Friday, January 22, 2016

Shifting Gears...

We all need variety and inspiration in our creative lives. That change need not necessarily be "spicy" as the old adage drones, but it must be located "right of center" in terms of our own normal day-to-day experience and expectations. Simply put... a challenge is in order... to excite and inspire.

Getting back from annual lazy Christmas sojourns often leads one to feel flat... uninspired... or unmotivated. Many of you have your own strategies to combat these creative setbacks. Each is likely unique to your own interests and goal-seeking. I enjoyed my Scottish water colorist friend Keith Tilley's recent post which described his plan of attack... and success in leaping into the New Year with renewed enthusiasm and vitality. Might be worth taking a look... if you are still struggling with this problem. Keith Tilley's fine site "Painting on the Edge" ... well worth a look-see!

In this post, I hope to present my own approach to overriding creative blocking. I refer to it simply as "shifting gears". Same bike... just adjustments to pace... and landscape interests. I would offer that my painting process/style accommodates two approaches. One style is very structured... planned to the last detail and with some deeper personal layer of purpose and meaning. Most subjects are, or have a still life quality... despite being landscapes. They are usually very "quiet" on the surface... meditative... as Deb blissfully suggests. She loves these.

The other is... let's call it as it is - "frenetic"... dependent upon intuition and impulse rather than complete control. Most of these paintings quite literally seem to "paint themselves". They are "painterly" and strong in color usually... because I heighten the color impact by beginning uncharacteristically on black toned canvases or panels.

This approach is totally driven by my imagination and mood."Imagineering" is the term I use to describe this process. This painting method can be accomplished either in the field (plein air)... or replicated in style in the studio. This is the value of of a lengthy "schooling" in the outdoors... in all seasons and weather conditions.

One of the crossover paths that I have lately committed to follow... is that I will no longer accept commission work. While it was necessary... and lucrative at one point in my life and painting career... I no longer have that need. Neither do I have the desire, nor the ambition to paint what someone else wants or envisions. This is not intended as a negative response to commission work... it is simply a declaration that ... I have done my time and now have earned the right to paint my path to the end of the road under my own flag... and terms.

I will dedicate that time that I used to commit to commission work to my winter works program. This program is dedicated entirely to the development of "bread n' butter" offerings for the Gallery which combine with Deb's handcrafted lines to create a more predictable cash flow. They are created and designed to fit the budgets of travelling tourists. They are not in themselves.... "objets d' art" in my view. I can produce them quickly... and replace them quickly if required. They are... inventory.

Everyone has... or should have their own path or strategies. If one is truly a "working artist"... not a hobbyist,  then one's working method must involve commitment... and a business plan that is not dependent upon one event... or the possibility of on line sales as a mainstay.

Selling art... as a livelihood is a highly competitive crap shoot. It is pyramidal in nature at best. Imitation will only place you amid the crowd.... likely nearer the bottom of the heap. Beyond the financial perspective... you will ALWAYS know... inside at least... the real truth. The only real reason to create... is to be original.

I will sign off today's post using a mix of the paintings that I have created during this past week. Each of these smallish paintings and sketches fit into the "bread n' butter" classification. But...I have purposely not categorized them according to the two styles. Can you discern which style they fit into?

I wonder... Get back to me if you are interested.

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!

"Action Central, Gananoque" - oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches

"Failing Light, Tamworth" - 8 x 10 inch oil on on toned birch cradle board

"Winter Evening Light and Shadows, Ivy Lea Park" - oil on toned birch cradle board

"Rivafest, Gananoque" - 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


"When you want something, the whole universe conspires with you to make it happen"
-Pablo Coehlo

After reading my last post, Deb mentioned that she really enjoyed the post because it wove together perfectly events and the emotions of this time of year. However, her querying as to "where" I got my ideas from to create my posts took me by complete surprise. I had simply [and mistakenly] taken for granted that sharing daily life with me would be revelation enough to sufficiently answer that question.

In considering the question further however, the answer became exceedingly more clear to me. Whether one is writing or painting, one is creating - privately within. Creation is driven by internal thought. In most cases, that internal thought is triggered by outside stimulation of one or more senses.

Our physical universe might viewed on one hand as being one which is shared by all humankind. Yet... there exist many other universes outside of our own... and those hold secrets that remain not yet revealed to any man at this juncture in human time. That same possibility exists in looking at the variety of human experiences in terms of artistic creation.

I believe and propose that within each of us... an individual "universe" exists which is as complex...varied and unique as the universe that houses the planets of our own solar system. The recognizable and familiar "planets" and "constellations" which stir my thoughts and actions daily... would certainly be quite alien to you and others who read my blog and observe my paintings.

These differences would then surely account for many of the differences of style and interest which are present and recognizable. That would be true looking in both directions. Earth indeed looks much different... from the International Space Station. Star Wars comes to mind.... EH???

At best, sharing these "Ideas"... or, as my post title today suggests... taking courage to "Crossover"... creates a window of opportunity to "star gaze" - to look beyond the limits of our own mini universes. In so doing our reaching out into the "space" of others offers each of the advantage of attaining and developing insights into how limiting our own "worlds" can become... if we simply "settle" for what we know [too] well. This act of crossing over also permits, promotes tolerance for the thoughts and values of others. We subtly influence each other... even though we may never  physically meet.

