Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends!... No Unfiinished Symphonies!

"Funny... how one moment can change a million after it."

Quote from the heroine in the movie "She Gotta Move"

This theme for this post is appropriate for a couple of reasons. Firstly... today we will turn over July on our calendars and move forward... full of hope and new expectations into a productive schedule in a new month. August has always a tough month for me in my past. As a child... its coming signalled the approach of an end to what had seemed scarce weeks before... to be a time of endless days of freedom. It wasn't at all that I disliked school, it was morethe impending loss of the freedom that I loved and enjoyed in this "free" time period. Those unbridled days of early mornings... fishing... swimming and exploring on my own.

As an adult "child"... still in the school system, I still operated in much the same way and looked forward to the freedom summers offered from meetings, planning and having responsibility for the lives of so many others. Having time to spend with my own family... vacationing and my painting were priorities in my summer schedule. I always looked forward to those activities and again... the approach of August always dredged up bittersweet feelings and a sense of loss.

As we ready ourselves to enter August this summer, that old feeling has returned... triggered by sudden changes and disappearances in our garden flowers and roadside wild flowers that foretell of summer's demise. August was, as well the "birthday" month in our family... with Dad and Mom's and my sister's birthdays clustered within the span of the middle week of August. It was always a chance for a much-looked forward to annual gathering of our clan to celebrate at our Narrow's Lane cottage. That once happy part of August is gone forever... leaving a permanent void in every August for me. But there remain memories which must suffice... and they do!

But enough said about old and unhappy feelings. Let's move on to the second "tying up of loose ends." Very rarely, do I leave paintings in an unfinished state. Seeing paintings against the wall... or on the easel in an unresolved state bothers me greatly. They loom before me as bothersome as an unfinished sentence... hanging without purpose or meaning. For me, each painting is an opportunity to dialogue... and as with any dialogue, it should be supported with a necessity to communicate a truth and to provide both parties with a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. A half finished painting is like a sentence cut short. To "Me" both violate that premise... and therefore must be completed... no matter the final result... or feelings.

Earlier in the summer, I conducted two teaching blocks and in each case I began with a short demo to offer insight and the courage to begin for my novice groups of plein air painters. In all three cases, I intentionally stopped work on the demo piece at the lay in stage and offered only a few glimmers of finish... choosing rather to merely give a bit of direction and then allow the painting approach of each to govern their own completion. I then could offer time and suggestions to each person on an individual basis ... as their problems arose. At the end of each session... I was left with an "unfinished symphony" of sorts that quickly found its way to the inside studio. Each morning, as I used my computer... those misfits glared at me... begging to be finished. As of this post... they are finally completed... long after the actual class... and without any reference except my own whim and fancy.

You be the judge of my efforts, if you wish to. I am pleased with the freshness and painterly quality of each. I believe that those plein air goals are still present in both!

This demo was very heavily impasto... and would have proved difficult to handle if allowed to fully dry. So I scraped the entire surface with a painting knife... leaving a readable ghost image of the original. I used this as my new foundation to search out a path and to create a new lay in. I fully abandoned any attempt to replicate blossoms or detail anywhere. I chose to paint being solely dependent upon intuition and joy to guide me.

Here is the newly established lay in mid point in the adventure... a direction in structure and colour firmly established

Just enough detail to help identify specific flowers... background worked with painting knife adds texture and interest around the vase and floral focus. Say "Done", Bruce!

"A Summer Rhapsody of Colour" - oil on panel 12x10 inches

Lay in as returned untouched from the field... merely a tonal structure of masses and an isolation of the subject which is this lovely summer veranda in the quiet of its garden yard

I totally reworked all areas of the 16x20 inch panel... correcting errors made in initial  session

"Simple Summer Joy - A Garden Retreat" - oil on panel 16x20 inches

The completion of these works reminds me that we often leave parts of our lives and goals unfinished for too long. Often they can pile up and become a creative traffic jam. Sometimes, such dalliance can lead to blocks which are difficult to resolve... that they greatly diminish one's confidence and undermine self-esteem. Setting a schedule and maintaining it are key ingredients to personal growth and development. This can only come out of stepping up to the easel and pushin' paint!

As the opening quote suggests... one positive step forward can lead to a journey filled with promise... satisfaction .... and total Joy! I wish each of you "out there"... all of these things in your own creative pursuit of Happiness!

Good Painting !... to ALL!!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beating the Heat... in Style! - Part Two

In the midst of the oppressive humidity and heat wave that (too slowly) passed through the Thousand Islands region throughout last week... I was able to find an oasis in the middle of the International Shipping Channel just offshore from Clayton on the New York side of our twin borders. And what a much - needed and needed relief it was!

