Sunday, November 27, 2016

Two Winter's Tales... Tale # One

This post presents my long time perspective on life and its impact upon the human experience. Life is built upon paradox. Simply put... "for everything (in life) there exists an opposite and equal effect to be exerted and experienced."

Usually, the two opposing and polar opposites seem to be suspended in perfect equilibrium. Neither appears to dramatically dominate or persist for an indefinite period. The middle space or fulcrum of life maintains a suspended sense of harmony.

November physically presents a physical manifestation of this precarious fulcrum in the natural world. Just lately, our family gathered at a lovely upriver cottage to celebrate our belated Thanksgiving during a weekend. What began as a truly "Indian Summer" experience with wonderful October-like weather and colour changed dramatically and abruptly into an early and unexpected snowstorm nightmare... even by river standards. The pendulum had swung without warning... catching us all in an unprepared and bewildered state.

What had just earlier been idyllic on the Saturday morphed into distinct danger and bewilderment for all of us attending. Even more so for my son Andrew, his wife Melissa and their two young children Mr. Mac and newly-arrived Whitney. It was again idyllic for Deb and I because it was our first opportunity to see and be with grand baby Whitney... and HOW VERY GRAND she is!!!

They had a four to five hour journey to return to their home in Southwest Ontario on a most treacherous and heavy truck-travelled 401 Highway. The highway was already being reported as being hazardous for travellers on travel warning information sources.

While they did manage to crawl home safely, the effects of the sudden storm continued across southwestern Ontario right into the Thousand Islands and Rockport throughout Sunday evening and into Monday. We awoke Monday morning to nothing less than a fully-fledged winter.

This complete version of winter with all of its trappings of a first major winter snowfall still continue to arouse the child and artist within to get out and "play" in it. It seems to me that the first snowfall always to erase the drabness and absence of real colour that too quickly gave up ghost and vanished along with October. Or perhaps... on this particular gloomy moment in my life... it helped to erase some the darkness that lurks too uncertainly about in the corners of my mind.

Andrew had asked if we might "board" Tilly, their eleven year old vizla "paw person" because of the hardwood floors in the borrowed cottage. Tilly had experienced a nasty fall when her long-nailed paws splayed out suddenly and the ensuing fall injured her sufficiently enough to discourage any sense of trust in slippery floors.... or in skating on hardwood floors.We had always enjoyed her company and welcomed her visit with open arms into our midst.

We did the usual grand"paw" spoiling routine with treats and copious walks... both quite extraordinary bits of attention in her young child-dominated sphere of daily existence. She caught on quickly and rebelled and sulked, as was her custom when Andrew came to fetch her. We willingly offered an extended vakay opportunity and Andrew accepted because we all had an appointment to attend with Allie's oncologist on Thursday. No sweat!

It was during one of our more extended walks into that new snowy world at the beginning of the storm that I suddenly became aware of countless design patterns that winter offered to my open mind and imagination. So great was their combined influence upon my "imagineering" nature that I dashed home... picked up my camera and warmer clothing and headed back out immediately into what I knew would be temporary and rapidly changing conditions.

Rather than fill more space with colourless expletives, I will shift into the visual language that we all share and understand in degrees to reveal and share my experience with you. Please enjoy... First Winter Snow... Rockport in 2016 !

"Islandsview"... wrapped in her fluffy, soft ermine winter costume... fifteen to twenty cm deep!

Leaves grabbing snowy white light by trapping snow... against a contrasting asphalt backdrop.

Snow-laden spruce gloves sheltering its roots from the storm and its cold

Many hands outstretched... and entwined... anxious to be part of the grand design of winter

Do you see what I see....???? I wonder... A painting perhaps???

Even fences carry the signature gestural handiwork of the sculptural hand and eye of the storm

Be they natural and wooden... or man made and metal... their architectural aspects are simply enhanced and magnified by winter's touch.

Top to bottom...

Side to side... snowy creations untouched by the human hand or mind... yet!

Here and there colour is permitted to seep through and contribute warmth and variety to winter's frigid tapestry of designs

Leaves play back n' forth... either accepting or rejecting winter's invitation to dance

Rapidly dying fall berries are given a reprieve... and willing step forward to become truly...  "fall preserves".

