Friday, January 28, 2011

Tweaking a Painting

I’m guilty. I admit it! I never know enough to ‘leave alone’ and have been busily ‘tweaking ‘ my current paintings.

Which leads me to the big question……when is it time to put the painting on the shelf and leave it alone? How do other artists decide? I have a friend who paints frenetically with abandon for an hour or so and …. Voila ….. masterpieces every time. Never revisits the finished canvas, never tweaks .... seems to know exactly what it is he wishes to convey and doesn't 'sweat it' when not satisfied -- simply 'bins' the work.  Oh how I wish!

I know of someone else who works sort of ‘piece meal’ and takes considerable time to finish a painting but never ‘tweaks’; rather leaves what has been previously painted.

It must be in the planning, perhaps I need to sketch more; although my first friend mentioned doesn't sketch but does have a definite ideas in mind. 

Every time I look at something I think is ‘finished’ I see a further change. I need someone to stand outside my studio door who will skirt the painting off somewhere so I can never ‘change’ or ‘tweak’.

Anyway, for what it’s worth. Here is the result of ‘tweaking’ my earlier waterfall.  I've attempted to 'break up' the solid wall of darkness in the forest area and added more swabs of colour to the rocky outcrop on the left.  Apologies - the photograph is not showing changes too well.  Must replace this 'water logged' camera.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am feeling stagnant! Stagnant in my production of visual art! I am going nowhere….just painting pretty pictures! Such as the one included here.

This is not what I want my art to portray. It’s a pretty forest stream in autumn, I’m certain you can see that. But….it does not say what I intended.

I remember the day well – a beautiful sunlit autumn day. The temperature was perfect, the air so clear and clean. The bubbling brook just sang, the autumn colours were magnificent, the day was glorious and the remote location a dream come true. No one for miles … just me, the glorious silence of the moment, the wonder of an undisturbed scene, the ‘take you breath away’ feeling when viewing perfection. This painting was supposed to translate my feelings of the day – to be a representation of the heightened emotions of the moment – a representation which others could feel and recognize – one which would cause the viewer to take a deep breath and say ‘ah!’.

I look at it and cannot identify the exhilaration I felt the moment I sat to sketch the scene. Perhaps I lost the moment relying on a photograph of the scene for colour – I just don’t know.

I believe it is my duty as an artist to take a moment and ‘capture’ it in all its splendor on canvas – to translate the feeling of the storm, the whisper of the rain, the torrent of a storm, the tranquility of a forest surrounding. To recognize and paint the light, the dark … the joy, the sadness, the exhilaration – whatever moved ‘me’ onto the canvas.

I have two other such canvases in my studio to finish up; then perhaps in order to grow as an artist I need to do some serious ‘thinking’ about my work as a visual artist.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Building Bridges

My past weekends have been occupied by my grandson and his latest school project.

So… I have been busy building bridges! Two bridges - Pratt and Warren to be exact.

His hypothesis was to prove which bridge would withstand the most weight…..oh, so simple you say.

He is like me, his grandmother … a procrastinator and puts off projects until the dire last moment, shattering the harmony in his home as his parents struggle with his last moment endeavour … merely adding to the frenzy. I learned early in life to overcome my tendency to procrastination so have been trying the past few years to help him over this hurdle and assisting him with his school projects. Responsibility to ensure he has planned said projects with ample time for completion….trying hard to ‘bridge’ the gap between his natural inclination for procrastination and the importance of doing tasks in a timely fashion. It has been a ‘fun’ journey with many surprises along the way and well worth it as  this year he has called me and made proper arrangements to tackle this current project.

We shopped for materials before Christmas. He took one weekend to do research and develop his hypothesis. The following weekend he thought we would begin building, however I advised he would be required to draft scale drawings of his proposed bridges, compile materials lists, write up stages of construction …….etc. And he did all these things with enthusiasm and in a timely fashion.

So the last two weekends he has been busily building Pratt and Warren on a one inch equal one foot scale; using balsa wood.

I endeavour to stay in the background offering advice or suggestions on how best to utilize materials and supplying all necessary tools. When frustration sets in I am handy to encourage. I’d like to say, I do not do the work for him but check what he is doing and keep him concentrating on the chore at hand.

Anyway enough, these are his completed bridges. I understand that he will now add weights to the bridges and see which collapses first. I think he did a pretty good job for his first engineering project … draft drawings and all.

He called last evening …. His tests collapsed the bridge he expected to be strongest. He was quite discouraged; I suggested he record his findings and conclude that perhaps he would need to revisit the ‘engineering’ process. We had little time for discussion, I will have to wait a bit to see his entire presentation and his conclusions and discuss what he has learned from ‘building bridges’!

My sincerest hope is that the ‘bridge’ fused in sharing this time with him will assist him in the future when he must cross bigger bridges

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Waterfall Painting

Finally a measure of success.  I am calling this waterfall painting complete ... at least for now.  Maybe after hanging and 'aging' a bit I may decide to make improvements.  For now, I will leave alone.

I was trying to become more 'painterly', looser in my approach to this painting and started with wide swabs of colour....but inevitably I start detailing and adding.  However, for the moment this is it.  Waterfalls located on stream running through Neustadt, Ontario.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Painting in Progress

Nothing much to say today; except it's 9:30 a.m. here and I've been at the easel for four hours......without Wilf Carter.

