Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Signed... Sealed... and Delivered!

Today I completed the four by eight foot mural project. It has been an arduous undertaking... with many new challenges, but it was a wonderful learning experience. Working solely in acrylics... in such a large scale format proved to be my biggest challenge. It actually almost became my achilles - literally!

In the early lay in stages, I was forced to work very broadly and rapidly because the deep humidity dried the pigment as fast as I laid it down. It offered me little or no opportunity to blend colours in broad transparent washes in the lower part of the surface, as is my customary approach when painting in oils. My lower and downward painting posture using these big arm motions created great tension in my neck and shoulders... and I paid for that decision.

My decision to work more on the sky portion and the Zavikon Island building elements immediately resolved the problem... and the painting moved along quickly. I had enough of the lower half partially in place to give me a solid sense of where I wanted the painting to move towards in finishing.  I decided to paint here and there in varying places... without finishing any one area completely. I feel that this strategy allowed me to preserve harmony of colour and values as I moved forward.

Here is a three stage development of the girl and her skiff in the foreground as it developed using the "spotting method".

Simple transparent washes to just establish its presence in the overall composition

In this overview... the skiff shows more correct colour and delineation of detail as does the girl... but still not yet arrived at the detail level I wanted to have in the immediate foreground.
Here is the final stage of the mural... just a few licks to be made to tie together edges and correct a few values here and there. But it is for the most part... in the bucket... finished. It's signed. 

To me that says....  STOP!

"River Heritage -  acrylic on canvas four by eight feet on primed marine plywood.

I will let the painting surface completely dry for about a week and hopefully we will have one nice warm fall day to apply the three UV protection varnish coats to seal it completely and prepare it for outside display next season.

I will be off tomorrow to be present for Allison's lymph node surgery. She is in wonderfully high spirits and has assumed her normal teaching load. Deb and I attended her lecture last Thursday evening... it was purely magical! On Saturday I will walk with her Breast Cancer walk team... The Shermanators"... ten of her art history students. I have managed to earn pledges of over $800.00 for the cause... I'll likely need $100 of it for liniment after the walk! HA HA!!

I will be able to fully dedicate my work to fall painting outdoors beginning next week. Looking forward to the Pageant very much!

Stay tuned....

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Silenced the Singer... But Not His Song

T'is with a saddened heart that I write to you this evening. Our family has lost a very valued friend... one who was introduced into our lives and family by my then wee son Andrew. Michael Burgess, the iconic Canadian tenor who portrayed Jean Valjeans in the Canadian stage production of Les Miserables passed away, taken from us too soon by nasal cancer.

I cannot recount how many times I went to  my son's bedroom night to say our "nightie-nights"... to be met at the top of the stairs by two voices singing songs from Les Miz. That love affair carried us to the Pantages Theatre in  Toronto for three performances... two by Colm Wilkinson and one with Micheal Burgess sharing the lead.

Andrew had asked for a coffee table book at the box office and I relented because I knew how very much this play and its music meant to him. He sat mesmerized by the entire production... and at the conclusion insisted upon going to the rear entrance of the theatre to await Colm Wilkinson's departure.

I tried desperately... but unsuccessfully to dissuade Andrew from his seemingly audacious and fruitless mission impossible... but in the end we as a family  joined him in the back alley for what seemed like an hour. Finally a black stretch limo arrived and out of it stepped a giant of a man. I approached him to seek his advice... or rather his support in ending the standoff. He told us to stick about... that he would see what he could do.

I remember Colm barreling out to the waiting limo looking sweaty and the brief interaction between the driver and himself. Without hesitation he approached Andrew... stooped down and shook his hand:

"And who might we have here?"

"Andrew Sherman... your best fan sir... I've come to see you and Michael Burgess three times now."

"Who do think is the best Valjean Andrew?"

"You're both the same... I love you both the same! Would you please sign my book for me?"

Andrew still has that book... signed:

"To my best fan and friend Andrew!"
All the best,
Colm Wilkinson

I learned a great lesson about Faith that day... as practised by a wee boy... and a man who could as easily have ignored his Hope.

I found these two unrelated tidbits that seem directed to me on this sad evening. The cartoon is likely motivated by Pope Francis's recent visit to the Americas.

The second is a YouTube clip featuring Michael Burgess singing two songs at an appearance he made for the 40 Oaks opening in 2012. Forty Oaks is a project for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre. The words seem ever so appropriate tonight:

Please enjoy this magnificent instrument of Joy... the "Voice" of Michael Burgess. I'm sure that a angel choir welcomed him to their midst with their own version of "Bring Him Home". Our family will never forget those uplifting performances. We are enriched still... by your gift... even this evening in your earthly absence.

Thank you Michael ... for the Music! 

What is life... without the power of song?

