Monday, February 29, 2016

Sugar Moon...

Our "sugaring off " friends, The McCutcheon Family commenced their 2016 maple syrup making activities last Friday in their large bush. The whole family was out together in the bush... setting taps for their kilometers of plastic lines in readiness for the much-anticipated annual run.

This year's strange winter and spring offer no firm guarantee for a lucrative spring run... and yet they are out there... the bush filled with their combined spirited laughter and antics as they alternate between hard work and horse play. This rite of spring flows in their veins as surely as the sap flows skyward from the dormant trees' roots to the outspread and still leafless arms of the maple hardwood canopy. It's not only about money!

It is no coincidence either that their operation commenced on Friday. The Saturday sky bore the full moon of March... often referred to by farmers and syrup makers as... "the Sugar Moon." Old timers... who still have connection to the Mother Earth and her many cycles and mysteries use this moon as a bench mark to commence their sugaring off.

Perhaps... it is pure synchronicity... but I do not feel so. My former student... actress... teacher... consultant and now poet, Lois Lorimer and I again line up with a common subject. I would like to share another favourite poem from her collection Stripmall Subversive with you - her deeply personal... language-rich and thought-provoking poem "Sugar Moon."

When paired with my nocturne painting depicting that same event and theme... the soulfulness of her imagery is further heightened and magnified.

Sugar Moon

First time in twenty years
moon closest to earth
and you not here

It's bright all right.
You would have loved
this Sugar Moon,

named by Algonquin
as the sap rises,
before the equinox.

After midnight,
saturated with loss
I get up, let the dog out.

Put a coat over grief
enter darkness
where moonlight

spun like sugar
reminds me you'll
miss maple syrup time.

Some call it Death Moon,
but I prefer Sugar, stirred
in memory into the Milky Way.

                                             "Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches

The peace and soulfulness in this painting is visually obvious. However... on a deeper personal and hidden level, this painting was gifted to a very special friend who had tragically lost a daughter. It meant a great deal to her at receive it as a token of my support and friendship. It continues to hold a special place in my heart for too many reasons to express... sweet memories!

Wishing the McCutcheons and all other syrup-ing folk a very full and Sweet Spring! And to each of my readers and blogging friends, I wish each of you....

Happy Spring and Happy Painting!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Two "Voices"...

One can hardly dispute the truth that creative individuals possess a second "voice"... that manifests itself outwardly through their individual craft... or medium. Most (fortunate) humans possess a capacity to express themselves (in differing degrees) through vocalizations that describe their own inner feelings and needs. The artist is blessed to have a second "voice" that they carry, I believe from early childhood (if not birth). That gift is life long friend for them... one who forever travels with them through life.

Children discover this friend early on in their journey and form an intimate relationship with him... or her. They share a bond that bears no need for others... just materials and encouragement from adult caregivers who value them. They are content just "to be"... alone together sharing the passion and freedom they jointly feel during the act of creation. That relationship... in most cases continues unabated throughout childhood until... we are forced through peer or other pressures... " to grow up". Most make other choices... while some refuse, or decide to remain on that path.

Today's post paradoxically blends, or knits together the journeys of two different individuals. One is my own. The other is the magnificent journey of a young woman that I was blessed to meet in my grade seven classroom over forty years ago. I easily recognized "Her" then... as a "gifted" young woman... possessing a special "voice". Even then, her voice was dramatically more seasoned and mature than those of the other young people who shared seats with her in that classroom. Her spirit was lively and her language rich and expressive. In my own terms... "She" was an "old spirit" - it seemed that she had been here before!

Her poem "Splunder", penned on "foolscap" in that classroom stopped me in my tracks. I still remember it vividly... word for word and carry it among the numerous ordinary blessings in my heart purse. It continues to warm my heart when I recall it. Today, I would like to share another of her more recent poems from her anthology Stripmall Subversive. "Snowball Prohibition" was the one poem in particular in that collection which inspired my painting for this post.

I think that our collaboration on a similar subject and view on early childhood does much to support my theory that artist's explorations and journeys do in fact "cross over" and run in parallel. Life is created in many different stages... written in varying chapters that can be related in strangely similar events and occurrences.

"Voices" can be conveyed by different mediums. In this particular case, one is a conventional word poem... juxtaposed with a painted one. Both evoke and recall very similar responses of joy and happiness to a common childhood memory.

Crossing Over...

At the conclusion of my last post, I mentioned that I was struggling with a gnawing conundrum in regards to my recent snowman canvas. I feared losing the essence of the child-like freshness and spontaneity by pushing forward using my usual approach to finish. I was stuck - mired in a state of uncertainty... afraid to risk.

