Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Let there be Light..."

The close of every year brings about moments of reflection in all of our lives... as we weigh out the events ... happenings... challenges and blessings that we each have faced during during the now rapidly closing out cycle of twelve months.

Being an unabashed romantic and eternal optimist, my own personal thoughts generally tend to lean towards focusing upon the blessings and achievements... and my gratitude for those life gifts. That is my intention again for 2015, though I must truly admit that it is not nearly as easy as in other years this time around. The life challenges for our family have been immense this year... and my spirit has been greatly challenged.

I believe and maintain that Faith... Hope and Generosity collectively form the underpinnings and foundation for Peace and Happiness. This applies to both personal and creative living. In my humble opinion, they are inseparably one and the same. This coffee cup logo points out my agreement in a sassy ... tongue-in-cheek kinda' way... HA HA!!

It has been very difficult... even nigh unto impossible many days this year to maintain Faith and Hope in the face of the world events. In the very face of the most deplorable of human acts and conditions... even generosity seemed unobtainable to lessen the pain and suffering of the unfortunates who faced daily oppression.... hunger and terror in their displaced lives. A state of Darkness seemed to mantle the entire globe.

 But in the face of this all.... Let us each of us with our unique Spirit choose to promote Peace and Sharing... as we do through our blogging. I know that the Light emanating from many posts that I customarily visit... rekindles Hope within my heart. And I thank all of you who contribute that gift so unconditionally for your caring and sharing

Being a "River Boy"... I have always been drawn to Lighthouses... not just for their unique architectural traits. I have always been drawn to the symbolism and the real purpose that I associate with them. As in art... "beauty" must always be in concert with function and purpose. That marriage insures that the viewer be involved in a dialogue of sorts with the subject matter ... and the artist.

When one examines the evolution of the Lighthouse in marine history... one is brought face to face with the fact that the underlying role of the "Light" remains the same today... but that the architecture itself and the role of the "Keeper" have all but disappeared. Most lighthouses are electronically controlled... and are no longer manned. Only in a few very remote and specific sites.

Though the Artist-Romantic within me  rails at the loss... the Realist knows and recognizes that the Light continues to offer safety and service... but in a changed way. I continue my journey content in the knowledge of this fact. BUT... still I still busy myself at recording the remaining presence of those that I can discover here in the Islands and The Great Lakes... with a few Nova Scotians and West Coastals thrown in for good measure.

I would like to share some of these magnificent structures from Canada's Maritime past that I have had the privilege to visit and paint. In choosing them as a subject for this last post of 2015... I challenge each of you to be a "Lightkeeper" in your own existence and art.

Share your "Light" generously... unconditionally and regularly in 2016... Shine on!!

                    "Maritime Monarch, Peggy's Cove Light" - oil on panel 14x12 inches   SOLD

                    "Mare's Tails O'er Ironbound Island Light", NS - oil on canvas 30x36 inches  SOLD

                                 "Nocturne, Rustico Harbor, PEI" - oil on panel 20x24 inches   SOLD

                                       "Deep Cove Light, NS"  - oil on panel 16x20 inches     SOLD

                                  "Winter Watcher, Prescott ON - oil on canvas 16x20 inches  GIFTED

           "River Sentinel, Sunken Rock Light, Alexandria Bay NY" oil on canvas 30x24 inches"  SOLD

                  "The Way Things Were, Salmon Point Lighthouse - oil on canvas 16x20 inches  SOLD

                          "Pulling in Winter, Point Traverse Light - oil on canvas 12x30 inches  SOLD

                           "Silent Sentinel, Squamish Light, BC" oil on canvas 30x36 inches   GIFTED

It seems so very appropriate to end 2015 on my blog by offering my thanks publicly to my partner in Life and Art, Deb. I should like to acknowledge her constant presence... and her magnificent artisan-ship here at The Paint Box Gallery. Without her love... guidance... business acumen and artistic contributions there would be little or no success at the Gallery. She is ... The "Lightkeeper"of my Soul... and "I" am greatly blessed to have "Her" at my side!... Love you Babe... and Thank you!

                 "Sunken Rock Light" 24x18 inch  stained glass design in an oak frame

   "Georgian Guardian, Brebeuf Island Light, Georgian Bay" stained glass  24x30 inches  SOLD

"Ring the bells that still can ring
 Forget your perfect offering
 There is a crack in everything
 That's how the light gets in."

from Anthem - Leonard Cohen

"We can easily forgive a child that is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light"

Let us shine our love on the world together... to make the world a better place!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!... and Happy New Year!!!
See you in 2016!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Simply... Peace on Earth

It snowed "a skiff" overnight... just enough to provide the hope for a traditional white Christmas. Though I could feel the more intense cold from the very moment my unslippered feet touched the floor... the ermine coat that greeted me on the lawn startled me and took me completely by surprise.

