Friday, March 30, 2018

Good... Friday???

The coldness and finality of Crucifixion and the constant reminder of ultimate sacrifice of Christ is visually arresting here in Rockport Cemetery.

As a young person being introduced... and indoctrinated into the Mormon faith which my parents had chosen to embrace... I was left with many unanswered questions about its doctrines and teaching. I must readily admit however, that we were encouraged to ask questions and to speak openly within a group of our elders.

It did disturb me though... even then, that men and women were subdivided and met in separate groups and there were differences in the distribution of power and importance in decision-making.

One of the questions that arose with in me very early centered around the celebration of Easter. I did most certainly understand the weighty consequences of the cruel penalty of the agony and eventual drawn out death suffered by those unfortunates who faced this fate. This led me to always wonder how one could actually consider the dark Friday when Christ faced this ordeal and perished as being in any fashion... "Good"?

Easter as I experienced it and Christian belief played it out was joyful celebration and seemed "out of step" with the dreadful event that had preceded it a scant two days earlier.. Not even in adulthood  was that confusion in my mind's eye of the idea of such a treacherous Friday being in any way "Good".

Here... in my Garden of Hearts gathered to celebrate Allison's continuing presence in my life... this granite heart-shaped stone displays a certain crucifix stance... piercing the cold remainder of winter's snow. Behind it .... the only bit of color emanates from a "Miss Kitty" figure that she jabbed into my garden, teasingly... to offset and chide me for my ongoing complaints about summer "interlopers" who most often have no regard for private property. A reminder of tolerance.

 I decided to give further thought to the notion of today being "Good"... again because I felt no real good today. Two days ago Allison's Mom, Joan, Deb and I went down to the site of the ginkgo tree which had been planted in Allison's memory by her Queen's students.

Joan had picked up some inexpensive Easter eggs to hang on the tree... not being able to see it remain bare. Allie always looked forward to such festivities. She never relinquished that "child within"... and never felt it necessary to hide the fact that she felt comfortable letting her child out to play... in front of anyone.

Deb had spent the whole week and had lovingly crafted seven lovely stained glass eggs to be added to Joan's. That gift lifted every one's spirits to a higher plane... and certainly added unexpected elegance to the decorations. I'm sure... that Allie would have been smiling down upon us.

I did some serious reading to try and find a different perspective about seeing the "Good" in this particular Friday in the face of this gargantuan loss that we as a family have suffered. Strangely... some pieces did fall strangely into place that made some sense. Perhaps... they might as well help some of you to make sense of your own loss... if you too search for peace and solace.

Within the Christian framework... Good Friday does indeed mark the flogging... the agonizing trek of Christ to Calvary... his crucifixion by the Romans on the cross and his lingering death while his loved ones looked on helplessly.

That scenario roughly parallels Allie's ordeal... stretching out over three years and culminating in her eventual death on Wednesday, April 26th... at 7:30 am. Note that the details remain specific.

However, it is at this point that changes occur for me. Her death brought with it an ability to  redeem  myself for the deep and encompassing anger and pain that had totally gripped my consciousness. By seeking therapeutic counsel, I was able to confront these paralyzing feelings that kept me in bondage.

Since achieving this resurrection of my previous positivity... creativity and Joy... even momentarily, I have been able to achieve new meaning in my life and have learned to focus my thoughts and memories upon pleasant moments that she and I spent together.

As well... I can actually feel her presence in the world about me that she and I loved and shared together. We were kindred spirits in life... always. Death has not been able to destroy that connection and bond that we shared as human beings.

My Chicks... feeding chickadees last February at the Cataraqui Conservation Sugar bush. Who'd have guessed this would be our last sugarin' off celebration?

This is a still life using a cup she brought me from Venice... a postcard sent while she worked there and the final roses before the frost. I miss those impromptu gifts and frequent heart gifts that we exchanged!

What I Learned From Searching Out the "Good" in this Friday

Search within and without... for the answers. They are most certainly present in your daily life and treasure trove of pleasant memories. I found my own easy to access and immediate in their therapeutic influence.

Most members of my immediate family have provided immense emotional support. Their support more than compensates for the disappointing actions of others... who for whatever their reasons, have been unable to "be actively present". Perhaps time will change this...