Monday, September 28, 2015

One Boy's Journey... Home

In this post, I will endeavour to answer the series of five questions that were posed to me to be used in the Patience Brewster project. On the surface, the questions seemed simple to respond to in a succinct and direct fashion. However... in sitting here at the keyboard endeavouring to do so, I found my thoughts flitting like a hummingbird from flower to flower to gather the pollen of inspiration in order to complete the task in a direct way.

The questions when taken in context together form "a [very] long and winding road" for me. They represent my lifetime journey as both a person and an artist. The two... in my mind are inseparable because I cannot remember not painting... or thinking about it. My earliest childhood memories are constructed of visual related memories and stories that are vivid to me today as they were when they occurred. 

                                    "Me" at four years "sketching".... en plein air... Donnie busy colouring

I have decide to try and answer Marietta's questions using both "voices" to further demonstrate how I arrived on this magnificent seventy-year odyssey at "The Now".

1. As a child, do you recall a significant moment when you felt truly inspired by any particular artwork or artist?

This painting illustration by NC Wyeth from The Last of the Mohicans is the significant image that sticks out in my mind as having had a first and lasting impact upon "Me". I discovered it within the well-worn pages of a discarded  Department of Education High School textbook entitled World and Ancient History. I don't know why it remained in our home... but it did. I held on to it until we moved back to the river four years ago.

In another section of that same history text was the black and white photograph of the classical Greek statue of Laocoon and his sons battling with the great serpent. That image so captivated me ... even at this early age that I chose to replicate in a pencil drawing to earn my Cub Scout Artist's badge at age eight. I still have that drawing... somewhere in my reliquary of early art... which my mother saved for me.

I was as well inspired by my elder brother who was a whiz with a pencil, cranking out copies of GI Joe and Tarzan figures from the weekend funnies. His early influence was to continue as we grew up together... well into my teens and early art years. That common art path would cease in these latter years. Ego and competition seemed to get in the way... for him at least. Too bad for us both! I miss him.

The Fight in the Forest - NC Wyeth
illustration from The Last of the Mohicans

The iconic Classical Greek statue of Laocoon and His Sons

                                             The Canadian classic book Paddle-to-the-Sea

Another source of inspiration for me has always been my books... most with accompanying pictures. One that was a particular favourite was the Canadian youth classic Paddle-to-the-Sea. I still own a well-thumbed copy of that special book. The heightened sense of adventure and inspiring love for my Great Lakes home that this book gave me has followed me throughout my entire life... and remains.

Ironically... Paddle-to-the-Sea's long and dangerous journey very closely approximates my own life story in many ways. It is a tale of adventures, dangers and survival... thanks to the kindnesses of many people who followed us both on our separate journeys. It is indeed a veritable template for most lives and journeys... Life really.

2. As an artist, what do you hope to convey with your work?

During the seventies and eighties, when I was a pure water colourist my role models were The Wyeths (especially Andrew) and Canadian water colourist Ken Danby. What attracted me to the work of these realist masters was the common fact that each conveyed that use of the same narrative essence as was portrayed vividly for me as a child in The Fight in the Forest, Laocoon and Paddle-to-the-Sea.

It is the strong inner need to present that narrative in paint which continues to fuel my interest as an artist-communicator. That remains for me a seminal goal in my painting process. I hope that my paintings always invite conversation with my viewers. Slick techniques at the expense of the other goal greatly diminish viewer involvement, simply because the painting becomes a monologue... rather than an opportunity to dialogue. Above all, I aim for storytelling as opposed to simply creating "pretty pictures".

 3. What memorable responses have you had to your work?

The most memorable... and personally treasured responses to my work generally can be attributed to children. I value their evaluations and responses greatly. I do so, because they are pure and they "see" what adults miss because their minds and opinions are uncluttered by detail or biases. Generally... their appreciation is purely based upon how things strike them - pure and simple.

I very much value my family members' opinions because they have seen and understand the broad spectrum of my work as it has developed and changed. Their critical opinion again has no need to prop me up. They are always encouraging me to grow further. My children or spouse asking to own one of my pieces of work is my greatest compliment.... and I always offer it to them because it has strong meaning for them and forever connects them to "Me".

The Important Role of Mentors

My parents were my greatest mentors They encouraged through the examples they presented in the way they led their lives. They were hard working... loving ... generous and sacrificing individuals. Each of them added an art they practised in their separate lives. My Dad was a pianist- musician extraordinaire who loved the music he played and shared during his lifetime. All Shermans have had that gift passed to them... and they value it greatly in their own lives.

"Thank You... For the Music" - oil on panel - 14x11 inches

My Mom was a "domestic engineer" of the highest order. She produced special event meals and decorated tables for every occasion. She knitted, crocheted, preserved and crafted every hour of her spare time... and late into the night to make clothing and gifts for us all. She hiked with us every Sunday after church... and toted along all other neighbour children wishing to go with us.

