Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What a Difference... a Day Makes!

Despite the heavy wind and rain that we have experienced in these parts over the last couple of weeks... autumn colour has hung on and continues to bring inspiration and great pleasure to me in my recent plein air forays. Last Sunday... Paul Taylor, my painting friend from Rochester, New York joined me for a quick painting trip to Ivy Lea Park. I love this autumn bastion of quiet. Its many trails and camp sites offer numerous views of the river and nearby island clusters. A painting adventure can be readily be found around every bend. There is no need to travel far to set up one's easel. The quiet and solitude and its untrespassed sanctity of silence draw out the best in any artist. It certainly did for Paul and I during the two hours we spent painting together at Smuggler''s Cove.

The view of this cove... infamous and named  for the prominent "boot-legging" role and its hard-to-find location during the Prohibition years has a mystique and unique presence which never fails to motivate me personally... in any season. I have painted there in each of the four seasons and each presents a new view to be painted. Ironically, the island around which the cove water flows... is called Virgin Island. On the outside point facing southward there is a pale blue niche which houses none other than... "the Blessed Virgin". That statue is a well known river marker for all boaters and adds a sacrilegious historical  bit o' flavour to local river lore! Sacrimental wine.... per chance??? HA HA!!

Here in summer cottaging season... lots of noisy goings on at this time. Note the Virgin's niche on the cliff to the left.

January solitude... just "Me"... My Self... God... and  "I"... hiking about and painting... together!

Paul had to depart for home early on Sunday afternoon on his long road trip back to Rochester... so the foray was cut short... for me at least. I had selected a larger 16x20 inch canvas... because I knew that the colour was unlikely to remain "up" much  longer. The scene was perfect.

It rained lightly for about an hour... but we had purposely set up under a dense, heavy overhead cluster of mature white pines. No rain ever managed to get to us... but the wind and water played havoc with the water's surface and it kept changing every few seconds. Very distracting... when the entire foreground is entirely dominated by the current and deep green reflected shadows. We decided to call it a day after it became obvious to us that things would not be settling down... and the clock was running short for Paul to get off to a reasonable start back home. We took some reference pictures... to perhaps work from later.

After I had my breakfast on Monday morning... I couldn't resist havin' another go at the scene. The light was almost the same as Sunday's... so I headed back to the Park... primed for action. Once again... I found the zone quickly and everything seem to fall into place without any difficulties. In fact... there was a complete mirror reflection of the scene... making translation of shadows and water movement a cinch. I finished within an hour... and left the site completely pleased and satisfied with the painting. I much prefer to paint from life rather than from photos. Nature tells it... "as it is"... and all of my senses are aroused simultaneously. For me... my painting response is guided by the other stimuli... as much as the visual information lying before me.

I will close out this post by including the photo reference... along with my painted impression. You be the judge and jury. Did I hit the mark??

Your call Friends!

Here's our selected site... as I encountered it on the second go....

Here's my first go... lacking sharpness...

Completed canvas on day two

"Between Showers... Smuggler's Cove" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

Busy at it... "in the Flow"

"He leadeth me beside still waters... it restoreth my soul..."

Good Painting ... to ALL!!!

BOOO!.... Happy Hallowe'en Friends!

I stumbled upon this artful jack-o-lantern a few days back. It speaks of someone looking beyond whatever the rest o' the "herd" does. Step up... and  be brave. Dare to Dream! "You"... and the world will be better for it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

World's Best Guitar Player Unbelievable.... and GRATITUDE

I thought that I would introduce my post today in an unusual fashion... perhaps catching each of you as much off guard as the You Tube guitarist did me... with his intentionally "troubled" and very questionable start. He most certainly more than redeemed himself with his virtuosity... verging upon guitar genius. Consider in the same breath... that he is attending Harvard University... for God knows whatever other intellectual "gift" that he must possess... and demonstrate.

I am simply in awe of his rich guitar virtuosity...  but what prompted me to choose him as my "front man" on today's "gig"... was the verbal expression he used to introduce himself before he played a single note or chord. The title of his presentation....? Gratitude... Gratitude for the wonderful things which had entered into his life in his coming to Harvard... and the friends he had made there... "that would last much longer tn the fame they would attain later in life.." Chuckle! Chuckle!... but nonetheless true!

The word which comes to mind to best describe this young man and his actions in this "Gig" is...  "humility". I believe that both humility and gratitude walk hand-in-hand. Together... they bring to those who embrace both fully and actively in their lives, a measure of Peace and Joy beyond that experienced by other travellers in life. This observation is especially true when I think about artists whom  I admire. All of them demonstrate a complete lack of pretence in regard to their achievements... and can readily recognize and accept their weaknesses and criticism graciously. They seem to me... to be able "to live comfortably in their own skins". They know who they are!