It did the weather folk as well... for there was no mention of this in their prognostications. Surprise... but not. The only thing that one can predict about the weather in these parts in any part of the year... is that it will surely change every within twenty minutes!

Yesterday was tree trimming day for Deb and I... and it went off with only minor hitches. The light arrangements always add "color" to the festive language... but eventually we sorted them out and got on with the tree decorating ritual.

Out of Pandora's Christmas chest leaped memories of many Christmases passed. Many of the ornaments are handmade... dating back to primary school days for the children. Others bear dates and names of those who either created them or gifted them to us.

I particularly love hanging the dozen or so very primary looking candy cane ornaments. They were the products of a project that Liam, Bryn and I made to decorate one very sparsely-decorated (taken from the wild) Charlie Brown Spruce for our first Christmas together in year one at The Paint Box Gallery apartment in Hillsdale.

They consist of one red and one white pipe cleaner intertwined with each other to form the candy cane shape.They remind me ever so clearly how much can change in one's life... if there is love at home. Home for me is not just a house. It is a place where hearts live in love and harmony. Money plays little part in the presence of those two important home furnishings.

The Order of Good Cheer... Peace on Earth... Christmas 2015

My daughter Allison will arrive later today with her Mom Joan to commence our "Good Order of Cheer" festivities. We will put together my Mom's all time fav "Tater Gem Casserole and make her much loved peppermint and wintergreen flavored hard Christmas candy.

We will spend the time... and NOT... the $$$... to bring us together to celebrate this joyous family season. We have learned first hand during this last challenging year for our family... just how very precious our Time and our Family members are in our lives!

The two lads will join us here at Islandsview for a three day sleepover. Good food... fellowship and board games galore will form "The Order of Good Cheer" at our Rockport "Habitation". During the endless deep Canadian winters of the 1500's, this celebration was formed to lift the spirits of his isolated men by Samuel de Champlain... the Father of New France. He created this merry diversion to help overcome the terrible loneliness and deplorably frigid conditions when Canada was a fledgling French wilderness colony.

Our 2015 version of his "Order of Good Cheer" will melt away the remembrances and pressures of late night College study sessions... quick intakes of Kraft Dinner and assignment deadlines. Our "Habitation" will offer times for relaxation... sharing laughter and stockings to be traded. Gifts are not on the radar. Even the traditional turkey will be spared this year for us. Other arrangements are being undertaken to change traditional expectations ... and thinking.

My personal Christmas tasks are completed. Cards are in the mail and on the way to their various destinations. The yard and deck decorated. My annual Christmas painting has been completed. It will be presented to the boys on Christmas day... to commence its planned annual exchange between their houses each year forthwith. It depicts the relationship as it existed in Nova Scotia... "way back when". That relationship remains unchanged at this moment. The painting speaks its own words:

"Down East Vigil" - oil on canvas 24x20 inches

Last year's version""River Spirit" will be carried by Allison and her Mom to spend Christmas and 2016 at the home of her bro' and my son Andrew, Melissa and wee Mac in Rockwood, Ontario. And so... the beat goes on. 

                                                "River Spirit" oil on canvas 18x14 inches

Much love... to ALL Sherman Children... from their Snow Santa Plaid Dad!!!

In closing this post... I wish to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of you who have shared visits and thoughts here on my blog site. Each of you do much to inspire and encourage me in my personal and artistic lives. As a measure of my deep gratitude, I offer this blog image version of this year's annual card to each of you and your family members.

                                     "River Dance" oil on gallery wrapped canvas 40x30 inches

Merry Christmas... to ALL... and hopefully... more Peace on Earth!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Boy's Christmas Covenant

"Not a Creature Was Stirring..." - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches  SOLD

The current
Christmas 2015 preps get underway...

The current weather and projections for the Christmas celebration just ahead closely mimic the Hillsdale landscape in my 2007 Christmas card theme. Just as the weather has see-sawed throughout December between the expected to the unseasonable... so do my thoughts... day-to-day during every Christmas season.

I find myself busied with preparations for the Christmas Present... yet predisposed to following decades old rituals that connect this 'boy" as far back as my early childhood. Let's call the concoction a "preserve" of sorts... anticipation pickled in nostalgia! AWB... the capital "R" Realist - Romantic!