Final dashes of autumn red accents make fitting accessories for winter's white gown...

Even the tiniest of the towering spruce family members stand tall on their own... perhaps for the very first time.

"Stairway to Heaven"..... Remember that "oldie-but-but-goodie" folks??? But no... this one is a "cover"  that I prefer to call "Stairway From Heaven"... HA HA!!

Because this is the view seen in the opposite direction

And on this snowy day of Thanksgiving... there is this a propos snow-covered reminder that...

"All blessings... including the clean winter snow... fall from the Heavens... from the hand of Whomever you wish to worship and give thanks."

Be thankful!....

What could you do with this infusion of creative juices... images and ideas? Whatever you wish!... and with my fullest permission and blessing to do so!

I will close out today's already too lengthy post with this one last image from our now sleeping garden. These three pink tea roses hang on... even thrive, when the rest of the garden has gladly surrendered to winter. Like these hardy and grateful pink roses, I squeeze out the very last drop of the succulent juices that enrich my journey!

I am greatly blessed... and remain grateful... but greatly tested this morning.

Stay tuned for Winter's Tale # Two to follow...

Good painting and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to  ALL!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Let your Light so shine..."

I have just completed and forwarded an early morning email to Allison hoping to confirm a plan for today that we jigged together during my Remembrance Day morning visit with she and her Mom Joan. Hmmm... where did that all come from???

If you read and will recall... it was in my intended "plan" for observing Remembrance Day 2016 to visit the Band Room at Royal Military College to see the reproduction of my painting gift to Matt Dawe's family as it hung there and to pay my respects through that visit.

I had made a wonderful chicken stew - a supreme comfort food on my winter medley of favorite foods and Deb added her beyond delicious apple sauce to be shared with Allison and Joan. I (as is the usual custom) caught the ladies in their night attire - late risers they are! HA HA!!

While visiting over a nice cup o' Joan's great java we took in some of the National War Memorial service underway in Ottawa with host Peter Mansbridge, CBC's iconic version of Walter Cronkite in the hay day of good television broadcasting. Can't even mention Wolf Blitzer in the same mouthful of words of comparison or praise....

During the ensuing conversation, I suddenly and firstly realized... that I had never seen the National Remembrance Day service... except on the evening news in dribs and drabs. I realized too... the ordeal... no battle that my daughter had experienced in the last year was sadly still unfinished and that she could well need and enjoy my presence here on this particularly cold Remembrance Day.

What happened in my thoughts and planning at that time closely resembles what often becomes the path during my painting process. What I intend at the beginning seems less important... less pertinent and less satisfying to my need and intent. I simple shifted gears... "imagineered" and took the path less travelled to create a new Remembrance Day observance.

"And it made all the difference"... for all of us yesterday.

Strange how the Universe chooses the time and place to visit you. Stranger still... that it can either choose to pick "You" alone... or a group... or a Nation at large. We in Canada were given yet another reason to experience a great sense of loss... that ironically... fell upon us on Remembrance Day,. It will remain after this Nov 11th... as "the day the music died."

Leonard Cohen, our beloved and iconic francophone poet and balladeer passed away on November 10th at the age of 82. Unexpected?... perhaps. But anticipated with any sense of it happening? Not. It seems unfathomable to all who loved and treasured his gifts that his raspy voice would someday be no more. And yet... it is prophesied and given substance within his own imagination and reality.

And his prophetic words ... songs and spirit easily cross the border that separates our two nations. No fence can be built that is strong enough to constrain its message. I could choose any example from the treasury of his music... the music that has guided my life and given me uplifting courage during my own personal Darkness and struggles.

Good bless and us all safe!!! Pray that Cohen's words are correct. Contribute your own peaceful "Light"... you in your small corner... and I in mine!!!

In closing out today, I shall let Leonard Cohen's hymnal "Democracy" ... "Dance us to the end of love."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Pilgrim's Progress... on Remembrance Day 2016 - Part Two

The tradition of pilgrimaging can be found to have been practised in many cultures and religion down through the annals of history. The religious practise can be seen to serve two purposes. Firstly, to venerate  a holy place, or shrines to the faith. And secondly, to fortify and maintain adherence to the fundamentals of a belief system by its people.

