Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cross-pollination and Binocular Vision... Not Just... For the Birds and the Bees!

In my recent post "Child's Play"... I proposed as one of my five resolutions that I wished to approach painting in the New Year more with the eye of a child... focused upon simplicity and a lesser need for "rules" and predictable outcomes. As well, I resolved that I would attempt to paint en plein air more often...  at least twice each week throughout the winter months, in addition to my daily "winter works programme" in the studio. I genuinely believe that by following such a process, that new directions for my expression will be brought forward and that my painting style and fresh ideas will emerge... bringing about necessary change and growth.

I had been mulling over the idea to paint today's subject for many mornings, dating back to our first "Operation Sunrise" coffee clutch together... now two winters ago. The subject in this painting can be found dead to the south from "Islesview" and includes Pine Island... home of our new friends, the Frost and Keats families. Deb and I wait for the sun and its glorious entrance each and every morning... coffee in hand. It is the way we choose to open each and every day. It is the scene I search out... every night before I shut out the lights and retire for the evening. It is indeed a subject that I am familiar with. But much more than that,  it is a scene that inspires my soul and arouses within me deep feelings of peace and contentment. I feel I have captured both the pictorial essence of this beautiful quiet morning moment and the inner feelings of awe and respect that I experience as well each morning.

The term "cross-pollination" describes the process in Nature by which bees, other insects and the wind unknowingly disperse and transfer the pollen from the anther of one flower or plant to the stigma of another... thereby completing the necessary contact for fertilization and reproduction. "Self" pollination may also be achieved from the male to female parts of the same flower. However, it is found that cross-pollination provides stronger and  more vigorous seeds. I have chosen to use this model from Nature to describe the creative process and thinking used, whereby the actual painting of this subject emerged from the first "pollen"grain of thought. I have chosen to carry forward many "grains of pollen"... carried from many other "flowers" to create this piece... hoping to produce that more "vigorous seed."

The first "grain of pollen" is my chosen painting surface. It was designed to beused as a panel in a kitchen cupboard door. The bevelled panels are removed from the door and the outer frames have been used by Deb to frame many of her stained glass pieces. Every time that I passed the stack of varied sized panels, I postulated their further use as a painting surface... due to their flat, smooth space bounded by the sharp bevel. Late in the summer during a lull in the action, I primed this panel on both sides with double coats of gesso to seal the wood. I followed up that priming when they were fully dry with two coats of sprayed on acrylic flat black paint. This added a further sealant function... but more to the point, it offered the black ground that I wanted to paint on.

I always intended that this panel would be used to paint this particular subject and I actively watched during the remainder of the summer months... then into and past autumn right up to yesterday morning. A comment regarding how beautifully peaceful  from Deb resonated strongly with my own feelings at the moment.Carpe diem! These two "grains" of pollen/thought were carried into the plein air painting process that would commence right after morning duties and lunch were out of the way.

Earlier in my morning rising ritual, I had been browsing the blog of my very talented Scottish artist friend, Keith Tilley. We had chatted about the glorious light in his most recent water color entitled "Dawn of a New Day." Keith prefers a panoramic format for his masterfully rendered... expressive and always light-filled water colours. Most often, his scenes depict the wild and "unpeopled" wilderness reaches within his region. He noted that perhaps "dawn" as the subject was appropriate for his first post for 2014. So in my post, there is added a further pollen grain of influence. All of these influences merge with my own mind and hand to cross-fertilize... and make possible what lies before you. Check out Keith's masterful work at his blog

The one major obstacle in my mind which delayed my beginning the painting was the deep distance factor between myself on the mainland and the island grouping located approximately one mile away. That large and empty void of water space in between caused me to hesitate and almost abandon the idea. I had toyed with putting existing resident flocks of geese, bald eagles, or boats in that zone to fill it... however, I wanted the complete absence of anything but the landscape forms and sky in the picture. When I watched the eagles fishing the ice floes and shorelines daily, I asked myself,  "I wonder how this scene looks to them... with their unique aerial perspective soaring high above... and looking down upon it?" It was then that I added my own version of their incredible "binocular vision". This powerful physical attribute equips them to easily discern objects/prey and movement at vast distances and as well several feet below the surface of the water. I decided to add in that "pollen grain"... and fetched my binoculars to take to my painting site across the road with me. Using them at appropriate moments and in my own fashion... I re-constructed a compressed version of the actual reality which permitted a closer look at distant details and as well... allowed me to  manipulate the distraction of the too deep middle ground. Major hurdle removed... ready to paint!