Her greatest gift however... was to take on a clerking job to singlehandedly make possible the purchase of our family cottage here on the river that we all love so dearly. That single gift transformed my life forever. That gift of the River formed the very crucible which forged my artistic journey... and it continues to this day. 

A simple cottage... heated by wood stoves and a granite fireplace... plunked centrally in an Eden of Island beauty and adventure. What a Huckleberry Finn story!

Many teachers were mentors to me and their words of encouragement have followed and guided me to today. One in particular was my Grade four teacher, Miss Evelyn Mott. This rotund and usually very stern and much-feared "marm" hugged and encouraged me to look at the world I lived in with passion and discretion. She even  alluded to the distinct possibility... that I could make a living with my art... if I chose to work at it. I have never forgotten... or doubted that sentence whispered in my ear so many years ago now. Nor have I ever forgotten her love... her kindness... or her faith in my artistic potential.

This painting I made for my dear Mom is a tribute to this rare mentor and friend. I shall never forget "Her"..... This is my desk in her classroom painted from memory. It is a narrative... a story of one small boy's journey and the impact that one caring teacher had upon his life... and the lives of the many students he had in his care during his twenty-seven years of teaching. Love passes forward!

                                              "Love ... is" - acrylic on panel 14x11 inches

In high school, I met another rotund Falstaffian mentor Donald Taylor. He was my English teacher and  introduced me to literature as well as testing my writing mettle. Robert Frost and Death of a Hired Hand led me into a lifelong passion for the type of woodsy narrative prose and poetry which Frost's genre defines. This mentor really defined and cultivated my ongoing incorporation of prose and poetry in my painting and thinking processes.

4. What is your dream project?

My dream project is to create a children's book which creates a simple narrative that any creative-minded child might understand to help guide and encourage their journey.

5. What artists, of any medium, do you admire? (famous or not)


I admire the iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson's ruggedly authentic Algonquin Park landscape interpretations and his wonderful use of light and colour. I deeply admire AJ Casson's design and unparalleled use of greens in both oil and watercolour. I still admire NC Wyeth's book illustrations and the soulfulness and honesty of Andy Wyeth's in such watercolour projects as Kuerner's. I admire the story telling narrative of the fifty odd gouache illustrations that Clarence Gagnon created in his fifty -five small paintings that chronicled everyday Quebecois peasant life in the book Marie Chapdelaine.


I greatly admire the marbles of Michelangelo and Bernini for their evocative and deeply humanistic rendering. I on the other hand deeply admire the natural beauty of the ancient Haida totem carvers of British Columbia and the goldsmithing in native traditions of Canadian the late master Bill Reid.

In closing...

Clearly, I am driven and inspired by my Canadian heritage and the artists who interpreted that same landscape and tradition. If I had any advice to offer other individuals in the pursuit of their own craft, it would be to simply paint what you have a passion for... from your own heart and in your own terms.

Do take the time to visit the website . You will discover that her journey... though different... runs strikingly parallel to your own. In particular, check out her ornaments and blog sections while you are visiting the site. My deepest thanks to Patience Brewster, for encouraging me to share my journey.

I am at odds however... to see the relationship if any that my post has in doing more than hosting Patience Brewster on my site. I had felt that there would be a reciprocal sharing/linking in both directions??? HMMMM...

Their intention to encourage sharing with other artists is met.... however, I feel that I have always had those bases covered prior to this particular post. If any of you are curious and feel inclined to follow suit.... do feel free to get in touch by contacting the folks at Patience Brewster for further details.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Start ... to Finish... "Patience"... is on my side!

I am currently back hard at work on the four by eight foot mural project in acrylics of Zavikon Island. Time seems to heal all things... and "Patience"... is indeed a virtue. The shoulder and neck problems are all but gone and I decided to work on the upper areas of the mural which allowed me to paint in  a more normal painting posture.

Here is a close up of one area on the upper left of the panel where I have spent a single session resolving it to a reasonable state of finish. I call this strategy "spotting"... working around the whole surface area rather than working top to bottom... or left to right. This insures better colour and value harmony uniformly across the grid as one progresses.

This image shows the current state of finish... as I close in on finishing work and a conclusion to the project.

I more carefully plan my daily work and work in shorter sessions. The heat and humidity really plays havoc with the speed of drying... and therefore the ability to blend colours successfully. I have used my usual rapid attack methods from my oil painting method and it seems to work at this point.

I am obsessive-compulsive by nature... driven by impulse and a trial-and-error approach to many of my tasks and decisions. But life has taught me to slow down and to measure my step more carefully. More often than not, reflection and rest provide more productive results than fumbling about... and guessing. These strategies bridle that impulsivity and reduce failure and cul-du-sacs.


Now back to "Patience". Patience has a double-entendre value in the post.... introduced by the wily intervention of the unpredictable Universe.