In the sectarian practise of pilgrimaging it can be created to unify moral values and principles and the unique identity of a nation. We as Canadians... and nation states around the world are set to embark on an annual pilgrimage... each to its own shrine of Remembrance to recognize and remember its sons and daughters who laid down their lives in foreign places in serving and protecting their country. They have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of us all. They gave up their Tomorrows... so that we could have Today... and our Freedoms.

I have made this pilgrimage during my entire journey. Wherever I lived, I made that pilgrimage annually. Often it was with whole classes of my students. Other times it was with my children when it was possible... to not only pay my own respects, but through my presence and example to encourage these young people.... so far removed from the tangible evidence of war in their blessed lives that war demands its payment. That payment has most always been the lives of youth - people their age.

"Lest we forget... "

Often, my feelings and emotions encourage and urge me to paint my thoughts to be shared in a more lasting way. Wearing a poppy for a single day in the year is hardly enough (to me) to say thank you... and that I will never forget you and your sacrifice.

I have honestly tried to live my life in a manner that says thank you through my daily kindness and by assuming an active role in developing  Hope and Possibility for the children of Today and Tomorrow. Art... in all of its forms crosses all boundaries and is a mighty tool for shaping values... and usually without the use of force. Together, the Arts unfold a universal message that speaks in many tongues... to every culture... and to every individual.

WW II was a part of my family fabric and heritage. I was born on the very cusp of that catastrophic event and felt the residual effects of fear and uncertainty that were spawned with it. And yet... I was born and have lived in the most blessed time mankind has probably ever known. I am ... truly blessed... and am Grateful.

My family and each of us as members are currently engaged in another kind of potentially deadly conflict. Though we ourselves do not carry weapons... nor do we point them menacingly at others, we face a common enemy who has no face. An enemy who who shows little or no mercy for whomever it selects from our midst to engage with. And we MUST choose to do battle with the same voracity... courage and unity that any army unit has been forced to respond with. Each day... we battle together... without fanfare... and mostly without complaint. We do so out of unconditional love for our Family... and each of its members. WE WILL NOT YIELD... or SURRENDER!!!!!

This is Allison's message of Hope sent by her to America and the friends from her journey who live there. I am so very proud of her character and courage in the face of the terruible ordeal that she has fought through so bravely. Her example to the numerous young women that she shares a classroom and journey with parallels the very same example that Hillary Clinton has presented to the daughters of America. Her example to young women of the  Present and Future and... no matter their party's color... anywhere on the electoral map remains her singlemost legacy of her service to her country.

These two women from two very wlks of life present the truest legacy of the most valid measure of one life's worth. It's the goodness and generosity that they conscientiously and consistently demonstrate each day that inspire others. Their message cannot fail... because it has been placed in the good hands and hearts of so many good souls and open minds to be passed on.

Remembrance Day, November 11th, 2016

Here are two individuals that will be in my heart at 11:00 am tomorrow. It will be a sad moment for certain... but it seems appropriate that they represent two veterans from two campaigns across the span of over sixty years.

The first is my son Andrew's hockey pal and fellow student, 27 year-old Captain Matthew (Matt) Jonathan Dawe PPCL who lost his life tragically along with five others under his command in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan. So moved was I to respond and reach out to Matt's family that I created a painting to honor his memory. I sent along that small canvas to Matt's wife Tara for his son Lucas.

A year later I was contacted by a representative of Royal Military College in Kingston, the school from which Matt and his Dad Lt Col Peter Dawe had graduated earlier in their military careers. They asked if I would consent to the smaller painting being made into a larger giclee print to be permanently hung in the Band room in Matt's memory at a Remembrance
Day ceremony. I was unfortunately unable to be in attendance because I was in Brockville at another ceremony.

I will seek to spend the first part of Remembrance Day 2016 in Brockville to honor Jack Shepherd and a send pilgrimage to RMC, Kingston to the Band Room to honor Matt.