Here are some photos to explain the structure of my new painting surface... with possible extensions of
 my own use.


Here is the wooden centre panel of the kitchen cabinet door... used horizontally... gessoed white first ... then toned with two coats of black acrylic paint... the outer frame part of the panel carefully masked by easy-to-remove light touch painter's tape up to the perimeter edge of the intended image zone. Ready to get at it!

This is the 2 inch outer frame which houses the panel being used. It could possibly be painted and used as yet another part of the final painting presentation... thereby creating an alternative "no cost" framing option. Your choice and ideas! The cost? Less than $10.00... and they come in varied sizes and formats.

This is the reverse view of the frame the inner edge has a rabbet... or rebate... which means set back to allow the panel to be slid into place. One end has a slit however to accommodate and to hold the panel in place. One could  easily router out and eliminate this slot area with one easy motion to complete the rabbet all around the entire inside perimeter. A perfect frame for a canvas or panel to be accommodated.

Here is the raw outcome resulting from the one and a half hour plein air outing. It was painted quickly using roughly laid in initial and varying tones of  turpentine washes... NO DRAWING. In this way, I established the shapes I wanted in all sectors... the water the land and the sky. I pulled the more interesting afternoon light for the sky from the right and out of the actual image plane over into the area which best represented where I wanted the light. It created both the mood and the sense of drama that I wanted. I simply transposed it to where it was needed to provide the effect I desired.

Up close for detail and colour...

The cold came on strongly at 4:30pm. Though the light was still there... it too was changing rapidly and I have learned from previous self-inflicted failures... not to "chase the sunlight"! I brought it inside and returned after evening dinner to add these few extra shifts in value and refining of the play of light and shapes. This is what I refer to as...

taking full ownership of your creative expression. Paint what's created on the inside... as an expressive and personal response to what you've been inspired by... from the outside!

" January Thaw, Rockport" - oil on wooden panel - image size 10x17 inches

Here is the final painting with the tape easily... and cleanly removed leaving a black outer "frame". All that remains to be done to complete this for hanging is to spray the entire area... frame included with a matte or semi-gloss varnish finish when dried. That choice is personal.

I believe that my attempt to embrace some of my resolutions has been both successful... while at the same time enjoyable to carry out. Certainly, my sense of wonder.... and choosing to follow whimsy as my guide added a child-like flavour to this exercise. It provided an innovative and inexpensive way for me to create paintings on a new and pleasing painting surface. The added ability to eliminate rapidly rising framing costs and to add yet another slant to presentation in our gallery is both exciting... and satisfying. I have moved the marker... and truly feel that I was working outside of my own proverbial box... that we artists unconsciously entrap ourselves by too closely hanging on to our own personal preferences... or imitating those of others we see and admire... too much. It was pure FUN!

Stay tuned for more "play"...

Good Painting... Playing and Hunting... to ALL!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Surprise!... after Surprise!

There exists some irony in the title that I chose for my last post that best matches itself with an old adage:
Be careful in choosing what you wish for. For it may surely come to pass. January did indeed add an early, and unexpected surprise for our New Year here in Rockport. It came out of no where... with complete stealth and... surprise. And completely floored us!

Surprise # One

I had set out on Friday afternoon in search of a site to enjoy my second outdoor painting foray. I discovered such a place and a subject in a very ordinary corner of my every day travels. The day turned out to be one of those rare winter days where there is no wind to deal with...  and the growing warmth of the a higher January sun inspires one to set aside the usual winter need for speed.

Gone was the usual weather-driven need to set up quickly and to jump immediately into painting in high gear. There was ample time to just sit and take in... and to slowly savour the subject. There was no rush to paint. There was even time to set my radio to my constant PBS classical music radio station. With the trunk lid of the van open, I would be able to have music as my afternoon painting companion... on an otherwise empty back street in the rural village of Lansdowne. It was all too glorious. What a pleasant and unexpected surprise!

