Monday, July 29, 2019

In the Blink of an Eye...

I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the responses to my "Games People Play" project. Mainly because it bore little resemblance to my other interests involving landscape and still life. As is the case in the television and movie business.. we sometimes typecast ourselves by limiting ourselves to one genre. It can be greatly inspiring in the early stages of one's career... yet lead to repetitive boredom in the long haul. In our heavily burdened technological society, public interest is short-lived and best.

In a leap of faith, I have decided to journey back into my earlier interests now recorded  but nearly lost in the meat of my numerous sketchbooks. I hope to seeking out and rekindle my creative spirit based upon "old" ideas which were of interest to me earlier on in my artistic journey.

Many of those ideas were recorded when I fully intended to save them for future use in a time of artistic drought, or uncertainty. Twenty-five years later, time urban sprawl and development swallowed many those pieces of Canadian heritage... especially barns... homesteads and other agrarian enterprises. They exist... many of them, only in my sketchbooks.

I have always enjoyed taking on subjects and projects that no one else wanted, or valued. Even during my teaching years, I chose to work with students who others saw no valued, or believed in. Their life challenges became my own. Their failures mine. Their successes  and triumphs became my motivators. Likewise in my art, I realized and accepted that not all ideas and work is destined to succeed - on a given day. Sometimes, one had to wait to see it ripen and flourish in its own space and time.

In the Blink of an Eye

This phrase is an example of a literary device called an idiom. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent parts. For example: "kick the bucket" which in terms of its idiomatic use means dies. Or for the above idiom "in the blink of an eye" suggests an imperceptibly quick movement beyond possibility : "We lost our entire way of life, or fortune in the blink of an eye."

What do you "see''... in one fleeting glance... "or the blink of your eye?"

I wonder...

In today's post, I hope to investigate and play with that question using a rather unique approach to actually try to measure  my own ability to respond to that question. Commencing the task did not seem particularly daunting in itself to me simply because I have habitually employed that strategy for many years when I have painted en plein air.

Generally speaking, most of my small to mid-sized outdoor canvases are totally completed within two and a half to three hours. Stepping up to the easel and painting almost spontaneously during that time frame is very comfortable for me and generally provides me ample time to get down what I see... or want to say about the subject in front of me.

In the beginning, it was a huge leap of faith and challenge to leave the comforts of a studio to embrace this new kind of on site painting... on location, or plein air painting as it is called today. Working materials, methods and even clothing had to be adjusted to weather conditions and terrain. But learning was gained gradually over time to create a whole new approach to painting which provided greater realism and joy for the participant.

The most important piece of learning for me personally was learning to quickly construct a basic composition using strongest form and color to create a road map to guide an impression - NOT a copy. That ability has remained with me and is as valid today as in the beginning.

I decided to use this reliable tool to fuel my recovery  and return to painting after too many months without a brush in my hand... or art in my heart. My heart had been broken by Allison's untimely and tragic death.

My body was physically weakened by the constant painful effects of sciatica to a point where I felt there was little chance of returning to painting. To entertain such ideas was wistful and wasteful thinking. But time and perseverance has prevailed! I am underway again... ready for new painting challenges.

All Aboard!...

Today's post and project was conceived aboard a rapid transit train journey... coming and going between Kingston, Ontario... our home and Toronto Union Station in the heart of metropolitan  and downtown Toronto on October 10th, 2018. We had a scheduled medical appointment for Deb at Toronto Western Hospital. The early morning scheduling for that appointment made a safe and guaranteed arrival time almost impossible, so we elected to travel by VIA Rail. A great choice!

The travel time is slightly more than three hours ( on a good day). So there was ample time just to sit and look out the window at the passing countryside during the trip. I am a poor "looker". So that ten minutes into the trip found me cradling a small, empty sketchpad, a sharp nib ink marker and my trusty india ink brush/pen in hand... and searching for something to"busy my hands"... and mind occupied for three hours!

