Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Holy Mackinaw!... How Time Flies!

On Friday, February 28th, 2014... The Sherman Clan heartily welcomed its newest member...; a drowsy-eyed young lad... Malcolm Justin Michael Sherman, first son of Andrew and Melissa into their lives... and ours!

It has been a glorious year of "firsts" for this new life... beginning with this opening soliloquy of silence and contentment. Though the contentment has maintained its initial momentum... sounds have grown exponentially... and so now... has the mobility factor. He has just begun the process of acquiring a set of wheels under him. Watch him go guys! Are you really ready for this?

He and I share Aquarian roots... my birthday having already landed on February 11th. A better gift a father couldn't ask for... than another healthy grandchild. Wee Mac joins the company of Lisa's children Ryan, Mica and Braden. Add in Deb's grand girls Ava and Ella... and we find ourselves needing only three more on the roster to field a baseball team. Who knows?

This Saturday, February 28th... the Sherman clan will again assemble in Rockwood ,Ontario to celebrate Wee Mac's first birthday. Deb and I had been really looking forward to the gala and break from the painting show schedule here in Rockport. I have been hard at it. However... a very bad flu virus felled me late last week... and it has Deb on the ropes as I write this evening. Attending is out of the question and in my conversation this afternoon with Andrew... he could clearly understand why... upon hearing my voice.

Each of my children checked in to wish me a happy birthday... gift enough for any parent, but the generous spirit of each one always manifests itself uniquely... and I feel deeply blessed. Allison came to visit and brought a couple of treasures from Andrew and Melissa. Here is my favourite page from the Twelve First Months of Mac Calendar. I wonder why?.... HA HA

 Mr Malcolm McMarch 
The card shown brought birthday greetings to me from Auntie Allison! Proud Canadians all... in our plaid Canadian hats and tuxedos!

I am sending this post your way guys... so that our presence manifests itself in a small way. Though we can't be there physically for this very special birthday... Know that you are in our hearts... each one of you... each and every day... and always! As soon as the flu bug flies away... we'll be up for our own celebration and we'll bring along another cake to fete you with Mac!

Enjoy and savor each of these new steps that you watch and share together. Tuck them safely away in a special part of your heart for some "quiet" day... when those same feet have trundled on down the road on their own special journey. Save some of those annoying fingerprints seemingly left everywhere as they grow up. You'll wish some distant day that you had the chance to discover them one more time. Enjoy every precious moment... for they do have their time!

Because of you... "I" am greatly blessed. Thank you ... one and ALL!!!!

All our love always!
Dad and Deb

Play this for "Me" at the Gathering... Sing along together... and I'll surely be fully there!

Happy Birthday Mr Mac! We love you dear Spirit... to the moon and back!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My... "Tangled Garden"

"The obedient in art are always forgotten.... The country is glorious but its beauties are unknown, and are waiting for a real live artist to splash them onto canvas. Chop your path. Get off the car track."

- A.Y Jackson (Canadian Painter and one of the founders of the Canadian Group of Seven) in a letter from him in Montreal to Florence McClement of Berlin, Ontario - 5 Mar 1913

"I" am unabashedly... and will always be primarily a Canadian landscape painter. The landscape around me... wherever I have lived, or painted has continually offered me joy and the inspiration to paint. I have been blessed to have been able to visit and paint in all but one of the ten Canadian provinces. Next year... Deb and I hope to visit Newfoundland to complete that lifetime goal.

Canada is such a vast and diverse landscape... stretching some 4025 miles, or 6521 kilometers from east to west. Each province undoubtedly has its own unique landscape features that cannot to be found in any of the others. In my own mind, there exist commonalities which mimic those found in the others... however slight they might seem to others.

The greater commonality that I discovered on my journey was the consistent presence of genuine friendliness of the peoples in each region. I offer that a landscape is as much defined by the people that live upon it... and by how they choose to utilize it.... as its physical beauty in itself. I have spent my lifetime trying to knit together these discoveries that I have made during my own artistic journey.

