Friday, September 26, 2014

Pedalling... or Peddling Your Passion

"Every time that I'm in the woods, I feel like I'm in church."
                                - Pete Seeger  (Folk Icon)
The Act of...   Pedalling

While the title of today's post might be at first written off as just another piece of "word smithing"
on my part... I offer it totally as some food for thought to each of you who seeks to elevate their painting processes. Think of the act of painting as being similar to riding a two wheeled bicycle. How did you begin that process of gaining the courage and skills necessary to leave your first three wheeler at the curb...  to strip off the training wheels... or to feel the joy of travelling under one's own very power? What were the stages that you passed through to enable you to travel wherever you wanted under your own power?

Firstly, it took a certain level of personal need and courage to take up the challenge... and to overcome the fear of falling. Then it took determination and perseverance over many trials... perhaps guided by someone that you trusted before you finally felt equipped and ready to solo. Painting is very similar in many respects. Few of us are complete "naturals". Most of us simply at first felt enjoyment when we were pushin' a pencil... or paint. And as with riding a bicycle... once the skill is learned, it is seldom forgotten and usually just requires a few sessions to regain our confidence and level of skill. Then riding becomes an individual self-guided journey.

However... continuing to further use the "bicycle" metaphor... few us will ever reach a level of skill to actually compete in high level bicycle racing... or ever hope to represent our country in the Olympic Games... no matter how long we pedal our butts about. It is likely most unrealistic to set ourselves up for such lofty goals. The folks that end up in this part of the bicycle spectrum are dedicated... highly motivated athletes who were quite literally... "born to ride".

This does not however, disqualify any of us from enjoying the thrill of simply "riding"... by ourselves... or with others who share our common passion for just plain "pedalling". It's healthy for the body and soul... builds character and involves adventuring... well beyond daily limits or personal expectations. Quite simply... we are better for our participation and involvement. In fact... you could even... pedal n' paint. Where might that take one??? I wonder....

Pedal on... Risk... Explore... Coast... Take time to enjoy what's around you. Set achievable goals... and hope... never to arrive. Reaching such a destination would mark the end of a magnificent journey. Keep the dreaming alive.... Just pedal on!

Peddling... Your Passion... another kind of pedalling

In my own personal experience, I offer that the success in selling one's art is dependent upon many variables. Some lie well outside our ability to control. If one hopes to successfully sell in this weak economy... one must have a special bike "to peddle"... that is not just the average. In other words... not what everyone else is peddling. There has to be some unique quality that separates one's work from others. It might be more creative use of colour... strikingly different elements of design... or perhaps a unique handling of paint. Whatever... it must separate you from the "ordinary"... or the visions of others.

Identify what you have an earnest passion for. If it is landscape...then paint... read and totally immerse yourself in landscape to gain a full understanding of your subject. Come at it using different techniques... in different times of the day and with changes in lighting. Try painting the same place in other seasons. Shuffle the deck. And above all... do find pleasant weather to try your hand at painting en plein air. Nature is the most inspiring and patient teacher.

Not every painting we make is worth sharing... let alone placing it in the market place ... whether at a fair... or on a blog or web site. Some paintings are only exercises... whose truest value lies only in interpretation of the mistakes we have made. Take the courage to "make them disappear"... by your own hand after you have had ample time to study them and reach the conclusion that they deserve..."a thumbs down". Place only your best in your sales department. If you painted it with passion and feel pride that your name is on it... then likely those feelings will be translated and understood by potential clients and viewers... deeming it saleable. Viewers will admire and want it for the very reason that you painted it.

Shifting gears from painting butter tarts... to radishes and onions... then on to pets you have never seen... except in a photo really do little more than to fill time for a day. The question to be asked in my mind... is. What does my painting say to my viewer? Does it speak of a feeling deeply and passionately held within me Does it encourage participation beyond seeing it as another pretty picture? Is it evocative... provocative... active... ???