A Plan for  Helping Develop... Achieving and Receiving a Greater Sense of Personal Gratitude

Reducing the Importance and Need for Competition in Daily Life

I have given much thought to the "idea" of Gratitude as of late. I personally believe that a real gratitude is achieved in stages and with practice. I think that the most well-adjusted "seniors"... as we're referred to in this generation (it used to be elders)... have reached a point in their personal life journeys when most of the mountains we're forced to climb in life have been climbed. The need to struggle to "climb" to greater heights daily has been met and the drive for our goal-seeking greatly lessened - by personal choice.

Use of Personal Time

We have the advantage of "seeing" the value of Time as "the coin of the realm"... as opposed to the almighty dollar being the standard in earlier life. Life slows down just enough... for us to breathe and for us to be able to look around and to enjoy the scenery (too rapidly) passing by our window. For the most part many of us better value and use our time to seek new experiences and adventures... especially travel.

Re-evaluating Important Life Relationships

A feeling of genuine Gratitude for the smaller blessings of each new day gradually replaces the need for competition or comparison to make our lives seem complete. We simply "are"... at peace with the Self that each of us carries within. We become more aware of true importance of those we travel with. Those special few... who have loved and supported us during our lives - our spouses, our families and long time friends. Choosing to devote more time to being with those precious few individuals adds further to a rapidly growing sense of fuller Gratitude.

Pursuit of New Personal Adventures

The ideas and thoughts that I have mentioned in the above body of my post are not to be construed as any plan to opt out of further growth and achievement. Just the opposite. I would offer that this life stage we have currently reached in our "senior" years is comparable to Autumn itself in the cycle of seasons in the Natural World. It is rich in colour and opportunity. We can reap the harvest of our labours and savour the security that we have obtained.

That is why I view autumn.. albeit too brief...  as an opportunity for deep Reflection. For me,  that is inwardly directed questioning about prioritized and achievable goals or markers. Things to be checked off my list of "want-to-dos". That reflection also includes the coalescing of "want-to-dos" which Deb needs to fulfill her own life goals and needs. That as well involves setting aside more time to be shared with  family and friends.

Fortunately for Deb and I, we are "much on the same page" in regards to this reflection process... simply because our lives are woven together in a rather unique fashion. We are not only enjoined happily in a matrimonial sense... we are as well contentedly sliced together in our individual artistic pursuits and our joint Gallery business activities.

Fortunately for us, we have just lately reached a point in both of those areas to start thinking about an "exit strategy" from the real rigours of owning and operating a gallery business. It has been indeed been a very inspiring... satisfying and rewarding venture/adventure... but as with all things... there lies within that decision a cost - a huge investment of time and energy.

Raising families, as with us all... has required years of investment of precious time and capital. Now... we find ourselves on the very cusp of seeing our children successfully and happily launched upon their own journeys. We are extremely proud of each of them for their individual achievements... and unique differences. We feel gratitude... for the gift to us of having lived sufficient time to reach this point to enjoy this special moment.

We have jointly decided to begin preparing for a new adventure - travel. Our strong passion for creating Art will still be maintained in our adventures... but it will be revised to meld with the sheer joy of freedom of choice to create... as opposed to the fiscal need to produce works for sale. Painting for pleasure... mostly - that's very different from a business perspective (usually).

My own art journey has carried me to to paint in all but one Canadian province... Newfoundland/Labrador. I have painted in each of the British Isles, Germany and Italy and as well... in parts of the USA, Jamaica and the Barbados. What's next?... That's the focus for us over the winter... as well a preparing for a final "swan song" for The Paint Box Gallery -anywhere!

Offering Gratitude to Others

The recent terrible and tragic events that have unbelievably unfolded during the last week here in Canada in Quebec and Ottawa underscore the complete lunacy and danger-fraught path that Mankind appears to be headed down. It is a hideous and totally misguided downward spiral... a vortex which sucks even the innocent into a world driven by fear... hatred... and even untimely and meaningless death. Today... Humanity itself hangs in the balance. No ideology... whether cultural... political or religious can claim "the right" to determine the future for those not included within its precepts.

I will close out today's post... as I began it. I appeal to those of you who read this to consider what role you might assume... what non-violent act you might unilaterally undertake in your own everyday life to buffer this threat for further violence and hatred. Perhaps your art... or even your smile might be seen as visible evidence... that a better way is possible!

In closing ... I offer my usual Remembrance Day tribute... a simple painting entitled "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" It echoes pictorially the very same anthem theme which prominently spearheaded the non-violent folk music movement's crusade and public appeal to bring the war in Vietnam to a speedier conclusion. I offer it humbly today in the memory and remembrance of the sacrifice made by all young men and women... especially these two recent  peace time soldiers here... on Canadian soil. I extend my deepest Gratitude to them... and my condolences and thanks for their sacrifice to their surviving family and loved ones.