The breadth of my painting garden has been large... and to some degree... tangled by twists and turns in subject matter and style. But I believe that finally... in the preparation of this show... my work and thinking have become distilled and filtered into a new direction and path that I shall continue to travel from here onward..

I have primarily learned to paint through being exposed to the landscape itself... and by self-education through exposure to the works of artists that I discovered and admired along the path that I have taken. Among these... and foremost are certain members of the group of Seven... simply because their work depicted the landscape that I was most familiar with and their works were more readily available for me to study.

A.Y Jackson was my first mentor of sorts. The fluidity and fervor of his brushwork laid out the Canadian landscape before me to travel upon. It was a kind of "magic mystery tour" for me... a young wide-eyed lad trapped in a smallish River community. His work helped transport me to places early in my life that would otherwise have been unavailable to my eyes at that young age. I copied his works... and through this process... I discovered how painterly brushwork and the imagination could be paired to create a unique style.

But it would be many years... and mentors later... before I could actualize that learning into becoming my own "voice". Each step led to the next and gradually the learning that each mentor offered... garnered me a better and fuller understanding of the craft of painting. It has been a long journey... and I have only come most recently to more fully realize that the journey to become an "artist"... is a lifetime pursuit and that just calling oneself that does not necessarily make it so. I humbly offer that each of us will never fully "arrive" during our time on earth.

I offer the answer as to when this might occur using the words of another Group of Seven mentor... A.J Casson. This master colorist taught me how to "see"... and to use varied greens that occur naturally in the landscape:

"Time is the only critic."

Time is indeed the very solution for many things in many aspects of our lives. As human beings... our growth and developmental unfolds on its own time frame in stages... and not in great leaps. Within this development there exist periods of stasis... plateaus. It is so with painting as well. The Muse comes and goes... ever leading .. and we following. Four key "P" words are important to remember in my mind: Patience... Perseverance... and most of all... Passion.

"Tangled Garden" is a 48 x 60 inch oil on panel by another founding member of "The Group"... J.E.H MacDonald. It was simply a painting of his own garden... late ripening in fall... filled with wonderfully decaying elements in the physical garden he cared for and loved in Thornhill, Ontario. When it was first exhibited by The Group.. art critics denigrated it called it "from the School of Mush"... unworthy of the title "Art". MacDonald... as eloquent in oral expression as he was in paint shot back indignantly and remained unyielding to the critics' raves.

Today... his iconic masterwork is housed on the walls of the National Gallery collection in Ottawa. I have stood in front of it many times... and still I stand with very genuine sense of "shock and awe" - the exact feeling I had when I first came face-to-face with it at ten years of age. His work taught me about the value of painting the things around you that you have a passion for. It taught me to paint from my heart... ALWAYS! the work itself is a studio piece, but it owes its origin to a small 8 x10 inch birch panel... done en plein air!

This picture of a picture from my well-worn copy of "Tangled Garden", a biography of MacDonald's life and work. It does no real justice to the painting itself... but it does lend you an insight into his manner of painting. It is a decorative...a tapestry-like rendering, much like those appearing in Canada and the USA in response to the impact of Victorian Art Nouveau movement which embraced Nature and garden themes in European centers.

Here is a stained glass church window from roughly the same period which again adopts the decorative... tapestry natural theme motif so evident in Tangled Garden... Florid landscapes... filled with a sense of open space... light and rich color!

"Create a beautiful lie."

This advice comes from American water colorist Edgar Whitney. What both he and and MacDonald practiced... as do I...  since passing through the awkward and frustrating stage when I sought out perfect compositions from Nature and copied them slavishly. The real joy and full purpose of the artist is to interpret what lies before you. To lie... is to merely embellish... create at will in response to the feeling that the subject evokes within you. Spit it out! It needn't... no ... shouldn't be a perfect facsimile!

I would like to share these words by another artist of renown which likewise underscore this last premise.