The scene reminded me so much of the Christmas cards I so admired now long ago, when I perused the ones Dad was quietly chronicling at the kitchen table after each and every Christmas. During his process, he would customarily check off the names of folks who wished to share his tradition of card sending, while eliminating those who did not wish to continue. He would even set aside those special cards that appealed to him pictorially. They would find themselves magically reappearing on the mantle at the commencement of the next Christmas season. I follow that tradition... somewhat.

I vividly remember being attracted to rural subjects like red barn board covered Vermont bridges... barns... horse and sleigh subjects and town street scenes... ones just like this quintessential rural winter street scene that lay before me in Lansdowne. I totally remember it as my introduction to Canadian art history and to figures like AY Jackson... Manley MacDonald... Pilot... Suzor-Cote... Gagnon and Colburn... just to name a few. Perhaps... this was the initial source and crucible for my own painting preferences... so many years later. It was certainly reminiscent of that earlier time on this day, as I set forth to capture this legacy from a rural past in Ontario that has all but disappeared. I shall be amongst the last of a generation that will have it to see... and to record. Things change... and with that change... things lose their value and finally their very physical presence in our cultural landscape. A pity... but it is how life runs!

Here is the raw sketch/impression that I painted as it came back to my studio. I feel very little need to rework it at all. There exist a few inaccuracies which always occur during an interface with the landscape and a few flat areas that need brightening a bit. Other than that, it will remain as I had recorded it... and I am well pleased with the result. It added joy to my life... and surprisingly came from close to home. 

Plein air oil sketch on canvas 8x10 inches... "in the raw"

Surprise # Two

I decided next morning that I would got down to the studio and "tidy up" this sketch ... devoting no more than fifteen minutes to insure that I retained the painterly, loose quality of this small painting. As I approached the door between the stairs and the studio door, I was confronted by two rather dark and ominous patches on the burgundy broadloom.WATER! Terror gripped me immediately, as I grabbed the handle on the closed door opening into the studio. The area right at the entrance was soaked with water as well... but jumping further into the broad loomed carpeted area, a small sense of relief swelled within me. At least the studio area itself... with paintings, files and books on the floor had not been effected... yet.

I went over to the closed door to the adjoining spare bedroom... snapped on the light switch and quickly glanced into its interior. Horrors! The carpet in there was totally submerged. My greatest fear came from the fact that we has stored my quadriptych vertically in this area. We would have to put worries about that concern on the back burner for the present. I called for Deb, and together... we began quickly removing the paintings and bedding from the two single beds. That done and the studio cleared of all objects on the actual floor itself, we went back to the task of evaluating an immediate plan of action.

It was quickly obvious... looking at the one low window in the room, that water was entering the space... and very steadily as a result of trapped run off of melt waters from the 6-10 inches of solid ice that had formed in our driveway and around the house itself. The added overnight and all day rains had exacerbated the run off... so that water ran to places that it usually didn't. This created this major problem... and surprise for us. It realized that the carpet had to come up immediately and that a heavy duty shop vacuum would be required to remove all of the inside water accumulation and to stem the flow of the incoming water. I fully realized as well... that decisive action had to be taken outside as well, to remove the built up ice and snow from around the back and front of the house. So the problem... and required solution was two-pronged in nature.

I immediately called our land lords and they responded immediately by sending their very handy son-in-law  to lend a hand. He agreed with my evaluation, so we joined forces in first cutting up the carpet and removing it. Then, using his mighty powerful 6.5 horse power "super sucking 2+1... he very quickly removed all of the water very quickly. We placed a good sized oscillating fan in the room overnight to further help in drying up the area. Our actions appear to have the problem under control... for the moment. Fingers crossed...NO MORE SURPRISES, January.... PLEASE!

I spent the remainder of the day breaking up the heavy ice crust and shovelling away the snow under it around the entire front and back of the house. After a breather, I set about axing a channel through the six to ten inch thick base of ice down the full fifty foot length of the driveway. Needless to say... sleep came early and was welcomed by us both at the end of this hectic and worrisome day. My earlier expressed enthusiasm for "surprises" had for certain been more than sufficiently... "dampened"!