I chose to apply an experienced woodsman's approach to solving the problem of being lost:

"When lost in the woods... sit down... think and clearly plan...rather than respond automatically."

Analyse and plan, using the combination of knowledge regarding the terrain around you... the terrain you have passed through and common sense. Then, with a clear head... new knowledge and a refreshed spirit... press forward.

I decided to re-read Lois's poem. Its precisely crafted and rich language reminded me that she could hardly have written this during "one go". Inevitably, she poured over it dozens of times... dropping in... and casting out new thoughts, finally arriving at this gem. She would call that process editing in her art form. In mine... it could be called balancing values... or in my own words... pushing n' pulling.

Looking up to the canvas on my easel, I suddenly felt my earlier trepidation and fear dissipate. There were many areas that could be  polished... without losing any of the original spontaneity. there were even a few new subtle additions come to mind. I owed it to myself to bring it forward to match the level of excellence to justly sit on the same page as Lois's tersely effective gem. So... onward!

                        " A Time When Play... Was En Plein Air" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches

Before placing that poem within this post, I must deeply thank you Lois... for affording me permission to use your poem in conjunction with my painting in today's post. Much continued success with your writing and personal life. Stay well...and be happy!

If you might be tempted to look more deeply into Lois's work... you can find more information and a contact to connect you at

Snowball Prohibition

In the school yard, recess-born,
snow boulders press
against each other like standing stones.

Prevented from throwing,
children roll these monsters
that will never lift to air.

They push and grunt
their Sisyphean task
until the bell rings.

Abandoned, the hulking
colony broods in a silent circle
at the soccer pitch.

They long for progeny
for small white comets
that bear no malice,

just wish to be formed
in frozen mittens
delivered by tiny hands.

In concluding today's post, it was refreshing for me to revisit and borrow from my previous experience and discoveries.... that the Arts are indeed unified in purpose... function and in their basic structure. Both of these forms display poetic form through very similar devices. Their basic elements of construction can be seen to be comparable. One employs brush strokes to achieve the same color and expressive character that the other achieves through specific parts of speech that evoke a sense of action... descriptive detail and symbolism.

One can easily find these same functions achieved in music with form (tone poems)... and variations of note... tone and syncopation. Not only do these seemingly different disciplines cross over interactively... each can be employed effectively to support and inspire works in the progress in the other. And this can continue to occur centuries later.

I truly hope that today's post encourages each of you to examine your own sources for inspiration with a new eye to including other disciplines in the Arts.
It hardly seems possible... but today's post marks my 500th since deciding to take on this challenge. Thank you to all who have supported and encouraged this journey.

Good Painting... and Playing... to ALL!!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Work in Progress...

"Everything... is a work in progress."

The term "work in progress" is dispensed profusely... almost on a daily basis in the blogosphere... I have used it myself on occasion. I can't say what the term means to others, but in my own painting process it simply means, "I am thinking... preparing to proceed."

In most cases this occurs in the studio part of my painting activity. Most often that can be attributed to the fact that the projects undertaken in the studio are usually larger in format... perhaps more detailed and most certainly embrace a personal thought or element within the canvas. Hence... the need to lay the brushes down and sip a coffee... and just look.,.. and think.

The current canvas on my easel is such a critter. I am pulled in so many directions at the moment. I could easily "Shermanize" it... satisfying my usual need and preference to "get it down in one go." But not in this case. I feel a strong affinity for the loose... playful and child-like rendering of the subject at the lay in stage of things.
 It feels akin to the kind of image that might come from a child in terms of the application of colour. And yet... the structure denotes complexity as well. The ambiguity of facial likeness creates the possibility of the children being... anybody. The sum total for me is complete joy at this moment. The question is... Do I proceed further... or has what I wanted to convey... fully said!

Still thinking... Stay tuned...
Good Painting!... to All!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Back... and... Back-to-Back

I must apologize for the delay in following up on my earlier promise in the last post. It was intended to reveal the hidden source to commence the "Snowball Prohibition" project linked to Lois' poem. Life took me away to Toronto for a couple of days to be with my son Liam for a long overdue visit. But I am back... and with bells on my toes... eager to return to my painting schedule.

I have a conundrum to deal with this morning before commencing work though. I have TWO works ready top move forward. Both are at different degrees of readiness to proceed. This situation is totally uncharacteristic of my usual painting method. As I previously explained, I usually prefer to think about and complete a single "Idea" at a time... from start to finish. I have decided to push the envelope this time to actually work on two separate projects ... simultaneously. Fingers crossed... Let's see where it goes!

