Monday, August 31, 2015

BIG Brushes... Let the Dance Begin! - Part Two

While a full sheet of white plywood... glistening in the morning light and gaping back at you blankly does indeed leave one feeling a bit overwhelmed at the onset, there is a certain sense of excitement when there exist such a large space to work on. The planning adds substantial comfort as well. All that remains is to jump into the fray using that plan to execute... and the most joy for me... is that the attack will involve bigger brushes and strokes throughout the entire first stage... the lay in.

The first stage was to transfer the grid design from the smaller paper format to the four by eight plywood sheet. That done... I quickly added a very rough addition of the compositional elements in pencil... just to make sure that the composition was balanced. I quickly jumped into laying down an acrylic burnt sienna "hardening" of the pencil mapping to allow me a confident visual pathway to begin applying the first acrylic pigment in the painting process.

These are the instruments of joy... making big strokes that quickly cover eliminate that white blur... consolidating one's inner landscape vision without pressure or a plodding pace. It is indeed a form of dance for me personally - pure freedom of the eye ... hand and heart in unison.

Day One - Mapping

One can feel secure at this very juncture in the process... that a landscape does indeed now exist... even at this early stage. Passing visitors... some who know the islands well could identify the scene even from this rough beginning. If you look closely, you can see a very slight wash of transparent burnt sienna even tints the white sky area. This will help get rid of the distracting glare which direct sunlight on the piece creates later in the morning. 

This mapping exercise required less than fifteen minutes to pout in place. I allowed it to dry the rest of the day and overnight. This allowed me to look at at correct areas that seemed incorrect before I began laying in pigment washes.

First Layers of Paint

This jpeg reveals the first session, lasting about an hour during which I quickly washed in transparent layers of pigment... tinting the drawing sufficiently enough to reveal a definite direction for fuller colour and light. It is still very much unfinished... but it surely adds one a vantage point to judge the next phase. 

I left it to dry completely overnight... and again to sit and look at it more closely later in the day when onlookers would not be about. Having people watch has never bothered me. But because the acrylics dry so very quickly in the summer warmth... it is imperative to work quickly and without delay in an attempt to preserve precious and costly palettes of paint. Some folks are unaware of that fact and want to discuss. I politely set down the ground rules and describe my problem... in the hoipes that they understand my dilemma. A deaf ear works... if they persist.

A Trap Avoided

My progress in reaching this stage so quickly so encouraged me that it led me to quickly into complacency. I had become carried away dangerously... by the sirens of my inner creative spirit. I was so overcome by my "achievement" that I had lost hold of my rudder of reality. I had launched into that empty void of white space confidently... but too cockily. 

But a passing conversation with a friend builder Chris... who knows Zavicon intimately brought me crashing back to earth... feeling crest-fallen. Chris is a puckish and playful,, but knowledgeable "man-about-the-river.. or "River Rat" who loves to wordsmith and "play" in conversation. Rather than the expected pat on the back.. he quizzically offered, "What are you painting today Bruce?" It was his sly way of gently inferring... "That's not the Zavicon I know. You're off base friend!"

I immediately came back to the house and went through the numerous references from every angle that I had taken. Here again, multiple references though not used primarily can provide useful information and tools for understanding the subject that is hidden in the chosen viewing point.

The problem was the actual main house. I had misread... and misinterpreted what was hidden by the pine trees. I had read roof extension to the right... rather than double dormers one above the other an that bit into the interior rather than just out as is usual and a screened sun porch that bit into the interior of the house rather than jut out as is the usual case. "See.... don't look!"... I had broken one of my own rues of practice.

Here is the corrected version (which Chris chucked at)... and gave two thumbs up!

THis jpeg captures the changes made... the final lay in... thanks Chris!... and the first day of the fine tuning and adding of detail. Now the real fun and joy arrives. I will try to control the smaller brushwork... to maintain the present loose and "painterly" appearance of the piece.