Thank you!

Good Painting... and Much Peace... to ALL!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just Another [Impromptu] Day.... in Paradise !

Autumn... like summer has been moody and temperamental. The full colour and true beauty of the Thousand Islands has just begun to reveal itself. How long it will remain... or if it will peak... will be determined by the outcome of the several days of rain we have experienced this week. Rain usually puts a hold on plein painting. Simply put... "oil and water DO NOT mix"!!!

See what you missed sleepy heads?... If only for a few moments... today was an awe-inspiring and motivational moment. The new day made its (however) brief  entry... and I stood alone to meet it. And it has made all the difference in my day. "Carpe diem"... in action! HA HA!!

However... the shortness of this beautiful and long-awaited painting season reconfigures rationality for the obsessive-compulsive die-hards of the plein air group of painters. I am surely one of these... just ask Deb. All that I needed to jump start this process was a brief morning encounter with Mr Golden Sun... and I was out... immediately following breakfast to the gallery to assemble my kit. As is usually the case... the sunrise at this time of year is no accurate barometric device for planning a plein air trek. By the time I was organized and set to go... the day had become a sullen... gloomy and spirit-deflating cocoon of greyness.

I decided to head out anyway. After all, I had promised my Rochester, NY painting pal, Paul Taylor that I would check in on his boat and trailer at the Taylor compound. This summer retreat for the Taylor clan lies perched high on a granite cliff along the river just a minute or two west of Rockport. It is a veritable piece of paradise unto itself... with the various Taylor siblings' sleeping quarters clustered about a red painted common room area where they eat... commune and play away time together.

Theirs is exemplar template of an almost disappeared river heritage that existed up and down this vast river... on both shores and at every societal level. Change and Time have all but swept this summer way of life... and in many other places into obscurity. But the Taylors are a stubborn and resourceful lot.They proudly hang on to their family values passed to them by their now passed parents over a life time of unforgettable summers. Phil Taylor Road gives testimony to their perseverance and commitment to their parents' gift.

My own family place on the river... lies distant from the Present. The Sherman Shangra-lai now exists only in the memories my family members and "I" carry for the rest of our journey. But enough gloom... I will carry on with the "brighter side"... there always is one you see... if you choose to "see" it... and focus on it.

Impromptu... makes the difference

The road into the camp was chained up... but not locked... so I took it down and proceeded to conduct my check in for Paul. The hardwood canopy was burning brightly in rich, wet colour... accented deeply by the deep greens of the white pines inter-mixed along the winding dirt road into the camp. I decided to get out and do a totally unscheduled walk about... camera in hand. Perhaps I might grab a photo or two... for future use in the studio. Maybe one that I might use to tease Paul with... when he was too far away to enjoy it during the winter months. I am a BIG tease - just ask all of my family and friends!

As I approached the red common house.. "Taylor... Action Central", as I refer to it... hung high on a granite cliff over the now silent river... the true feeling of rapture that is the mucilage of the Taylor family swept completely over "Me". For that moment... I again felt that same feeling of belonging... that feeling of being "One" with a place... that was the very cradle of my being... treasury of my dreams and memories. Looking to the point eastward from their parents deck... I was struck by a cottage view on a point directly under my vantage point. It was a Taylor place as well... though I didn't which Taylor at the time.

Looking above me... there was an overhang on their parent's home that would afford me and my easel the necessary cover... should the rain interrupt during the two hours that I would need to complete a painting. I hurried back to the van and gathered together all that I would need for a one-carry return to my aerie. Within a few minutes... I was set up and painting... selecting a vertical format for the 20x16 inch canvas. I had set out my palette of colour in my paint box before leaving Islesview. Time is precious when painting outdoors... especially in "iffy" weather.

I continued and added to my impromptu thoughts and theme by deciding to work with complete spontaneity throughout the painting session... which lasted just under two hours. That spontaneous response included filtering out the extraneous detail in the foreground... choosing to pay more attention to the central image... the cottage on the point which had first caught my eye. I built a framework in support of that focus using the distant Club Island as the back drop... carefully placing the lines and shapes that would eventually emerge as "the subject". Finally...  dropped in some "hasty notes"... to act purely as markers and guides to reserve space for some kind of foreground filler.

Choosing to paint out doors in this kind of weather certainly "dampens" (pun intended) any attempt to demonstrate verve in the use of an unbridled palette of colour. The very atmospheric nature of such an environment restricts that attack. However... on the flip side it forces the artist to play carefully with those primary colours... offering a wonderful situation and classroom for the artist to develop an understanding and new capability to create... GREYS. When these many different greys are achieved using the complementeries in tandem..... proper VALUES... come into play. This valuable tool allows the artist to create harmony and control which best imitates the very transient lights... darks and colours before them.