Here, directly below is the reference to reveal the subject "specter"... which I feel was contained in the random burnt sienna toning on the selected canvas. Alongside and below it slightly... you can now see how I have nudged that almost invisible figure composition closer towards reality using vine charcoal. The finished image, as it now appears was played with... and corrected somewhat to unify the elements to my satisfaction. I then set the drawing with retouch varnish to avoid smudging and loss of line. Ready to proceed. But am I?...

Look to the lower left side and upwards for your main clues. That's where my own eye initially took up the task and filled in the dots.

Here below... I combine what is actually there in terms of line and gesture within the random brushwork on the canvas... heightened by my own imagination and intuition.
Thinking in themes... Yet another "Snowman" episode. Maybe next year's Christmas card... HMMMM!

Here is the second subject that I really dove joyfully into. It derives from a digital reference of a small 5x7 inch panel that regretfully sold out through the door... before I was really finished with it. Many of these small oils are merely studies...explorations out loud in pigment... that often can be expanded upon and lead to larger works. I have always wanted to complete the initial conversation I had begun with this particular subject.

How strange... that it should run concurrently with the Prohibition "Idea". Sort of... "snowballed" on me! HA HA!

Here is the loose n' lively 5x7 inch panel "Waiting For Spring"

This is the very quick and loose one hour evening lay in on a 12x16 inch black toned canvas. Everything necessary for a go ahead is there... let it rest overnight.

Second session was to lift the lights and some detail to fix the middle and backgrounds in my mind. The foreground is intentionally untouched. That is my usual strategy either in the studio or en plein air.

The dilemma this morning is to make as choice and settle in to this morning's work schedule. Maybe this afternoon... I'll shift gears and step into the Prohibition piece for the afternoon. Life is about decisions based upon choice. My decision for this year... is to choose my own path... painting what strikes me as important to be said for me. I am (hopefully)... "practicing what I preach"!

Stay tuned!...

Good Painting!... to All!

Post Script:

"Waiting For Spring"... Completed !!

I was drawn to step into this light-filled and warm subject first because it hearkened in mood and spirit to the recent triptych project. I feel that the smaller 5 x 7 inch sketch preserved enough of the momentum I felt at the time that I first was drawn to this memory setting.

This "farm-scape" is a virtual "cut n' paste" of several idyllic scenes that I had encountered during many back n' forth road trips along the Saint John River Valley... coming and going en route to Nova Scotia years ago. The memories and joy that I always felt in making this journey remain with me even to this day. I feel that this particular smallish canvas accurately portrays my feelings... both then... and now.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Warming Your "Winter Blues"... By Adding Colour

"Do whatever brings you life, then
Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions
Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" - Elizabeth Gilbert 

Perhaps my "thumbing my nose" at the complete absence of winter in our region was all it took for the "weather gods" to dump on me... BIG time... just to make their point. Yesterday morning and within less than twenty-four hours, our too- green-for-February grass and emerging daffodil shoots found themselves... as did we... completely buried under almost two feet of heavy... wet snow! Most folks seeming ungrateful for the unusually long reprieve from winter.... whined the "winter blues."

There would be ABSOLUTELY no shovellin' my way out of this mess. This storm had delivered a for certain TKO punch to those misguided fools, reckless enough to risk either deep lower back complaint, or cardiac arrest while on the snow removal job in their driveway. I simply removed our van from the driveway... and let our hired snowblower operator clear the long driveway... and bird patch... all within thirty painless minutes. I gladly paid him double his regular rate to remove this monkey from my back.

All the while, I was busy setting up down in the studio in preparation for a two day creative bonanza for Deb and I both. Snowbound... no. Studio-bound and lovin' it! Even my earlier plein air fever had subsided. The two feet depth of white cement and the -31C temperatures for several days formed the tonic necessary to put me back on my creative feet.... in the warm studio.

"Snow Job One"

I decided to treat myself to some looser painting challenges from earlier planned... but set aside studio projects. These, I thought would help offset the feeling of constraint caused by the tight architectural and small format projects that had been my recent fare. I had one black toned 7x5 inch piece of 135 LB watercolour paper remaining from the Lansdowne series... so my quest for freedom began there.

I love painting in snowy woodland settings. Obviously, they have been non-existent in the recent more spring-like conditions... or fleeting at best within recent memory. That  is where I started. Where better to choose from than at the "honey hole" at Ivy Lea Provincial Park... home for many of my plein air treks and painting subjects. Here is what transpired during two hours in the studio. I have references aplenty to replace an actual trek

Can you deny its spontaneous and painterly plein air look-alike quality? Can you feel the joyful fun experienced in simply following the flow? Interpretation... rather hard copy should be the primary goal in both studio and plein air situations. Painting from the heart... involves more than the use of the eyes. And yet... is there not a sweet feeling of.... "eye candy"... thru' enhanced reality?