A great way to send August on its way. A final extra glance back (from ashore) offered by this mural... to departing summer island folk... at their "Island Heritage."

I am greatly blessed...

Stray tuned for the finale later in the week. I hope to wrap it all up by week's end. Fingers crossed for the good weather that is forecast.

Good Painting!!... to All!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Big Brushes... and a BIG Challenge... Preparatory Procedures - Part One

August has been a whirlwind of activity... a mix of gallery business and emotional issues for me and the rest of my extended family. At one point , I felt entirely overwhelmed by life... even paralyzed to such an extent that painting seemed impossible for me to consider. However, that seems to have passed... but not without a strong effort and vital support and constant encouragement from Deb.

It feels comfortable to be painting regularly again. My painting has always been a stabilizing force in my life... a reward to look forward to when life seems to close in around me... as it does for us all at certain times. I have discovered early on in  my journey... and the hard way... not to let my painting regimen get sidetracked for too long. Coming back and regaining one's palette and confidence is a HUGE obstacle to rise above... if left for too long an inactive period.

I have gotten back into full stride using smaller sketches to tune up... working in the gallery and en plein air as time would permit. These smaller works as well allowed me to wrap my head around the the planning process that larger works demand. In particular... these exercises prepared me to step into a much larger project than I have dealt with for a very long time. This post will introduce my latest challenge - a four x 8 foot mini mural which is currently underway... and at the lay in stage of finish.

The Andress Mural Project

I certainly DO NOT prefer to paint commissions... and avoid them wherever possible like the plague. Usually... they involve another person's vision... "Idea" and often that vision fails to inspire me enough to embrace the task with the creative spirit and open mind that should be a part of one's painting. I have learned from experience... to pass on commissions which do not fit. They end up being difficult from start to finish... and endurance rather than a pleasure.

I agreed to "do this favor" for a friend and in accepting, I retained the right to determine subject matter and timing. The only cost to my friend will be the material costs. My payment becomes the opportunity to leave behind a lasting part of work to share clearly my gratitude for being blessed to return to the origin of my creative journey.

Choosing the Subject

I chose Zavicon Island, once known as Woolrich Island because it was the summer retreat for executive members of  the Woolrich Woolen Mills. It has been tied to a myth created by tricky tour boat guides that the small bridge joining the two neighbouring islands is the smallest international bridge in the world. Not so... because both islands lie a full 200 meters inside Canadian waters. But it is a part of the local lore.

I chose the subject because it is a pivotal location for all tours... no matter where they begin on either side of the river and because the panorama includes Pine Island... home of the Keats family. They and other "summer folk" who use Andress Boat Works for seasonal docking will pass this landmark every year that they head out to their retreats. The two classic wooden boats portrayed were constructed by Ed Andress adjacent to the mural's present and final location. Very fitting!

Creating the Compositional Template

Tim Dennison took me out in The Andress Boat Works water taxi to gather digital reference material to help me build a compositional structure for the large-scale painting. I took many pictures from various vantage points... but as is always the case on water, positioning is only temporary and "iffy" with wind... drift and wave motion. No photograph really totally fitted the bill by itself... so I used a "cut n' paste" strategy to create a virtual image close enough to reality to allow me to construct an initial sketch to begin building the final composition.

A head on shot of Zavicon Island and its mythical "international" foot bridge... the primary element and landscape for the painting

Add the Heritage Islander classic wooden tour boat of the forties thru' sixties... built by Ed Andress

A Saint Lawrence Skiff reference (borrowed) from an earlier painting "Island Belles... also built by Ed Andress

Here is a photographic montage created to give me the necessary reference which defines the composition that I wish to portray. It is hardly "reality"... but it does embrace a golden age on the Saint Lawrence... that is sadly disappearing.

Here is a roughly constructed working drawing... scaled to the 4x8 foot format for the composition. It is intended to roughly give me the penciled in positioning for the elements on the larger marine sheet of plywood. This gridding would then be used as a guide on the plywood itself once it was prepared to receive paint.