Last Tuesday, I was invited by my new plein air painting friend Paul Taylor, hailing from the Rochester, NY area to make a trip out to Rock Island Lighthouse with him for the day. Paul's family have been summer visitors  for several generations on our side of the River, just up river from Rockport. Last summer, he visited our gallery and showed great interest in our getting together to paint outdoors, but that was not possible then... due his heavy exhibition schedule and teaching assignments for the remainder of the 2012 summer season. True to his word, he reappeared last week... and the rest is now history. I now have a new plein air convert... and my crystal ball tells me that I have a kindred spirit to plan further forays, as our mutually busy schedules and family lives will allow.

Paul works in water colour and acrylics... mainly in the studio, except for his sketching and photographic forays. He works in a prolific and highly skillful manner, as attested by the large clientele and sales base that he enjoys. His handling of both mediums and the consistent compositional strength in his work, clearly places him firmly in the "professional" category of painters. The wide range of products that he offers, along with his commission reputation further advance my view as to his calibre.

He had never painted on location using his acrylics... and on this heavy, humid summer day and persistent westerly wind... I neither envied, nor encouraged his choice to use it for the day. Fortunately... for us both, we were blessed to find a shady place under the widespread arms of an ancient oak resident on the island for the entire day there. The cool... constant breeze was better than any air conditioning system and further added to my comfort and enjoyment of the session.

I won't try to describe my excitement in finding this painting mecca. I again will now add some of the photos that I took to give you a peek.

We skirted the entire island first in his boat ... snapping photos from the water for future reference. Then we docked and again set out snapping anything of visual interest... but at the same time carefully searching for that site we would choose to paint from. I had no problem finding one which inspired me, so I immediately retraced my earlier steps back to the boat dock and brought my kit and my 20x24 inch blank white canvas to the site. There was even a picnic table right in front of me... and as well, a high vantage point that allowed me a view which knit together the keeper's house and the light proportionally to the dimensions of my canvas. Paul decided to set up along side... agreeing that the shade was the drawing card, even though "his take" on the scene... as you will see, varied greatly from my own. A perfect start for the day!

First view of Rock Island Light  from the water... looking westward upriver

The view I chose for my composition ... painting... and shade. The diagonal foreground of shade and day lilies with main focus... the light and keeper's house in the middle ground and the deep far shoreline background create a natural picture format. Only a few "uglies" needed to be ignored/edited out !

The keeper's house is fully restored and furnished in period furniture and decor. Every room is filled with pictures and memorabilia documenting the existence of the light... from its very beginning. Note the naval vessel passing down river. Lots of traffic!

In this picture... a large river Canada Steamship freighter/ore carrier, Salarium noses slowly up river past the light, likely headed to Lake Michigan to be filled. The shipping channel is very narrow at this point... and at least two ships have met their end here as result of the treacherous shoals on both sides of this narrow passage.

Here is an elegant old "woodie" mahogany rive classic... identifiably "Rock n' Roll" as the gold leaf lettering attests. Poppa's pride... you can be sure. "Mama was a rollin' stone!".... HA! HA!

Since my canvas was previously not toned, I chose to employ a wash/stain  lay in to to begin my painting... only attending to positioning elements in the broadest sense and with little attention to any correct values. The focus was on shapes and spatial positioning of them in the picture plane... and a rapid pace to get it down quickly.

I had to keep moving my easel around during the entire session to get rid of the annoying and distracting leaf patterns caused by the sun playing through the canopy above me. That slight disruption was a very small price to be paid for the comfort of the shade itself.

Painting and location - with only slight variances. I greatly shortened the distance between the light and the keeper's house intentionally... to accentuate the relationship of one element and its function... to the other.

"Rock Island Sentinel... Restored!" - plein air oil on canvas 20x24 inches
Here is the painting as it was completed en plein air - fresh... painterly and an impression of what lay before me. I'm satisfied with the result... and won't be adjusting it at all. Ready to be framed!

 Paul... pondering his treatment of the red pine mass mid way through his painting. He plods and plots carefully, as is his method and habit. The 12x16 inch canvas shown below speaks for itself.... wouldn't you agree? Magnifique! A plein air gem!  Someone else visiting the island thought so as well. They purchased the painting right from his easel! BONUS!!!

Note: Paul's "take" on the subject more closely resembles the actual subject before him. A "detail man" for certain!

I took this very quick photo of these young Amish women... not wanting to draw attention to the fact... so not to embarrass them, or myself by the intrusion. It is my usual custom to ask permission to photograph anyone for personal privacy reasons. But since they were obviously unaware of my interloper presence... I quickly snapped the picture. Their presence and costumes seemed so much to evoke the stronger sense of the historical past associated with this place of heritage. Perhaps, knowing of the equal amount of respect that I hold for this tribute to maritime majesty... and as well, to their adherence to their faith and principles... they might forgive this intrusion . I do have plans for this photograph ... in conjunction to one or two of the many photo references I gathered on this wonderful voyage of adventure and discovery.