I wonder....

"Full Winter Dress... for a White Pine" - oil on black toned 135lb Canvas texture Canson Water colour Paper

The day didn't end here either. Usually in  my working method, I prefer to work on...  and complete one project at a time. In so doing, I feel that my total thinking and energy is directed and devoted towards a single goal. Multi-tasking has never been my strength. I work best from lists and from extended, or extrapolated themes and ideas. Success depends upon full attention to task.

However... on this particular day,  my synapses were firing constantly... and new ideas were pouring out and almost demanded that they be recorded at least. And so I did the unusual for me. I laid out two extra drawings that would preserve the "fire" that I was feeling... until I could get back to them. Both were ideas that had been "in que" for far too long. But being able to haul them out on a fallow day... or in a high intensity moment offers tangible proof that sketch books and digital reference are substantial and reliable tools for any working artist.

More often than not for me... the lack of good ideas is hardly the problem. Not retaining them, or misfiling them is more the issue. I work at creating a reliable library to draw upon for inspiration. New projects fall into place as I feel the need to constantly "shift gears" to maintain interest and excitement in the process of painting.

"Snow Job Two"

This project has been on the back burner since Christmas... when I was creating the theme for Liam and Bryn's Santa Snowman at Peggy's Cove, NS. It was at that time that I re-established contact with a highly creative young lady who had been a grade eight student in one of my earliest teaching classes. Lois has gone forward in her creative life to create and enjoy a marvelously successful acting career with  the famed Shakespearean troupe for the Shaw Festival located at Niagara-on-the-Lake. She herself has "shifted gears" creatively multiple times now... adding an exemplary and award-winning teaching career to her accomplishments at the illustrious King Academy. In her recent period of retirement, she has begun writing and publishing anthologies of her wonderful poetry.

I purchased a copy of her newest offering entitled "Strip Mall Subversive" and was well rewarded for my purchase. I loved so many of her works in that book... but none more than one titled "Snowball Prohibition." It struck and immediate and powerful chord in my heart and deep memory. It left an indelible yearning to interpret it in a visual way... or collaboration using Lois' words to guide my brushes and inner child. I emailed her asking for permission to take on such a venture... and she immediately replied that she felt honoured that I would do so.

And so began "Snow Job Two". The Universe speaks in mysterious ways. I believe that "Ideas" are but energy within the Cosmos and that creative individuals can be in tune with these "vibes". In this case, an early poem penned by Lois in grade eight entitled "Splunder" chained itself forward to my having contact with her... to my purchasing her book of poetry... to securing permission to take on this project... barely underway. The actual painting, in my mind... will exist as only one of several links in a single creative chain. Together... they create a stronger and more lasting collaboration and result.

It  becomes more mysterious...

I had a canvas randomly toned with acrylic burnt sienna that had been sitting... "orphaned" for many weeks vertically on my easel. One night in January, I happened to turn quickly away from my computer table and screen and my eye caught sight of the canvas. Instantly... within that random mish-mash of burnt sienna brushstrokes, an image appeared clearly. And it spoke to me of "Snowball Prohibition."

No... I am not getting batty. Nor am I simply acting out of a romantic impulse. Before me lay a veritable strong figure study that spoke to me in the way about her poem... that I had previously imagined in my mind that I could develop.

I decided to photograph the "blank" canvas to substantiate my claim... and that picture was taken the ignored until now...

Can you see a figure composition on this canvas??? Am I the only crazy... and misguided one?

I will share my charcoal rendering from yesterday during tomorrow's short post.

"The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, but then stands back to see if we can find them."

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear"\- Elizabeth Gilbert

Stay tuned...

Good painting!... to ALL!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Special Valentine's Post...

The casual usage of the word "post" by myself and many others I'm certain...  triggered the concept or "Idea" within me that has helped guide the writing of today's effort. My thank you for the inspiration goes out to a Blogger friend Lisa Le Quelenec who took it upon herself to read and to comment... adding her own thoughts to my last triptych project.

I am taking the unprecedented action  (for me)... to make use of her very insightful reflections and the striking comparison to her own creative needs and process. I believe that her very cogent observations and thoughts parallel my own. So after a very brief (for me) paragraph (or three... HA HA!) explaining background for today's four images... I will close out the post with Lisa's comments in full for you to consider.