I was contacted a week or so ago by a Marietta Gregg in a lovely... but totally unexpected email. I am normally very wary about such online contacts because they can in fact bring one much grief. However... the contents intrigued me to the point of actually leading me to conduct a Google search to better educate myself about this mystery woman and her motives for choosing to contact me.

She  had introduced herself as the Marketing Director at Patience Brewster. Further to that information... she related openly to me that Patience Brewster was her artist-mother... a highly successful designer and creator of handmade and handcrafted unique gifts and ornaments.

She invited me to explore further her reasons for reaching out to me on behalf of herself and her mother's company... by visiting her mother's website  ... her blog.  Check out the Christmas Ornaments

Upon visiting these... I felt reassured enough to contact Marietta directly to pose the question: "How can I serve you and your project? And what cache might I bring to you... that you don't already have?"

She revealed that she had actually stumbled across my blog and was drawn to its transparent nature and willingness to reach out and share with other artists. Using their Artist Appreciation Month initiative, they seek to spotlight artists who share goals and the passion for creating in their site to link ideas with other artists and their clients.

 She has since sent me a series of five very pointed questions to both celebrate my work... and to learn more about what fuels my passion to create. In my next post, I hope to answer these questions and I will share them with you here. As usual... my creative process and my thinking are the productive of "Two Voices".

Stay tuned... back to the mural!

Good Painting!... and Happy Fall to everyone!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Art Links With Life... Love Conquers All

My artistic and life journeys have been inextricably linked since early childhood. I have never viewed them, or felt them as separate... which likely accounts for ever present references to my life experiences in this art blog. I feel that the transparency of my sharing either journey adds further insight into the processes of how I live... think and create.

My art is deeply affected by events in my daily life... people that I meet... interesting natural sightings... and  the collision with outside influences such as music... radio and newspaper. My work kneads together all of these life ingredients into a "dough"... which when baked in my "oven" becomes my "daily bread."

My post this morning exemplifies how this process works and as well... points out that my process also belongs to my beloved daughter in her work. Though hers at present is an academic art journey and is heavily governed by research and teaching... it began in a high school art classroom where a special mentor encouraged the art spark into a passion which has led her to carry and to share that flame with her around the world to students and peer scholars.

This morning, I shall set out to demonstrate to you how Art weaves together lives. How Art breathes life... Joy and Hope into the most dire of life experiences. Art is all about Passion... and therefore Love. This post will present evidence in pictures and words that... "Love conquers all." 

Let's back the bus back to Friday, September 11th, 2015... back to a milestone event in my daughter Allison... and her family's life journey together. The event takes place in the oncology unit at Kingston General Hospital and marks the conclusion of Allison's eight gruelling chemotherapy treatments which commenced in June.

Nothing could have convinced me... or any of us a year ago that our "continuing education" paths would lead us together to this moment and place. But for me personally... the journey has indeed been an education into a vast and confusing labyrinth of faces... feelings and facts about a world that I had never visited. I remain somewhat overwhelmed and bewildered... but I am better educated... and more deeply grateful for the substance of my learning.

I do not wish to upset or overwhelm any of you with details, I wish simply to share the message and gift of Love that our family has been blessed to gain... in the hopes that it might cause you to pause in your separate lives to feel more grateful for your own health... lives and your creative pursuits. I will let these images appropriately do most of the talking for the remainder of this post.

Friends... "stick"... together!!!

"Let's get at 'er..."

Allie shares her daily care cards... one by one with each team member

My draw... how appropriate between Allie and I...

Sited... or sighted... on Allie's ankle - a love talisman woven for her by one of her  students... just one of many other student creations... even a patchwork quilt worn at her first chemo treatment. Love and art inextricably entwined!

... and from the Dean of her department... yes... the "Finger"... a cast of the dean's own hand bedecked with the pink Ribbon of Hope. Pretty well says it all... in an appropriately irreverent artful gesture. The power of Art!

Fresh pictures from Wee Mac... for Auntie Allie. Bro' Andyrewster... as always the Jester and lead carrier of the Sherman Smile and Laughter Corp! Thank you Son!

Nurse-Navigator-Friend Cheryl Barber... our beloved Lady of Hope... more laughter and mayhem in the making!

A model of Courage... Humility and Pride... Most beautiful are "You" dear Allison!

The Queen of Chemo on her Throne... soon to be

... unplugged!

To the great joy of Team Allie

Left is Dawn... who brings the Light to each day at Queen's for Allie... The Queen ... and Dad

Andyrewster... Mom the Miracle Worker... and best friend ALWAYS... Elana

Allie celebrating the end of chemo ritual... "Ringing the Bell" which signifies the departure from dreaded "Chemo Lane" with new vigor and renewed Hope for better Health. As we left the chemo parlour as a celebrating family... I was deeply touched... no moved to tears to see the faces of each of the other chemo recipients smile as broadly and genuinely as if it were they themselves who were leaving. Such a bitter-sweet moment... Love conquers ALL!!!

