Monday, November 26, 2018

Unfinished Business...

I rarely have a painting project misfire and allow it to hang about. Even in the field when I am working en plein air and directly from nature... rarely do I carry home  a "start" that has misfired. I am accustomed and never reluctant to simply "scrub it" on location, rather than have it haunt me back in the studio.

However, yesterday morning a smallish twelve inch square that had been toned with black gesso and partitioned with a white chalk pencil into four quarters caught my attention. I remembered that
I had taken the canvas along with my paint box and easel to the large lawn of my landlord located directly across the from our home.

The location affords one a very picturesque and high perch overlooking the river. The combination of the rich colors of the maples and the gazebo and the dramatic river backdrop captured my attention immediately. I anxiously dove in to work from a plan from somewhere inside me by attacking adjoining quarters with two separate views from what lay in front of me.

Unfortunately, or perhaps not... Fate intervened and drew my session to an abrupt and unavoidable close. Rain pelted me... drenching my enthusiasm and sending me scurrying for home. When inside, I simply tossed the black orphan unceremoniously into a dark corner of my shared downstairs studio workspace with Deb.

That plein air misfire remained untouched and unnoticed from late in the fall of 2010 when I had first begun painting it... until now. Had its presence and potential not been drawn to my attention by my wife (and most trusted art critic) Deb... it might well still be sitting with its face to the wall unnoticed...and unfinished.

Given that long delay in proceeding, I futilely searched my mind for any semblance of an idea or direction to stimulate my movement... or my interest to resume action. Pitching it still seemed the best way to remove the roadblock!

Strangely... a recent and wonderful discovery that arrived seemingly (by chance???).. or by way of a  richly written murder-mystery novel by the award winning Canadian writer Louise Penny. The novel provided me a new and totally unexpected spark of inspiration to forget about what my earlier actions and idea might have intended originally.

Her writing spoke to me and challenged me to reach within and to search my memory reservoir for any prior event that might provide me a structure upon which  I might build  a newer concept and direction. That new concept would not be bound by those previous stalled failures which blocked my movement forward.

Looking at this malnourished body of unfinished work, I searched to associate what lay before me under the light of my easel to some semblance of such a memorable event. From somewhere in the dust and cobwebs of my teaching past, the black canvas shouted, "Come play!"
And I did.

A single growing memory chained steadily with others to form an increasingly strong and pleasurable visual image. I recalled endless hours of pleasure and Joy for me in a yard filled with many children. What was called "yard duty" by many of my colleagues remained to me a "breath of fresh air" from the restraints of classrooms. Even then... I preferred to "work" en plein air!

You see... Life is about choices. Those made and those passed over.  Joy and Happiness so often are  related to attitude HOW we perceive simple pleasures and daily opportunities. Life is then... purely a position of personal perspective. The choice for all things and outcomes is indeed based totally upon these realities and our combined willingness and ability to recognize and make something good from them.

This once half resolved wee painting owes its existence to many influences. Beginning with its rediscovery by Deb, its painful breech-birth and exile to the corner ... followed by an eight year hiatus in limbo might have prevented its second look. Not really the usual schedule of events that usher a painting into a promising life or future.

The next... and totally unexpected influence in its creation was the serendipitous  intervention by Louise Penny's novel "Self Portrait" into my painting process. This magnificent and intriguing novel literally fell off the shelf in The Beggar's Banquet Bookstore and into my hands.

I am now on my second award winner by Ms. Penny. It too provides a rarefied reading experience. My reading habit and ritual has been regained! I am truly blessed. My bedtime companion has returned!

Oh!.... And by the way. Did I mention that these novels are totally based upon art themes... locations and characters? But that's another story... for another day!

And finally. The completion of  the 12 x 12 inch canvas "Fall Four Square"was re-energized and returned into reality... powered by a simple school yard game that I was honored to share with grade school children. I offer this canvas as a token of gratitude to each young participant who shared the pure Joy of sharing time and laughter for many recesses spread across my twenty-seven year teaching career.

Being a trait. Something that I am proud to say I continue to cling to and value. It sustains "Me"... in the worst of times... bolsters my Faith and offers me Hope.

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

PS As with many things in both my and painting lives, I think ... work... play and paint - and taught using a thematic approach. One good thought and solution often leads to another... and another.

Stay tuned...
 "Let the games begin!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembrance Day 2018... "Lest we forget."

On this cold November 11th, 2018, I found myself... as I have many times among the quiet crowd of many faces of citizens of Brockville who were gathered to commemorate the sanctity of this special day  which is set aside yearly. The day is celebrated by people around the globe to mark "Armistice Day"... for too many far flung conflicts.

This year's celebration focuses on the original armistice which ended World War War One, November 11th, 1918. It was seen then, a full one hundred years distant from today... as "the end of a war to end all wars." All who attended this year's service here have lived through another World War with its catastrophic horrors and inhumanities committed by all nations.

As well, even the youngest attending this service today have borne witness and felt the impact of loss of family members and neighbours. This is so... even in this very small River paradise... so very remote from the sadistic savagery committed by me just like ourselves upon innocents.

If anger and inhumanity still dwelt in the minds of veterans or families in attendance here... I did not sense it. What I did feel was the obvious genuine sense of grief, loss and deep sadness that I read on all faces around me. It seems incredulous and unthinkable  to me that any one of us could venture forth to take up arms ever again.

And yet, I witnessed with my very own eyes young men carrying automatic weapons... more fierce even than the weaponry that young men were given to bear in previous conflict(s). I watched... and heard applause as these young men and women "cadets" barely in their teens paraded proudly past us. They were already being groomed to assume their role as "cannon fodder"... sacrificial lambs .

These were the sons and daughters of the past for whom we all grieve here. What happened to those Words of Remembrance that we all rehearsed? The meaning of those words seem so shallow to me today:

"At the going down of the sun EACH day... we will remember them."

And on the very heels of these same words come another mouthed and h
ollow grouping...

"Lest we forget."

For many years I brought my classes here to stand with me... to learn by watching what that gift was to me. The Poem Flanders Field was read on this Remembrance Day by Michael Trussell, What a gift it was to me to know that we had shared that very same poem in my Grade Eight Class so many years ago... when we were both younger.

Here we are some fifty years later... Remembering... and sharing that very Peace that our fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and neighbours had laid their lives down for. I guess that there remains
Hope...   through Faith

The torch be yours to hold it high..
If ye break faith with us who died, 
We shall not sleep
Though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Captain Matthew Dawe - killed on July 7th, 2007 while serving with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry in Afghanistan

Last Post - Gone now is my dear Friend and Mentor Jack Shepherd, Korean War Veteran to join comrades-in-arms

                                                 "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

                            My small painting gifted to the wife and son of Matt Dawe
                                                on behalf of our Sherman Family