All postal services in the world today are wrestling with real life economic issues that threaten the continuance of  "hard copy"mail... penned... and delivered letter, or card directly from one head and heart to another. That has been the postal path for over a century now... using that wonderful... but somewhat anachronistic small picture... called the postage stamp.

I can  remember the cost of postage being 3 cents anywhere in my early life. Today... a card or letter must jump through every new hoop that the post office can devise to squeeze another dime out of the consumer's hand for the mail to continue. I fear that like the penny... its days are rather numbered.

Our area consists of a number of counties, each of these subdivide into townships which contain small pockets of population.For the most part most of these consist of small villages and hamlets whose origins and economic function can be traced back to earliest settlement in Ontario. Most are struggling to maintain their presence and a viable supply of youthful residents with families.

Because these small essentially rural settlements are most always isolated from the larger population bases found in adjacent towns and cities, they seem to display and maintain a greater sense of community... and belonging. Their conservatism does indeed seem to vehemently resist any kind of change coming from outside influences. But their sense of identity and their humanity are viewed by me and many others as admirable... and necessary to the creation of Happiness. These are sacred vestiges of an earlier time... when "community" ... was more than just  a word. That is why we are drawn to  choose these special sanctuaries for our homes and businesses.

I have just completed these three small 7x5 inch oil paintings which will be housed in a single matted frame. I have agreed to donate this project to a fund-raising event/silent auction and dinner evening in support of the newly built Lansdowne Medical Clinic. This state of the art medical facility serves local residents, including Deb and I with first rate and deeply personal medical support when we need it.

The facility exists solely based upon the community energy of a few organizers and through the generosity of the many local businesses and residents. We too, join this coalition of supporters to support the community at large and to gratefully acknowledge what we have been offered in the way for friendship and acceptance since moving... "from away".

The three images are buildings... identifiable  and distinctly Lansdowne. They are all portrayed in a winter landscape because this village, like many others I visit never fail to conjure up visions of Christmas card motifs... past and present for me whenever I visit. Sending cards for "special" occasions has always been my small... yet personal way to say...  "Thank You"... or that "You matter!"

So, on this special day for hearts... Valentine's Day, I send your way Valentine's Greetings from frigid Rockport... sitting at -31 C...  Warm Wishes for  a Happy Valentine's Day... wherever you may be!

Appropriately, for a couple of good reasons... the Lansdowne "tripets" together are titled:

"Winter Fest Lansdowne"...  or... "Painting the Town Red"

Special thanks to Lisa Lequelnec at Seaside Studios Blog for these thought and post provoking insights. A visit to her creative studio blog is always a real treat for me!

"I love this piece Bruce - love love the light! And enjoying the colour and warmth. I am drawn to the horizon and thoughts of having places and spaces where wild things are. I look at your paintings and like that I am on the edge of a wilderness... coming from a built up area there aren't many places I can go to where I can be alone just "to be". The attraction of a big country like yours is the space. Maybe that's why I paint the sea so much.... I digress... I think it also speaks of the need for community and good neighbors in such a country too for sharing good times and bad. I fear that we are losing both the wild places and the community now unfortunately.

My take and probably completely wrong... anyways for me a thought-provoking painting and one I have enjoyed.

Best Wishes"

Thank you ever so much for the words to close out today's post. Your thought-provoking and inspirational words hardly digressed. Rather... they mirrored my own and spoke from another "special" heart... that I admire! They no doubt will inspire others like me as well.

Happy Valentine's Day... and Good painting... to ALL!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Birthing"... the Unexpected

Single Birth... to Twins and Finally to Triplets

What began as just another small easel painting, quite randomly morphed into a joyous voyage of adventure and discovery. It was a totally impromptu and unplanned metamorphosis, but in the end, it represents an artistic and personal statement that I have tried to live by and promote throughout my journey.

The single 8x10 inch birch cradle board panel in itself was a pleasing and rewarding  venture... but the more that I stared at it on the easel as it dried... the more my mind played with the notion that something remained unsaid. It was this notion that persuaded me to consider adding a second panel in a vertical position to develop the barn-scape into a farm-scape diptych to include the homestead.

That was achieved quite easily by simply paying close attention to the abutting edges... the background and to the scale of the barn to the homestead. Tonality and light also had to be carefully considered in setting up a continuum which "read " as a believable  sense of "place".

The success in achieving these first two random mutations encouraged to "push the envelope" further to explore the possibility of creating a triptych. I felt that the additional third panel would likely best be placed to the left side. The questions that remained to be considered in planning before I could proceed were size... format and subject matter. I slept on it overnight.