Post Surprise Thoughts

Despite all of the worry and hard work that we faced in the handling of these little January "surprises"... they serve to teach each of us important lessons. Firstly... we must learn to accept what life delivers to us. We must first think... make a plan and then work as a team to overcome whatever the disappointment... obstacle, or setback may be. As with the pre-Christmas "surprise" power outage, we carried out these steps in the same order and we more than survived. We grew closer together as a result of our combined effort and genuinely felt much less powerless in the face of this adversity. 

In my experiences in my own life... I humbly offer to you that Adversity has been my greatest teacher and that it has advanced my personal growth in every aspect of my being! The adversities I have been faced with and endured form the very basis of the current feelings of Peace and Contentment that I now enjoy. Deb has brought her unconditional love and support... providing the very "salve" that soothes the effects of adversities that regularly manifest themselves in our daily life. Together... we have formed a creative and grateful team. .. and we have learned to pull... and together, we share both the load and the benefits of our labours. That is all that matters in life.

 "We"... are deeply blessed.... and ready to face more of life's endless array of "surprises".... small "s" fully intended! HA HA!!

Lesson Learned?... Focus more on the pleasant "surprises." Make a plan and ride out the unpleasant ones together. SMILE!.... They usually pass quickly... and are forgotten just as quickly as they have appeared !

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

Post Surprise # 2      "All's well... that ends well"!  (Shakespeare)

"Back Street Lansdowne Legacy" - plein air oil on canvas 8x10 inches... just a few "colour surprises" added

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hello January!... Surprise me!

The New Year terribly frigid weather conditions everywhere in this part of Canada has throttled down every one's plans and enthusiasm. The usual feeling of optimism to set the wrongs of last year right with resolutions and promises of change seems to have been frozen... winter-locked would be a good term to describe the situation.

In my own planning, getting out to paint en plein air has been set by the wayside in lieu of completing necessary chores... like splitting firewood  to remain comfortable in our riverside home. We are fortunate... no blessed to have an airtight stove... no matter its deep hunger for hardwood.  It has faithfully filled every corner of our living space with deep and satisfying warmth. Many of our neighbours' homes are  heated with propane. Even their appliances are propane fired. Propane has not been available for them... and some have been without heat for going on a week... with no precise prospect for delivery in sight. There is simply a shortage of supply in most of Ontario.

Yesterday... with all of our wood stove needs taken care of... I decided to make my first foray of 2014 out to paint en plein air. As usual, I prepared my palette beforehand and reduced my painting kit to pure basics: my paint box, adjustable metal easel, a 10x12 inch toned panel, shop towels. O placed these in my trusty back pack along with other "extras" like a large tube of Griffin Alkyd titanium white, turps, a small tin of kerosene, small bungee cords. This represents what I call my minimalistic "carry in" gear ... less is better, especially in the "carry out" at the end of the session, when one is fatigued and overly cold. This makes quick and easy take down time essential.

I had attended a Rockport Development Group meeting the day before at the nearby Cornwall Pub and Grill. During my boredom, I kept noticing an interesting outside view of The Boat House Restaurant from my chair at the table. I fantasized my way through the blur of "nothingness" at the meeting... "imagineering" an approach to painting this scene. I decided that today would be the day to try and make that  fantasy become reality. It made sense as well, not to venture into the very treacherous and ice-covered off road places which would present grave danger from falling and most certainly would sap energy... and painting enthusiasm.

I triple layered my clothing and included; thermal long johns, a "hoodie"... and my thermal boots to meet the challenges of the -8C temperature and the wind chill  feel of -16C created by the steady west wind. I took that steady biting west wind into considering my location to paint from as well. Glad that I did! While the 10x12 toned panel was ample space to cover in my venture... it was insufficient to fit in the actual height of my "vision"... so after three failed drawing in attempts... I cropped my "vision" somewhat to fit vertically onto this small panel.

Being totally out of the sun was beneficial in keeping glare out of the process, but as the session wore on, the absence of its warming influence could be really felt - especially in my finger tips. I had worked quickly and had eliminated using the kerosene can setup as a brush cleaner, substituting shop towels to thoroughly remove pigment from my used brushes. The cup of turps served me well... until the cold tightened up the paint making clean brushes impossible. My fingers and I decided at this point to pack it in and to head home. It was the right decision.