Early Beginnings...

I was blessed to have had loving and creative parents who developed annual family rituals that began early and ran throughout the entire Christmas season. Christmas began in mid to late November when we headed out in search of chains of creeping cedar... used to create long chains to decorate staircase newel posts and rails... as well as the mantel of the... orange crate faux fireplace that we built with Mom's guidance.

The boy marveled at how real the red brick crepe paper looked with its crackling fire of birch logs and tissue paper flames... topped by a wooden plank mantel bedecked with sheets of white cotton snow... dotted with well placed imitation fir trees. All of this finery couched the ever-friendly village collection and of course...  a larger-than-life Santa and his string of white plastic coursers. Little wonder that my still fertile imagination still runs wild today. It was first planted... "way back when"...

Creche Creation and its significance...

Uncrating and creating the Nativity creche was a children's affair. All helped to put the various Christmas cast in place on the  long oval table that straddled our front living room window. New angels appeared in the heavenly skies each year. One year, I crafted a foiled star of the East to hover and keep watch on a thin strand of copper wire. Christmas carols were sung as the activity moved along... our favorites: O Little Town of Bethlehem... Silent Night... We Three Kings... Away in a Manger... Oh Come, All Ye faithful... Joy to the World

"While Shepherds... washed their socks by night ... all seated round the tub. The angel of the Lord came down and taught them how to scrub" delighted us gleefully each year... but drew the wrath of my Mom. I did catch her smiling quietly to herself though. Down deep inside... she knew that our family did indeed "put the Christ in Christmas"... reverently with Santa. That tradition continues with the same zeal in my house.

Spreading Simple Joy... via Canada Post

The Christmas card ritual was conducted by my Dad. The process stretched itself out methodically throughout the month of November and this first stage was dedicated to the sending process to all who responded in the previous year. The second half of the process involved transcribing this year's card senders onto the list for next year. Cards received were placed each Christmas in a wicker basket beside my Dad's chair... where they could be read and enjoyed over the Christmas season

In their declining years, it was obvious that the tradition could not be maintained by my Dad from their nursing care facility... though I had long followed my Dad's card tradition throughout my own adult journey... and in my own fashion. I offered to be the "ghost writer" for my Dad's Parkinsons- shackled hand.

It was a joyous activity which enabled their own participation and and personal contributions to friends still living in a world they could no longer be a part of... or reach out to. The memories from that venture linger in my heart... and refuel my own determination to keep the tradition alive in my own world. I still send the odd card out to remaining members of my Dad's card list. The beat goes on... and the sands of Time continue to drop in my own hour glass.

 Each card envelope has its own unique caricatured and colored and inked image

Some gently poke fun...

They are my way to recognize long friendships and shared experiences

Some even make use of the Christmas postage stamp to poke fun at Canada Post.

Each year I do question the use of my time to continue this practice in this fashion. I have watched people take the card out of the envelope... and without hesitation... crumple up the envelope ... and simply throw my gift (and my self-esteem) in the trash bucket. The temptation to simply "throw in the sponge" is great... momentarily. 

But then... I receive my "annual" simple card from Liam and Bryn's three aunts... aged 101... 97 and 94 expressing their joy... and thanks for receiving my annual card to each of them. Only Auntie Rose remains in her own home. Lil lives with her nephew and niece near Rose and Sis in in a nursing home... confined to bed and legally blind. How merry can that be? But in the face of these life -crippling losses, she remains... "merry and bright".

All of these magnificent elders retain their will to be included in Life... and a huge sense of gratitude for their life... family and friends. My card is a small gesture that our tie is still there... even after a separation that lead to tumultuous life change(s) for me personally. Do not treat success in isolation based upon a too small sampling. Love... Generosity... and Faith will always prevail.

Rose's envelope this year bears a message that is as eloquent as any decoration I could send. Its humble message touched my heart greatly... and speaks to the underlying principles which join us in love and friendship. The phrase very succinctly underscores my philosophy about the enjoyment of one's life.

Thank you dear Rose!... It is indeed the ability to "Delight in the little things...." that form Life's greatest daily blessings! Merry Christmas... once again to all three aunts!!!

"I"... am greatly blessed!

Keep your own covenants... whatever they may be. They will bring unexpected and overflowing Joy... and Glad Tidings to your door.

Good Painting... and Merry Christmas... to ALL!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Check List...