Good old Wilf is serving some good however; mother usually 'naps away' the entire afternoon.  Yesterday with five hours of Wilf she stayed wide awake ... and it was worth Wilf to hear her sing along and smile!  So more Wilf today I guess.  I will just have to close my studio door to paint!

Here it is ... progress .... and yes I am slow; the canvas is 36 x 30 and I'm finding I have to work in sections.  Hopefully will make a strong dash today and on my way to finish tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Painting Music - Work in Progress

When I paint I put on one of my favourite cds….usually a Mozart, Beethoven or Vivaldi. Currently, with my mother visiting I try very hard to consider her music preferences … country music! I am not one of country’s greatest supporters … however at the moment I am listening to Wilf Carter; and becoming somewhat agitated.

For those of you who are not familiar with Wilf Carter; he is considered the ‘father of Canadian country music’ … popular in 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. The ‘yodelling cowboy aka Montana Slim. Right now I am hearing about ‘Old Shep’ … some dog on his way to ‘dog heaven’; I’ve heard ‘Down the Old Cattle Trail’, ‘The Little Shirt My Mother Made’, 'Drunk, Broke and Sorry' and Rye Whiskey. Apparently one of his greatest fame makers was ‘You Are My Sunshine’.

It may be time to put painting aside for today … I can feel a sort of tension building by the moment with all this yodeling going on!

So here it is for today. Progress slowly made on my latest waterfall attempt.

Will have to continue in the silence of 5 a.m. tomorrow without Wilf!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In Progress - 92 Year Old Suggests Collage

I have my 92 year old mother spending some of the winter months with me. The fact that she was here for Christmas was in itself quite an accomplishment for getting my mother to come ‘south’ for the winter is as about as difficult as extracting wisdom teeth. She just does not want to leave her northern home, the six foot high snowbanks and very minus zero temperatures!

So my children and grandchildren are delighted; it has been wonderful to have her share our holiday season in our homes!  And it is indeed quite an experience. In her home mother still rules with an iron fist….but away from her familiar surroundings she becomes what she is; a 92 year old who is legally blind and navigating with a cane. She will not agree to a white cane because ‘people will think I am blind’. She will not agree to a walker because they are a ‘pain…you know where’! In her home however she knows where everything is and moves like a small tornado. In my home she needs much help and attention. Our day begins with pulverizing her medication and administering in a spoon of jam and special foods … must be a certain brand or the food is quite simply not edible! I wonder if I will be as feisty and stubborn …. My daughter says ‘shades of things to come’!

However, these are not why I mention her here. Although she is legally blind she has a bit of peripheral vision in shades of grey. She knows how unhappy I have been with my latest painting effort and knows I am trying to ‘loosen’ my style. The more I work at 'loosening' this painting the more it is becoming a 'labourious task' and the more distratous it becomes!  This morning mother suggested that perhaps I needed to go collect some ‘thin, flat bits of rock’ and glue to the canvas along the edge of the waterfalls …. ‘maybe that could be a “new” style’ she says; unaware that 'collage' is an art form or style. 

I just think it is quite phenomenal for a lady of her age who has known nothing but hard labour and the cultural offerings of a small Ontario mining town to be so perceptive and to be able to ‘see’ solutions at 92!

Just had to share.

Anyway, I am leaving this attempt at loosening my painting approach and returning to what I do best and hopefully the detail won’t become too boring to view.  I will at some point gather some 'thin, flat,bits of rock' and glue to another smaller canvas so she may "feel" the art.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Resolutions

Right! It’s time for New Year resolutions! Do you make these resolutions?

Once upon a time, and far, far away ….. I made New Year Resolutions. The list inevitably consisted of ‘lose weight, be a nicer person, lose weight, show understanding to someone I absolutely could not tolerate, quit smoking, lose weight’. Had I resolved to ignore the person I could not tolerate I would have succeeded; had I resolved to smoke like a chimney, eat like a hog, I would have succeeded.

I don’t know about you, but by midnight January 1st my resolutions had taken wing and would line up to be considered anew the following new year. Finally somewhere along the years I realized these resolutions had as much commitment as giving up chocolate. And that year I made a resolution I could keep ….. I resolved never, ever to make another new year resolution. Finally I met with a measure of success!

Why is it we look inward at the beginning of a new year and identify what we would like to change about ourselves, why do we not do this daily. If these resolutions made at new year are so important, why do we not pursue them every day; without a ‘resolution’?

I struggle daily with ‘things’ I would like to change – about myself and who I might be, about my environment and the ‘path’ I walk … so this year I will continue as I did last year and the years before, I will continue through life’s journey without the crutch of a new year resolution; endeavouring to meet each daily new beginning headlong with courage and faith. I will probably continue to make wrong moves … but that will be fine; and who knows I may unknowingly do some good along the way. Whatever evolves the only resolution I will take with me is to give “it my all”!

I did however, make a commitment to myself last night; to start the new year painting and that is what I am doing and include here today’s work in progress. Apologies for the quality of the photograph, wet paint not copying too well.

Good luck with the resolutions.