"If I were called upon to define briefly the word 'Art', I should call it the reproduction of what senses perceive in nature... seen through the veil of the soul."

Amen ... to that... Mr. Cezanne!

In closing... I humbly offer my latest "work in progress"... to be completed this afternoon. Could it not also be titled fairly as... "My Tangled Garden"? The site is located right behind our Gallery. Discovered the "idea"... as I was gathering leaves to decorate the Thanksgiving table in October. 

Today... I give thanks to the mentors mentioned above in the post for the inspiration they passed along to me when I was growing my own garden. Without each of you... this painting... my journey and my joy for life would be greatly diminished.

"I" am greatly blessed...! Welcome to "My Tangled Garden" - oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches

Good Painting... and Gardening... to ALL!!!

"... and miles to go before I sleep."

Post Script - Project complete... ready for signing. On to the next canvas!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden thoughts???... With two and and half feet of snow spread across the landscape everywhere in this part of the country... and much more in other places? Temperatures in the double digit minuses.. now for several weeks?... A long way off... it would seem.

These thoughts are not at all exclusive to me alone. My friend Terry is pouring over seed catalogs... in preparation for his upcoming new gardening business venture. His garage... once only a Boston Bruin "man cave" is transformed into an indoor greenhouse... filled to overflowing with newly begun and flourishing plants and flowers. I know this ... because I tended his gardens while he was vacationing with his wife in Cuba for ten days. His... and my own garden thoughts were indeed "in season" - despite the outside weather.

However... here ends the garden thought idea within its normal context. As is ever the case with me... an event can trigger a fertile exploration and easy jump from one domain to more existential level... or personal level of thought. I'll throw this thought of mine out for each of you to consider. Perhaps it might make sense to you as well... and that it might "kick start" further fertile exploration in your own "gardens".

"Art is the garden of Humanity. And we, as artists... are its constant gardeners."

Gardening is indeed an art form ... when it is pursued with passion... dedication and extensive effort and planning. These... to my own way of thinking are the very building blocks and tenets upon which one builds one's art expression.

The blocking in of passages of color and variations of form and structure are what makes a garden eye-catching. This management of space approximates exactly the approach every artist undertakes in the creation of a new canvas. Making sense of an otherwise empty space in one's own terms... and no gardener does it the same as another - at least... they shouldn't!

There exist countless self help books with tips to get started... but it really comes down to getting the tools necessary... a good set of gloves... and to joyfully... " getting down and dirty". Success can hardly be expected to be instant... and the title of "master gardener" is never earned... simply by attaching those words to oneself. That accreditation must be earned through continual growth and achievement... over a life time.

Experimentation and risk are essential to improve one's garden. Sharing ideas and time with more mature participants help one to develop a personal approach... let's call it "style" which is recognizably unique and different from that of others. Aim beyond the ordinary. Avoid patterning behaviors. Follow your own passion... develop your own garden plot. Add to it as you go forward. IN the end ... you will have your own Eden. That... should be the only valid reason for pursuing this dream. Dream... Sow and Share. Then dream some more!

In closing today's post... I too... am pouring through catalogs of sorts... sketchbooks and picture files to decide upon the varieties for my Spring Show. My planting is well underway... and a few have flowered already. Others are works in progress... while others are still to be determined.

Kate, the gallery curator and I have arrived at a theme for the show. The works will by and large center upon "Bruce Sherman - On the River - A Homecoming". It will open on Thursday March 19th and will close on April 25th.

Below is a sample of a simple 6 x 12 inch "seed"... a smallish plein air black sheep that I completed right from our dock across the road back in late October. It was done purely for my own entertainment on a canvas that had been kicking around... without purpose for far too long. That was part of the challenge for the day... to make something from a "sow's ear". It pleased me enough... but wasn't a format that I would usually work on.