I vowed not to take in any commissions to complicate my traditional Christmas pursuits... and succeeded. "Not a creature is stirring..." in that camp and oh... what a relief it has been! All household and yard tasks have been dealt with as well. The outside gallery has been delivered inside to the downstairs storage area for the winter. The inside studio is tidied and ready for our winter works program. The firewood is stacked and stored safely... and kindled. The yard work is done... gardens put top sleep and leaves bagged and delivered to the local waste site. We are ready... to batten down the winter hatches... and to prepare for Christmas celebrations.

My first winter works item was to create another personal heirloom piece for my children. You will recall that River Spirit was sent off to Allison's home for Christmas 2014. This year she will deliver it to her bro' Andrew's home... where it will hang for Christmas 2015. It will be present for their joint celebrating... and "I" shall then be present. That is already in the planning stage!

This year... I have been kicking around the "Idea"... or painting theme which would relate to Christmases passed that I shared with Liam and Bryn. My fondest memories were obviously spent with them in Nova Scotia... where we "lurked" together constantly. Just so you understand their term "lurked"... the equivalent is beach bombed. Peggy's Cove Light was a favorite haunt... in every kind of weather... even during gales.... winds and glee and laughter!!

We went ever day in search of pirate treasure along the many nearby ocean side beaches. Visions of doubloons danced in all of our heads. But we settled for shards of sea glass, china and a variety of seashells and float-some that ended up in their garden shed "museum".... shelves and all! They were halcyon Never Land adventures that still linger as fresh as the salty sea air in our nostrils and hearts - Forever!

Here is the image that has emerged to celebrate those memories. I think that this image closely and honestly captures my feelings. I know it will theirs too! Time is something that we all are given. It is meant to be used for our own goal-seeking and pleasure... and wisely used too. However... it is meant to be shared to... especially with our children. It is this unconditional connection in their early lives that will shape and produce generous adult "children". I am proud to note... that I am very blessed to have five generous children... who possess beautiful minds... intellect and generous spirits. This painting visually confirms our connection... Then... Now ... and Always!

Merry Christmas Girls and Boys!!!.... We love You Guys dearly... "To the moon and back!"

"Down East Vigil" - oil on canvas 24x20 inches

Allison and Andrew's version "River Spirit"... speaks of our common early childhood of River memories and plein air paint outs together in "shallow waters"!! Merry Christmas K'Town and Rockwood!

"River Spirit! - oil on canvas 20x16 inches

Good Painting!.... to ALL!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reaching Southward... Beyond the River

Looking southward this morning... towards... "the rocket's red flare"... and thankfully there were "no bombs bursting in air".

... proof in the light... "that our two flags were still there"... united!

It seems so impossible that scarcely two hundred years ago that the peacefully flowing river that separates our country was indeed the only barrier that prevented greater hostilities between the two countries than was acted out. The War of 1812-14 was like the Civil War preventable and unnecessary. And all of these decades of time and casualties later... it is lost... mostly ... in the deep sands of Time.

After 911... the heightened fear that gripped the world at large and particularly the United States necessitated closer scrutiny to Homeland Security... most especially where no fence existed. We here on the River... on both sides have felt the discomfort and  intense scrutiny when we pass from one country to the other since that time.

My own family ties have existed even before the wars mentioned on both sides of the river and continue to this day. I am proud of that fact. We have dear friends who live on that side... but come to share summers with us here in this summer Paradise.

Let us hope that Republican rhetoric never creates actual fences to create further alienation and discord between two peoples who have chosen to be together... yet share different thoughts and values. Fore bearers came to this New World to escape intolerance and persecution... to create a climate and life based upon Peace and Freedom.

It is not chance that the base of the Statue of Liberty... a gift from France to a fledgling nation should bear an open arms welcome to the poor and displaced. Let us have the courage... together as Free Nation States to open our minds... hearts and borders to those who need safe refuge from tyranny and even certain death.

Let us form a two country coalition built upon brotherhood and love. Let us "trump" those who would devalue and dishonor the the sacrifices already made to continue create the harmony that has governed our two neighboring countries peacefully through financial and political conflicts... and terror.

I reach across this fence-less border today to wish all Americans... and especially my blogging Friends...a Happy Thanksgiving and continued bounteous blessings!

Good Painting! ALL!!!

A Rockwellian timeless view of Thanksgiving... 1921

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Longevity... Friend?... or Enemy?

In the Beginning...  