My first plein air trial was met. The painting?... still to be decided. It requires some adjustment to make right the foul weather fumbling. But that is usually in actual fact, a part of cold weather outdoor painting. The cold imposes its own will upon the artist and upon the very paint itself. To put it frankly... both the artist and the pigment go ... according to the flow! "Know when to hold... or fold!"

Here is the result as it came from the field. I will add the changes I would like to bring it closer to me primary vision for the painting. A comparison of both clearly demonstrates the value of using both sessions to arrive at a final pleasing painting. Neither need supersede the other in importance. Together... they reveal the tapestry that is composed of Nature... plus your creative voice!

Allow January to surprise you... or simply take up that brush... and... surprise your Self !

Good Painting ... to ALL! Either in the studio ... or en plein air!

Straight out of the field... untouched... except by my frozen fingers. The -16C wind chill played havoc with the pigment and my fingers making a clean finish impossible. Retreat is the honourable and safe strategy at this point in the game. Everything is there that will make the final statement what I had envisioned.

"Ice"-oil on panel 12x10 inches

This is the final result, after letting the paint set up overnight. I walked by... without the paints next morning and made note of the details I might add to give the final work an extra bit of punch. I am pleased with the painterly final impression... proving that plein air and studio sessions can be used in tandem ... so that neither process dominates the other. It looks as fresh as the outdoors where it was found! As well... the tops of these lovely birches were added... from memory. Sadly...the ice sorm broke off the upper branches. The magic of the memory - own the painting!

Welcome January! A good start for 2014! Looking forward to an outing tomorrow... better weather is forecast... and Sun! 
Stay tuned!...

Good Painting!... to all!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tail Feathers....

It seemed nothing could run according to schedule because of the crippling weather effects we experienced during the period scant days before Christmas right through New Year even into the very present. We are currently living under yet another weather storm advisory stretching across all of Southern Ontario through into our region of Eastern Ontario. We expect rain to turn to freezing rain and later snow as the day ends... and night time temperatures are expected to dip below -24C. Just south of us, in Upper New York State... they are preparing to receive... are you ready?.... Four to five FEET of snow because of the "lake effect" caused by Lake Ontario. We are to receive a "dusting" somewhere between two and ten cm. Schools were closed in our area due to the high gale force wind gusts and icy roads. That situation has deteriorated and  has turned to blizzard-like conditions, as we speak. Time stands still for us here in  Rockport... but it is an excellent time to tie up some loose ends indoors... catch up on lost posts like my annual year end review... and sharing of "favourites" from  my painting year spanning 2013.

When looking across the breadth of 2013, I am able to conjure up special memories associated with a number of paintings... some of them large in format... but many of them smaller sketches created right in the field. Most often, one can readily identify those coming from either source by certain surface qualities... the bravura of brushwork... or the sense of diminished finish and detail. These generally point to a plein air birthing because time and weather factor and shape the painting process and shape one's works. I have chosen specifically to include a few which could... on the surface (not to my eye at least) be in either category... studio or plein air. I wonder if that might be true from your point of view and in your own process. I'd be interested in hearing your views on this notion.

I am arranging them somewhat in order of my level of enjoyment and satisfaction... and here again this classification isn't necessarily dependent upon size or technical merit. They represent a "remix"... ordered in this way more for emotional reasons rather than just artistic merit per say. Having "fun" and enjoyment is always one prerequisite when I undertake a subject in either situation. A second important prerequisite is the challenge of solving a particular problem... therefore advancing learning. Then lastly... there exists as well, those paintings that stand as "personal bests"... monuments of personal achievement that one is proud of.

So here is the flush of the tail feathers for 2013 ... fanned out for you to enjoy! It is my hope that they further encourage your own search and journey. I know that your regular presence and comments greatly stimulate... encourage and inspire mine. Thank you all... for that gift!