What I am offering in this post is simply "food for thought". Perhaps there might be a phrase that might help you in your struggle to pedal... and peddle... your very own two wheeler. I mean not to be in any fashion or terms judgemental. I merely wish to offer a view that has served me well on my long journey. The fact that I still go out to painting with joy... and receive ample "reward"... be it in $$$... or in compliments from people from all walks of life when they visit our Gallery. Those gifts serve to motivate me further in following... and sharing my path with those who are of kindred spirit with my own.

I'll end today's post with this profound passage from author Julia Cameron's inspirational creative hymnal "Heart Steps" first published in 1997. I found it closely matched my own artistic and spiritual beliefs.

"We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-Force extending itself through us. Creativity is God's gift to us. Being creative is our gift back to God."

Do paint with your heart... joyously... in your own image. Be proud of your achievements... but maintain humility. It too... is a necessary tool in the artists painting kit.

Here is an island setting and view that for half a century has served as personal marker which I have used to orient myself on my inner GPS. It served to mark my return to this place I call home... and it served to bid me goodbye as I glanced at it when I had ever to depart. All of this will soon disappear. This beautiful piece of white clad river heritage will very soon succumb to new change afoot all along this side of the Saint Lawrence. Some cash-fat "Daddy Warbucks" will soon have "his way" with the foot print left ... after this century-old architectural face on the River is flattened and scooped off to the local waste disposal site. That's the way it goes these days... up n' down the shoreline. Money speaks... as it always has... and Time pushes on by. Only the River itself continues its rythmn... and "they" are even playing with that too.

"Ridin' out the Storm... at Big and Little 99" - oil on canvas 10x12 inches

This is the first of a couple of smaller paintings that I wish to make to record its having been here. The white clad wooden boathouse was the "offing" point to countless Island adventures for all of the earlier residents and their guests for well over a century. A childhood chum of mine had resided in and took care of this property for half of his lifetime... only to be given an abrupt and totally unexpected "pink slip"... and an order to vacate within a month. This was not "the way of the River"... as I have known it. Property owners long honoured the special service of their caretakers and caregivers with the promise of a guaranteed life time of accommodation and security. Things have sadly changed. A handshake no longer can be expected to seal a promise or a deal. Where did honour go? I wonder.....

The two small islands are known to locals as "Little and Big 99". Little 99 barely qualifies to rightfully assume the title island. An island must ahve a least one tree growing on it to be offered this distinction and place in the famous "Thousand" count. I feel that their proximity to this river heritage offers my belief that it is indeed possible for Man and Nature to coexist in harmony - provided Man's arrogance and predisposition toi controlling nature at his whim can be moderated.

Just one ol' dude's rant... but it's my Truth.... and I choose to speak it and live by it!

Happy Fall... and Good Painting... to  all!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Overcoming... "Rainy Day Feelings..."

Fall has most certainly arrived in The Thousand Islands region. The sharp nip in the morning air prompts many to "un-garden"... and others to close summer retreats. River traffic has dwindled down to weekends and many of the larger yachts can already be seen up on blocks... plastic-wrapped and ready for winter. Canada Geese have become noisy in the early morning and the loons more vocal as each night fades away. Hardwood trees in the area have already shown signs of their annual autumn blush. The wheel has turned.

The past weekend was to have been the 4th Annual Rockport International Paint Out. It never took place. Chalk it up to poor planning... or to the growing apathy in the painting world as a result of economic down turn. There seemed little interest to proceed with this gathering of artists. It matters little to me... whatever the cause. Life is about attitude and choices - one's own!

I had invited two good painting pals to come to the event as our house guests. Frank Edwards, of nearby Kingston has been my painting companion and friend for close to forty years. Paul Taylor and his lovely wife June of Rochester, NY are recent new friends. Paul and his clan have a camp up river a scant few kilometers and have been coming up to the river... as my family has every summer that he can remember. We share much in common... especially our passion for the river and painting.