" A Few... of My Favourite Things" - tempera on drawing board 10.5 x 7.5 inches

I rediscovered this small intimate study amongst my eldest daughter Lisa's belongings in her studio on Kerry Point... a mere three kilometers east of Rockport. I had completed it in 1979 as a part of my undergraduate studio art program portfolio. I much later offered it to Lisa when she was decorating the many walls of her own new riverside home. The painting is a portrait of sorts because its compositional elements were carefully chosen and drew together a concise impression of my interests at that particular time in both my personal and painting lives.

The elements of this still life consist of my "uniform" at that time. I was rarely seen without my "one bag carried all" sketching kit... my khaki military-style hat bearing a badge which read... "Smile at Someone Today". Lastly, my trusty denim blue jeans... still my pants of choice daily.

The backdrop is Lisa's bed in our Camden East home in the special bedroom I had decorated for her. The antique arrow back chair... was one of a set of four that Joan and I had purchased because of their lovely lines and comfortable backs and seats. The set, also including a matching oval pine table still grace Joan's dining area in her home.

I was a full blown water colorist in that era with my interests directed towards the school of High Realism and the work of its North American masters (whom I admired greatly and emulated). They included American icon Andrew Wyeth and his Canadian counterparts Ken Dandy and Glen Loates.

My interests were in capturing exactness of draughtsmanship and texture... embedded in their moody and nostalgic milieu. While I did achieve a certain degree of pleasure and major sales success in following this path... there was always a state of interior restlessness to paint more loosely within me.... and more in the outdoors.

It was during this same period that I was working on obtaining my undergrad degree in Art History at Queen's University. As a part of those studies, I undertook taking "for credit" winter studio courses in drawing and painting. Over time... that I was first introduced to other media such as sculpture, printmaking, collage, abstraction, figure life drawing and color theory.

In this heady new environment, I was no longer painting specifically for either pleasure or sales. I was on a new pathway of discovery and vast change - the very kind of change that continues to propel my creative journey today. The new media expanded my artistic working vocabulary and horizons and launched my voyage of discovery and learning.

If my previous artistic awareness was not shaken to its very roots by these two decades of searching and playing... then it was surely my eight weeks of study and painting in Venice in 1989 which completely humbled and transformed me. This epiphany remains the pivotal point in my growth and development as an artist... a person and a teacher. The experience melded all three together instantly.

Longevity has such a hollow ring for me personally. There is a great hidden cost for striving only to achieve longevity in any field. Any struggle to retain it over a long period of time can only be justified in my mind when one can retain a truly honest passion for maintaining it in one's life. Using the term longevity in terms of "job security"... or in reference to Art is foolhardy. A loss of commitment in either direction results in a lack of growth... resulting in a lack of personal initiative  and fulfillment. Such conditions create stasis or equilibrium.

Longevity need not imply a lack of... or willingness to change. Nor should it imply a patently blatant "flip-flop" driven by boredom or lack of vision. Perhaps, in a sense... creating art is as organic as Life itself... and is therefore always seeking change as a necessary part of its existence.

Perhaps painting and Life flow... much like the river that passes in front of us... quietly, but ever moving towards its final destination - the sea. Since we journey in separate craft... but on the same river pathway we are all free to make individual choices about how we journey.

One could choose (foolhardy, in my estimate) to swim against the flow, or current. This would most certainly lead to rapid fatigue and likely abandonment of the task. One might also choose to rest at the oars and simply drift with the current... making little effort to do other than go where the current took one. That might include getting caught in an eddy... where one would remain indefinitely... justy going in endless circles.

My choice would be to steer the craft... row a bit... rest a bit and to seek out places of interest towards which I could encourage my craft to explore further. I would make no effort to back paddle against the current. I would rather use the memories of where I had been, or what I had seen to be included in the interpretation of what was before me. Simply put... I would choose to paddle

Fully in the Now... "cause Yesterday's Gone... and Tomorrow hasn't arrived"

I choose to pull forward this small painting image posted by me only a week ago. I need not create another tribute of Remembrance because none could be more personal to me. Its every detail and raison d'etre embody the continuing deep sense of loss and grief that I share with a particular family. But in the truest sense... it applies universally to any person or family who has suffered the loss of a son, daughter, mother, father... or friend through armed conflict.

I continue to hope and believe... that during these tragic days we can together find a place in our hearts to plant seeds of Peace and Goodwill. These can be shared with ALL our brothers and sisters wherever we live. Together... we can present a common force to displace and diminish the intended fear and chaos created by a misguided... deranged and violent few amongst us.