Stay tuned for that!...

In closing... my gratitude and thanks to my new plein air painting pal, Paul Taylor... for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to experience this lesson in heritage and for sharing his equal passion to my own for painting on location. As well... my deep thanks to on site New York State Parks Historic Site Assistant Debra Spry and interpreter Jonathan Green for your interest... hospitality and more than friendly and inviting reception during our day long stay at Rock Island Light.

I will be back again for certain... to paint further at this wonderful heritage location!

Good Painting .... to ALL!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beating the Heat - Part One

We have been experiencing a very deep and long lasting heat wave in our area. Despite being located alongside the River... by noon the heat has been unbearable and certainly unsafe to be painting en plein air without proper shade. The humidex level reached a very unsafe and unhealthy 38 today... and heat advisory warnings were issued in the early morning. I cannot tolerate deep humidity -  it wrenches from me every morsel of energy and motivation to paint... or to do anything but retreat to our very cool basement for comfort.

I have much missed my regular routine of painting and walking... and soon become agitated and restless when I am unable to get down to work. I finally decided to try an early start om Sunday morning... hoping to at least kick start the process... knowing full well that it would take me a while to get back into the Flow. I had been looking at an unfinished panel that I was forced to abandon because of snow... on my last trip to Algonquin Park to paint with David Kay...way back in February. That waterfall scene kept staring at me each time that I went to our basement studio where my computer is located. I knew that it had the makings for a good piece... but the interruption in my usual start-to-finish method had caused me to balk at restarting. I vowed to get back to it on Sunday.

I followed through and set up at the entrance to the outside gallery, shaded by the balsam and pine cover and prepared to set to work. I had just gotten everything set up and was ready to proceed when two customers meandered by me and  into the Gallery. I conversed with them as they wandered through the Gallery and through my conversation with one of the women, I discovered by her voice and questions that she was a visiting artist from Australia. She praised my work... but quickly singled out the one on the easel as her favourite of all. I assured her that it would look much better by the end of the morning. She suggested that I leave it as it was because it "spoke" wonderfully to her as it sat. She loved "that the painting to that point had isolated the waterfall's action and wasn't at all fussy." Painterly... and expressive were the words she chose to describe it. I thanked her for her candid and keen observations and gave her one of our business postcards to check in on its progress.

I could agree that it indeed had that feel... but that that feel was more or less the product of necessity... created by a rapidly advancing snowstorm and a very small window of opportunity to get down the essentials. So I had purposely focused on the flow of the water and added very little detail of the trees and rocks which formed along its downhill path towards me. Here is the painting in that state before I "Shermanized" it.

 Tunnel vision for certain. All of the focus is on the water... with mere suggestions and nuances of attention the rocks and birches on either side. The panel... shown below framed has a more satisfying and a more finished feel (sort of)... but not enough to deter me from proceeding to satisfy my inner vision of what I had imagined on that frigid and blustery February day. Strangely... I decide to switch seasons to step into the present. Sorry Yvonne... "The devil made me do it!" HA HA!!

Seriously... you can respond to criticism and advice, but the final decisions about where a painting goes lies in the hands of the artist themselves. Otherwise... ownership is never complete... which to "Me"... is what painting creatively is all about!
Taking this approach... and choosing to change seasons really
made the whole painting session interesting for me and surprisingly,
the painting moved along quickly to its conclusion.

Here is the nearly completed painting. It has maintained a fresh feel... certainly with more detail and finish than the first views. I feel that the painterly quality that yvonne noted has been maintained and that the scene is pleasing to the eye. At the very least... it no longer stares at me when I go the the basement to create posts... and cool off.

Capping these positive things... is a coolness - something that doesn't for the moment exist in these parts at this very moment! Even a brief thunderstorm did little to add the coolness that I feel when I look at this painting!

"Summer... Tumbles In" - oil on panel 24 x20 inches

I am "back in the saddle again!"

Good Painting to ALL! Stay cool... in the shade y'all !

PS My next post... already in the works, is the result of a very unique and highly enjoyable foray by boat with fellow American artist Paul Taylor out to Rock Island Light. This gem of a painting location... loaded with painting possibilities is located on a four acre island right smack in the main channel of the St Lawrence near Clayton, NY. A great adventure!

Stay tuned...

Friday, July 12, 2013

More Blessings

Last Sunday, the smallish and simply decorated interior of The Church of the Redeemer, located under the entrance gate to Rockport was filled with Joy... and adherents... to the very back pews on both sides. Some of those were devotees easily recognized by the Reverend Christine Downey as "regular faces"... "others" whom she recalled seeing at Christmas... but most... were like Deb and I... "new face". No matter our previous attendance practices... all who attended this particular sunny summer day were there for one common purpose - to witness the unveiling and dedication of of a new memorial window that honoured  the life and many years of summer preaching at The Redeemer... of a very special man, Reverend William Hargett.

