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!
"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!