I decided to title the exercise :"VIA Views" from VIA car 5103.... with these parameters to add challenge:
  • a quick sketch experiment to arouse instant recognition and quick memory response times
  • to rapidly create a black and white expression of ideas based solely upon masses and shapes
  • 1-2 minute time limitation per sketch/theme/idea
 I could later follow up the exercise, if desired... to extrapolate upon selected sketches which showed the most promise for enlargement to small or larger formats... adding color 

Below rare shown the sketches that were completed in the suggested time frame 

#1 Densely Wooded Landscape - 9:40 am just a few minutes west of Kingston

#2 Broken Field Patterns - 9:45 am

#3 Sweeping Road and Barnscape - 9:50 am

#4 Homestead  (grey) - 9:55 am

#5 Another Destination - 10:10 am

#6 Summer Baled   11:00 am

#8 Barn With Cupola - 11:20 am

#9 Foreground Sumacs  11:25 am

#10 Trees and Trackbed 11:30 am

#11 Flooded Wetland Marsh - Cobourg  11:36 am

#12 First Glimpse of Lake Ontario - 11:45 am

#13 Cobourg Railbed Crossing 12:06 am

Overall...What does your eye see???

The first two sketches reveal my drawing rustiness... or perhaps my inability to quickly focus and record the information as it passed by my eyes and brain at lightning speed in a very densely wooded landscape. No chance at a rewind! Make do... is what appears to be the order of the hour in these initial attempts.

From sketch three forward to the very last subject, I see a more confident and capable  hand and eye  working together. The compositions look bolder and bolder - more like what I would expect. I truly enjoyed the experience as it revealed itself to me... setting after setting. Any one of these "quickdraws" could be made into decent oil painting subjects.

"Do you see what I see?"

I wonder....

I'm excited to share my discoveries... in COLOR!!!!

Stay tuned!

Good Summer Painting ... to ALL!!!

PS Every idea or project does not need to be a blockbuster. From the humblest of beginnings and inspirations come the most powerful of contributions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Let the Games... Begin"... and End

                    "The Games People Play" - oil on black gesso toned canvas 24 inches x 24 inches

Today, I have decided to move on from my lengthy involvement in trying to understand and learn from the unexpected appearance... and enjoyment in participating in "visual foreplay" arising from this (and other) paintings on a black toned color ground.

Being aware that painting on a black color ground does indeed heighten  a greater sense of depth and  an illusion of levitating. It is a tool that I can add to my painting tool box and call upon whenever I am looking for that penetrating depth of field or an attention-getting device.

Being freed from a need to create to use high realism and detail is in itself a good reason to think beyond the box that we often slot ourselves into as artists. Other approaches which one can apply to vary and broaden our skills adds enjoyment and joy to the creative process. While using one pathway does indeed offer the feeling of control and competency it takes away from the joy factor.

You will also note that each panel... if viewed carefully can be seen to be unfinished in parts. A part of the freedom... and the "game" dimension that I created helps convey the notion that you are being "played with"... teased visually. However, this can also be interpreted as my honest invitation to you to form your own "play" and decisions.
I wish to thank fellow blogger artists and Friends, Lisa Le Quelenec and Keith Tilley for their constant presence, always valuable comments and encouragement. Their combined interest in this project, both offering that the image encouraged them to think about and to make their way through its visual elements with open minds. Both observed that they felt the need to revisit the painting because it created a kind of visual puzzle for them.

In thinking about The Games after the fact, it reminds me of one of M.C Escher's masterly graphic  perspective puzzle pieces. I am encouraged to draw this project to a close now because I have achieved all of the goals that I had set out to share with my viewers.

I learned much about myself and how to look beyond the obvious outcomes... and to be patient. I am now ready... and excited to move on to another idea that has waited too long in my sketchbooks to be followed up on.

I hope that you will join me in my further explorations and adventures. More to come...

Stay tuned!

Happy Summer Painting... to ALL!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Beyond Blackness

What does "blackness" mean to you? Has your concept of blackness changed or shifted meaning during your lifetime? What brought that about?

Black in artistic terms suggests the absence of light and therefore color which is dependent upon the presence of the spectrum of white light. But does defining blackness end there?

I wonder...

A glance into any good dictionary will suggest that beyond the ideas shared above, black can have a host of meanings and applications ranging from color... to emotional meaning (ie. evil vs. good).. to heraldic implications.