It has been said... that about 75% of any successful, well-conceived and executed painting is composed mainly of middle values. The remaining 25% focus upon using higher values to describe the main subject. Using this "rule of thumb"... I most always identify what I consider the subject at the very start of my process. I add mapping liners to describe either important planes or big shapes. I add the higher key treatment of the central image... and then "flash dance" (rough in) the middle values to simply fill the canvas,

The second phase of my process then addresses the light source... to keep it consistent right from  the start. In today's case... the lighting is diffuse... and lacks direction... at least at the start. If one keeps the initial application of pigment "stainy"... then changes can  be affected without concern.... should that change.

The final stage is always the "push n' pull" phase... that working period of checks and balances to adjust values and obviously distracting points or elements. Often this phase will include adding foreground elements... hopefully in a minimal fashion. I have to try really hard to "stash the rigger". But today... the developing pitter-patter of rain stepped in to help me make the decision to draw this painting day to an end.

What you see in this jpeg ... is exactly what came out of the field... in less than two hours of painting. Would more strokes in the foreground add further to this painting's "cred"????....  Perhaps, but I think for me... it complete. It fully encapsulates that feeling of "belonging". Something which binds the Taylors... Shermans and a host of other "River Rats" to this common piece of Paradise.

"There's No Place... Like Home!" - oil on canvas 20x16 inches

From my own heart  the painting says... that a "Home"... is not just a House. It is the place blended and fortified by the presence of the people and the events which they shared the brief moment in Time together. In our cases...

We are deeply blessed.....

Good Painting .... to ALL!

PS It REALLY is....... Indian Summer in our neck-o-the-woods! HA HG! Happy Autumn everyone! What you "see".. when you're not ".... "looking"!  HA HA!!....  Warned  you that I was a BIG tease!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blessings... and Bliss

Octoberfest!... This weekend marks that special time of the year when families in Canada gather to share time and food... and more importantly to "join hands"... in love and gratitude for the copious blessings that we have enjoyed as a family during the past year. In such a diverse and spread out society, it requires a huge commitment by all... to put their separate lives on hold and to come together to celebrate.

Deb and I have enjoyed many blessings in our separate and joint lives during 2014. Perhaps the pinnacle event in 2014 for "Me" was the gift of another grandchild - a special wee lad... Malcolm Justin Michael Sherman, aka "Wee Mac"... first child of my son Andrew and his wife Melissa Hill. This will be his first Thanksgiving... and our first one spent all together... in a very long time. It will certainly be an event to celebrate... and to long remember. We are all itchin' to get our hands on this "bonny lad"!

The true wonder of the "child blessing" mentioned above is the state of euphoria and pure bliss which has fallen upon my son Andrew. The joy in watching "Him" embracing his first newborn child stirs a now very distant memory of a moment in my own life journey when I too... was flooded in and "smitten" by a similar state of rapture... joy and contentment. It is the milestone marker in all human journeys. It is the karma of man and woman to bring new life into the world. There exists no comparable moment in one's journey as to sharing in such a moment in Creation.... when we hold in our hands ... someone... "created in our own likeness".

Blessings... and Bliss...all rolled into one... "We are greatly blessed" and have yet another reason this year to give thanks at the same table. And we shall...

To those members of my Family... who will be missing at the table on Sunday... know that my heart will hold you present during every moment of our celebration. You are with "Me"... always... and forever... each in a unique fashion described only by our "being"... together. I love each of you dearly!

I wish as well... to offer rich blessings to all of my blogging Friends on the eve of our Canadian Thanksgiving celebration... no matter where you live. You too, are on my own list of personal daily blessings. Reaching out in this way across the vast distance(s) between us is a privilege. It brings great joy and purpose into my day and life.You encourage me to strive for growth and further increase in my own artistic expression. You are all indeed catalysts of change in my outlook... and painting process... simply because you stir me to think... to paint... to write and to release my ideas to the world. And "I"... am better for that! Thank you all!!

Rich blessings ... and Good Painting... to ALL!
Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish to share a few photos... Thanksgiving "Allsorts" which encapsulate my sense of Joy... as I write today.

"Latched on"... for life!...  Male breast feeding!

"He" leadeth "Me" beside still waters... it restoreth my soul.... " Blessings... and pure Bliss!

 "Bounteous Blessings"...
"Count your blessings... name them one by one..."

"Cold Hands... But Warm Heart"... my depiction of "Loner" at Holland Road School... not far from Rockport in January of 2001!!! Yikes!... Who'd a thunk it? Happy Thanksgiving to you, Marg and the lads Frank! See you next week!