Pursuant to this new thinking theme, I once again reflected upon the content of the last post... Lighthouses. In considering this favorite subject of mine, the Universe(s)... both within and without provided yet another thread to extend the Lighthouse concept a bit further and to link it meaningfully to this "Crossover" focus.

It took very little "Imagineering" to ignite the actions which follow. What only remained to be structured was a plan surrounding the subject cum project which I wished to employ as the melding device. The physical universe provides the painting subject... while my imagination elevates and applies a kind of metaphysical overlay to the "Idea". That is not at all imply an intellectual thesis... but rather... an attempt to make sense of the events of my own life and to share my feelings openly with you... the readers.

Making... "The Crossover" 

My vibrant and gifted daughter, Allison's sudden and unexpected illness and struggle with breast cancer has totally reshaped the thinking and actions of all of us in her family. It has truly redefined goal-seeking and reality for Allison herself ... as one can well understand and accept.

It has at the same time shape-shifted my own values... goals and my persona even. Only lately... has the anger begun to subside. Only lately... has there been any relief from the constant fear of that dreaded "C" specter which now hovers over all of us. We must learn to live with that reality... and challenge it bravely and resolutely daily.

This is Allie "ringing the bell"... the tradition followed by all cancer treatment patients... to signify the passing out of the chemo and radiation sessions. My heart swelled with deep pride... and my eyes welled with tears of joy. "I"... no "We"... are deeply blessed... for the gift of Life... and each other!!!

However, I can report with Courage and Faith... that the "Crossover" has begun for released from the painful and necessarily arduous treatment  campaign which bridged chemotherapy... with surgery and radiation.

Those ordeals are behind us and we have followed in unison... Allison's incredibly courageous choice to step out... and to live her life fully... in spite of the tyranny of pain and fear. I do so.. to keep step with her choices and hope to honor those choices by living a fuller and better life myself... each and every day of sand that I am given in my own hour glass.

This painting is the first in the series of paintings that I have always wanted to paint... for my Self only! These paintings are deeply personal and I feel go well beyond pure surface value. They address issues that I come upon which I interest... or even trouble me. For that reason... they are not always easy to simply paint. They represent a catharsis for me... an element of healing.

Based upon my previous Lighthouse post and theme... this largish canvas bridges two subject matter that I deeply admire and enjoy painting; historic lighthouse structures and waterfowl. They share the same environment and rigorous... even dangerous weather conditions. They are alive... living life under their own terms... to its fullest measure. Their existence is a full measure of their intended function. There exists a kind of immortality in that act.

It is not usually my practice... but may I impose upon you on this one occasion to "read" the painting the way that I intended it?

These sturdy American Goldeneye waterfowl winter all along the Saint Lawrence and Great Lakes region. Their hardiness and adaptability allow them to not only survive... but thrive in the harshness of our deep and lengthy Canadian winter landscape.

In my long since passed water fowling days, my buddy Jack Wilson and I would haul out to the islands in search of these ducks. We were driven to break ice to get out to the stone cold blinds from which we awaited their morning flights. Despite our intent to hunt them... Jack and I spent co many of those early December fog and mist-shrouded mornings... simply sipping coffee... shotguns cased, while listening for that magical whistling sound made by their wings as they emerged out of the golden fog.

We call them "whistlers"... and their whistler music which I still listen for on the dock in the morning here in Rockport continues to send tingles down my spine... just as it did so many years ago. But I appreciate them in a different fashion... and now alone. I no longer hunt... and often regret having done so. Except... that  I "crossed over" in purpose so many years ago with Jack.

Jack "crossed over"...too soon at forty-six years of age. I miss "Him"... but this painting arrived at my hand because of my time with him... and the special love of these birds that we both cherished... beyond the parameters of the sport(??)

In closing out this post, I offer this perspective on life.... mine and perhaps yours. Live your life fully... day-by-day. Choose your path based upon your passion and willingness to commit to become a better person... and artist. Be thankful for the small blessings in your life - the ones that we often take for granted. Honor those who serve you and love you unconditionally. Travel only with positive influences.

"Cross Over" - dare to live in your own Truth and celebrate your uniqueness. There is but one of "You" in this Universe. Dare to dream... and then live out your dreams... accomplishing one at a time.

I wish to dedicate this post and the painting below to my beloved Jemima Puddleduck... Ms Pig Allison Morgan Sherman. Thank you for sharing your abiding love... generosity of spirit... support of my work... and for your gift of forgiveness. I love "You"...

Forever... "to the moon and back" Allison.

"We" have "Crossed Over"... you and I... together!!!!

"Crossing Over"... at Crossover Lighthouse, Hammond NY - oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches


Cross over Lighthouse on Crossover Island is the designated crossing, or turning point for Saint Lawrence Seaway freighter traffic from US waters... starting in Lake Ontario into Canadian waters all the way eastward via the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec. Passage beyond Quebec leads into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. The river proper... joining Lake Ontario to Quebec measures a distance of 1197 km, or 743.8 miles and is referred to as the Saint Lawrence International Seaway.