Monday, December 30, 2019

Moonlit... "Sail Along Silvery Moon..."

 A couple more moonscapes... as I earlier promised. Moonlight has been the inspiration for so many creative individuals... in so many art forms. Musicians, writers, poets, dancers and painters have since earliest times been drawn to observe and to try to capture the celestial power the moon. It has captured the human spirit... imagination and created wonder in us all. That enrapture in earliest childhood... "when the cow jumped over the moon" and for many in my own generation led right up to that landmark marker on  mankind actually stepping for the first time on the lunar surface on July 20th, 1969.

At that time, mankind for the very first time had a reversed view and forever changed perspective of Earth relative to the moon... and the Universe really. Seeing the Earth... as no humans had ever done before, for certain changed our view of "possibility." Certainly. this "one small human step" by Neil Armstrong does represent an epic scientific stride "for all of mankind." But we, as artists have long been dreaming and reaching out to places where no other men or women have ventured through our individual sand our collective expression.

I will move towards the conclusion of this post by sharing a tabletop painting that I created for Allison to mark her successful completion of her undergraduate studies at Queen's University. Ironically... it bespeaks a Truth that we couldn't envisage. My words... at hat time... were simply words of pride and encouragement back then.

But today... those words stand as an epitaph and testimonial to her accomplishments and endearment to her many students.

Nocturrno a la Salute, Venezia - oil on canvas - 12 X 12 inches

 It has always been my custom to scout an area before finding my way there to set up and paint en plein air. In so doing, I am able to eliminate some of the numerous variables that lead to a lack of success and hardship. That is especially so during the winter months when one faces the hard cold, wind and shortened period of light.

Most times in winter, I will begin with a smaller canvas, say 11x14 or 16x20 inches. These sizes permit plenty of time to completely accomplish the painting in the two and one half hours needed. Occasionally, that first painting moves more quickly than expected. But there is not sufficient time time to find and relocate quickly enough to step into another subject

"Dying Light, Godfrey, Ontario" - 11x14 inch oil on canvas

So, I look 360 degrees around my easel setup to see if something interesting catches my eye. Usually there is something that fills the bill nicely. So , I gather my thoughts.. fully knowing that there will be no fancy-dancing about. I begin, in earnest what I refer to... as "my run for the sun." It describes perfectly the goal of my attempt here. Simply to out dual the rapidly dying sun on the horizon. Here is such a panel measuring 8x10 inches. The composition is simple... the colors muted or contrasting. But what catches my attention and becomes the central image in the painting is...

"Pale Moon Rising"- Godfrey 

This scene directly followed the one that you see above it... within mere minutes really. Note the rapid brush works.... " A stroke laid  must remain a stroke made." 
Strangely enough... the smaller rapid sketch left my hands much sooner than the larger more finished canvas. Why would that be? Luck? ... "circumchance" ???

I wonder...

I would like to end this blog post today with this bright and optimistic canvas that I created in homage to heritage and hard work. This 24 x 30 inch oil on canvas captures the crisp early golden light of a new day. Perhaps... such a bright, snowy day best describes the new beginning of a brand New Year.

             "Morning Comes! The Delta Grist Mill" - oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches

Wishing all of you... a Happy New Year... filled with the richest blessings of Joy, Health, and Happiness. May 2020 bring inspiration...  adventure and Good Painting into each of your lives!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Martyr's Moon... along the Wye

"A Martyr's Moon... along the Wye " - oil on canvas 30 x 36 inches

A Different kind of "moonscape"

You might ask the question... "Why such a seemingly cold and joy-less subject for sharing on Christmas Eve? Why stand out in the deep cold and dark for three hours to capture this bleak moonscape... using my car's headlights to complete this large canvas. Cheerier and more seasonally appropriate subjects most certainly abounded nearby.

This is one of those subjects that I settle down to from time to time that satisfy my own need to search  for answers which provide clarity to my own interests and goals. Again, the visual imagery combines with an inner voice which represents itself externally in the form of prose. Together, they flesh out a complete personal response.

The Martyr's Shrine, located near Midland, Ontario is now a well established pilgrimage site which operates in all seasons which serves all faiths... not just Catholicism. There is a historical reenactment aspect carried out on site which features an authentic stockade from the period, complete with historical figures and activities which replicate life as it was in "Huronia" in the 1600's. High school students are hired each summer to fill the ranks of the re-enactors. This provides both a vital and living link to area history.

Visiting The Midland Shrine is a virtual teaching and learning experience that marries the French Jesuit presence and function in that world with that of the indigenous Huron nation who peopled that area. One is immediately brought face-to-face with the hardships suffered by both inhabitants and the struggles that they met on a daily basis just to survive.