 "Listen to the Guitar Man" was a challenge for me. I rarely paint figures, not because I can't,  but because I am drawn compulsively to the paint outdoor themes such as landscapes and historic buildings. This painting was undertaken and was fully intended to leave my hands... a gift to a dear Friend... who I have yet to meet personally. This painting demonstrates the bridge that art creates between people... over vast distances... and across borders. Though I did in fact find myself attached to the painting... I found no difficulty in sending it away... and into the life and possession of its intended owner. That knowledge gained... and my feeling of less helplessness to support my Friend... are my rewards. Share your vision of the world with others... unconditionally!

"Sweet Taste of Spring" - oil on panel 20x16 inches This painting bundles together two identifiable facets of an Ontario spring which I enjoy and look forward to painting. I have spent countless spring hours in many sugar bushes across Ontario and have made so many friends through my painting forays at this exciting and uplifting time of year. Always friendly and inquisitive Black-capped Chickadees seem ever present... visiting and naturally performing... as they are pictured here. They are my favourite bird. Oh... that there were more "Chickadees" in our human world. What a sweeter world... the world would be! Paint with your eyes and heart open to the world about you!

An unusual choice of a square format and a "run-for-the-sun" dash to start and finish this sketch. One of those rare moments... when a painting seems to paint itself... and you merely hold the brush... and watch it all unfold. This is a perfect Zen moment... purely a spiritual moment of Epiphany and Joy! Just that! It is a favourite of my daughter-art historian Allison. ""A Sisley to me Dad!"... is a very great compliment from a very knowledgeable source I trust... close to my heart and process. Work outside of the box and your usual comfort zone!

"Canadian Winters and Tim Horton Coffee - Always Fresh" is an oil on canvas 24x30 inches. This reworked canvas weaves together an Oro-Medonte winter landscape from a "past chapter" in a "tongue-in-cheeky" tribute to our favourite and iconic Tim Horton Coffee. Shown here together... they represent aspects of our truly Canadian identity which add greatly to my winter painting programme. The "jolt" that one never fails to receive from that hot, rich coffee taste never is more attention-grabbing than it is here... sitting... cloaked in winter on that old beech stump. Be brave...Take risks!

Though I had no specific reason for stopping to paint this river scene tucked away in Smuggler's Cove, I would later have the great pleasure of having a whole family descend upon me en masse in our Gallery in July. None had seen their beloved Virgin Island cottage and boathouse during winter. They live far to the south and have come annually to summer as a family here in The Thousand Islands. It gave me great pleasure to meet them... to share their stories and to have them cart back with them the painting... a gift to their husband and father, "Skip"... and original plaque mounted photographic facsimiles for all family members. Paint for enjoyment... NOT $$$$... $$$ sometimes seems to magically follow! Win-Win!

"August on my mind" This 24x18 inch still life oil on canvas was set up to celebrate my parents joint August birthdays posthumously. Each August during our cottage lives together on the St Lawrence, our family would repeat a ritual celebration of their birthdays together at "Sherman's Shangri-la." I did not intend the painting to be maudlin in nature... but rather celebratory of the individual memories that I continue to carry in my heart of them and our treasured cottage days. The painting had the same effect on a "regular" lady client who shares my love for the River... so I released it to her. I must admit... I do in fact miss the painting... but I have summer visiting privileges! Paint from your heart... using honest emotion as your guide!

"River Magic" - This largish 48x36 inch canvas depicts one golden moment, near day's end at Ivy Lea Park not far from Rockport. It could well be a setting almost anywhere along the shoreline or amidst these treasured Thousand Islands. It is a myopic portrait of sorts... a clustering of impressions and feelings together within the picture plane. Step up! ... Dare to dream BIG!

Guild's Boat Works Relic, Mallorytown Landing - oil on panel 10x12 inches -This painting emerged during my personal February Plein Air Festival. Though it has a definite wintry feel... it possesses a juxtaposed warmth of tone and colour to lift one's spirits. It emerged from one of those "playful" moments that I try to infuse into my work to overcome boredom... or in this case, to beat the weatherman at his own game. It combines the intuitive... fanciful unrestrained use of ink and line drawn by cut twigs with strategically placed areas colour creating a welcome relief from the drudgery and tyranny of winter weather. Play... and learn!