Thank you to the hosts of my friends who stepped up and have supported me... particularly my blogging family members . Your constant presence and encouraging words on this blog continue to inspire my creative spirit. Thank you all!

My books and reading have yielded so many answers... as has music. Throughout my life, I have been able to gain knowledge and direction in my personal and creative lives.This morning, I gained insight into the development of the the actual contents of this lengthy post. I make no apology for its length. In simple truth...I paint and write... always to connect with my Self... and then "You".

In closing, I offer this favourite song of mine... handed to me years ago by my dad. The song has always resonated with a sense of Hope and Faith and the potential... in myself and others to survive... and contribute. It was written by the famous comedic figure Charlie Chaplin... as strange as that might seem. 

What a "chain letter" of Hope.... Charlie... to Nat... to my Dad... to Me... and now... to you! 

Pass it forward!


Happy Easter... to ALL!!... and "Keep smilin! "

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Both Sides Now"


The satisfaction I received with having completed the BIG project with a small and limited tool box had scarcely registered for me when I found myself already in the throes of thinking about another project... one which I had placed for too long on the back burner. The project itself was pushed forward and encouraged by a comment from my friend Keith Tilley in his comment regarding "the BIG." He readily recognize my underlying message and reason for undertaking this huge project.He commented, "You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to make good art." He got it!... and that was payment in full for me for the effort. I hope that some of you "get it" too... and take courage to risk taking on the BIG in you own lives. Dare to dream! Thank you Keith!

 I  finally decided  to either dump this draft which has been circling around unfinished for far too long in my mind... or simply to delete its sketchy commentary and move on. Like a troublesome sketch or painting, not all starts deserve a finish. Some merit a good scrubbing off early on, as opposed to "saving them" or, putting a frame around them. Most of the time when painting in the field that decision and solution arrives very easily and painlessly.

However, in this particular post I kept finding myself drawn to a very cogent consideration before deleting the "idea". The post quite clearly defines how forcefully and effectively that music plays into my thinking and how important music has been to my painting process over the years. Though I am very eclectic in my musical tastes, my preferences tend to lean towards embracing a blend of classical music with Canadian folk traditions.

Another reason for "keeping the faith"is that it provides me a long overdue opportunity to thank two very special friends, Carol and John Philips of Midland, Ontario. Our bond of friendship stretches back... far into our "primordial past,"a simpler time in public school when school chums played marbles together in the schoolyard. During summer vacays,... we swam together during the seemingly endless hot summer days and played Red Rover until darkness ... or our parents' call  summoned us to head home, bringing that day to an abrupt end.

Later in our adolescence, we danced our way through high school at "Teen Town." The local Masonic Temple was the Friday night (lightly chaperoned) hangout where Jivin' Johnnie  spun 45's every Friday night along with his pal "Hat Badge" Ian Wilson. More than one "first love" was kick-started on that dance floor... mine amongst them.

Time and distance have thankfully been unable to separate us and we have remained friends ever since. So I would like to offer this post as a tribute to this couple o' blessings in my life. You Two... have truly made all the difference in my many and varying lives, Thank you BOTH!! I love you ... forever!

This blog's title derives from a blockbuster Joni Mitchell hit from the sixties. The melody and its lyrics speak to me still and never fail to carry my heart joyfully back to those simpler times and life moments.

All three of us have seen and experienced "Both Sides... of life, ever so clearly... to reach the Now. Mine arrive with Allie's passing and theirs... unimaginably, through their own tragic loss of two of their three children - both gone treacherously... and tragically too soon.

 I could never understand how they as people and as a couple survived this tsunami of a continuous life time of grief. But they did and I bore witness throughout the ordeal. It has been their example...  and their constantly joyous presence and their continous contributions to my life that has encouraged me to undertake my own journey to recover renewed purpose and Happiness. I owe them a great debt of gratitude for their generous and unconditional love.

Like most in my "Boomer Generation," Canadian Folk and rock n' roll music formed the main diet for our listening and dancing pleasure. I find that many of my compatriots remain locked into that tradition even today. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family where all types of music was valued and played. My Dad was a local musician of considerable note, very respected for his unerring and willing ability to successfully "sit in" on piano in any musical genre. All Sherman's and their children have gone out into the world with music embedded deeply in their hearts... albeit in a variety of different ways.