From my full sheet "purist" watercolour days and ways of the 80's... when I walked and dreamed following in the footsteps of the iconic Andrew Wyeth... and Canadian realist icon Ken Danby. Both are passed... but their influence lives on... in the art of so many... including my own... but in my own fashion!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumn ... Gets our Attention

All of those new sights and changes in the Natural World about us... draw to our attention that "the wheel has indeed turned". The too brief autumn pageant of change... heralded in these parts by the magnificent colour change in the hardwood forests in our midst... triggers a greater than usual urge by artists to get out into the field to paint. Cadmium reds and yellows... lying too long in repose in our paint boxes are squished copiously... and gleefully onto our palettes. This much-awaited once in the year opportunity to use colour flamboyantly... even raw-from-the-tube re-ignites bravado and does away the calm plodding regularity and care necessary for the artist to deal with the myriad of subtle summer greens.

Looking over this weekend's "funnies"... as I do routinely... that attention to fall's arrival and change is evident, even there in the world of the cartoonist... as this pair suggest... tongue-in-cheekily! Autumn distilled... and blended with humour. Fine Art.... within frames in a storyboard format... with balloons to "tickle the funny bone". All the world is a-flutter... touched by Autumn... as no other season can. Can you imagine a world without Autumn? How blah... that world would  be! Autumn... the purrrrr-fect metaphor to justify the acceptance and necessity for change!

I spent last Tuesday with my painting pal Frank Edwards.. aka "Loner"... painting on Amherst Island. This isolated bucolic island... is lost to mainland time even though it lies but a mere half hour ferry ride... west of Kingston and due south of Amherstview. It remains a traditionally agriculturally-based community whose residents either continue to make their living in farming and commercial fishing... or choose to commute daily to mainland jobs and locations in more urban centers like Kingston, Belleville and Napanee. These onshore areas offer job opportunities that will never exist on the island itself.

The few small businesses that exist on the island itself...  and could at best be called seasonal. Some even operate only when the ferry arrives or departs. It is a very loosely defined... and come-by-chance way of life. Not everyone could become an "islander"... even if the residents deemed you worthy to hold that title. As in all small places, and from my personal experience(s).... you are looked upon with some degree of suspicion... as "coming from away". One must be born an islander... to truly belong.

My "gallery" career began on Amherst Island at Stella Lodge at the invitation of its owners, Fred and Marlene Frolich. They had followed my early Kingston Market "panhandling/peddlin" days. Stepping up from offering up my barns and rural village subjects as matted watercolour and ink sketches in a farmers' market milieu... to a soilo exhibition in a bona fide gallery was a huge leap of faith for me... and them as well, I would think. But that leap of faith and graduation to painting on larger format themes has brought me to this very moment in my life. I could neither have imagined... nor even planned this journey. It just happened. But it did so as a result of a lot of hard work... many cul-du-sacs... and with patience and much sacrifice to arrive at today.

Heading to the Island via the ferry stirred many memories of that event... and the many occasions afterward when Frank Edwards and I painted on the Island together. It seemed appropriate to me... that on this day, we should be retracing our steps on a trail that has spanned nearly forty years. I know that he felt exactly the same. We travelled quickly through Stella... located right at the ferry dock location. Frank had painted up and down the length of Main Street in Stella with his Tuesday morning painting group over many months.

Though I would have preferred to stop the bus there, this was to be a day for He and I just to settle into a day of painting and camaraderie. We travelled over to the very sparsely inhabited south shore of the Island... where limestone shelves and smooth, storm-polished stones merge the landscape with the "big water" of Lake Ontario. We found many interesting sites, but finally settled into one that we both founds structurally appealing. Though the day was dull and overcast... it could not sully our common high spirits and joy of being together again... "side-by-each"... as the Loner refers to our relationship.

The ambient ... but  low light and glare certainly made selecting painting values a chore right from the beginning. Combined with the close value patterns in the changing tree colours... creating contrast and definition was a painting nightmare for both of us. Everything seemed "flat"... just grey. Then... when it seemed hopeless to struggle further in this location, the sun and blue skies came to our rescue. After a much needed lunch break and unending, friendly banter back and forth... we settled comfortably into closing out the morning's work.

Both of us completed our paintings rather quickly... focusing upon highlights and constructing darks and lights to "ramp up" the much needed transfusion of contrast and light... to better define colour shifts and structure. I can't truthfully state, even now... that the result is not totally pleasing to me. But it is...  what was there... and as I could translate the impression that I felt at the time.

We decided to head back to Stella and perhaps find a second interesting site close to the ferry to finish up the day. That plan turned into a village "walk-about" and a tour down memory lane. In retrospect, that was indeed... the best "dessert"- a fitting conclusion to draw a sumptuous "painting feast" to a close. The ferry ride back to the mainland again flushed long and deeply concealed traces of other such Amherst adventures back into my consciousness - I felt deeply blessed to travel back in time to other days with my pal Frank!