Allie always her own alchemist... adds her own "Bell tone". Gonging up on Cancer... with her borrowed yoga gong...

The clan Simpson-Sherman... "Love shines..."

To close out this post... I dedicate this post to Nurse Cheryl Barber and all of the oncology nursing and support staff. We could not have faced this labyrinth of fear and hurt without each of you. Know that your tireless daily contributions on behalf of all cancer patients makes the ordeal bearable and more palatable.

Rich blessings and our deepest gratitude to all of you on behalf of we Shermans!

Love can conquer ALL... when we stand as one in Faith... Hope and Purpose!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Variations and Extrapolations - Useful Tools to Search Further

Musical variations have been successfully used by composers and musicians since the fourteenth century to delve further into ideas which they feel merit deeper thought and development. The term variations... is described as a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form.

The changes may involve: harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration, or... any combination of those musical facets mentioned above. Classical music icons ranging from the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn used this technique frequently.

Here is a brief, playful... and entertaining musical interlude from Mozart's musical and artistic genius to demonstrate clearly the use of variation.

Go for it Wolfie!!!

The use of this technique can be traced right across the full musical spectrum into modern music and particularly in the genre of jazz... where improvisation is a key component. Perhaps the most beloved use of variation in the modernist classical genre are "The Goldberg Variations" performed by the late Canadian classical pianist, Glenn Gould.

In my art, I continue to use extrapolation interchangeably with variation, as an exploratory device. Extrapolation  might not however, infer complete repetition... but rather a mimicking through inference of certain aspects of an known and previously developed idea.

Variation and Extrapolation As Creative Tools

First Phase

I offer this collection of variations on a particular landscape theme to demonstrate my process. The initial exploration came from my an imaginary view which I considered an extrapolation of Algonquin Park memories expressed uncharacteristically for me... in an almost purely abstract manner.

Although it felt uncomfortable to be working outside of my usual impressionistic preferences, the sense of release and freedom provided an avenue of new thought which I hoped to explore further. The resulting small sketch in many ways I felt, accurately mimicked the wildness of the Park landscape and fully included each of its basic elements of water... granite shield rock... firs... birches and rich fall color. But it did so making use of those elements in a playful and stylized fashion.

"Autumn Fantasia" - oil on panel 10x8 inches

Second Phase

Two years later, I was asked to present a fall painting workshop for the East Central Ontario Artists Association at Geneva Park. I decided to offer a workshop entitled Supersize Me!... based upon taking a small sketch and developing it into a larger painting.

I chose the Fantasia piece and developed its 10x8 format by tripling it proportionally into a 30x24 inch painting. I maintained the general compositional elements... but as can be seen I spent more attention defining and modelling shapes and colour closer to my own impressionistic style. Note however, that a playfulness and semi-abstract is maintained in some areas of the painting.

The landscape motif itself is recognizably an Algonquin Park-Haliburton Highlands setting.

"Les Berceuses d-Automne" (Autumn Lullabies)
oil on canvas 30x24 inches

Third Phase

I was offered a second opportunity to do a painting demonstration for the ECOAA at its Winter Retreat at Bark Lake, located north of Peterborough. I decided that since many of the members had either been part of the Supersize Me workshop... or had seen the resulting canvas that I would extend challenge further for myself... and at the same time demonstrate how plein air experience permits one to create beyond what is front of one. I wished to illustrate how outdoor painting reinforces visual memory and extends a  truly creative spirit and approach to one's painting process.

                                                                "Algonquin in Winter"
                                                             oil on canvas 18x14 inches

I used the Berceuse autumn painting as my reference... but produced a winterscape on a black acrylic toned canvas. I made no attempt to draw, but rather washed in blocks to very roughly set up the compositional design. My goal was to paint alla prima  ... that is... directly and quickly in the same fashion that I normally use when painting outdoors in winter. "A stroke laid is a stroke stayed" rule is fully in effect in this painting... leaving the tell tale painterly signs of loaded brushwork.

I tried as well to develop a warm...muted... soft pastel colour harmony to counter the cooler bluish shadow colours. I added warm colour surprises in a few selected places to add pop and interest for the eye. This painting exemplifies my impressionistic style more closely than the preceding two landscapes... and was totally completed in two hours.The landscape continues to maintain identifiably Algonquin features. But note: a small fir appears to the right... nudging the birches closer to the centre of the painting - a new extrapolation ... and deviance from the original variation! 

Fourth Phase

I returned to my Paint Box Gallery studio in Hillsdale... greatly inspired by the reception that those attending offered the Winter in Winter piece. I sprang immediately into the production of a 36x30 inch gallery wrap canvas... this time bent upon making this new variation more refined... more like my usual Self when I settle into a project that I am fully committed. The painting fairly painted itself and soon found a new home... almost freshly painted on the easel.