I felt it very appropriate today to use black as my focus in this post. That usage is possibly the single most important use of black in modern world history. Where were you on July 20th,1969 when Astronaut John Glenn stepped from the safety of the LEM module onto the surface of the moon?

Think of that epic and awe-inspiring moment in human history and their travel beyond  the influence of earth's safety... science and technology into that vast blackness of space. Think of the depth of blackness that these three earthlings were thrust into.

That achievement is perhaps the greatest measure of Light and Darkness for me in my lifetime... though "Darkness" has certainly revisited me in other forms less pleasant. I will not revisit those  here in this blog post today. Those (might be stories.... for another day)...

I choose rather... to share two of my painting projects with you to commemorate this human landmark of achievement. The first that I have chosen is a smallish painting that I hurriedly created for Allie's 31st birthday. Ironically... I chose a toned black canvas to depict the subject - our favourite Venetian religious structure, Santa Maria della Salute for my gift. Stranger still... is the presence of that silvery full moon illuminating the magnificence of the Salute.

This Baroque-styled white Istrian marble domed church was created by Venetians as a gift to God to celebrate the end of "The Black Death". This devastating plague was believed to have been a divine intervention, or punishment for disobedience. It ravaged Venice and all of Medieval Europe between 1347 and 1350, killing one third of the population and leaving the survivors with conditions of famine and economic upheaval.

On dark nights, the white marble structure appears to float effortlessly upon the inky blackness of the lagoon. It struck me fitting to paint this remarkable edifice... lit by the full moon. I titled the painting "Notturno"... or Nocturne. Can you not feel the sanctity and peace in this small painting? Allie did. It hung directly above her head in her bedroom during the last hours of her own journey... into Darkness.

Today ... on this 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing... the painting including the Salute and the Moon has even more meaning for me.  Ironically again... is "The Salute" not giving the illusion of hovering??? How did I miss that until now?

I wonder...

Stay tuned... "The Games"... are nearly played out... and are ready for posting! lol

                  "Notturno... at the Santa della Marie de Salute" - oil on black gesso toned canvas 12 x 12 inches

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Unbridled Imagination... allowed to run freely

The title reflects my ongoing belief and desire to tap into this reserve. It is much like the process that I observed and always admired in children's approach to creating. I so yearned for that same freedom in my own artistic process. But you see... like all children, we are forced to leave Neverland... far too soon. We are dragged by an educational system bent upon measuring performance... "against norms."

All such "rules" are based upon studies and meaningless pathways ... to a child's mind and pleasure. It is unfortunately often too late in our lives, that we finally come to understand and embrace real Truth. This revelation (from a poet, Leonard Cohen in his Selected Poems 1956-68) addresses real Truth.

"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

This learning and freedom that I am sharing with you through this blog and today's painted work... (still in progress) is sent as a "reveal"... to the "Big Magic" that only now I am discovering. After a lifetime of pursuing goals that were controlled by other "distractions" like a market and other goals that have become less enviable, satisfying, or important to me as time has passed.

Here is a visual replay... of the "free play" that I have enjoyed for a number of months now. It has lain dormant much of the time... waiting for me to resume... or to put to sleep. Neither would have been a wrong path because I had full control over whatever outcome I wished to pursue.

Enough said. Here is that "Four Square... still in progress. What do you think? I'm open to your ideas and input. Just interested in your "read" because you have travelled with me and continued to encourage me through all of my struggles. Your input always matters to me.

What remains is to perhaps "turn on the lights" to separate the lights from the darks... to add contrast and further depth. Perhaps adding some finishing strokes. Just a couple though.

I will consider those possible changes. Stay tuned..

Happy Summer Painting... to ALL!!

"The Games People Play" - oil 24 x 24 inches  ( four 12 x 12 inch canvas panels)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Situations... where perhaps ... "less says enough... or more

The subject matter in this first canvas in my project is likely one that you might be acquainted with. It represents basic elements of the favorite two player card game cribbage. If you are familiar with how the game is basically played and scored, then you have been further information about my goal in choosing this subject.

Upon looking more closely, you might notice that some parts of the canvas remain unfinished. While looking it over in my studio one evening, I realized that what was missing... or the state of finish did not in any way add to... or take away from the visual strength of the work at this particular point in the process. Did "finish" then... truly matter... or was it even necessary?