Preparing the 3/4 inch Marine Plywood Sheet For Painting 

The plywood sheet was first coated with two rolled on coats of Zinser... a construction grade white shellac based primer often used to repair smoke damaged surfaces and walls. IT has very dense covering qualities and repulses moisture absorption.

That followed with two coats of artist grade gesso brushed on thoroughly and left to dry for a couple of days. The edges were treated with the same two primers to reduce passage of moisture through the laminates... which are the achilles for plywood. I then coated the edges with clear outdoor silicone sealant as an added barrier to moisture absorption. The panel was ready for the painting process to begin.

Bear with me... preliminary planning and set up are lengthy... but absolutely necessary steps that must be carried out carefully to insure that the painting surface will withstand the rigours of being outdoors in weather and subject to UV degradation if not properly protected.

The painting is currently completed to the lay in that Part Two will speed up the tempo of the actual painting process. I am very encouraged by the progress... as are others who stop by to watch me at work over the past three days.

Stay tuned....

Good Painting!... to ALL

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Morning glory... What's your story?"

A Garden Tale

I paused this morning as I passed alongside our lane side garden... now on its annual August descent out of bloom. Gone for another summer season are the the bright masses of day lily grandeur and colour... as are the daisy clumps and many other familiar summer faces. Their absence reminds me... along with the later sunrise that summer is waning quickly.

I am grateful though... for the unusual warmth of the River in August. More swimming time remains. I am grateful too for the wistfully vibrato call of loons that greet me each morning - excitedly talking long distance to each other up and down the still waters of the dawn. It is comforting in a bittersweet sort of way and reminds me... along with the human farewells that repeat each morning at Andress's dock... that Summer 2015 is drawing to a close.

I notice for the first time that ringlets of purple morning glories curl their way up ... along and through the entire garden and trellis... now abandoned by spent summer clematis. This morning, they truly do live up to the glory in their name. I paused for several minutes to examine more closely their previously unnoticed beauty. They now completely dominated the garden... along with their towering bluebell neighbours... offering solace and awe in the same breath.

I returned to the house and grabbed my camera to record these shots to share with you. I would paint them... in their rich purple robes were it remotely possible. But the camera records their truth best I think.

                                                                  Either horizontally...

.... or vertically

Their Friendly and unexpected purple presence resulted in these thoughts that I would like to share as well. The first line derives from a popular song:

Morning Glory... what's your story?
Why did you wait this long to trumpet your garden song?
You choose to take the stage unheralded.
Well behind the grand pageantry that summer warmth extols.

What is it in the cool of August nights and morns
That coaxes you from hiding and into the rapidly diminishing summer light?
Do you as I... seek morning solitude alone... to stretch our wings... to think and grow
When others choose to sleep?

I wonder what makes us so... what stirs our hearts
To seek out silence and a private space.
It is here... I think... in His Creation and alone... clinging to Him, 
That we truly know... and understand our place.

A Second Garden Tale

I had spoken earlier in the week to my long time Friend Frank Edwards to arrange another painting trek to add to our forty year plein air adventures. We decided to head out again to the nearby quaint village of Lyndhurst  to paint some more village subjects there.

We took many pictures there... but somehow we decided to try somewhere new WE headed further north into Rideau country... ending up finally in the pretty village of Newboro... located on the historic Rideau Canal. We had lunch first and then set to choosing a subject that appealed to us. We weren't long settling on a quiet side street with many historic homes with their gardens. Both of us chose to set up "side-by-each" and to paint... a garden.

Without further ado... I offer the jpeg of my view... and my impression. It was another occasion when I felt as "one" with Creation... even though on this occasion, I had company. What more does Life offer than the beauty of Creation... and a true Friend to share it with. Thanks Frank!

"Afternoon Delight, Newboro" - oil on birch cradle board panel 10x8 inches  SOLD

Admittedly... the result is a lot of dabs and dobs... too small a format. But I do like the light created and the simplification of forms within the composition. And to boot... we shared a great day together... "out there".