We decided to hold our very own Rockport Paint Out anyway. The weather sure tried its darnedest to "rain on our parade"... but all of us share a similar passion for painting and a determination to do so... no matter the weather. Paul works in watercolour and acrylics and is a "newbie" to plein air painting. I think that being with me for those few times that we have painted together on location has more than convinced him of its value in "loosening up" and increasing confidence and speed of brushwork.

Day One.... "Singing in the rain..."

Deb provided a wonderful breakfast start for us... serving up plenty o' hot coffee... a delectable quiche... Canadian back bacon (pea meal) and toast with Tar Island summer resident, Jill Reynolds' homemade blackberry jam to fortify our painting spirits in the face of what appeared to be very "iffy" and highly threatening weather... right from the onset of Saturday's session. Paul searched out dry and covered niches within the village... while Frank and I headed to a site that I had scouted and gotten permission to paint near Ivy Lea. Anticipating rain before the end of our session... we were set up ... both of us with an easel leg in the trunk of my Dodge Caravan...  its lid acting as a sort of roof/umbrella over us.

Even that offered us only temporary protection necessary to keep that dreaded water from our panels and palettes. Both of us were approaching the lay in stage when the driving rain out of the south east brought our painting session to an abrupt halt. Needless to say, that event dampened our dreams and actions for carry back a full painting. But it could not dampen our determination to make something positive out of the negative.... fully away from the scene a few days later. Frank successfully completed his version at his regular Tuesday morning painting group. Mine was completed yesterday... "en plein air"... outside the Gallery as visitors came and went during the afternoon.

I offer two jpegs to further demonstrate the value of actually starting a painting/sketch on site. Whether it is fully completed there, or it is completed after the fact need not take away from the freshness gained outdoors. If one compares the final outcome of this first effort to the results shown in the second painting of the weekend... I think you will agree that my stylism is maintained and is comparable in both paintings.

Called... on account of rain! At this juncture... everything in terms of structure and enough detail for the intended subject is in place. What remains is the "pushin n' pullin" ... to heighten detail and to correct value passages across the entire painting surface. I felt more than comfortable to have this information to work with further after our unplanned premature departure.

This is the point where the background information and subject information support has been completed so that the subject now sits comfortably in the composition. All that remains to be dealt with is some minor attention to the empty foreground and  more attention given to the water movement and reflections.

Mission accomplished!...

"The Tug Blue Quail... Safely at Anchor, Ivy Lea - oil on panel 11x14 inches  SOLD

Day Two  .... Just another day in Paradise!

Frank had to return to Kingston on Saturday evening, so Paul and I agreed to partner up back in Ivy Lea village on Sunday morning for a plein air session before he had to head back across the river to Rochester. He had unfortunately been shut out completely the day previous... his water colour game...called because of rain and the too dark conditions of the boathouse he had set up in. Unfortunately, no plan "B" is possible for outdoor painting in watercolour on rainy days!

I again has scouted out this scene and we were automatically given permission to paint on the property by the owner of the cottage rental property by the affable EricTruesdell... known affectionately by Ivy Lea village residents as "The Mayor of Ivy Lea". His knowledge of the village and its history spans his entire lifetime of eighty plus years as a resident. Another valuable asset one gains from actually painting on site!

Though the temperature had dipped greatly and I thought might have hampered Paul's water colouring... it had little or no effect on the final outcome for either of us. We both came away with great paintings. I believe that my square cradle board sketch captures the mood and the moment during which Paul and I painted there together. I firmly believe as well... that its style quite evenly compares to the Blue Quail piece painted the previous day... half on site...  and then completed fully away from the actual site... two days later.

"September Song... Ivy Lea" - oil on cradle board 12x12 inches   SOLD

In concluding my post this morning... I will share that this time of the year on my River is yes... plaintive for me personally to some degree because it hearkens to the fifty odd seasons that our family closed our cottage for another season. It echoes my Mom's words spoken each year... as she stood looking out from our property towards Tar Island: "I wonder who will be opening the cottage next year?"