During my morning coffee ritual, I struck upon the idea of including a sugar shack for several reasons. First of all, the generic Ontario version... topped by ventilator would serve as a strong vertical component... along with some carefully "planted" maples to stop the eyes abruptly and thrust them upward and then back to the middle of the composition making use of branches joining the two left hand panels.

As I demonstrated yesterday,... a prelim notan ink sketch easily mapped the structure adequately enough to show the whole composition. The white chalk on toned black panel allowed me to "play" with the drawing... sans any strong worry about making mistakes or in the placement of forms.

Here is the "newborn" triptych at completion... with "all of its fingers and toes intact."

"Rural Requiem... for a Vanishing Landscape"
A Triptych oil on toned birch cradle boards
10 x 26 inches

A Triptych... or a Trilogy???

I have continued in my struggle to demonstrate throughout my life... and educational career through my pedagogy and in my consulting capacity following that the Arts are INTEGRATED. Though the language for each discipline indeed varies... the premise and the process upon which each is created... conducted and depends upon is the same. 

Whether one creates or appreciates... one is involved and appealed to through one or more of the senses. Poetry paints pictures in words. Novels create worlds... events...lives... conversations and people which transport and engage the reader for endless hours. Music in all of sits various genres from classical ... pop to opera can achieve like purposes and results. Genre depends only open opportunity or taste.

The various genres which form the discipline we call visual arts ranging from drawing... painting to sculpture can be used for the same story-telling purposes. Language for us all... commenced with telling our first stories and representing our first thoughts and emotions using our pictures. Somewhere... in early childhood education, most children cease this practice... most likely due either to poor classroom instruction, or more likely because they felt inadequate, or were belittled in their efforts.

To close out today's post, I humbly offer that this triptych above is a vehicle for telling a story that is important to me. As a matter of fact... I consider it to be a trilogy... as valid and as imaginatively created as Harry Potter. Unlike books written in English... my three graphic books are best read beginning right to left. Though the landscape lacks the presence of people... as do most of my paintings... human presence is assumed and revealed through the landscape and the man made architecture that rests upon it.

I will relate none of the details of my story to you. Let us say that this triptych-trilogy is fictional... which is partly true. I have created this "mind's scape" totally from my imagination. I used no existing physical references to create this project. The references did landscapes that I was privileged to visit. Like so many historically-significant, heritage buildings... they have simply vanished. Stolen by Modernity!

This is a sad tale... and it seems to be occurring and more often, and far faster than before."I" am a minstrel of sorts... travelling through a short space in Time... gathering bits n' pieces of the best we have achieved in our culture. I am sharing/carrying this story... and many others in each and every post and painting. I am hoping that what I record still matters... to someone. Heritage and culture define our uniqueness our sense of  meaning and our place in history.

What does this story in my triptych say to you?

I wonder...... and would love to hear from you.

Good Painting!... and Storytelling ... ALL!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Revisiting the Value of Revision and Editing

"Upon Stopping by the Snowy Woods One Evening...."

No... the words that I have used in  my lead in this post are not my own. They denote a significant "borrowing" from my past. Robert Frost would be happy that his "word landscape" might compel me to:

"tell this [his and my story] with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:"

Daylight has increased and now lasts long enough after our evening meal... that I can delay my daily three kilometer walk until that time in the day. Winter has suddenly suddenly reappeared leaving a skiff of two inches covering the landscape... and the coolish air and wind did much to freshen and cleanse the spirit as well.

The sun had just dipped below the western horizon as I entered the pine and oak strewn lane that passes along the river's edge. The silence was immense... the sense of "Oneness" with Creation absolute as I entered this solemn cathedral grove. The stillness was scarcely broken... except for the rattle of frozen oak fingers and the sighing of the arched white pine arms... each in their individual woodland musical response to the lightly gusting northwest wind.

I paused... again as is my usual practice on this walk to rest a while... seated alone on a large chunk of pinkish-red granite. It is here that I review my day and possible actions for tomorrow. Here ... in the uncluttered sanctity of this time and space, I see more clearly and can envision necessary change... without distraction. You see... I am highly distract able and impulse-driven by nature. But I have learned to use this follow up process to edit my thinking and actions to make them more effective.

As is my usual practice in writing my blog posts... I usually commence the writing process immediately after the painting process is completed. I had already fully written the words to describe this project... just completed during the past week. But in thinking about beginning this morning's "editorial session"... using last evening's thoughts, I decided on a whole new approach - one less didactic... one less bent upon teaching and instructing.