Let us each create Light and Truth through our own actions and work. Let us each... in our own unique way share these and the blessings of our own safe havens with those unfortunates who struggle to leave the darkness in which they currently are forced to live. Let each of us... in our small corner... Shine on!

In closing today's post, I offer a sample of Lisa's painting from the same era as Favourite Things. Her creative spirit which travelled alongside me then... continues healthily today ... on its own. "She" now carries the spirit of generosity blended with her creative strength in to her adult life. I can assure you that the time spent together mattered then. It still does... under her own terms.

It is in the eyes of our children that we live with and for... that positive change can have a chance to live on. "They"... and our Art... are the seeds of Hope that we can plant now that will yield the best chance for Peace and Happiness to succeed us... in a Future and Tomorrow... that we shall never see.

A Lisa "original" watercolor dated 1975. That would make her eight years of age at the time.
"We" are greatly blessed... and "I" am exceedingly proud!!

Happy upcoming Thanksgiving Day to my American Friends!...  My prayers to France and Africa!

Good Painting!... and Peace... to ALL Friends around the World!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sympathetic Resonance

The Beach Boys understood the concept and used it when they cruised to the top of the pop music charts with "Good Vibrations". Scientists and piano tuners make use of the physics involved when one tuning fork emits a frequency of sound that is picked up and repeated by a second tuning fork. They share a common frequency that harmonically links them... even without them touching.

 A similar sympathetic resonance exists between humans... given the right circumstances. Good feelings... moods and energy seem to elicit the same feelings from others around us.  However... the opposite is true as well. Negativity and ill feelings breed similar states and responses if we are exposed to "the downers" in our world.

It really comes down to personal choices for each of us. Being with positive and uplifting people enhances our spirits... our health and well-being... and our creative energy. Each of these personal needs combine to create happy... healthy and motivated individuals.

In creating our art... we strive for excellence and to be different. Both are difficult tasks to achieve, and neither can be achieved overnight. The words strive to me... denotes a lifetime commitment to a path of learning that is exceedingly demanding of our time and resources. I have learned from my own experience... that despite having made many fine painting friends along the way... the downside is that this means we must search most of the time... alone.

If we are not alone physically... we must be alone intellectually to work out and to satisfy our own unique interests and needs. Often they collide... or are out of step at least... with those around us. WEe must strive to be our own very best critics because listening too closely to... or mimicking those we admire truly defeats the very goal of creation. We will never find the True Creative Self... that is contained and housed within each of us.

We should endeavour to self-critique continually... and ferociously... ridding ourselves of inferior ideas or works. Some paintings we make are cul-du-sacs... dead ends that lack depth or a level of quality that displays individual growth and excellence. Not all works deserve a signature... nor a place on the wall. They can be kept to remind us where we have come from... or they can keep us warm on a winter night in the fireplace.

There are pieces that deserve further thought and consideration. Laying them aside where they can be seen allows for germination and perhaps a new direction of thought and action. Here is an example of  just such a piece that I have just spent "extra time" in the studio. It has lain around for a full year and quite frankly was one step away from being "frisbeed"

The painting was completed under very poor weather conditions last November. It was a typically dreary November day on the river... and I sought refuge from the weather under the eave of a friend's cottage. While the height above the subject was interesting to me... I could not resolve many parts of the painting because of having to fight with the canvas between showers. It lacked light... and most truthfully reflected accurately my own dismal interior feelings about the day.

Here is that grey and dismal plein air canvas... round one... to Mother Nature!

                                             "Taylor Central" - oil on canvas 20x16 inches

I even returned to the original site at the best time of day to take advantage of better weather and lighting conditions. Still... the spirit of the place failed to move me enough to warrant reworking the canvas as I often do on occasions like this one... Second "verse"... same as the first!

So I made the decision to scratch the subject and not to waste further time trying "to make a bad painting better." I sanded away all of the peaks of pigment thoroughly and set the canvas aside for a "rainy day" ... in the studio. It was pre- toned for action at least!

Last week, my painting pal Frank and I went on a painting misadventure... our purpose to catch the last bit of fall colour hanging' about. Lots of digital images returned with us... but the day was a bust in terms of painting - disappointing for me!

A week or so later and I was sitting at my computer reviewing the pix we had taken on the trip and this p[articular landscape caught my eye almost immediately. At first... the reason was unclear to me why I should be attracted to this particular image. Then... as I looked over my shoulder towards the base of my easel, I caught sight of the recently sanded loser. It was lying exactly as you see it above... its original vertical position now horizontal. Here is the landscape image  that caught my attention.

Can you see what resonated in my mind at that AHA moment???

