Sunday, June 21, 2015

Shades of Meaning

It is indeed strange as I look back over my life, how closely my journey has imitated the very process that we as artists employ in creating our paintings. The term shade, in painting usually refers to the amount of darkness, or absence of light in colour choices. The increase or lessening of colour by degrees. But by dictionary usage and definition the term can also be used to describe less than honest or entirely legal dealings, or places out of direct sunlight.... indeed shades of meaning

During the earlier course of my journey, I had been socially conditioned to believe that Life... and Truth were simply measured either in black or white. In my mind, I had (mistakenly) been led to believe that there were no grey areas... areas that were neither black or white. This system of belief and practice led me to become an individual suffering greatly from a too large dose of (in my therapist's words)... "self-righteous indignation." Such a position made me too critical of the opinions and practices of those around me... and such an outlook... has more often been more crippling to my own growth than theirs. I continue to work on my achilles... daily.

In Life ... as in painting... black n' white will continue to always play a significant and necessary role in determining positive outcomes for us. In my own painting process... the concentration of black (dark) in conjunction with the white (light) determines my main subject of interest. It is my usual habit... particularly when painting en plein air to establish this area first. I do so because lighting changes so rapidly and that often is what I'm chasing.

However... I have come to realize that this important area of central focus is wholly dependent upon the harmony created by the grey, or middle value areas... which combine to form roughly seventy-five per cent of the entire picture plane. The same holds true... I have discovered... holds true as well for both Life and Truth. This realization and a conscious effort to work with that reality has resulted in a more peaceful and less stressful journey for "Me"... and those loved ones who travel in parallel journeys with me.
"Still waters...."

I delivered the small oil sketch "Lilac Liturgy, Barriefield Village" to Allison. She was over the moon with it... as were Deb and Joan. Allison felt that it signified a very significant shift in my working method... as did Deb. All three commented that they would really like to see me push forward with my next works in a similar fashion. That would be easy really because you see... "I" was simply playing. Trying hard to leave in the background, the recent fear and deepening sadness that had quite literally paralyzed me and stopped my painting rituals.

Interpreting... "Imagineering" and Applying the term "Shades of Meaning"

As is my customary strategy to determine "what" I paint, I walked about my village and ended up... as I often do at St Brendan's Roman Catholic Church. It sits prominently perched high overlooking Rockport Harbour overlooking a vast vista of the Islands and the River that I so cherish. It is a refuge for me... though I am not at all catholic... or anything else by religious pedigree. I do share the same God and His Creation.. in this Manitouana / Eden - First People's name for "Garden of the Gods". It is indeed that!

I decided to research my vast digital library for reference ideas with which I could begin my next painting... "St Brendan's Church". I found a particularly interesting fall image, one that I felt that offered enough new colour challenges so that I didn't come up with yet another "Basking in Summer" rendition from two summers ago.

I decided to bring up the table top set up I had made from the downstairs studio, so that I could paint and manage the Gallery while Deb was away at a meeting for the day. It had a plein air feel to it too... so that added further incentive - and great light!

I sat looking at the white 10 x12 inch canvas for quite a long while... again "playing" with ideas that came and went until at last... I placed the canvas in a vertical format to address the height of the church with its central steeple and bell tower. I decided to begin the exercise purely in between black and white... using a mars black acrylic on top of the stark white of the canvas.

I simply painted the areas of the photo reference that appeared dark a solid black this left me with patterns of black  scattered across the picture plane.

This is my comfortable table top set up... it sure does make painting a breeze either here in the gallery or inside at my computer station.

Stage One - This is a closeup of the first blocking in stage... which took less than five minutes because I let the paint and brush do what they wished... an intuitive and indirect approach contrary to one which dictates accuracy. I really didn't know where this segue would lead.

Stage Two - I decided to use a mid grey acrylic pigment to fill in white areas that seemed to be in 
middle values and I purposely allowed the grey and black to run together. I created very transparent mixtures of grey wash and applied them lightly to the sky and white clapboard areas of the church structure What resulted was basically a notan sketch... or grisaille painting in shades of black.

Stage Three - During this stage, I gingerly began adding rock structure using short, dash-like brushstrokes in the most common colour depicted in the rocks in the reference photo. I then added very dark green areas where they appeared in the rock face, water and in the tree areas in the upper left and right. I added some darkened values to the roof of the church. I dashed in a slash of blue sky and introduced some white into the (imagined) cloud areas. 

I then added in the red sumac foliage in a purely summary fashion... along with golds and yellows in the tree areas. Finally... having reached a point where the entire canvas was covered, I took a break for lunch and went away from the painting entirely. That break actually was carried over until the next morning to avoid getting caught up in the unwanted addition extraneous detail.

Closing Act - I promised myself that I would resist any attempt to overwork the piece and in so doing lose the fresh and painterly look that I had earlier tried to achieve by taking a previously untravelled path. I added slightly higher and brighter accents to my reds and greens. I closed out the activity with a few slashes of sky reflection in the very dark water passage and a few choice sky holes in the foliage to add depth and interest. Last addition was the much-photographed statue "Queen of Peace" lovingly holding the baby Jesus... located centrally beside the entrance door to the church. It is but a few strokes... but is present.

A final comparison to the reference above... and the finished piece in isolation below. Mission accomplished. A fun day of purely playing that pushed me further away from the "blackness" that threatened and had put my creative spirit/ soul "in the shade".... out of the Light that is so necessary and precious to finding and maintaining peace and happiness.