Enjoy what's left of your summer... wherever you are... and

Good Painting!... to ALL!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

'Channelling'... and 'Head Games'

Today's post is dedicated to my dear Mom... who would have been 99 years tomorrow. It was her ever-present creative spirit which lit our family holiday festivities... provided sumptuous meals from  a small budget for so many festive tables. It was her her tireless hands that knitted... crocheted... darned and patched much-used and abused children's clothing.

She was the crucible in which my own creative pursuits were shaped and molded. Without her constant encouragement... this post and my paintings would not likely have become reality. I thank you Mom for your many gifts and sacrifices. My work is dedicated to your own artistic excellence.

"I"...  love "You"... forever!

The title for today's post came to mind as I sat on the dock watching morning arrive earlier in the week. The sight of the islands clustered before me... Yeo... Cleopatra... Pine... Mary... Wellesley... Zavicon and Club conjured up sweet memories that stretched back to the youth of my life. From those memories flowed virtual images seen and captured... memories from many years ago that  continue to linger in detail as freshly and vividly as the days that they were first recorded.

It struck me that these personal zen moments resembled the spiritual practice of using a medium to guide awareness of something or someone beyond actual reality. The events and places themselves surely are reality-based, but in the present time they have morphed beyond the realm of reality. I would say that they have transformed their "being" into a paradoxical... and almost metaphysical plane of "not being".

Confusing as it is to contemplate... these landscapes of the mind are both tangible to one's psyche and faculty of memory... yet at the same time are intangible to other physically driven senses such as touch and sight. Strange...

"Channelling"... a second meaning

Further thinking led me to a second meaning for the term channelling. The eighteen hundred plus granite islands that make up the Thousand Islands archipelago are separated by a maze of channels of swiftly running water. Though most are not navigable by the large tour boats which carry the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors... all can be travelled by smaller craft... such as my canoe.

My son Andrew and I traversed as many of these as we possibly could in the six annual canoe trips we shared together. Whenever I return to these... magical memories of those moments flood back to me. And now... they continue to bring forward those endless summer days of August.

"Head Games... "

The term "head games" (as it is used in normal conversation) does not carry with it an admirable image.  It conjures up an image of deceit... lack of clarity... or worse... sincerity and manipulation. My take on "head games" is to rely totally upon my memory recall totally as a device to recreate a "mindscape". I used no reference whatsoever... but selected two very strong river elements/subjects to see if I could establish something close to the original physical landscape.

In the process ... I quickly discovered a very pleasing painting rhythm... one which allowed a fuller sense of freedom and brushwork. I totally got into "the Flow" and finished lay in rapidly. I jumped eagerly into the finishing part buoyed up by the success in establishing what I felt was a reasonable facsimile of the physical scene... as I remembered it anyway.

I really pulled things together with the inclusion of the ever-present foamy trail that wind and water movement leave in each of the water channels. Its serpentine reality... which I always take pleasure in watching... and adding a compositional flourish really provided the exclamation point to draw the paintings to a pleasurable conclusion.

I'll leave you to be the judge of the final result. But I'd like to add in closing out the post... that both were created in the studio.... BUT... that they drew on an inner spirit and memory that has its origin... en plein air. In true fact, they are a fusion of reality... memory and my imagination... one dependent upon the other to create.

A valuable exercise to refuel my interest and drive to paint. Might be a useful tool for others... or perhaps you already play the "head game" yourself. Just a thought...

"Islesview" - oil on canvas 8x10 inches

Here is the actual setting... in another season and weather condition. Note the lower water... revealing the shoal between the two isles... and the rich fall colour... despite greyness of the day. Note too... the more distant shore in my mindscape. Nothing wrong with that interpretation... accentuates a deeper sense of space. The title "Islesview"?... The name of our Rockport home.

"Inside Island 99 and Bodine's Place" - oil on canvas 8x10 inches

Here is the only digital reference that I could find in older files. One would have to swing further out into the water to get the actual view up the channel, but you can easily see the compositional markers... minus the boats.