My daughter Allison came to have supper and an evening with us.,.. as she does from time to time to escape the rigors of her academic duties at Queen's University in Kingston. As is always the case... she never fails to want to see "what is new with Dad" in the studio. She has been a wonderful supporter of my journey clear back to her childhood years.

She always had a great eye... and could be counted upon to always offer objectivity in her criticism. And I do value that. Her breadth of knowledge in her field leaves me both proud... and humbled. Watching her conduct a recent lecture... and to see the response to her lecture by the hundred and seventy five young and aspiring minds in the lecture room made my entire life seem full of purpose.
I... am greatly blessed!

Her eye caught this small "orphan" and her attention and excitement immediately jumped above that shown to the larger canvases. She said simply, "Oh Dad , I love this wee piece. It's a masterwork. This should be included in your show. As well... you should do more. Have you ever thought of making this one wing of a small triptych? It would be delightful... very representative of the River scenery along the Parkway... and it could be hung in so many places in the ordinary home." I said with a shrug... "Hadn't thought of that Sweetie".

Days later... I purchased two more 6 x 12 inch canvases... toned them with acrylic burnt sienna as a ground. But it was now winter... what to do??? I contemplated using the snow forms on the rocks as a guide to place granite rock formations... then just to fudge the colors. However... after a lengthy search of my digital files I came across an image that I could (sort of) use to guide my painting process to complete the other two panels.

Here is the result of our collaborative venture Allison... just as you envisioned. Thanks for your supportive encouragement and enthusiasm.

"Time Stands Still... on the River" - triptych 6 x 36 inches

Good Gardening... Good Painting... and Sweet Thoughts of Spring... to ALL!!!!

Post Script

Below is a jpeg taken after the triptych panels were painted around all of their perimeters. NOTE -  that the difference of tone (perceived by two of my ardent... hawk-eyed blogging friends Sherry and Keith)... in the the space between the left and center panels was caused by the angle created by the back support creating glare on the entire left panel.

Hope this posting shows the real picture... sans the glare in the first photo.

Thanks guys!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Creating "Imprecise Truths... Using Reality"

"If facing the paper, your thought is 'I am an artist', you have no clue as to what to do. If the concepts of your function are,'I am a shape maker, an entertainer, an expressive symbol collector', then you have an explicit road map."

-Edgar Whitney (renowned  American water colorist and revered teacher)

I have only just recently been introduced to the work and philosophy of this iconic American artist by a fellow American artist friend. In the mere scratching of the surface of this discovery, I have already begun to see great merit and value into deepening my knowledge of both aspects of both his marvelous artistic journey and his philosophy related to painting. His wisdom and talent are exceptional.

The above sentence speaks so magnificently, and with unusual and candid clarity about what the goals of painting should be for all of us who paint. Simply calling oneself an artist... does not make it so. Even if we possess a rudimentary talent to begin the journey, one should realize that becoming an artist in the truest sense demands that one must pursue the goals necessary to leave a journeyman position during an entire life time.

I do possess very strong feelings about what constitutes being an artist and what I perceive as the current misuse of the term artist, but I will not use this blog as a forum to denigrate or to discourage others... or to arrogantly assume that my view is the "golden rule" to define what an artist is... or must be.

I maintain that each of us is entitled to express themselves, whether in words, actions... or paint. By so doing, we are offered a chance to enrich our lives... and the lives of others. What level we can attain for ourselves will be determined by exactly what we aspire to... and put into the venture. A rich journey will involve much self-learning and discovery.That journey will never end... for as long as we can continue to reach out and discover more.

In preparing for this quickly approaching solo exhibition, I have given much thought to what I hope to achieve in the end by accepting this daunting challenge. Despite having had more than a few positive solo shows during my journey... I still feel the self-doubt and uncertainty... when "lacing up for the opening face off" on this new occasion.  I have tried to view this as my first... to make it fresh and new - something that will represent my reasons for painting... and the joy that I feel every time that I pick up a paint brush to work.