It is a departure for me because I have viewed the sharing of my thoughts along with the painting necessary for clarity of my purpose. That may satisfy me... but perhaps it confines... or even bores my fellow artist readers. In reading over the intended post content for "Blending Retrospection With Introspection.. to Form a New Direction"... I felt that it tended too much to be an autobiographical romp through my artistic life ... past to present.

So I have decided to use this format to replace the very lengthy (boring) earlier version. I hope to let the images unfold the process that I used to complete this project... that has been for too long... an a back burner. Now ... the story is told... perhaps in fewer of my words ... and in those that you might understand more fully - because they are your own!

The post will consist of three consecutive stages over the next three days. Each will consist of a picture accompanied by two sentences. Hope you enjoy this abbreviated approach!

Stay tuned...
Good painting... to ALL!

Day One... Stage One

This post began as most small paintings do... lay in on a toned canvas or panel. This one is a black acrylic toned birch cradle board  measuring 10 x 12 inches. 

This is the "revised" and refined version of "Island Sunbather" - oil on cradle board 10 x 12 inches

  Day Two... Stage Two

While I looked at the single panel overnight... it occurred to me that I could possibly extend the single panel to include a vertical addition of a home... thus extending the scope of the project by the simple introduction of another element. The challenge in doing so was to meld the two seamlessly.. and without compromising what I intended in the first panel. I used white chalk on the black toned panel and washed in turps values to create shapes.


Here below... is the finished version of... the new two panel Diptych.


                                                            Stage Three... Day Three

While the diptych pleased me... something inside me... that had remained unsaid pushed me to consider a third phase in this project. But more than ever... the trick would be to knit a third piece into the diptych format without cluttering or undoing the balance already created. 

I decide to complete a notan ink sketch to prepare and consider such a direction... without losing too much time in following down the road too far. This strategy provided an immediate "green light" for me to proceed... cautiously. 

Here is  final left hand panel at the preliminary the lay in stage... just a framework to build upon and to edit and make revisions

I will post the final outcome of this stage in tomorrow's post to complete the project.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jump Starting the January Blaws

Plein Air Power...

While my goal seeking and production of new paintings for January kept step with my firm post-Christmas decision to paint steadily... and to paint what my heart desired... I had not been able to get out to paint outdoors. Some health issues and days of gale force winds had put the brakes on that much anticipated and joyful activity.

I must confess that studio painting... though rewarding in  many ways, painting indoors fails to provide the spiritual inspiration and incentive that outdoor painting affords me. "... Still waters... they restore my soul..." Not being able to get "out there"... is my version of "the blahs".

I have been working fairly intensely on a new triptych idea... and had arrived at that push n' pull conclusion for that project. Yesterday... Mother Nature provided a highly unexpected and unusual February opportunity to escape to the outdoors. The bluer-than-blue sky... day long sunlight and the +40F temperatures  enticed me to pack up my plein air gear right after morning chores and a quick lunch.

I decide to head directly to my "Honey Hole" at Ivy Lea Provincial Park where I knew there would be guaranteed solitude... great scenery and  few... if any interlopers to contend with. I took only one canvas... one 12x16 inch canvas which could be used either vertically, or horizontally... depending upon what the landscape revealed to me.

I was able to "one carry" my whole kit deep into the park by reducing it to the barest essentials. I pre-laid my palette in the studio and reduced the brush count to five. I carried my easel in its arm sling and in my lightweight backpack shop toweling, turpentine and kerosene supplies, bungee cords and a beverage. No weight or bulkiness at all!

I discovered... to my surprise and delight... that the usual two to three foot snow cover that one could expect in February in this location was completely absent! Unusually warm recent temperatures and rainfall gave the scene a March aura and appearance. Upsetting on an environmental level... but pleasing to an 'ol painter making his way two to three kilometers towards a selected painting location.

I went directly to a site that I had long wanted to paint at the southernmost tip of the park... facing looking up into Smuggler's Cove at the tip of Virgin Island. I had painted the other end of this island a couple of times before... but the timing to get this view on canvas never materialized. Today would become that day - the light and shadows were perfect!

I realized that given the fact that it was past one-thirty... that the sun and shadows would be very elusive... even fleeting. So I decided to merely aim for a rough lay in to be accomplished by the end of the session. With this much accomplished, there would exist a framework or structural base to work from back in  the studio. I would easily be able to fill in the desired level of detail that I wished in a more painterly fashion... minus the pressure of trying to keep up  and adjusting values.

The only hitch in the whole day came when a "sneaky" southwest gust of wind toppled my paint box... spilling its contents (including the wet palette) on to the bed of dead white pine needles midway through the session...... Expletives #@%*&...deleted!