"Both Sides Now" borrows from the musical spirit and genius of Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell. I have deeply admired and identified with her on so many significant levels. We both share so many crossover commonalities in our values and lives. We both have performed music. Both share a rebellious nature and idiosyncratic traits in our persons and our  thinking. Both of us share a love for creating art. A large difference between us in fame does not play into this from my view... nor does it matter.

Through her beautiful music... I have come to truly know and respect her on so many levels. I have chosen to share and expose you to a newer cover by Joni of "Both Sides Now," It is soft and mellowed out... minus the bopping care-free  version from the past. I selected it to present to each of you... because it speaks so eloquently and intimately to the listener. It's worth the listen... start to finish in my view. Enjoy... 

                                                                   "Selfie" ... by Joni                                                                                     
Is this not "Me"... or "You"... or not everyone who has lived life... on "both Sides" of youth... and experienced life "from near and far"??? And still somehow "it's life's illusions we recall"... and if we are honest.. none of us "really fully knew ... [or understood] life at all"... till Now... in these later years.

A Time When Art and Life Become One

Novelist Jonathan Swift said it best with this quote

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."

I would contend that an artist is an individual who incorporates that vision with their own unique gift and hard work to bring it into reality in whatever medium they choose to work with. We all do that in our own unique fashion. Whether fame is achieved in the doing of that, or not...  DO share your art with pride and conviction.

I found a Chinese proverb which I painted on the top of a side table gift that I gave to Allie to mark her under graduation. It read:

"One cannot hold moonlight... but may you always put your dreams in the Light... make visible what without you may never be seen."

"The Great Wall"... of Rockport

No... my reference is not to that iconic ancient wall that for centuries kept invaders at bay in China... it is rather my ironic and musing view that this wall here in Rockport performs rather the opposite function for the resident who has gone to the considerable expense to have it constructed. It is intended to keep out the influx of summer crowds of wandering visitors (many from China)... who do not respect the rightful privacy of residents and landowners in this very small village. This problem is more than annoying when the numbers expected each summer rise into the hundreds of thousand. No ethnic slur is intended ... just a revelation and reality check!

This year right through late fall and up until the first snow fell,  I visited with two stone masons who were vigorously trying to complete the most beautiful dry point (no mortar) stone wall just as you enter or leave the village. Despite the deep cold, they battled with the elements and the very deep cold, showing no apparent regard for their enemy.

I could not... not stop to visit as I passed by on my daily walks. I asked, "Is this work not hard on your body and particularly your hands?" They assured me each time that despite the fact that neither wore gloves and both dressed very lightly... they were warmed by their work and the progress that they made. It was their trade... but at the same time it was their Art... and their passion all rolled into one. And that serpentine structure spoke to me... as strongly and clearly to me as it did to them.

On each occasion, I heard sweet music long before they came into view. Each day that source of music changed... according to which mason was laying stone down. I mused how strange... or maybe not ,.,, that their wall had a very strong  visual  musical rhythm of its own.

Hmmm. I wonder...

The wall was at last finished and they have long since moved on to their next project which...  I've been told is in California, But their serpentine musical wall still commands my attention... my respect and demands me to paint it. And I have - twice already. I was very pleased by the result of my first wee 8x10 inch canvas. It really captured the afterglow of that winter day... as it played against the wall itself and Church of the Redeemer behind it. It definitely captured this very new... and remarkable modern piece of heritage. Here... two heritage traditions from different eras rest peacefully side-by-side. Out of annoyance and bitterness ... emerged beauty... and Art.

                         "Late Evening Light at the Wall and The Church of the Redeemer"
                                                  Oil sketch on canvas 8 x 10 inches

The wee oil sketch sat on the floor of our studio and each time that my eye was drawn to it, I was dragged into deeper thought, until one evening I decided to take my camera and visit the other side of the wall to see what painting potential, if any might lay there. My curiosity was rewarded and I uncovered what would become the very first painted view of this piece of heritage. It surely will not be the last, by any stretch of the imagination.