Captain Matthew (Matt) Jonathan Dawe PPCL

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" - oil on canvas 14 x 11 inches

I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony last year in my home town, Brockville , a scant 25 kilometers down river from Rockport where I currently reside. When it was at all possible, I always tried to return to Brockville to assume my place as a fellow citizen at the cenotaph as I had done for so many November 11ths in the past.

It always touched me greatly to watch the Brockville veterans of all wars assume their places facing the cenotaph for those precious two minutes of remembrance. It struck me ever so greatly on this particular occasion, that many of the familiar faces were missing from the ranks of this battalion of Brockvillians. Time ... had in fact carried so many away in just that very short space of time.

Standing at full attention was a man that I knew as a friend and mentor during my growing up years. It was Jack (The Chief) Shepherd clad in meticulously pleated grey pants, navy blue raincoat and a II RCR beret rigidly and defiantly erect amongst this dwindling, fatigued remnant of past campaigns. It was very cold... and the time seemed to drag on while their "at attention" posture was kept until "Last Post and Reveille could be sounded.

Jack's attentive and aware son John tried unsuccessfully to encourage his father to wisely "fall out" - but to no avail. He marched... eyes forward with his comrades -at-arms the necessary half block to the planned "fall out" location.

This was to be Jack's very "last" and final post. He passed away peacefully during the following summer. I had realized at the time that Jack was truly failing rapidly... so I  found a good location and recorded this image of this momentous occasion in his life. He was so very proud of his RCR affiliation. More so... because he and the Canadians serving in Korea were only recognized by our government (in its infinite wisdom) as true "veterans". They were shunned as veterans and were basically unrecognized as such by their country. Shame on us!

I attended Jack's funeral and placed one in the hands of both of his sons, Johnny and Paul... both friends I spent time with in my hunting years. Jack was a true professor of outdoor education... without university credentials. I am forever in his debt for many things.

Jack  (The Chief) Shepherd's (on the right) Final Parade. "Fall out!" ... with dignity and full grace Chief!

At this point, I will close out this already too long post using two paintings. However... I offer no apology to my readers for this length. This annual pilgrimage ritual is worthy of the time I spent writing it. It is worthy... if you so choose to be read and kept close in your own lives. That choice remains yours. I thank each of your for visiting... and for pausing to read its contents.

The first painting is my own from a number of years back when I water colored my way around. It was not intended to be purely a "Remembrance Day" painting as such... but is does speak to that purpose and use now... so many years later. It is a "cover"akin in its compositional elements and style to "Lady In Waiting". A bit perhaps the same... a bit different message in other subtle ways.

But that's a story for another day.....

NO Title... NO signature... ????? watercolor on 1/2 sheet 300 lb Arches paper

I wonder???.....

"Lady In Waiting" - watercolor on full sheet Arches 300 Lb paper

This last painting is most certainly not mine. Wish that it were in some ways. But I offer it to all of my own many American relatives, Friends and neighbours. I think it so eloquently brings forward the basic essence of America's Past... Present and Future dremas and values.

This Rockwell painting appeared on theMay 27th, 1922 cover of Literary Digest. It makes the illusion to Betsy Ross (a woman).... bird cage above her head,,... soldier's hat on the table both elude quietly to the struggle for Freedom which the Flag represents. The title?..... OH SO APPRPRIATE"

"Mending the Flag"

Get at it America!!! God bless ALL!!!... and a solemn Veteran's Day of Remembrance!!

Good Painting... to ALL!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"A Pilgrim's Progress"... Part One

"Symbiosis" - canvas 24 x 24 inches

All species relate and depend upon the other's existence... in the chain of life.

Symbiosis, by definition describes a mutual relationship between two species that demonstrates a common accord of agreement to support each other in the process of survival. Would I unfairly be stretching the point today to allude that Canada and the United States have lived under such an agreement in terms of foreign policies... trade and creed for almost two hundred years???

Can Art speak and cross even political borders... without offending???

I wonder...

My borrowing of the above title from John Bunyon's allegorical masterpiece of the English language
is very timely and appropriate in so many ways to situations currently in my own personal and artistic lives. Stranger still, it is, as well most appropriate and meaningful to the American people who will head to the polls to collectively (?) on Tuesday. Their common mandate is to jointly elect a new president and leader for their country. That's the way of a democracy... right???... EH???