I watch daily as other "summer folk" stand at Andress Boat Works dock... bags behind them ... awaiting their car pick up. Their wistful last long look at the river that they too love dearly... again echoes my Mom's refrain... now present only in my memory... and pulls the strings upon my own heart. This painting... I feel.... is truly our common "September Song".

Good Painting... to All!

"The memory is the scribe of the soul."


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Project (a noun) Peace... or Project (a verb) Peace!... Your Choice!

I had originally planned to write this post yesterday... but a pleasant change necessitated my delaying until this morning. It is not often that we have the opportunity to spend the evening with my two daughters together. Both of these joys of my life lead very busy lives... in places far afield from Rockport... so putting my writing on hold was an easy change/choice to make. My side still hurts this morning from the laughing and tom-foolery that we enjoyed together... but my heart no longer aches to see their faces ... or to hug and kiss them. I am deeply blessed... and deeply proud to have such fine young women as daughters!

Ironically, the origins for my initial post interest and topic surrounded the topic of change... as it applies to both my personal and artistic life. Those first thoughts before I actually sat down to write arrived in the still dark, pre-dawn hours of Tuesday... down at my dockside bench at the river's edge where... each day I enjoy my first cup o' java and await the first glimmer of light for the new day. Not a creature was stirring... nary an engine noise from the river to the south. Strange... after so many such visits that I could find new things... or better... things that I had overlooked in previous morning meditations. For the first time really... my eyes left my usual focus and preoccupation with the river and the familiar galleon-like island armada of silhouettes directly to the south.

The faint... but steady breeze out of the south soothed me so that I closed my eyes momentarily and shifted to smelling the air. There was a distinct and very different river fragrance... one that I have been privileged to experience over my lifetime... and one that for certain heralded the unmistakable entry of fall into these parts.

As I slowly opened my eyes, my glance was skyward. Above me ... directly overhead was another "old friend"... exactly where he should be at this time of the year. When one "trips" in wilderness areas... bereft of the light pollution which effects most areas near and around urban centres... one become exceedingly aware of the hidden magic of the night sky. Phenomena like the Milky Way... Aurora Borealis... meteor showers... and even the passage of air traffic and satellites offer evening entertainment reserved for the very few who step away even briefly from modernity.

Above me was the constellation Orion... "the hunter"... distinguishable by his two cock-eyed shoulder stars... but more by his three star "belt" and a knee to the lower right... and scabbard star low to the left. I well remember my introduction to Orion by my London Teacher's College Master,Mr. Brendon in his Science program. His astronomy lectures both dazzled and acquainted me with the wonders of the night sky and included many unforgettable others like Draco the Dragon... the Sister star cluster the Pleiades... Ursa Major and Minor... and of course... Polaris, the North Star - the navigational constant in the northern sky which guides all travellers and navigators whether on land or on the sea.

My attention was completely focused upon the still inky darkness above me. As I continued my watch quietly, I became ever more aware of how slyly morning strips away the darkness... and how one by one... each constellation disappears ever so gradually... star by star. It is indeed a magical time and a relevant visual example of gradual change occurring. Complete darkness gradually fell into the glory of full light. It points out how that kind of change... even in  our own life would be so much easier to adjust to... as opposed to jumping from the frying pan into the fire... or in shifting and changing our artistic styles like changing socks. Change should indeed be the goal in our lives... but it is the adapting to it that presents the most difficulty. It should be a process trial and learn...and not flip-flop... haphazard wandering.

In  my own work process, I do seek out new ideas and experiment with varied medias... subject matter and tools to work with. I value value critical advice from a few trusted and selective individuals. Rarely... do I make a change in a piece of my work without pondering such an intervention. In my own value set, my art is a deeply felt form of expression... one which I have cultivated as my own garden. I take great pride in the outcome... the achieving a state of finish for the problem presented in every work. Most often... the advice disappears ever so gradually in the process of contemplation... just as dawn displaces darkness. I hang on to my values.