In closing out today's post on this rainy and dreary morning in Rockport... I offer that painting success is not to be measured only in the final state of the painting...nor in its potential future saleability. Each painting that Frank and I have made together... records those precious moments along the many trails we have travelled together in our long association. Many have indeed been sold by both of us afterward. Some remain... to record... as they do... something very special in both of our lives - an unusual and ever bound Friendship which we have forged together. Therein lies true value... something that no amount of $$$$ can buy!

"Just Another Day ... in Paradise"... an oil on canvas 12x12 inches... "side-by each" with Frank's gem of an oil on panel entitled "South Shore in Autumn".

We have always travelled together on the same trails... but... we have always travelled and seen things in a distinctly different fashion.

Neither overshadows... or outweighs the strengths and values recorded in the other... just as it "is"... in our Friendship!

Loner... deep in thought

A handmade net winder/dryer relic from Amherst's fishing past

Lazy day autumn living in Stella. No one home!

No"pedallin"... nor much "peddlin" goin' on here today!

W. Brown  & Son... General Blacksmith ... now "shoeless "... but still... "standin' tall"! Much the same as it was when I painted a mid-sized watercolour to be included in my first solo outing at Stella Lodge... in August thru September.... 1976!!!! Where have the years gone???

Stella General Store and Post Office... first building that you meet coming off the ferry into Stella... entering into this untouched island remnant from another time.

 "I"... am greatly blessed to be ... "Tonto" ! Happy Trails Loner...

Happy Fall Painting!... to ALL


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Transcendence... Through Distillation Create a Newer and Better Opportunity for... Genesis - Part 2

Occasionally... we all make a painting that fails to initially match the vision we have for the work when we first begin the painting process. I usually spend quite a lot of time looking about a site for potential interesting subjects until I arrive at one that excites me to want to paint. I even mark several points and then travel back and forth gauging the merits of each against the others... until I feel confident that one particular view will provide the best "start".

Beginning the process of creation, in this case... making a painting outdoors requires many considerations and decisions to get things under way. I have just described one of the major considerations and my usual method for addressing what can be the single most challenging moment in plein air painting - "Genesis". At that particular moment one can likely relate ... in a small way to the act of Creation by the Creator Himself.

Surely... even He ... or for that matter... any creator must feel some moments of ambivalence in commencing the act despite the ability... excitement and passion that precipitates the desire... to create. For within the process of creation itself... lies decision after decision... trial and error choices and and moments where the underlying spirit to create is both tested and discouraged.

Spread before one in the outdoor setting is a veritable universe of detail and possibilities. Such a "buffet" set before me... still challenges me to harness and focus my mind and brushes on a single aspect or structure upon which to create an impression of what lies before me. Only occasionally... do I enjoy that start-to-finish painting... "that fairly paints itself ". Most of the time... I struggle. Many times that struggle is with the weather conditions... flies... outside distractions... or worse ... my flagging inner satisfaction with what I am trying to paint. Not with actual painting itself. We have all been there.

The painting that I have chosen to use in this post to further explore the themes of "transcendence and distillation" was begun initially en plein air at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park. I well recall the day spent painting with my Algonquin friend David Kay and my wife Deb. It was autumn at its best in the Park... and we were "chompin' at the bit" to find a suitably sheltered and dry site to paint from. It was rainy and blustery... just plain miserable. But when you have driven so far... and have a diminishing window of opportunity... one must take risks.

"Genesis"... on this particular day was hardly undertaken in favourable or conducive conditions for maximum success and enjoyment. Deb quickly retired from the site... wisely choosing not to get chilled in the off and on drizzle and the buffeting gusts of steady westerly winds. David and I set up side by side for company and encouragement... and began the process in (half) earnest. The lighting kept changing which made any consistency in that important aspect of any painting veritably impossible. Perseverance by both of us provided at least a "shell " for a good painting.... but not one that we that we would rush back to Whitney to display with any degree of pride.

I do feel that the painting as shown in its original form in this first jpeg has some truth and merit... and does capture a feeling of wetness and an accurate measure of the inclement conditions. I invite you to be judge and jury...

Pretty drab and dull. Despite my attempts to heighten colour and mood... it simply reflects ... the way things were.

This is a reworked version completed in the studio a week after my return from the Park. Brighter... more pleasant perhaps... but it lacks something - some "Idea"... to elevate it beyond being just another "pretty" Park landscape. 

It was some years later when that "Idea" presented itself to me. One again... the "Genesis" thoughts to a possible solution. It came from these familiar words... from deep within my childhood memories...from The Book of Genesis. It commences with: 

"In the beginning God created the heavens and earth..."

