Hello there Suz!... Thanks for dropping by and for your ever encouraging comments about my paintings! I value your impressions and observations so much... because I so admire your own talent and spirit!

    I am just in the process of settling into "that painting"... buoyed up by my courage gained through "spilling a coffee cup" into my landscape! HA HA!! I will give it my best shot Suz!

    The water on my blogis cool to look at... but the water outside is freezing as I watch it through the kitchen window. The Canadian shore... is skating quickly to join hands with the American shore to the south. The forecasted -25C temperature expected overnight should make that union easy to accomplish! Candian winter most certainly will be "fresh" overnight!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,