At four o'clock... with the sun rapidly disappearing well below the shoreline, the strong light and shadow contrast that so intrigued me earlier at the start was no longer present. So I packed up my gear and headed back ... content and greatly refreshed... high-stepping the two to three kilometers to the car at the highway.

After posting this initial part of this post... and a quick bite of lunch... I will set to work to draw this first plein  air sortie to a  successful close by day's end.

I leave you with this image... directly as it came from the field.

Stay tuned for the conclusion!...

The sketch reveals the Virgin niche... perched in a protective position overseeing the entry into...or departure from Smuggler's Cove. The current pushed floes of ice in both passages... indicating that the strong river current "has its way"... in both directions.

Ironically... this sacred edifice stands in a very position to have watched whiskey bootleggers coming and going covertly to load and unload their cargoes in the illegal liquor trade that flourished along the whole length of the Saint Lawrence during the Prohibition years.

Studio Enhancement(s)...

As promised... I am posting the results of today's studio session this afternoon. I think it is easy to see that the original effort from on site provided the energy and vision necessary to extrapolate upon the elements of the painting to suit my own needs and pleasure.

While it will require an additional short session tomorrow... after the paint has set overnight... to push n' pull the piece to a final conclusion. I wanted to mull over two potential strategies to add just a small touch of interest to the foreground to tidy up the composition.

Stay tuned...  

The Virgin has been enthroned. The magic of the evening light has begun to dim... except on her niche... swaddled radiantly by the rich amber light of dusk. She is the main focus of the painting... and her silence "spoke" volumes to "Me" while I painted. 

There is not a drop of Catholic blood in my veins... and yet...  I have always been able to "cross over"... and respect the spiritual beliefs of others. We all should worship the same Creator... and be ever grateful of His... or Her blessings bestowed upon us. Faith need not necessarily be found only in a congregation... or prayer offered from a pew. There are many ways to worship... even alone... as I choose to. Just saying...

Back again tomorrow... Stay tuned

Good Painting... to ALL!!!

Plein Air and Studio... in Combination

Less than a decade ago... I spurned the thought of "corrupting" the plein air experience by adding to the painting afterward. I considered plein air painting to be ultimate in value and religiously signed my work in situe... before bringing it inside. Most often... it found its way into into my various galleries who represented me... and then directly into the hands of collectors.

Many of those certainly had the essential merit to be painted and sold in that fashion, but there were a goodly number that would well have profited... and would have seen vast improvement with a second... and even a third look-see in the studio.

Occasionally... the plein gods look favorably upon me... and I am blessed to bring home that "painted itself"... joyful gem that simply appears. That's what fuels my incentive to continue going out to paint.The lure of  having the sheer luck... to cast the right place... and come home with "the big one one" in the boat! ... "How sweet it is..." ha ha!!

The natural world is very large and often confusing labyrinth of distractions and details. Often we are drawn down a cul-du-sac and are overwhelmed by these. Often... we simply "bite off more than  we can chew" on a given day. Good reasons to set these aside to see them in another light... minus the distractions.

Today's post demonstrates my point exactly. The plein air experience certainly did rev up my juices ... cured my "cabin-studio fever" and jump-started my creative spirit. Mission accomplished. However... as the next two additional posts illustrate clearly... a "rough 'n tumble" spontaneous sketch now possesses the mood and depth which we shoot for in the studio. And yet... there remains the original fresh and painterly quality brought back from the field.

Though I can't say for certain say that the spiritual aspect couldn't have been felt and entered into painting within the studio... I can state with fullest certainty... that the "Faith" aspect which entered into this piece was for certain powered by the actual site and environment. On this one occasion... I came to feel the closeness that many Mary worshipers enjoy... when they deliver their prayers directly to "Her".

I will end today's (lengthy) post with a quote from Robert and Sara Genn's Twice Weekly letter... this week titled: A Walk With Renoir. It struck a great chord within me... and certainly fits with my post today. I highly recommend reading this piece - it certainly is worth checking out for yourself... and subscribing as a regular too... FREE!

"Religion is everywhere, it is in the mind, in the heart, in the love you put into what you do."
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I feel that there is a religious cum spiritual component in every painting that I conceive. Each pain ting and sketch is an "article of Faith" and a statement of Gratitude on my part... directed back to my Creator... and out to each of you... who might still have a "grain of mustard seed" of Hope and Faith. The world is a better place when driven by Faith... Hope and Charity!

Plant your seed... so others may learn from your example!

Rich Blessings... and Good Painting... to ALL!!!

"River Angelus, Virgin Island - oil on canvas 16x12 inches