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!



  1. Hi Bruce , such a super-beautiful post..wonderfully written..your pictures are stunning and gorgeous and very meditative for me..and your painting is sublime...deeply beautiful and richly-poetic! I love hearing about your process and experience while creating/ is the magic of the journey!
    Wishing you a fantastic wkd!

  2. Hi there Victoria... Welcome to my blog... and thank you for these uplifting comments!

    Coming from you... with your own striking visual imagery and richly embroidered language... they are much valued! Thank you!

    Creating... through whichever genre... or genres one prefers... offers gifts and blessings beyond reckoning.

    "We"... are greatly blessed! Have a great weekend... and do drop by again!

    Good "Shooting"... and endless "ideas"...
    Warmest regards,

  3. Love the carved Indian, Bruce. Thanks for sharing that photo. So perfect for the season and for the sense of history you captured in your painting. I can see this house standing there 200 years ago, guarding the port like this...and wonder at who might have lived on this spot then...

  4. Hi there Sherry!... Thanks for your cheery visit this morning!

    Your supportive comments underscore the basic elements and my autumn thoughts included in the body of the post! It surely is a very special time... short as it may be... to lift one's spirits! Eny it Sherry! Hope things are looking up for you my dear!

    Good Painting... and Happy Autumn!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Bruce laddie! what a great day you had! I really liked the whole story of how bright the day started and then the grey day. Yet you went forth on your visit to the holiday home of your friends and really managed to capture the spirit of the place so perfectly. I like the addition of those flying birds too. Do you think you will leave this as a painting or will you use it as a study towards a more finished painting. I think your original painting here is full of vitality and those greys which are softly coloured are really very realistic of how the day actually was during late autumn. Lovely atmospheric painting Bruce thank you for sharing.

  6. Hi there Lass!... Thank you ever so much for your encouragement-filled comments!

    The day unfolded much differently than it started out for certain. However... as is the case many days... a day is entirely what you make of it. What you invest is the payback for most things in life. Carpe diem!

    I can't see the value in painting this larger Caroline. I feel that I captured in this first instance... the very essence of the place and the emotional response I experienced during that momentary and impromptu discovery of the place. Simply put - it is... what it is!

    I learned a great deal about "greying down" higher values to achieve that veiled atmosheric quality of late fall. That was worth the whole exercise.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Good Fall Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. It will be a wee gem all of it's own Bruce, it is a lovely painting of a good day out painting greys and subtle colour!

  8. Thanks Caroline!.... Your encouraging compliment means even more to me... coming from you - "the Celtic Goddess of the sublime and sublety of of atmospheric colour!

    Goof Fall Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  9. Hi Bruce, it sounds like you were really in the 'zone' for this one - plein air painting at its best.

    I almost feel guilty enjoying the beauty of your painting, and your surroundings, in view of the shootings in Ottawa, I despair of Mankind sometimes.

    All the best,

  10. Good morning Keith!... Thank you for the compliments... and for sharing your sentiments regarding the unfolding tragedies here in Canada.

    I too... share your deep sense of sadness and despair for "the state of Mankind" as we look around the world... whether at the atrocities that we inflict upon each other... or the mindless misuse and abuse that we reek upon the Natural World that you and I love so much.

    I fear that this pattern of terror has only just begun to manifest itself as the new terror weapon of choice. It is the most insidious form of terror... because it is aimed at innocent individuals without provacation to achieve attention... by individuals who have been religiously radicalized and reprogrammed to create havoc. Let's call them "guided muscles". Are they not a bit like those misguided "Crusaders" who stormed off to the Holyland to rid the world of all "Infidels"???

    I wonder.....

    Keep the faith... "You" in your small corner... and "I" in mine. Let there be Light!

    Good Fall Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. 'Are they not a bit like those misguided "Crusaders" who stormed off to the Holyland to rid the world of all "Infidels"??? '

      Yes there are extremists on all sides, and the rest of us suffer for it.

  11. Well said Keith!... Your comment truly sums it all up!

    Thanks for your splendid response!

    Good Painting... and Much Peace!
    Warmest regards,