                                "Along the Wall to the River... and St. Brendan's RC Church"
                                                           Oil on panel 8x10 inches

Here in this quiet riverside hamlet lie the physical  and remaining reality of a deep and abiding schism which split the Roman Catholic faith apart during the period of the Reformation. Though the deep anger... bitterness and even armed conflicts have dissolved over time, "the spiritual divide" continues to separate God's flock into separate places of worship - by choice. The two paintings... each done on opposing sides of a physical barrier... Metaphorically still a "wall" exists and whimsically reflects that truth to me visually. Just the Joni in me... humming along to the tune of... "Both Sides ... Now!

"Closing Time".... Thank you Leonard Cohen!

Good Painting...  and my blessings... to ALL!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Further to BIG things... with a small stick

In the last post I shared a very meaningful and magical Venetian moment that I experienced so many years ago. Ravel's "Bolero" continues to be among my favorite  pieces of music in all genres that I enjoy. I still play classical music and Canadian folk while I paint. Both continue to add inspiration and elevate my creative senses and mood.

While I searched out a Youtube rendition of "Bolero" I fortunately stumbled upon the one that featured the "toothpick maestro" which almost replicated the tenor and fiery performance at the Fenice so many years ago.

I mentioned to you at the end of that post that this extraordinary performance prompted me to undertake a similar strategy during my most recent project. I must admit that the project defied a promise that I had made to myself and others nearby... that my days devoted to taking commissions were finally over with. Little did I know that one more remained... and a very large and challenging one at that.

I will spare you the details surrounding how this occurred. Let it simply be said that I "owed many kind favors" to the friend who made this request. The parts that allowed me to go forward involved kindnesses to our family and particularly Allie. So I stepped up... not to the easel... but to the long wall of what is to become his entertainment space for friends in the Rockport community.

I have worked steadily for nine days and will in all likelihood complete the project tomorrow. Here is the wall of acrylic pigment that I will live at Wayne's World.

This mural features a familiar favorite Thousand Island landscape... "Smuggler's Cove"... so named because it was a place used by rum runners during Prohibition to avoid detection from their illegal smuggling operations to the US. It is a picturesque horseshoe-shaped cove with much current and Caribbean colored waters. This vantage point is a view from the Ivy Lea Provincial Park boat ramp.

The centre part of the painting focuses upon "Virgin Island... so named because their is a niche containing Mary on the outward point. It was the site for summer cottagers and boaters Sunday Masses for many years. It has become a summer island retreat for a friendly US family.. each of them own one of my sketches of their island.

In the lower right foreground of the is the Dive Boat "Osprey"... one of Wayne's two boats from which he conducts his popular scuba diving business. Wayne is a true "River Rat" in every sense of the word. He has made his living and lifetime on the river and knows it intimately... like the back of his hand.This is surely why his diving business attracts divers from all over the world to use his expertise and superior equipment.

It was one of these boats that transported Allie and the rest of us for two memorable private Thousand Island Cruises... at no cost to us. I will always be in his debt for this gift to us all, and especially Allie who would not have been able to visit the islands again in that last year of her life. A very precious and binding gift for me!

The helicopter in the upper left hand corner represents Wayne's newest interest. Since he was a boy, he has wanted to fly so he purchased this lightweight two passenger helicopter to complete this boyhood dream. He is currently taking flying lessons and has ripped down the helicopter to its frame and replaced all questionable parts to insure safety. He's a dreamer... who turns them into reality. I admire him deeply.

Here's the "toothpick" connection. I completed this entire 4 x 12 foot vignette... using only these brushes shown here. Surprisingly... I was astonished at the speed and the freedom that large arm strokes presented me during the execution of this large format.

A one inch bristle brush and a half inch sable dagger were the work horses throughout the entire painting process. I will be adding some "rigger work" for fine detail work tomorrow. Just a novel approach... running against the grain it might appear at first glance... but not!

Hope that it might inspire each of you to jump in and use some "outrageous" idea or approach of your own of your own... to make you soar... artistically and spiritually. You might come away as surprised and pleased as I have been with this exercise. A great winter tonic! HA HA!!!

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Power of Mothership... and Music

Today, Wednesday March 8th marks International Women's Day around the world. It seemed relevant and necessary for me to recognize and to celebrate all women in the world as they attempt to seek a better share of possibility and recognition as equals in all fields of human endeavour.