All summer I have been staring at one particular painting in the Gallery... trying to summon up the courage to initiate a change to an area in the painting that troubled me. But I didn't know where to start. Many people commented upon its intrinsic beauty and the solitude that it depicted... but the compliment seemed aways to trail off with each viewer saying ... "But something isn't right in it - perhaps its too dark."

My art historian daughter Allison came to visit last week and accompanied Deb and I to tour and see new works. "Oh... this big one is new Dad - a lovely river scene. Where is the setting?" After explaining the exact location... she returned to her critique by adding: "There's one bothersome part of your painting... that for me lessens its strength and appeal. Do you want a a tip?"

My response was a rather deflated and half-hearted... "Yes"... because I very much trust her eye... her vast knowledge... and her good heart. I do look for her approval. She has always been a champion of my work... as has been Deb. Both have seen enough of my work to merit my respecting their opinion... and to encourage revisiting my reasons for excluding the sun. I think in retrospect, that perhaps its presence likely was suggested by Vincent... once again "whispering in my ear"... He does you know!

"Get rid of that sun Dad. I know what you were meaning to say... I get that. But it drags my eye away from what you really wanted to say... don't you think?" Deb immediately threw in her shovelful of support... it had been her complaint as well. I had long fended off changing.... but one week after that eventful discussion... I weighed in the criticisms with my own previous reservations and decided to relent... to change my viewpoint.

I hastily set up the canvas on my easel outside the Gallery.... and simply went at it. But I promised myself from the start that I would not repaint the entire painting. I would edge into the change gradually to remove the "offensive" sun and  perhaps shift the lighting slightly to manipulate another take on the light and shade interplay which holds the picture together. A few value changes in the foreground dark pine to break up the too distracting dark masses of shade were the last changes made.

I will leave you to judge the success of the undertaking for yourself based upon a comparison of the before and after jpegs. It can be said that the other two critics... have been silenced... and satisfied.... as have I. Thank you Allison and Deb... for fuelling lift off... and for being... "the third eye".

                                First Impression - "River Magic" - 40x30 inch oil on gallery wrapped canvas

In closing today's post, I have decided to extend the change even further... given food for thought that I "dined on" during my grocery trip to Gananoque this morning. I always listen to my local WNPR classical music station when driving alone... both for the lilting music and for the thoughtful commentary. I find both soothing and inspiring.

The commentary that I listened to triggered a memory that exactly thirteen years ago today... at 8:46 am, I was returning from Midland to my home in Kingston following a visit with my friends John and Carol. It was, of course that very apocalyptic 911 moment in every one's life... when the world at large too suddenly changed and became so disorienting and filled with confusion for all of us. It as well changed the world that each of us would personally live in from that moment onward... forever. Those effects of that moment... today... are never more obvious than when we enter and return on trips from Canada to the US.

While it was a devastatingly shocking and an outrageously inhuman atrocity against innocents... it was for me an epiphany of sorts. That single act of terror and unequivocal evil... strangely flooded my being with a sense of Peace and resolve to appreciate my blessing of life each and every day forward from that moment in time. It offered a powerful reason to embrace Hope... rather than fear and Hope-less-ness. I truly believe that each of the thousands of victims might agree with such an approach.

If each of us can hold out our own candle of Light...and Hope... together... we WILL extinguish whatever evil and state of Darkness which besets us. I am changing the title of this painting to "Requiem"... in honour of all of the victims of 911... their loved ones... and the countless number of young people who have served... or have offered up their tomorrows and dreams in foreign theaters to preserve our right to Peace and Freedom... wherever we live. Thank you...

This painting project is but one of many in my long career. I am truly hoping that the newer version helps to project to each of my friends who read this... a greater feeling of Hope... Peace... and a willingness to risk change in their own lives and art. Rich blessings to all!

Much Peace...                                                    SOLD
And Good Painting ... to ALL!