In some respects... I feel that this exhibition opportunity can be viewed legitimately as fully retrospective. This past week, I have poured over a large collection of photo album-scrapbooks which chronicle my entire painting journey. The earliest photos present me as a young black-haired man... hardly begun the "toddler stage." That voyage progresses and emerges page by page... ever so slowly into what I have finally become - a painter.

A part of my self-education involved studying and at first imitating a host of other artists that I admired. That journey also involved much travel and painting across the entire breadth of Canada and much of western Europe. I studied in Venice, Italy for eight weeks in the 1980's. It was then that I was brought face -to-face with the inescapable truth about "what was"... and "what wasn't" ... an artist.

As I stood at the foot of Michelangelo's twenty-five foot monolithic marble masterpiece of David... I wept, partly out of of awe... but as well with some genuine sadness. "I"... realized for the first time. that I really played with crayons in comparison to this genius before me. That view was further consolidated by viewing the copious works of other vastly superior artists as I moved from city to city...  through church after church... villa after villa to contemporary artisan workshops. I had so much further to go... and perhaps, in my full lifetime... I might never really fully arrive and claim this distinction for myself.

In humble truth... today I am still voyaging. I have yet to arrive. But... "I" am more at peace with myself about these thoughts... simply because... in looking back over those pages... I see a much different man, inside and out. I find immense joy in seeing that my initial painting goals and motives are virtually unchanged. Though the thickness and color of my hair have indeed changed... the fire and youth in my soul has remained intact.

"I" am grateful... and deeply blessed to have discovered my....authentic self. At this stage in my journey, I continue, as I always have... to paint what I love and feel is important to me and others. I have developed a few voices which I choose to use intermittently to convey a certain feeling or view of my world.

As I move forward... painting by painting towards the rapidly approaching March 15th deadline.. I am trying to 'shift gears'... to create paintings that are much more than 'pretty pictures'. I truly hope that as a body of my thoughts... they will inspire and offer others the pure joy and pleasure that I have been fortunate to enjoy in making them. I hope that they encourage thought about the wonder and beauty of the Natural World we have been given.

In closing out today's post... though my entire lifetime body of works do indeed openly and unabashedly exhibit limitations and areas needing much improvement and further attention, I can readily admit that in all cases... they contain "Imprecise truths... inspired by reality." That is... they found their genesis in my observations and experiences in the outdoor world. They are mine to claim... good or bad, I have been blessed to have been able to pursue this journey in good company and health.

I am pleased to note that Whitney concurs:

"Create the beautiful lie."

"Photos transcribe, when paintings translate."

If you see worth in my work and words... then you indeed do... "have an explicit road map." Use it as you will to guide your own heart and hand. That will please me greatly!

Good Painting... and travellin'... to ALL!

This 16 x 20 inch plein air canvas was painted on an unusually hot September afternoon. I feel it accurately captures the rich warmth of early fall color and "hotness" of the day that I felt in the process of painting it.

While passing by the same scene on another day... in another season, I found myself drawn  to photograph it... lest I forget to return. It presented another entirely different reason to paint it.

Later in the same week, I hustled over with a small 8 x 10 inch panel and dashed down this "run-for-the-sun" quickie sketch... which I later felt might become a larger painting... with some added lighting to add drama

This past week, I returned to the smaller sketch while searching out a suitable subject to relieve the week of tight painting that I had worked through to complete the Delta Mill piece. I had hoped to get out into the field to paint... but the temperature hovered below -24*C for three days and gusting high winds driving the wind chill into the very low -30's. Not only foolhardy... but dangerous to go out into.

I painted this 20 x 24 inch canvas in just over three hours... start to finish on the same day. It is painted in a completely alla prima style... looking for impasto texture and painterly brushwork to carry the day. I feel that it replicates a full plein air experience and product. Imagination draws upon many hours and treks out into the outdoors. That cannot be accomplished using photos or working primarily from digital photos. One acquires the feel and the knowledge gained form the great teacher... Nature herself to work in this fashion!