Look at the larger shapes in both images. These major compositional lines and shapes share an uncanny similarity. Any differences can be easily reshaped to conform to the similar traits that they share

This image below shows my lay in loosely and quickly painted response... making use of the digital image to guide my brushwork. You can see that I take liberties and seek not to absolutely copy the photo... just as I customarily do when painting in the field. This stage took about an hour to complete. I took a break and came back to finish in a second hour at the easel.

This is the finished painting... in my humble opinion far superior to the original grey flop. I hope that this exercise that I have shared with you resonates the great sense of accomplishment and joy that I now feel in having not given up. Listen to your head and heart. Paint what you love... with commitment and energy. Make the process fun. Accept defeat graciously... but ALWAYS on your own terms.

Have the courage to take chances... and fail. Walter Campbell has this to say about failure:

"Where you stumble... there lies your treasure."

                            "Autumnshine, Blue Mountain Road"  oil on canvas 16x20 inches

Good Painting!!!.. and "Good Vibrations"... to ALL!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"A" Words... Autumn... Austerity...Adversity and Adaptation

How appropriate that Autumn translates fall. Fall is often associated with loss as is the case in Autumn when there occurs a loss of foliage, colour, time and light. In thinking about the two terms autumn does indeed reflect upon a "falling away" ... or decline of warmth and growth that is associated with the high time of summer. It is, as well easy to understand the decline of our emotional high as we anticipate the approach of winters long and cold presence.

All that is visible around us in the natural world bespeaks loss ands a sense of austerity which for so many people develops into a deep melancholy and sadness. It is why Remembrance Day dovetails so perfectly with November. It seems that the two are austere and fitting companions for the same calendar month.

Austerity conveys and encourages other meanings for me personally. Austerity yields an opportunity for one to more fully explore and discover truths that otherwise lay overridden... or hidden in other seasons. Brilliance... in any form can be blinding to the "ordinary" eye. It tends to overwhelm and evoke a sense of awe... both of which unwittingly undermine Truth.

Austerity pares away the wrappings and trappings of colour and complex forms... to reveal new insights and possibilities. It encourages simplicity and economy of expression. It more readily encourages the creation of visually tacit... terse and provocative visual poems that defy painting conventions that are overly detailed and ornately structured.

                                                           The sentinel stands
                                                      To face winter's icy cold
                                                            Unyielding... stoic

                                          "November's Sentinel - oil on panel 10x8 inches

Adversity visits us all at various times in our lives. It has many faces - death, illness,divorce, financial misfortune, business failure, loss of one's job, disasters - the list is endless. Adversity is a reality that none of can avoid... nor deny at any length. It must be somehow dealt with eventually. We must be able to move on beyond the usual human question... "Why me?"... to survive and continue our journeys.

We can best navigate safely through these precarious waters using wisdom and knowledge from trusted family, friends and mentors. We need to progress beyond pride and fear to face our adversity with sound foundations of Wisdom and Truth. These sources can only be effective when there exists a mutual basis of Trust and Respect. Neither can be given... they must be earned.

Adversity in one's art creation can hardly be defined in terms of a lack of sales or critical comment. Adversity would more likely be attributed to our loss of powers of perception, or a physical disability which hampers or prevents working. Even in  these most feared circumstances, one can discover individuals who have risen above such challenges to continue creative lives. What comes to mind  in this regard... is my final A" word - adaptability.


Deb and I treated ourselves to a rare... and much deserved night at the movies last week. At the strong urging of our youngest son Bryn, we went to see The Martian, starring Matt damon. Do go and see this film!

What a powerful film masterpiece this is... for many reasons. The plot is spellbindingly brilliant and riveting. The acting skilfully blends the serious with the silly... fear with relief...empathy tinged with uplifting spiritual joy. The 3D cinematography combines with the Dolby Surround Sound to yield for the viewer as close to a truly martian experience for us who never will voyage to Mars... or wish to do so. The scientific information presented during the two hours plus completely baffles one's sense of time and space.

But most of all, it clearly reveals through Damon the complete wonder and breadth of the human spirit and our ability to adapt to adverse conditions and top solve problems . Therein lies a new sense of hope within me. A Hope that we, as a species can overcome the increasing ecological and political threats to our earthly existence on our fragile planet.

The complex and often vicious society that we currently live in (as is demonstrated in last evening's unspeakably atrocities in Paris) underscore our need for Hope and Faith and a pathway to world peace. But how is that to be accomplished in the face of such barbarism and unholy conduct under any religious grounds? Where does violence end... and at what cost - again?