The existence of today's activities... and the actualization of a stone and mortar edifice or shrine stands as a silent witness to the suffering and brutal slaying of two Jesuit priests, Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel Lalement who were tortured and butchered at the hands of an invading Iroquoian war party. This fierce nation from Northern New York constantly warred against the French and their Wendat, or Huron allies.

Butchery inflicted upon simple peoples, political power and control continues to still exist in our divided world. Thankfully... "goodness for the sake of  goodness" coexists and flourishes as well. What remains comforting is that we each have choice to decide which view we will serve.

In closing out this Christmas Eve post I seek to encourage optimism and Faith... in Life and in Death. My own path is set.. and I follow the path with courage... Hope... choosing Believing ... as did our Allison in her own journey beyond darkness and despair.

I love "You" forever Jemima!

A Martyr's Moon Along the Wye River

Death  comes to us all
Some time.
How one faces it...
And goes forward towards the darkness
Which is, ironically... towards the Light
Defeats the powers of darkness.

Not raging... nor afraid
But in Faith and Hope
Holding onto one's flickering candle bravely
Unafraid... even to the end.
Holding firmly... resolutely to that ever faint bit of hope.
As did these brave and saintly souls

In one dark hour
Now three hundred years ago.
Their purpose and their mission
Were not  silenced
By their hideous passage.
Faith overrides death... and all suffering

Forward to Resurrection,
To enter Eternity...

 Wednesday, November 20th, 2001

Post Script

Christmas surely begs for the sounds of music. Huronia was the birthplace of a truly beloved early piece of Canadian Christmas music. The Huron Carol lyrics were composed in those now distant savagery of three hundred years ago by its  martyred creator, Father Jean de Brebeuf.

I cannot end this Christ Eve blog.... leaving my readers in a darkened place or mood. Wherever darkness is... Light exists also. That is true... especially at Sainte -Marie -among-the- Hurons. It is at this time that the site rededicates itself  annually to the true light of Christian beliefs with the Festival of First Light celebrations. Enjoy this short video visit to Sainte Marie.

Joyeux Noel...  tout le monde!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

"Peopled"... Christmas Landscapes

What would a snowy Christmas landscape become... without children present? The entire concept of celebrating Christmas evolved from the the search... discovery and presentation of the newborn Christ child. Since that very first Christmas, the central theme and the very focus our celebration of Christmas has depended almost entirely upon the traditions created by families for their children.

Christmas represents the celebration of the unblemished and unfettered wonder of youth. It is a precious time in one's life when innocence, faith and optimism are not only acceptable to the adult world... but are encouraged and rewarded by it. It is hoped that this festive occasion prepares children to enter the next stages of human growth and development with an awareness and willingness to give... and to receive.

I will choose not to admonish modern society for its over-the-top lavishing of expensive gift giving... except to acknowledge its deepening presence. Our consumer mentality imposes a sense that we must fall into line to "keep up with the..." you know the drill!

I will not use another line of this post to pursue judging further. Life is really all about  individual choices. I have made mine. I will simply offer these painted "gifts" offered to my children to support some understanding about our concept of sharing for Christmas. Our focus is directed towards the very differences of each child in our family. We cherish those and offer small gifts which celebrate and reinforce our recognition and appreciation of those special traits.

I have created what I hope will turn into a personal annual tradition for each of the my three family groupings. It is my hope that each painting will be brought out and hung during the Christmas season in the homes of each son or daughter in alternate years. It will be the responsibility of last year's sibling to take it to the home of the next and to have a celebratory event to turn it over to the next home.

The cycle, (hopefully) will be repeated each and every Christmas. In this way, "I" hope to be present each year to participate in the Joy of their celebrations and to encourage family gathering. "River Spirit was created for Allison and Andrew. It hung last Christmas in Joan and Allison's shared home... even though Allison had passed away. This year it will travel to Rockwood to be displayed and enjoyed in Andrew's family home by his lovely and youthful family.

"River Spirit, Plein air Snowman" - oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches

This second snow man piece was created especially for Liam and Bryn to be shared back and forth in their living spaces. Same rules apply! This year, we look forward to them coming to our new home for a few days' visit. Catan and Crib board are at the ready. The menu has been stuck! Christmas is about sharing precious time, good food, laughter... and board games. Let the games begin! 

                       "Down East Vigil" - 24 x 20 inch oil on canvas.

This painting clearly captures our common love of Nature and the outdoors. Peggy's Cove, NS was always a favorite destiny for our treasure searches and beach combing. Winter cold and snow was never something that we cursed or dreaded. We gladly went out into it... fortified with wieners, beans, marshmallows and smores... all the while having a "shin-warmer" break to boost the spirits!