 I think that the Faith and Hope that I placed in using this technique to create new meaning for my painting through a slightly different perspective serves to underscore as well... that Darkness, in whatever form it may take in our lives... can be overcome simply through Faith. NO... not "blind faith", as some refer to it. Capital "F" Faith - a strongly held Faith and communion between  a Higher Power... and one's Self.  I activate and meditate every morning at 5:00 am... not just to ask for... but to offer thanks for the copious blessings that I have received here in my Manitouana.

"Hope is not a way around things... it' s a way through things. "We"... are making our way as a family through this period of mutual darkness hand in hand... heart beside heart. I will continue to paint and post regularly. That was Allison's wish and I will honour that. "Art Matters!"

Here is the the unusual source revealed by the Universe which triggered the substance of this post...
and this painting.

"Say what you mean.... Mean what you say! HA HA!

                               River Blessings, St Brendan's Church, Rockport in Autumn'
"Oil on canvas- 12 x 10 inches

In closing..."Keep smiling!"An appropriate phrase on which to end this post. It was a phrase on a card that was tackboard in my Dad's "Inner Sanctum". Thank you for the many blessings that you brought into my life during our time together.  I miss"You" Dad... but you are with "Me"... always!

Happy Father's Day up there!

Happy Painting... and Father's day!... to ALL... of my blogging men Friends!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Self-administered CPR... Creative Paralysis Resuscitation

This is the most difficult writing task that I have ever undertaken. It arrives "out of the blue" really... because for two weeks and a bit, I really believed that I had no ability or further desire to either write... or paint. To put is quite succinctly, I found myself overwhelmed and in a complete state of emotional and creative disarray. The worst part of this situation was that the cause lay beyond my own physical ability to rally my own forces and interior resolve to deal with this upheaval. It came from without... suddenly and without warning.

Allison appeared with her Mom at our home in Rockport and I could tell immediately from their faces and body language that something terrible was shared by them both. It was only when my wee Allison fell into my arms and blurted,,, " I have breast cancer Dad and I"m so scared." With those eight utterly devastating words... our lives have changed beyond belief... both for Now and forever. For the treacherous shadow of that dreaded "c" word has perched on each of our shoulders and has taken us away from a now faraway life of taken-for-granted health and mortal safety.

 Our Family is a strong and unusually loving one... as I have always related in my open and often too personal posts. At this point of writing... we have as a family unit moved somewhat quickly through the initial stages of fear... grief and anger. These are necessary emotional human responses... but must not be embraced wholly for any length of time. Time is more precious than ever now... and the use of it a major factor in striking back quickly with a capable medical team and a battle plan... which we are greatly blessed to have in place already.

Tests were rapidly sped up and showed positive and encouraging results... in-service workshops have been attended by Allie, Joan and I to create personal knowledge and understanding of the disease... and its path of treatment. We have already successfully passed through the first chemotherapy treatment ... together... which will be the format for all other necessary treatments. Deb keeps the fort here at the Gallery. "We"are... a committed Family in every respect.... and like the Musketeers... "We are all for one... and one for all !"

Needless to say... this insidious situation has created far-reaching effects and implications. For me personally... "I" have suffered creative "arrest." This paralysis hearkens back to a very dark and destructive time in my own past. I have rarely been visited by it since that period now twenty odd years passed. In reflecting upon this very problem each morning during my 5:00 am meditation-prayer sunrise ritual... I formed a pact to use the strategy which freed me and returned me to the path of healing "way back when". I must paint!

Yesterday... I set up my tabletop set up in the Gallery and set to work on a small 8x10 inch canvas... a replica of one which I had earlier gifted to Allison/ She had asked me weeks ago if I might consider doing a small copy of this painting for a good friend of hers who admired it every time that she came to the house. Her husband had very recently passed away from cancer and Allie felt it might give her a lift. I rarely... if ever wish to paint a subject a second time... and never exactly the same.

This three pronged reason to paint "resuscitated"... and fueled me to get back into the saddle. I was painting for my Self... for Allie and for her friend. The subject was a place near our home where Allison, Andrew and I went to paint together when they were very young children. It is a lovely stone church in historic Barriefield Village... an idyllic place to paint... heightened by the intense lilac perfume which comes from the walls of lilac that bloom in May along the full length of "Lilac Row".

 I hesitated to post to protect Allie's privacy... but she insisted that I keep posting because it was something that I contributed to the lives of so may blogging artist friends. One of her own friends Jill had posted on Face Book two days ago... a message of tribute and support for Allison Sherman. It literally went viral overnight... and to my knowledge (though I do not have a face Book connection) has raised over $6000 to help alleviate any extra expenses that she might face because of her financially precarious adjunct professorship status at Queen's University - such a travesty for such a generous... dedicated and respected young woman scholar!

If you felt inclined... I would be greatly honoured if you might at least visit and read the tribute to Allison... and the comments that have been accompanied by generosity. This magnificent gesture lends ample proof to my earlier words and continuing belief that;

" Family ... Friends... Children and Art matter!"

I would as well appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our family. Sorry for the delay in posting... but life can... and does get in the way! First things first.

"I" love "You"... forever Allison... and am with "You" ... ALWAYS!

That means Family and Friends for "Me"!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!!

Original 20 x 24 inch canvas

"Lilac Liturgy" (copy) oil on canvas 8 x 10 inches