It is scarcely a few days since I stood with many other residents of Brockville, my home town... to remember. In my own case, to remember a young man lacing up skates at an early morning hockey practice. Little did any of us know or dream, that scarcely a dozen years later Matt Dawes would offer up his life in the service of his country and the war-weary Afghans. Adversity!

All of us who remember Matt have undergone our own paths of adaptation... though I personally cannot begin to understand or fathom how his family has been able to move on and to cope. All that we can do is to move on and re-dedicate a portion of our time and energy to using our lives to promote... preserve and honour his and so many other lives that have been sacrificed to insure peace... or the hope for it.

I choose to make art which embraces Sharing... Generosity and telling Truth. I was deeply honoured to be asked to offer an enlarged giclee representation of the smaller original painting that I presented in Matt's honour to his wife Tara and son Lucas to be hung in the Band Room at Royal Military College, Kingston. It was presented to RMC at last year's Remembrance ceremony and now hangs in the very building renamed to Matt's honour.

                            "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on panel 12x10 inches

This small painting travels beyond being a "traditional" still life. It is my hope that all of its elements and design  encourage the viewer to respond in thought to the question offered by the title. It is meant to be a dialoguing device to stir emotional thought.... and to perhaps motivate peaceful action.
Creating art should go beyond representing "what is." It can... if thoughtfully pursued register "what might be". That is my Hope and my goal for my own work.

I wish to close out today's post on a positive note... simply to further share some favourite plein air "haikus". Enjoy!...

"The most important thing a painter can do is find a good place to sit."
- J.E.H MacDonald  (Group of Seven Painters Member)

In closing... come sit with me...while I share just a few good places of my own... where I sat and painted some plein air "haikus". Enjoy!

                                            "Autumn's Adagio" - oil on panel 8x10 inches

                                  "Galeairy Lake, Algonquin Park - oil on panel 8x10 inches

                                    "Sunlit Algonquin Highlands" - oil on panel 10x12 inches

                                         "Madawaska Relics" - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

                                  "The Watcher", Combermere - oil on canvas 16x20 inches

                         "Autumn's Closing Act, Algonquin Park" - oil on canvas 20x24 inches

Good Painting!... and ALL!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pausing to Remember...

November's changes bring with them a sense of reflection that quite naturally usher in an urge to look back and remember. We longingly recall the now lost warmth of summer and the rich color and pageantry of autumn now quickly faded. November reflects a pause in human activity... a perfect time to remember... and offer thanks for the blessings in each of our lives.

On Wednesday, many of us here in Canada and around the world will gather at cenotaphs to briefly remember and honor the too many women and men who unselfishly offered up their dreams and tomorrows to preserve and make possible the peace that we have lived under here at home. They too... shared places in our garden of humanity... but were viciously plucked before their lives had scarcely begun.

There are many ways to honor them. Let me count some of the simple ways. One can wear a poppy. One can take time out to attend a Remembrance Day service in one's community. One can simply lower one's head in privacy for two minutes at 11:00 am... and remember with thanks. One can conduct their own lives to include small acts of kindness and service throughout the year. There are so many ways to make their sacrifice have purpose.

I choose to offer this annual blog of remembrance to individuals within the realm of my own existence who made the supreme sacrifice for Canadians like myself and my family. I , as well will be in attendance at the Remembrance Day services in my home town, Brockville to continue to keep their memory alive. Doing these things helps me to feel that I am passing forward my own personal experiences to honor their memory and sacrifice.

                                                                   The Sentinel...

                                                         Before the parades... Cenotaph in Brockville

                    My friend and Korean veteran Jack... parading ... for his final time in 2014

                              "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"... my anthem and tribute to

                                 Captain Matthew Dawe... gone but never forgotten Matt!

Matt's Dad Colonel Peter Dawe and Matt's son Lucas presenting The Matt Dawe Memorial Sword
                              at Royal Military College Graduation Ceremonies in Kingston

CPL Nathan Cirillo... ruthlessly gunned down o October 22nd, 2014 by a homegrown terrorist
                                    while guarding The Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa

              Another fatherless young boy.... Marcus...  robbed of his dreams and family birthright

These are but a few of my reasons for setting aside a few moments of time in my life. I feel their loss... I do my best to pass forward simple kindnesses in my own fashion to honor them . Every day is a chance for me to repay my debt to them. This blog... an expression of my freedom of speech was made possible by their combined sacrifices.

Choose to remember...
Lest we forget!