I wonder????

Looking a bit deeper at the canvas, I was suddenly drawn to a totally unexpected and unintended fact. Some objects in the painting appeared to be free-floating in space. The cribbage board "appeared"... to hover above hand of cards. Why?

Closer inspection offered the possibility that this illusion was brought about... or heightened by my choice of black as the ground and in conjunction with the bright, crisp color and edges... an illusion of space... distance or separation was created.

After some more thought (and waiting) I began searching for ways to further perpetuate the "illusion" aspect of the next panel. The goal for the project then shifted away from one which focussed upon "high" realism/... to one that might visually play with the viewer's eye and imagination.

'Putting Your Game Face On'

The next game focus that I have chosen is one that my own family... and most likely yours wiled away countless lazy summer hours every evening together around the dining table."Cooperative gaming" - Joyful... exciting and with no cost to join in the fun. Taking turns and "imagineering" the control of wealth and property ownership... taking risks. Remember???

"Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day,
We'd live the life we'd choose
We'd fight and never lose...
For we were young and sure to have our day."

The "illusion effect" is not quite so obvious here at this point in the image. Light and shade can assist in that "magic"... as opposed to slavishly getting caught up in detail and accuracy. Certainly a work still in progress. Stay tuned... I'll come back later.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Pause ... to Celebrate!!!

This video "After the Gold Rush" is so appropriate on many levels in this post this morning. It strikes a very strong chord in my thinking. From the magnificent musical mind of Neil Young... via the revered and songbird voices of three gifted... intelligent... strong women musicians. Finally, from me to you.. "a simple painter just passing through" What does it say to you?

"We... the North!"

Beyond being a now iconic basketball cheer... this terse patriotic ditty now serves as a driver in an entirely new marketing industry. One can buy it on a range of now pedantic shirts, caps, coffee cups, vehicle banners and  flags. et al... to ad nauseum. The only thing more nauseating is the farcical money-grabbing display of free agency that NBA players have chosen to inflict upon (once) proud Canadian fans who supported the Raptors as a team. I feel betrayed... and cynical as opposed to swelling with pride as a nation. "WE"...  the TRUE North are better than that... and always have been.

As Canadians... whether in Peace or war, we have long been recognized as a nation of Peacemakers. Since the conflict of 1812-14, we two neighbors have chosen to live in peace and prosperity on a (fence less) border... the Saint Lawrence River. Will that continue?

I wonder... 

Or will that too be displaced by greed-driven feelings and actions by a small few for their own profit and gain? Time will tell. It's all about "climate change"... right... EH?

Enough lectern / pedestal stuff. Here's the really important stuff on this special 102nd Birthday of our country.

I wish to offer a heartfelt  HAPPY Canada Day! ... to all of my family and friends stretching... "From sea to shining sea."

I feel so very blessed and Proud to be Canadian. Proud of the beauty of our homeland... still...
"true... strong and free."

Here is my personal tribute... in paintings that I was blessed to have visited and painted en plein air along my journey.

"... and miles to go... before I sleep."

-Robert Frost 
(American Poet)

My love and thanks to all of my loved ones!... You know who you are!

Maritime Monarch, Peggy's Cove , NS

Rustico Light, PEI

Evening Greetings
Les Eboulements, Charlevoix, QC

La Lumiere d'or
Saint Louis-de-Ha-Ha, Que

The Magnificence of Algonquin Park in All Seasons Quadriptych

Faded Rose... Rumble's Feed Mill, Hillsdale ON

Kensington Market,  Augusta St Toronto

Northland Falls, Kakabeka Falls in Autumn

Ribald Royalty, Kananaskis, ALTA

The Real Canadian Idylls, Kananaskis ALTA

Squamish Light, Squamish, BC

A handful of hours to share with you... proudly... and humbly on July 1st, 2019. I am greatly blessed

Deb and I included a few quiet moments last evening decorating Allie's commemorative ginkgo tree... "She" was fiercely Canadian and deserved a nod on this occasion. Gone on... but NEVER forgotten Jemima!! Miss you!!!

Love Always