Residents of the village of Rockport can be easily protracted into three distinct groupings. There are those members of the community whose roots extend back to Rockport's earliest days... even its founding. Then there are those "summer people"- folks like the Hargett and Sherman families, representative of the many who arrive back in the Thousand Islands  (as predictably as the Canada Geese)... as soon as possible after the winter ice leaves the River to wile away the warmth and relaxation of seemingly endless summers here. The last group are the "nouveau" residents who are in retirement from successful careers and businesses... and who choose to (exclusively) cloister themselves in retirement "summer" houses just beyond the din and noise of the hordes of tourists. They share private golf... boating and cocktail hours and then most head south to the warmer climes to escape the harsh winter cold in these parts. This is Rockport... the way it has always been.

Ann and Bill Hargett after their missionary work in Japan... chose to bring their family to Rockport more than fifty years ago and that Charlotte, South Carolina to Rockport and the Thousand Islands annual summer odyssey continues to this day. Sadly... Bill passed away a little more than a year ago... leaving "the flock" without their Shepherd. It has been an extremely difficult task for Ann and the family of three lovely girls (now beautiful... inside and out women with their own lambs) to return to their summer playground of old... and to feel his absence... yet at the same time presence in their summer lives.

Last summer Ann and her daughter came to visit our Gallery and upon seeing Deb's remarkably beautiful stained glass work... queried the possibility of her accepting a commission to create a stained glass window of remembrance in honour of Bill. It was decided that Deb would mull over the "idea" and that she would attempt to create a design which reflected the church... the village and Bill in a simple, colourful, yet respectful iconography embracing all elements. She would submit the "cartoon" for the commission idea that she came up with for Ann to view and consider. Then she could go forward with the actual creation of the window... taking it to completion ... ready for dedication... when the Hargett "flock" would return in early summer.

Let us fast forward past the "Creation"... or "In the beginning part of the story to Sunday, July7th... the "Let there be Light" ending to the "Genesis" of this window's creation. I will not attempt to describe the ceremony in words. That act could never be achieved through words alone. There are not enough words in my desk side dictionary writing partner to adequately describe the solemnity... nor the beautiful power of love that filled that tiny church to its rafters during the entire service and into the luncheon served afterward. Suffice it to say... the The Church of the Redeemer had its "church" status raised to that of the holiest of cathedrals during this community communion!

Let these pictures that I have taken... along with a few expletives suffice to humbly describe the solemn occasion:

"Let there be Light.... and there was Light. And God was pleased."

Two women visionaries responsible for the window's creation... Ann and Deb

The Hargett flock... and their window gift to Rockport

The "simply" eloquent and inviting Reverend Christine Downey welcoming the celebrants

"Another Hargett" reading scripture from the Redeemer's pulpit... Bill can never be gone!

                                  The window being dedicated in the presence of the Hargett Family

A high point in the service for me personally... when I truly felt the total presence of Bill at the ceremony was this soulful moment when his granddaughter and friend "Princess" ... cued by their electronic devices and in confident... soul- uplifting nightingale fashion... offered Leonard Cohen's religious anthem "Hallelujah"... acapella. It was an extraordinary and transcending moment I won't quickly forget. The final verse of this fav of mine most appropriately for this occasion rejoices:

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth,
I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah..... Hallelujah!!!

More Music and Joy from the talented mind and hands of pianist/organist octogenarian, George Shaw... constant presence and dedication to his church and music. Despite personal challenges and adversity, George continues to add his own personal Truth ... and Hallelujah.... and we are blessed!

"There is beauty all around... when there's love at home." See it here? Very special!

Ever... "The Hargett Gals from Charlotte and Rockport"... or...wherever life takes us!

My beautiful wife... and artisan extraordinaire Deb with friend Grace..."The Garden Lady" Hallyburton

And smile you should... it will always mark your presence in Rockport... and a place where your own family and special grand gals shall be able to return to... to remember their special Gramma! I am so very proud of "You" Deb!

It was a very special day for our two Thousand Island families. We share so many similarities and common values... most especially, the love of our children and our community we have chosen to return to... after too many years of being away. Our hearts truly belong to the St Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands. We both well realize and savour that fact with every sunrise cup o' java we share... as the current of Time tugs us along. In closing... we say thank you to The Hargett Family and the Family of Rockport for the honour we have enjoyed by being included in your lives.

"We" feel greatly blessed!.... to be "Home"!

Hallelujah.... Hallelujah!!!