Then not unlike an artist making a painting... He patches in water... land and the sky which separates them . He then adds the vegetation and creatures that inhabit this Eden. And finally... He adds mankind to "have dominion over"... which I choose to interpret as... have stewardship for this Paradise.

In reference now back to the painting. Man was missing in this landscape. In terms of the actual function that Algonquin Park serves in our society, I feel that its use by mankind best exemplifies what the Creator intended. We do in fact use the Park... but at the same time and in most cases, we are at the same time preserving and protecting the land area and its creatures in a near pristine sate of wilderness.

So I decided to introduce a figure into the landscape... just to see if it elevated the landscape... or change the overall tenor of this otherwise "blah" and ordinary sketch to make it stand out. I edged into the change in a fashion whereby it could be adjusted... or even removed. I had resolved firmly though at this juncture...  that if it didn't add something to the painting... that the painting should ... rightfully by my own hand "disappear". Here are the stages to the final state Once again... I will let you form your own opinion... without adding my own.

Here is the second rework with figure roughly added with easily correctable vine charcoal. I tried a variety of positions for placement... but liked the manner in which the figure diagonally created a dynamic change from a static state to an active one.

I even considered actually cropping the horizontal format making it into a vertical one. Many picture possibilities existed within that one larger sketch. However... I really liked the relationship formed by the joining of the figure to the panoramic feel of the landscape itself. I have felt this feeling of kinship with the Park since my first visit nearly forty years ago. It remains strong today!

Here in this jpeg the colour is added without any attention to proper values or lighting. I am only interested in how the figure and canoe relate to the landscape. I had considered a red canoe- it would fight the background fall colours. I considered dove grey... the colour of my own cedar strip canoe "River Spirit". But I decided upon a teal-like green... knowing that the grey-to-white shape of a canoe would punch you in the eye.... too distracting!

Here is the final painting... for what it is. Simply titled... "Trippin"... whether it's in... or out? You decide... and tell your own story. I have my own. But yours matters too!

In closing out this post... I leave you with these thoughts to consider. Should painting be about an end product?.... Or should it be about the process... growth and satisfying an inner passion to simply... create - not for prestige... not for approval... or for monetary gain. 

Perhaps... "Genesis" actually occurs far from the actual "beginning"... for each of us. And hopefully will continue... passionately... for as long as we can wish... or are able to create. One is never too late to commence the act of creating.

Happy Fall... and Good Painting ... and Creating. to ALL!!!

PS A "one-liner" from a song that I heard while reading at Chapters bookstore recently. Sorry that I can't properly give credit... but I use it not as my own thought and  without hope for personal gain.... just to motivate:

"All I've got are my thoughts,
And I just try to be brave."

Do be brave!... Risk! and Stay positive about... and trust in your Self !

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Transcendence... Through Distillation... in One's Art - Part One

Autumn has continued to be filled with surprises. The weather in early September was cold... drab and discouraging and with too much rain, especially for weekend gallery goers and local tourists. However, we have enjoyed a beautiful span of four days of absolutely splendid "Indian Summer" days in Rockport. One could feel the energy and enthusiasm return to the village.... and to the visitors to The Paint Box Gallery. Sales jumped dramatically.... and smiles were everywhere. This good weather is projected to stick about during the entire week... motivating Frank and I to plan a trip over to Amherst Island on Wednesday for a day of painting en plein air. Looking forward to that -  so stay tuned...

During my 5:00 am morning visit to my bench dockside for "Operation Sunrise"...  I found an absence of stars in what I expected to be a perfectly clear sky such as yesterday's. Orion was completely veiled from view.... and only a handful of scattered stars could be seen - disappointing. I decided just to take in the view closer to the water up and down the river. Many of the dots of light along the far shore were missing... which meant really that island residents in those spaces had returned south. Amongst those "Summer Folk"... our friend Magsie (Keats) Jenne who came for a dinner ashore at our Islesview on Saturday and bade us farewell yesterday until next summer. That's the way life runs on the river. Life up... and along the river is changed... in just a few days.

Such changes do motivate inner feelings of melancholy or loss and are quite normally felt in Autumn. The loss of light and heat... garden delight... and the freedom from the heaviness of winter clothing and relatively care-free living cause us all to almost "mourn" the loss of summer. Living closely in touch with the Natural World has taught me to accept that life is not "fair".... that is merely a human term. Life quite simply... "is". By that, I mean to say that life changes in a fashion that transcends our thoughts... wishes or actions. In accepting that fact in my personal and artistic lives... I am able to move ahead (most of the time) with little discouragement by using intuition and my imagination to conjure up something more palatable than what reality... and Life has offered me.