The fir trees assume a more energetic and playful stance in stark contrast with the erect birch branches. This is intended to add a sense of movement and a stateliness to an otherwise static winter landscape. The light is heightened to create a more spiritual aura for the painting. 

                                                      "Minuet d'Hiver"  (Winter Minuet)
                                                             oil on canvas 36x30 inches

Fifth Stage

The last of these variations on this theme was created a full five years after the last version. The "Idea" resurfaced during the time when I was preparing for my spring solo show in Kingston. I became aware through Deb and her contact with The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network that our Thousand Islands region was a part of this UNESCO World Heritage Reserve... which include an area stretching back up through the Muskokas right to Algonquin Park to the north... and then southward right into the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York.

What I suddenly came to fully appreciate for the first time was that the basic elements were consistently the same throughout this vast stretch of land. I decided to take another run at the theme... this time inserting elements which more closely spoke of a Saint Lawrence setting in the Thousand Islands Archipelago.

I also wished to inject a notion that I personally believe in. I believe that we... as artists interpret and inject elements and passages from every visual experience we experience in a cumulative way over our lifetimes. I contend as well... that we "borrow" learning and elements we admire from the works of other artists we discover on our journeys.

There is little doubt that this last variation pays homage to two very significant Canadian artists whose works and lives I admire greatly. The first is Emily Carr... a Vancouver Island artist whose iconic forest and native peoples paintings continue to inspire our current generation of artists. The second is Lawren Harris... a member of the revered Group of Seven. Both played with the landscape, turning the real into metaphysical masterpieces which were imbued with deep undercurrents and metaphors of spiritual imagery.

Again... the brushwork is smoother... polished... carefully planned... and placed. Note the broken colour inserted in the middle ground water area. It can appear to be distracting... as can the counterpoint relationship created by the two left hand firs with the leaning smaller fir on the left. All are intended to disturb... no perhaps challenge the viewer to think further. Let me know what you think...

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

I hope that this post offers "food for thought" to any of my Friends who search for ideas to make creating art less hit-and-miss... less and that these ideas provide you with some new thoughts that you might include in your own painting processes.

In closing... I will be back to the mural project this week. Accommodations have finally been made to make the process  more comfortable. I am excited to get it out of the way. For you see... I have yet another series of variations that I have worked on... which need one final large canvas to draw them all together.

Stay tuned...

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Still.. the Sunny Side of Summer

Summer has hung on with a humid and sultry vengeance during the week, though Sepember's cool presence in each morning and evening served notice that retreat not to be expected. Summer sounds lingered... like the day time staccato drone of the winged cicada (an insect rather than a tree frog)... and the comforting evening cricket chorale. September is indeed a time of transition.

Deb and I spent most of the week dealing with individual aches and pains... but managed to team up on a long overdue painting project. It too... was a "BIG" brush project and the surface a large one - an unpainted deck. We had bitten the bullet last week and purchased two gallons of dark stain... and with the long range forecast predicting three days of rain beginning Saturday... we jumped into the project with a combined verve and energy together yesterday afternoon.

Mission accomplished... by The Paint Box Gang!... and none too soon. The weatherman was right on the money. It is raining... as I write. Both "We"...and the earth sigh with relief and welcome the cool and much-needed wetness. Never put off... what should have been done last year! HA HA!!

The mural project is still stalemated. My neck and shoulder balk at the thought of those many low and big strokes that are necessary to bring closure to the project. Project is not merely a virtue - it is absolutely necessary. Own the project on your own terms. Don't let the project or the "others" own you! I've learned that and keep that in mind daily.

I haven't been treading water... except when swimming with Allie. I have two new smaller pieces that are keeping my palette up. I truly am enjoying being able to shift gears at will... and to day dream. Sketching... whether with oils... or any other medium is refreshing to the spirit. It is childlike in its goals... and its outcome. It is deliberately loose... and painterly.

Let's call it a prelude to autumn... a time a few days just ahead that can be glorious and at the same time... an overwhelming time when colour overrides common sense... or one's capabilities!

I hope that you enjoy today's offerings... both completed on my upright table easel and from recent digital reference... well away from the source. One site is located at the water's edge at Ivy Lea. Recognize the white cottage and island from the sisters' class outing? The other is an interesting jumble of buildings and garden on a back street Lyndhurst village. The jumble intrigued me at the time... but Frank and I... "had other fish to fry" on that particular day.

Recent remarks on other painter's blogs question the true pedigree of a plein air painter and work. I have no problem with the source or the place business. That's all merely opinion. What matters more to me personally is the passion one has for their subject... their work and the time done in the trenches to really deserve a title. And there again... just one guy's opinion... and should it matter??? I wonder...

"Listen to your heart... it knows where it's going." Just paint on!