We, as Canadian neighbours and the world at large sit precariously perched on that same abyss of change all hoping - no... praying that the American people will continue to make use of and follow those same beliefs and principles upon which their country was founded to choose America's Destiny:

"In God we trust"... and... "ALL men are created equal with the same inalienable rights".

Whatever the name of the "God" that you choose to worship, it is incumbent upon you to embrace the teachings of that deity. In my own pilgrimage, I have sought out truth from many sources and in many places using my own intellect and conscience to guide my choices and my path. I have not always found accord with many "organized" religions because the simple fact repeats that they are organized by human beings who are fallible... and often politically-driven to serve their own visions and needs.

The fact that I cannot lay claim to any membership in one particular faith does not deter me from seeing that common principles and teachings in each faith exist which lead me to believe and to put into practise... tolerance for each of the others. We are indeed all sons and daughters of Mankind... and/or "God"... whatever you wish to believe.

I also have come to understand and believe that a radical point of view, along with advocates and their actions which embrace that radicalism exists in ever aspect of human thought or action. Strangely enough, like a cancer radicals lay hidden, but active within an otherwise very healthy mind or body. It is ever so obvious in this political race leading up to the presidency that neither candidate totally, or even in the smallest particle matches the kind of integrity that we "believe"founded "and built the Republic.

Each president faced terrible decisions in their presidencies. Many made mistakes that took generations to adequately address, or resolve. For many, their stands and decisions even cost them their very lives. Despite those mistakes and tragedies, America has risen to assume a place as a world power. Like it, or not... your country faces a true crossroad as a viable and trusted world leader. How you vote, as a people will largely determine whether you can continue forward in that capacity. Or will the world with people of conscience who have previously held out their hands in trust and friendship withdraw... and become adversaries.

I wonder...

In closing out this post, I would offer some favourite art images... paintings made by iconic Americans who taught me about "Ideas"... who pushed me to "Imagineer"... who offered me their thoughts and experiences to guide my own vision.

The first comes from the romantic brushwork of the iconic and beloved classic illustrator... head of the Wyeth family art dynasty, N.C Wyeth. Its subject... though highly romanticized and "sanitized" it clearly presents the perceived origin of the American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Note also... that the First Nations presence seems rather "token" at the table of Puritan blood... and that he "vaguely" bears a striking resemblance to the hotly under fire logo for Cleveland Indians. Hmmmmmmm...

The second image is currently on the November page of my calendar. It is a reproduction that appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on November 17th, 1921.Painted by America's beloved illustrator and story teller of the "American Way"... Norman Rockwell. His work was considered by readers of this era to be "as American as apple pie".

At the very early age of three, I eagerly waited for the Saturday Evening Post issues that arrived with regularity at our home. Some of these still reside on the dusty shelves of bookcases among the treasured collection of favourite book Friends".  I consider him an important mentor in my artistic pursuits.

Here, in this timeless Thanksgiving tribute, Rockwell's playfully active rendering reveals a rather differing view of Pilgrim - First People relationships at the first Thanksgiving. It irreverently and tongue-in-cheekily pokes fun at Wyeth's sanitized and Puritanistic diorama.

I am in no way intending to condemn either of these artists, their work, or their views. Neither am supporting any current preoccupation by many to be "politically correct". That is in itself a societal attempt to sanitize what was embraced in earlier history. I merely offer a personal view and perspective that History is a living thing. It shrinks and grows. It comes and goes. It morphs and changes... as the veils of Time shroud it more deeply in the Past... until at last it either changes or disappears from use.

I would encourage all Americans to add their vote. It is your voice... it marks your only chance to have a say about not only your own future, but the future of your children and grandchildren. It even has dire implications for all other peoples on this planet.

Who will you put behind the infamous "red button" at that critical moment?  Remember the rhetoric contained in each one of the debates. The clear answer is contained there.

Who do you think best represents the legacies and consciences of Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, King, Kennedy and Carter???

"The Power of One"... commences on Tuesday with your single vote. Use your own conscience... but DO cast your own vote!

Good Painting!... Good luck... and God speed ...