Oh yes... and the double entendre can be continued one step further. "Channelling and Head" games need not at all be limited to water only. It can apply to activities and events on land as well... especially at this particular time of year.

How very appropriate in this grain harvest painting. The channels of straw left by the harvester and the patterns of fields... willy-nilly on the landscape certainly create this effect. The "idea" for this one came from a casual glance at an August calendar page while in at Neil Brothers Garage in Lansdowne. At the easel, I made no attempt to replicate the page... just memory passages recording its essence as it seemed to apply to this post.

Ideas are limited... only by one's own imagination... vision and willingness to search.

"A Pause in the Harvest" - oil on canvas 8x10 inches   SOLD

This mental gymnastics exercise served as a good limbering up exercise for my next... BIG... project... just gotten under way... en plein air across the street at Andress Boat works. It involves application of some of the thinking brought forward in this project. But is a different challenge - using acrylics. I use acrylics occasionally... mostly for under painting. I hardly ever use them for a complete painting project. Oils continue to be my medium of choice.

The creative strength and energy for me lies in my passion for the subject matter. Though it is a panoramic landscape, its essence revolves around the iconic Zavicon Island... or Woolrich Island as it was earlier known when it was owned by the Woolrich Woolen Mill. I will leave further details until later... as I proceed through the mural project.

Stay tuned...

Good Painting...  and a happy ending to Summer... to ALL!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"August... on My Mind"... Again

"August on my Mind" - oil on canvas

I had been writing another art... intending to have it in the finished slot before today. However... life again seemed to get in the way and drew me away from the task... so this evening's post will preempt the other.

The above still life painting was created as a joint tribute to both of my parents and their August birthdays. August was a "high" holiday in the Sherman family calendar. Year after year... we met to celebrate as a family at our summer cottage home at the Narrow's... not far from where I currently reside here in Rockport.

The painting is in fact an August cornucopia of wildflowers... fruit and corn... all favourites on our cottage celebratory menu and table. Those foods still rank high on my own list still today. I had  two ears of corn this evening to continue the tradition.

We were blessed top share the afternoon with Allison and her Mom Joan... first chatting on the patio with refreshments and catch up chit-chatting. We remain good friends and operate as a full family unit. Life should be about about redemption... forgiveness... and growing up. I am blessed to have all of my family together.... especially in the face of Allison's unexpected health issue and crisis.

Allie is doing well. She will reach the halfway point in her final round of four chemo treatments. She has maintained a powerful sense of control and optimism... fortified by her wonderful sense of humour and intellect. She makes it so much easier for the rest of us to fall into line to follow her lead. We swam together in the River today. It was so refreshing and uplifting. Revitalizing is more likely a better word to describe the feeling we both shared after our half hour plunge and paddle.

Today... my Dad would have celebrated his 103rd birthday. It seems impossible to me. His image as I last knew him remains forever indelible in my memory... as if frozen in the Present as it advances. He was a much more than a Father to me. He was a mentor... advocate... enabler and role model. It gives me such a great sense of peace... contentment and pride when people continue to say that I look and act like him. That is the highest of compliments!

Here he is at the piano keyboard at around the same age of my own son Andrew.... Allison's younger brother. Andrew is a physical knock off for sure to prove that genes do get passed along.

Dad's exceptional musicianship gained him respect across Eastern Ontario and lasted for over his sixty year musical career. He played in an era where true musicianship was valued.. in the "Big Bands" that he played with in dance pavilions around Ontario.

Mom kept the home fires burning while dad made his music. Their contributions to our family both contained music. Mom taught us hymns and children's music. We never were without music in our home... cottage... or in the car when we travelled about. I think that they would be pleased to know that their children and grandchildren still carry the gift of their music... and share it forward.