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

"Summer... in Repose, Ivy Lea"
oil on canvas board 11x14 inches

"Summer Quietude... Lyndhurst"
oil birch cradle board 8x10 inches

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"A Taste of Honey"...

Summer's end never fails to summon up seemingly endless and deeply hidden nostalgic memories from within "Me." I suppose that my nature to be the capital "R" Romantic likely triggers this cycle, but I recognize as well...  that it is generally "summer anthems" that we all associate with the carefree youth... energy and vitality of our own journeys.

Music is a defining characteristic of  our Sherman family. We were raised... to resonate and respond like tuning forks... to all genres of music. We didn't merely listen passively to "our own music" as individuals. We actively shared song... raising our voices in unison and complete joy as a family choir... at home... at church... in the car while we travelled... and at our cottage with our summer neighbours.

That gift of music remains one of the enduring legacies of my dear Mom and Dad. Music strongly remains a valued and much-used "hand-me-down" in the lives of all Shermans. A number of us play instruments (whenever necessary)... and karaoke rules at the occasional Sherman gatherings 19 Kerry Point, Narrows Lane Road. We are deeply blessed blend our lives and voices in love and harmony... whenever we can get together.

I stumbled upon this vintage 60's photo ... taken at the height of the Beatle and British invasion on the world scene.... and the birth of this garage/boy band... The Counts Five. Hardly mop headed like their British idols in appearance, their faux Beatle... Dave Clark Five and Kinks musak helped them strum their way from out of Nowhere... Man... to grab the hearts of Brockville area teen and grown up audiences. At the time this photo was taken, we were..."Glad All Over"... even after more than a dozen rendition requests nightly for "A Hard Day's Night"!

They were purely magical years of intermixed play heavy duty practice, but my role in this band abruptly ceased when I headed off to Teacher's College in London in September of 1964 to pursue another life which has led me to Today. I have never regretted that decision to do so for a single moment, despite the fact that my leaving resulted in my loss of contact with all members to this day.

Change is difficult to imagine.... and to set into motion. But without it, stasis leads to disenchantment... and extinction... which was the ultimate fate of the boy band. At some unforeseen moment we all have to become...  men and women... and leave "Never Land"

I'll leave you to the task of finding the boy artist! Yup... he did paint even then... though none of the rest of the band had an inkling! HA HA!!

"Love Shines"...

Let me add yet another musical snippet... this time from the song "Love Shines" featured on the multi-talented Canadian Musician and songwriter Ron Sexsmith's recent album "Long Player Late Bloomer":

How I long to hold you with all my might
Through the night our hopes combine
To ignite our eyes like fireflies
That's when our love shines."

I was treated to an impromptu "blast from the past" on a local radio air wave. It was the Herb Albert sky rocket trumpet-driven variation of "A taste of Honey"... which became the summer anthem at the top of the pop charts in 1961. The song has been presented in variation instrumentally and vocally across many different genres ranging from The Beatles... to Tony Bennett. My personal favourite comes out of the vocal version by Johnny Rivers on his "Actions/Changes" album released in 2002.

These few lines from the song in tandem with a recent Dad-Allison "river happening" form my true reason for sharing this post with you:

The winds may blow
o'er the icy sea
I'll take the warmth of thee
A taste of honey
A taste much richer than wine

When so many must leave the quiet and remaining warmth of summer in the River we love so dearly... Allie, Orca and I shared our own "taste of honey" laughing and recalling many earlier swims with my water spaniel Mom... who urged us to... "beware of "the warn currents." We rode out the endless two to three foot swells sent ashore by passing cruisers with glee... rather than the usual anger and venom afforded these money folk by people docked ashore. "No wake" ... seems not in their vocabulary or nautical courtesy. Today... it was pure fun!

Time for the picture show folks!

Allie Dad and Orca.... giggling... and girding their loins for the plunge!

"One for the $$... Two for the show... three to get ready... and four... to go!!!! Thanks Mom!

Riding out the swells... together ... in and out of the water!

Treading water... "Do you feel the warm currents Dad?" HA HA!!! Thanks again Mom!

Sharing life's blessings... the smallest... or the largest of gifts we can offer... Time and Presence!

"Staying afloat"... and creating Joy... in childish pleasures...

And with Joy... comes Bliss. Not easily achieved in the face of stormy weather. But it is all about... Attitude ... Faith and Courage. I am so very proud of "You" Sweetheart... and am with "You" Always.

Thanks for an uplifting and much-needed respite form the deep humidity we have been experiencing here at "Islesview"!!!

All my Love ALWAYS!

Post Script: From my Mom again...

When you are troubled or feel down...
Look up!!!

I "read" you Mom!!!