I have always been an advocate and supporter of women's entitlement to equality. I owe much of my own success in every facet of my journey to important women contributors. Each of our human journeys owes its origin to "the Mothership"- carrier and first home for all humankind.

My Mother with her endless love, sacrifices, generous spirit and role model left an indelible blueprint which I have carried forward into a present that she would never see, or experience. I have shared its content and values with my own children and countless students and friends since then. Through me... her legacy will continue to survive her and be passed on to women... and men that she will never meet. We will collectively carry her legacy forward with usd to places that she never could travel to or see.

Mom was just one... in a succession  of women that I would meet... be befriended ...loved and mentored by. She single handedly ushered me into relationships with other women that I would meet... teaching me to respect and trust their person, their wisdom and their intellect. There exists no barrier between us. She enabled me to embrace and practice my own egalitarianism without fear.

I am greatly blessed... for the presence and gifts of  Deb as well... and all women who enriched my life. I encourage each woman... wherever you live... whatever your circumstances, or goals to stand up for the rights you will only receive if you speak out against dominance or oppression. Change never comes without resistance or hardship. Peace will always come afterward.

There are many other men like myself who are willing to strive to make the playing field more level. Sometimes the greatest examples o f strength and beauty can arrive through the careful use of "small instruments."

Play on... with your own small instrument,or voice.

Music... from my Past

I was very fortunate to have earned the opportunity to visit and study for eight weeks in Venice, Italy in the spring of 1989. That adventure would form the basis of a change in artistry and my personal growth and development which has led me right up to the present day.

It too would lead my darling daughter Allison to follow my footsteps to Venice... and beyond. She ended up teaching and becoming Director of the very Queen's University Summer School that I attended as a student. It would become the very wellspring of her entire mission on earth. I am greatly blessed to have shared that gift with her. It enjoined us forever as equals.

While I was there, I was befriended by my professor Catherine Harding and another woman student Jean Smith. That unlikely close friendship ensued because we three were much older than the other students. Simply put... our interests are more closely aligned. While the youth cavorted at the Lido beach by day and boogied into the night, we three turned our attentions to cultural opportunities as they arose over the eight weeks.

I will always be grateful to these two women ior sharing outings like an evening of stringed chamber music within the very halls of Antonio Vivaldi's church where he was concertmaster and organist. However, the highlight for my entire visit was an unforgettable night at the dazzlingly beautiful Fenice Opera House. The entire evening... with its tapestry of sights and sounds still reverberates in my memory.

However, the tour de force for this evening would be the final piece... Ravel's Bolero. Words fail to describe or grasp  the emotion that I felt as I swayed in my seat... seemingly for hours, as the music raised from the almost inaudible... through to a crescendo of the entire orchestra thrown into a frenzied cacophony of duelling instruments by section in the tumultuous concluding bars and notes.

My attention was riveted on the elegantly attired, tall, slender, older, white-haired maestro... iconic  to the point of appearing almost God-like as he wielded his white baton. His every movement and gesture captured the inner passion and intensity that he felt... and brought to this performance.

Those movements were locked onto by every section player as the tempo and cadence lifted. It was magical... for them... and the audience as well. At its conclusion, the entire audience rose to its feet in unison... wildly demanding that they play further. And it did... on four more occasions. I shall never forget it. I cried then shamelessly... as I still do every time that Bolero transports me back to that special marker in my life. The power of Music... "in concert" with memory!

Fast forward to the present...

I was ready to head into Tim Horton's this morning to pick up a brew after my grocery run to Gananoque when my Classic am station struck into that very version of Bolero. It was at that moment... after being unable to proceed in for my java fix, that I decided to jump ahead and reboot my Venetian delight tonight to share it with you.

When I searched out a good YouTube version to share here, I came upon this very special... and significantly appropriate version for so many reasons. The orchestra leader uses a toothpick???... to lead the orchestra. Judge for yourself.....

"The power of a small stick"... in a BIG world! then be ready to visit my next post soon...which will further this idea.

Stay tuned... and enjoy Ladies of my Life - you know who you are.
And thank you... ALL!

I love You... Forever Jemima Puddle Duck and Miss You!

Love Dad