Most recently... the unexpected cancellation of our annual paint out... in combination with the foul, rainy and cold weather should have caused me to sulk and remain inside doing something else. However, my friends and I made a time of it together. We enjoyed each other's company... and each of us started or made paintings which made our efforts worth while. My painting of the tug Blue Quail at Anchor found a new home on the past weekend... validating the credibility of this approach to life.

Transcendental meditation has long encouraged those who choose to believe and practise its precepts to think and embrace life based upon a "higher plane"of existing. While I can't say that I fully understand... or believe all of their concepts. I do see the value as an individual... and as an artist in looking past what "is"... to what "might be possible"... beyond the reality that I am experiencing. I will look past the spiritual connotations in this post and apply them to creating art... especially focusing upon making art en plein air.

Transcendence in one's Art

When I first began to paint outdoors, my goal was to copy as faithfully as possible the scene that was before me. My experiences and my reading over the years have taught me that a far superior plane of creation can be reached... and a greater sense of joy and freedom achieved... by aiming at grasping and capturing the essence of structure within the landscape both ahead and around me. I make use of only those elements that "see"... I try to coalesce... or to merge and unify those selected parts into a new reality. This then makes the painting truly a creation... rather than slavishly controlling... and likely less interesting copy.

Distillation in one's Art

Distillation describes the process of extracting the essence from the subject you are painting through interpretation. That process may, or may not be totally completed in a single session... or even at the point of one's initial perception of complete finish. Often... the "Idea" continues to elude a completely acceptable state. Something may be felt to be missing. This is why art should be held back to offer a time for this distillation process to fully take place. Surprising extensions and perceptions... not at first present even in reality may trigger a new and higher level of painting.

Two paintings from my recent posts demonstrate such situations. The first painting... entitled "River Magic" at first had a large Van Gogh influenced sun dominating the rather dark fall river landscape. After much second guessing and encouragement from my wife Deb and daughter Allison... I made some changes to eliminate the sun completely... change the lighting and to adjust textural details in the pines. Those changes certainly must have been factors leading to its sale this past weekend. It will travel to be housed in a London, England collection... with its new title "Requiem".

The jpeg on the left is a picture that I took before beginning to paint. In the middle ground can be seen the actual elements in my chosen composition. One can clearly see that I have extracted the elements that I found interesting... and that I have assumed a higher vantage point looking down on the river to create a deeper sense of space. I have as well been selective and added to the foreground rock formations as well.


"Requiem"... the final painting indicates all of the further changes that I made... a full year after the first stoppage in painting. Distillation... leading to Transcendence - a superior painting. The new owner's immediate decision to purchase clearly amplifies those feelings that Deb, Allison and I myself had... that changes were required to make it a more solid painting.

The 11x 14 inch plein air painting of "The Tug Blue Quail... at Anchor" serves as yet another example of the same process of change. In this case, however... inclement weather conditions forced forced a premature retreat from the setting. The painting was returned to the very next day while the memory was fresh and was completed with some photo reference to complete details to the actual tug. The landscape and water changes were created through responses fueled by pure intuition to the previous structure and the actual setting on location.

These three jpegs clearly point out the changes that I wove together to arrive at the final rendering of this painting. The top one clearly shows what took my attention... the tug against the backdrop of contrasting and varied fall greens. The second shows my intentional elimination of the distracting foreground jumble... replacing that with more interesting reflections... disturbance in the water surface and the introduction of nearby lily pads and reeds. Note too... that I pulled the distant pine-etched point of land and distant shore... minus the tug and barge group right up tight to the tug's bow. To me... the two echoed and visually supported the presence of the other strongly.

"The Tug Blue Quail at Anchor" - oil on gessoed and toned Masonite panel 11x14 inches  SOLD

Both paintings were the result of  "second goes"... or completion incorporating changes either not seen... or intended in the first run through. The one process was brought about through personal thought... but driven more by the responses to the painting by trusted critics. The latter plein air piece came about only because weather forced a premature halt to the on site painting... and the rest of the process came out of an intuitive response... guided somewhat by photo reference for necessary detail on the tug.

Today... I closed out painting for the month of September with yet another example of such an intervention... which I believe again resulted in a superior result. I will post that journey... start to finish later on in the week. I hope this post encourages my friends to re-evaluate having a "second go"... and perhaps with a new eye... and some luck... be able to breathe some new life and vitality into an ol'..."skipper"... as my pal Frank refers to a scrubber / failure. What's to lose???

Another wonderful quote from Julia Cameron's wonderful "Heart Steps" to end this post. I believe that this short quote summarizes wonderfully our common belief about the role of the artist in creation:

"In Nature, God offers questions. We as artists should seek to create our own answers in gratedful response."

I feel truly blessed to walk and paint in this beautiful Eden our Creator has placed us in. I feel His presence and magnificence... and am grateful for His copious gifts and blessings to "Me" and my family!

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