"Sunlit Cedars" - oil on canvas10x12 inches - This small sketch was another "zen" moment. It visited me unexpectedly during the Harvest Blend Paint Out that I co-organized with Eagle Point Winery director Debra Marshall back in late October. The entire weekend was pretty much "awash" in rain and depressingly cloudy weather. However, I was in the company of long time painting pals and we all managed to knock off some surprisingly nice work. The wonderful light in this painting came from out of no where and remained only momentarily... but long enough to infuse the warmth that earlier on in the same day... might well never have been a part of this sketch. Don't let less than favourable conditions in the field prevent you from getting "out there." Often... fortune... and the Universe will greatly reward your efforts and Faith in your self!

"Autumn Meanders in at Larue's Mills Creek" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches
This canvas was my first effort in the opening morning of the Harvest Blend event. Heavy rain led me to abandon it at the lay in stage. Water and oil don't mix! However... a "golden opportunity" occurred in the afternoon... almost magically at the same moment that I was finishing "Sunlit Cedars" shown above. Within a scant half hour I managed to arrive at this conclusion... as you see it.

Don't fight the weather! Follow your brain... and "the Flow." Paintings started outside en plein air can be successfully completed in  the studio ... using your memory as a creative guide. Sometimes... if you're really lucky... the "Art God" will actually step in on your behalf on the same day! Seize the Day!

"Spring... on the Move" - oil on panel 24x20 inches. This is another painting begun en plein air under less than favourable weather conditions. I knew from the onset of the painting that the weather would never remain stable enough for me to finish a painting of this size and detail. The size and proportion of the panel however, was essential to accommodating my vision of the painting. So, I decided to focus only on the water movement and structural elements. I merely added mapping lines for other less finished elements to serve as memory guides for completion later in the studio. This painting was definitely going home with me rough and very much unfinished on this foul, cold and snowy winter day in Algonquin Park.

It was not until many months later that the unfinished work kept begging to be dealt with... that I finally was able to step up to it with courage and a direction to follow. The water movement seemed joyful to me visually and demanded a look at a change of season perhaps. Having had the prior experiences of actually seeing the subject in multiple seasons, I decided upon Spring... just because of the way the waterfall seemed to cascade... entering my space gradually from back to front. The resulting finish was pleasing... but it took another week of viewing... quickly glancing to realize and carrying out more natural tonal shifts and contrasts. Now... it stands strongly within my list of most pleasureables for  2013.

Don't compromise your vision. Plod through the challenge with a definite plan of execution. Know when to take a breath... a few steps back and to hitch your vision to a star... perhaps further out than you had initially planned for. Remember that you alone own the painting! Don't let it own you! It ain't over ..till your heart says so! Then sign it - DONE!

I truly hope that my sharing here of these enjoyable paintings for me... and the ideas behind their creation add furtherance to you artistic journey. Thank you for your presence and encouraging comments during 2103.

Good Painting!... to ALL in 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Child's Play

It is the first day of the New Year 2014... a fresh white canvas to be made into your own masterpiece. It is the time for making New Year's Resolutions... hoped for changes in the next leg of one's journey. Many of such ideas and notions are soon abandoned and rarely make past the month of January. Life... as we all have come to know and accept, life often gets in the way of our best intentions.

I had not given much thought to making my own for this New Year until I came across a column in the Toronto Star newspaper written by Mark Cullen, one of Canada's "gardener gurus". While I have always admired his gardening skill, I must admit that I found his tone and presence somewhat arrogant and felt he carried an edge of superiority.

Somehow, in this particular column, that all seemed changed. His tone was more sincere... more personal and further on in his column came the revelation for that change. He had been diagnosed in May of 2013   with prostate cancer. While the cancer was treatable ... it caused him to re-evaluate how he was leading his life. He was financially successful... highly knowledgeable and respected and revered in his field. His new journey began while sitting under a mighty oak healing in his front yard. It was there where it was revealed to him where his Quest to find his True Self might commence. I would like to share his insightful resolutions with you. I choose to join him in trying to carry out this Quest... sharing his resolutions... but in my own terms and journey:

1. I will observe more. I will look further into my fascination with my own garden and environs. Though its bird songs are familiar to me. I will wander the fields and shoreline even more than I already do each and every day in search of new ideas and knowledge and with my eyes open wider.
2. I will create more.  Though my creative production is usually constant... like all creative individuals I can allow myself to get too far off my ritual in the studio and plein air painting. I will try to paint outdoors at least two days in each week. I will include new media to further encourage a healthy work ethic and variety in my work. I will continue to try and paint more pure... as a child would without too many rules.
3. I will feed and nurture more. Though I conduct classes... hit or miss each summer, I will seek to create more opportunities to share my painting process, as I do with this blog site within my community. I have always found that in teaching I open myself up to new learning as much for my self as I do for my students.
4. I will endeavour to share more.  I am very sharing by my very nature, but I am going to search out particular sectors or organizations where I can volunteer my strengths and energy to help others.
5. I am going to commit our joint energies as a couple to ticking off "bucket list" experiences.  Though I do not fear death really, I never will embrace dying's finality without an effort to live out each moment and experience as fully as I can... with integrity and dignity intact.

Now... back to "Child's Play":

The revered childhood educator Mr (Fred) Rogers provided hours of wholesome company for Allison, Andrew and I when we were growing up together and simultaneously taught us many valuable life lessons that still shape our family and personal lives to this day. He always maintained that play was a child's first work. I still hold that tenet to be true and offer it to you this New Year's evening... in the form of this painting just completed today.

I had so wanted to make a snow "person" with the kids when they arrived... but the weather gave that idea the icy... "cold shoulder"! It was impossible to actually make a snowman. However, the Universe delivered to me an alternative method to accomplish this "childish" Christmas wish. It came via my long time painting Buddy Frank Edwards' blog. In his blog ... he had "built" a snowman with pigment on a toned 12x9 inch wooden panel. That started my snow man quest. I asked Frank if he minded my using his "Idea"... and since we had made many plein air "snowmen" together over the thirty years we have painted "side-by-each"... the answer back was a big, "U betcha!"

Frank was a syndicated political cartoonist and illustrator in his day job... but we shared studio space... and the great outdoors throughout our adult lifetime. We have shared a life time of adventures and time together that will continue, I believe until one or both of us is finally gone. Here is my take on a snow-less snowman.... in text and jpegs. Sorry Frank...  but I need words as strongly as you need to avoid them.

My Snowman idea was completed indoors... in stages... given the constraints of the season and weather business. I had no plan or reference to work from... just my imagination. I had no partner to help me... so I invoked one of my muses, Andrea Bocelli to join me in the studio with his Cieli di Toscana soundtrack. Here is the result... in stages of this snowman's creation. I dedicate it to all of the "children"... no matter their ages... who have supported me and given me the courage to be my "Self." You are one of those special "children" Frank... so mostly for you!

A vertical 18x14 inch toned canvas. I rapidly sketched in a gestural line drawing using an India ink brush/pen. The elements are strongly obvious... all basic elements are present... in a setting I understand!

I decide to make it a nocturne... including my Christmas Star which on a clear winter  morning is due south of our home. I revel in its being there and watching it move as the morning progresses toward sunrise.

I establish a St Lawrence landscape feel for  my emerging plein air snow man.

Let there be Light! ... further imaginative play run wild. Children have no stringent rules for making snowmen. They just play... and unforced... joyful magic happens! That's how I felt throughout the entire process!

This is where time seems to vanish... cold or light doesn't enter into the picture? Remember being late for supper... because.....

Deb "put on her mitts"... and joined into the final fun. The snow and colour for the star were her ideas. Thanks Babe!

Well... here is the finished painting. Time to go upstairs for some hot chocolate... HA HA!!

This painting will not be offered for sale. From the first stroke on the canvas to now... it has a purpose for the future. I am proposing to my entire family that this personal Christmas Snowman... "Winter Star" be given to one of my children each Christmas to be exhibited for the entire Christmas season in his or her home. I will provide a special box and at the end of each Christmas visit... the painting is to be passed to the next person on the list... so that a continual tradition of sharing my gift will be created. It is never to stay at one home or become the sole possession of one "child."

My wish is that even after I have passed into time... my "presence" ... through this painting will encourage my family present and future to reach out and share our sense of family and the true spirit of "Giving." It will also serve to remind each of them... to NEVER surrender their wondrous... creative and joyful "child within"!

Happy New Year ... and Good Painting ... to ALL!!