Good Painting !... to ALL!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Disbelief... to Belief... to Believing

My work on the mural has been stalled... brought to an abrupt standstill firstly, by neck and back injury caused by the unusual stooped painting position that I endured for the five days that I worked up the painting. Secondly... because my request to have it placed in its proper vertical position... to date has been ignored. I continue to ice the effected areas.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege to share my plein air foray to my "honey hole" at Ivy Lea with two upbeat Ottawa ladies. Both were (somewhat) anxious to give outdoor painting a try. One had been to my studio for a prior studio still life session and plein air session with her sister three years ago. The other had never painted at all... let alone en plein air. Neither held the belief... or any hope of "making a painting in one go." My task went far beyond giving them an art lesson. It remained to me to lead them to... believe... in themselves... to take courage to try.

I had chosen Ivy Lea as a site because it was quiet and peaceful. I approached a friendly and generous octogenarian resident Eric Truesdell (affectionately called the Mayor of Ivy Lea by summer folk) to seek permission to once again paint on his riverside property. That was accomplished without difficulty so we set about selecting a site that pleased the ladies. A piece of cake! Here is the site... complete with breeze... shade and the rich light of summer. Does life get any better???

Denise's choice... good foreground ... middle and backgrounds

Lead In - Meditation... to Activation

I feel it essential to shore up confidence for novices to outdoor painting. The landscape can be so intimidating in its raw state... and overwhelmingly paralytic because of the immense detail that is set before one. A few minutes of personal contemplation should be undertaken... filtering through the vista of information... transforming mere looking into "seeing"... a path way to begin. This more or less approximates my own daily morning ritual of meditation at the dock... and usually the practice prepares me to go forward with a sense of purpose and peace in my day
I set up my easel very quickly and had them follow. A split palette was laid down for each box.  I had toned all three 11x14 inch canvases with an acrylic burnt sienna ground to reduce glare from the hot sun. I handed each a small thin stick of vine charcoal... assuring them that this small tool and a piece of shop tool gave them the power of correction of any "mistake". It would allow free play... until a path emerged to begin painting.

At this point, I invited them to sit down in one of Eric's on site Muskoka chairs to watch me demo... to gather information... and the courage to commence their own plein air painting adventure - another healthy dose of "seeing" prior to any painting.

Mapping ... to blocking in form with colour

I proposed that our focus would be identifying and laying down essential lines... such as the horizon... or any line... straight or otherwise that interested them visually. This I assured them would provide a sort of preliminary map to guide their painting journey to follow.

The demo was purposely short. I wished only to ignite their own imagination. I stressed the point that everything in the lay in was likely to change dramatically... that it served only as the foundation upon which to build surer and more permanent strokes and more correct passages of colour.

"Lucy ... the lefty" elected a view that was in the sun... and a painting perspective that ignored the sky area so completely that it caused me to seriously question her strategy. I kept that to myself and she provided ample reasoning for that choice and very compelling evidence at the conclusion of her canvas that she made a good choice based upon her inner vision. Bravo Lucy!... You are no longer a raw novitiate!

"Shady Lady Denise"... Preferred the shade of the shoreline em and young maple. She also chose an unexpected and unlikely strategy to "row the shoreline"... several hundred yards closer to her island and cottage subject. I had truly not expected such a viewpoint. But the cardinal rule in being with new plein air folk... is to honour their choices and to enable their vision... with support rather than judgement. Bravo... brave Denise!

 Here are two very happy faces at the conclusion of the day's painting. Very different and diverging approaches... but two very successful outcomes for a three and a half hour painting adventure!
Bien fait mes deux amies!!!

Lucy conquered the immense empty space in the lower two thirds of her composition admirably... choosing to create the complete calm and mirror-like reflection... of another day. It is a convincing and richly imaginative tribute to the portal of her own inner vision. Also... it is a HUGE step forward on any level into competent painting practice.

Denise's "rowing" strategy as well admirably achieved her onset goal to draw her shoreline location right up close to her main island and cottage subjects. She anchored the foreground with the red dock and created and adhered to the conventional foreground-to middle ground-to background formula. She competently managed to include her interest in the clouds as another success.

Post Script

There is no greater joy than to see someone... who previously could not envision themselves as a capable creative individual succeed. The picture shown directly above captures and records such an "Aha" moment for these two beautiful (and now younger) women.

True Happiness lies in sharing one's own Passion and Light with those willing to dream... and then to courageously follow those dreams. Dare to dream. But as well... Dare to Share!

"Any dream can come true... it can happen to you...
If you're young at (he)Art"

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

 Rough demo... completed in about twenty minutes. Basics are there... needs fine tuning

"Reflecting Upon Summer, Ivy Lea" - oil on canvas 11x14 inches

Finished back in the studio the next day... some quite deliberation and corrections. A nice bonus added to the joy felt in these ladies company. Note that my view incorporates aspects that I admired from each ot the two ladies' works... Denise's "row boat" strategy combine with the calming influence of Lucy's languid and inviting summer calm. Students do offer mentorship... if one pays attention!