I will end tonight's tribute to my beautiful parents with a favourite painting... again dedicated to them both. The card title truly says it all for me:

"Thank You... for the Music"

Happy Birthday Mom and Dad... and thank you both for the gift of Life and the Joy you both created for "Me"!

I love you BOTH... Forever!         Rest in Peace!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Painting Simply... or Simply Painting

"Inspiration exists... but it has to find you working."

Thank you to Pablo Picasso... and "Linda's Peaceful Place" blog"

Looking Back...

A line I will repeat lifted from my last post... "a fusion of influences" alludes to the truth that I am open to be constantly engaged in the active pursuit of new "Ideas" and directions to improve my Art. One "Idea" often becomes the wellspring... or source for a series of related thoughts, or "possibilities.''

On a level directed towards looking purely at creative pursuit,"River Dance"... the painting whispers quietly an homage to Canadian painters Emily Carr and Lawren Harris. Hopefully... it as well speaks graphically, or infuses my own painting idiom into the final painting. Though the marriage of these dramatically different stylisms can admittedly be confusing to the viewer, the tension created summons up further looking and wondering. I feel this end justifies their inclusion together on one canvas.

Facing today...
On a purely personal level, I am weighing in today to discuss how daily Life issues intervene intermittently in all of our lives... and either distract... impede or stall creative pursuit. Emotion does contravene routine and emotional readiness. Quite frankly... it simply paralyses the creative spirit within.

This has been very much my pathway since Allison was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like every member of her family and large circle of friends and students... I too, have been struggling with a variety of emotions... defining / balancing of duties to be able to be a part of the support team. I have had to set painting aside just to allow my Self space to think clearly and respond productively.

In the course of needing to do so... I found myself restless and directionless ... even unusually sullen and angry. I roamed about doing purpose-less chores... just to keep my mind busy. Deb brought this to my attention (thoughtfully)... and suggested that I should just get "out there" - Go painting!

I decided to move forward with her suggestion. This tactic had long ago helped me recover balance ... ritual and purpose in my troubled state at that time. However.... I had left painting for far too long and the pathway back was not an easy one. I had to try to drag along self-esteem in tandem with refreshing my painting "vocabulary" in order to regain my creative momentum an confidence. I have never let it be interrupted to that degree since.

I called my longtime painting pal Frank Edwards and he was up for an outing as well... so we set sail for an adventure... just like "the good ol' days" that now stretch back nearly forty years. I suggested a trip north away from the river... just for a change of diet... and we landed in the small rural hamlet of Lyndhurst... perched on Upper Beverley Lake.

We stopped at centrally located Furnace Falls Park in the heart of the smallish down town area and immediately found ample painting material... and shade to suit both our differing interests and needs.
I set up right beside the three span stone bridge... itself an intriguing subject... one that we both had tackled before many years earlier. But I was looking for simplicity... and a subject that varied from the usual in structure.

This subject... a grouping of local residences across the creek... seemingly embraced by the wreath of trees appealed to me right away and I dived into the vertical subject without hesitation. It was one of those rare days and a  subject... that sort of "paints itself... while I just hold the brush." The painting is photographed exactly as it came from the field. I merely added the signature to declare it finished.

"Lyndhurst.. Through Summer's Looking Glass" - oil on canvas 12x10 inches

My second canvas was an earlier attempt to regain my footing while attending business in the Gallery at my desk top setup. I worked from a digital image that I had always liked and would have much preferred to have just returned to the site in the village of Morton. But timing, and my mood were not cooperating... so I decided to forge ahead in the studio atmosphere. Too many distractions and interruptions took me away from "the Flow".You all know that feeling as well... I'm sure.

The painting simply hung about and each return to it created new problems. It was going nowhere really and I was becoming very discouraged. Fortunately... my trip with Frank (at Deb's kind urging) has me back in the saddle again. I finished the painting and here it is ... signed! You know what that means. The fat lady has already sung... and left the building! HA HA! 

"Summer... Slow and Easy in Morton" - oil on canvas 10x12 inches

Onward! Stay tuned...

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