"When Winter Play was...  en plein air" - oil on canvas 20 x 24 inches

The final and most current edition of my River Spirit- Snowman based theme owes its creation to my many wonderful hours of "yard duty" as my teaching colleagues painfully referred to it. For me... it was never that. I called it "yard pleasure" because the children and I created activities that embraced that freedom and sense of unrestricted play which belongs unfortunately... most often only to children.

When the game of throwing of snowballs became prohibited because they were viewed and ruled as weapons"... the children and I took to rolling large snowballs... to "who could roll the biggest." The remnants of these Stonehenge- like white monoliths often lasted well into... or around April. Truth is... they stood as symbols of righteous rebellion against adult domination.

Ironically, but again pleasing to me, this painting found its way to the lovely home of my eldest gal Lisa. We share a very common view of the world and we both treasure our children and making and sharing our Art.The pure sense of irony rests in the fact that Lisa resides in the Barbados... where nary a snowflake can survive... or until now can likely be found . But hey!... Who can say never? LOL

Two celestial evening skies... one lunar... the other star struck. The final edition... the going down of the sun. Perhaps a fitting closing for this post.Children's play seems today to be either more controlled and defined by adults.. or dominated by technology. Simply put, children are being "left to their own devices" by parental guidance systems.Too bad... by my measuring.

In closing, I hope that this adds some Christmassy feelings to your festive week.
I will close out later i n the week with one last winter landscape. One to replace the Christmas card ritual that simply eluded me this year. These three personages were the basis for our last three years of Christmas card sharing. I have a definite theme in mind along these same lines for the next. But... am still dealing with... well you know. But I'm getting there. Change is change. It's also necessary... and encourages new growth of ideas.

Stay tuned...

Warmest regards,
Good painting... to ALL!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Moon Struck... Again... and Again

I have chosen to offer the much beloved classic " Moonlight Sonata" as my prelude to this pre-Christmas post. It never fails to elevate my emotional and creative juices in preparation to paint. Often... it leads to actual  lunar themed paintings paired with prose, such as the last post's focus... "On Being Wed to a Winter Moon.

It seems not impossible... but inconceivable that a deaf man - Ludwig van Beethoven could imagine such a powerful image trapped within his mind and conduct it through an impassable labyrinth of impossibility to our reality. But as Leonard Cohen exalted in his own mastery of imagery and song "Anthem":

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

It is through imperfection and risking that the purest examples of beauty come. Never stop trying. Never stop using your own "voice." Be proud of your Self. Failure is not a mistake. It's a learning opportunity. Just a perspective.The lessons to be learned are there for the taking. Reach out! Never give up!

"A Sugar Moon" - oil on canvas 22 x 18 inches, I feel shares a similar peaceful, reverence, one unsullied by the activity imposed by the presence or activities of man. That was my immediate goal at least. Beethoven has achieved this ever so brilliantly in terms of composition, color, movement and phrasing. Might you agree???

A Sugar Moon

Moonlight strafes the darkened maple stand
Silent sentinels on guard until the return of spring.
Somber silhouettes in the quiet winter night,
Their arms outstretched... thrusting into the inky blackness of the beyond
Ever hoping vainly to capture the celestial disc.

The now deserted shack sits patiently waiting
The murmur and mirth of the excited voices...
Of they, who passed the long cold nights
Sharing labor, food and laughter,
Privileged were they to share and savor their sugary secrets.

Spring seems always to return... but will the voices?
Not likely will this shanty fill to the brim with that steamy maple liqueur.
Not likely will these now moldering pans feel heat
Or ever yield another dram or pint of that precious maple gold-
This landscape and the sweet taste of Paradise... are forever lost!

How strange! This poem was written one early morning. To be exact... on December 14th, 2006

The final full moon of this year... and this decade occurred on the clear evening of Thursday, Dec. 12th, 2019. I watched until I saw the silvery orb appear dramatically over the eleven storey condo to the east of our building... and lift silently , yet serenely out of view overhead.

The embedded "man in the moon"... the"cow jumping over the moon" memories remain fully with  me to this very day. My imagination continues to search for my own imagery to faithfully record the overwhelming gravitational pull that this phenomena has imposed upon my thinking and creative expression time after time.

The actual appearance of the moon in this particular phase represents celestial perfection for me. So much so, that I have felt my painting ability imperfect by itself to capture the sense of awe and majesty that a full moon imparts.

Working on recurring themes is in my opinion... not a weakness, but rather a strength. Using past thoughts and ideas helps build bridges for new growth and perceptions.

I will share two more "moonscapes" with you before sending my Christmas message and blessings to all!

Stay tuned...

Rich blessings of Good Health and renewed creative energy... to ALL