One of my favourite locations to paint is Spencerville, Ontario, an hour’s drive south of Ottawa. Our MAA Plein Air group has been there numerous times. The first thing that strikes you as you enter the Village is the South Nation River, flowing over the dam at the historic Spencerville Mill.
I was there a couple of weeks ago.
Before getting my paints and easel out of the back of my beloved van, I spent some time walking around the Mill, just getting the feeling of the day. First, I checked out the river flowing lazily past my feet, feeling the power there that has energized the Mill for generations. Soon, my attention is drawn to the mirrored effects in the water. The more I look, the more I am engrossed with the depth of the colourful dark tones in the water glazed over with sky blues and slashes of reflected warm sunlight. I see myself standing before my easel, brush in hand, wondering how I can do justice to this experience. Then I know it’s time to setup and paint.
Later in my studio, I exchange distractions of changing light and shadow outdoors for the steady light and peace of my studio. I pick out a larger canvas and using the design from my plein-air sketch and fresh images in my head, I begin, influenced as well by years of observation. I paint, content knowing that what I am painting is my work and trusting that it will be the best that I can do.
Finally, I sign it.
Brigadoon Entrance 11x14 #220546
We were painting in the village of Oxford Mills last week. I drove passed the well-known Brigadoon Restaurant. I have great memories of meeting friends there to enjoy the wonderful food and ambiance, including my wife and I sharing a memorable New Year’s Eve dinner.
The Brigadoon looked like it was just waiting to welcome guests, with colourful flowerpots hanging from every post on the long verandah; the beckoning entrance bathed in noon-day sunshine contrasting with the doors and bay windows in shade.
We hope it will be alive with conversation and laughter again soon.
Spring Comes to Blakeney is a 30x30 canvas just finished in my studio from a second sketch painted at Blakeney, ON on the Mississippi River. ( Not to be confused with the mighty Mississippi in the USA). Sadly our Manotick Art Association group outdoor painting trips have had to be postponed until some later date when the coast is clear from the Corona-19 virus threat. I have now painted several times outside always driving by myself and observing the required social distancing.
The large canvas format gives me the opportunity to use larger brushes and make improvements to the original composition. This painting has the feeling of early morning sun lighting the rushing rapids. I wish I could paint the sounds too.
Abandoned to Memories 11x14 acrylic. Saint John the Baptist Church, Pierces Corners, ON. First day out painting just felt great, social distancing and all.
We live in a wonderful place called Amberwood Village, nestling close to shops and stores that are a part of Stittsville life, within the greater City of Ottawa. Upon driving through the entrance, you find winding streets in a parkland setting with multiple walking paths, a jewell of a golf course and a creek that wanders through wooded green space. Most days I use the trails for exercise and to watch for painting opportunities.
The painting shown here, Poole Creek Foot Bridge, is the result of numerous walks over the past three weeks along the Poole Creek pathway, close to our home. Stopping along the way, I take time to experience the moment - the ambiance of this magical place. The painting is a composite of my impressions of the creek in early spring run-off, the multi-shades of new growth and the trees and underbrush in full bud, all reminding me of the promise of another Spring. My senses heightened specially now, during this time of the pandemic, when we worry if things will ever return to normal.
Mother Nature, taken for granted far too often, is a constant we live by, even if each season brings uncertainties from one year to the next. It makes us realize that we play a small part in this universe and that we will be back to ‘normal’ – sooner if we each play our part.
April 27, 2020
Just finished in my studio. Gift to Generations 24x30 acrylic depicting the feeling of early spring run-off that we are experiencing. I have plenty of time in my studio to not only paint but also re-evaluate my work: sorting, repainting and touching up. Each canvas that I pick up, invites recollections from past painting trips and the friends I painted with over the years. For a while the times and concerns of the outside world drift away. And with the respite comes renewed hope and longing for new adventure when these trials have passed, as I’m sure they will.
May everyone stay safe and healthy and be kind to your neighbours (at a distance).
How often do we pass up an opportunity simply because we are stuck in our own patterns? I have been guilty too often myself. As a child I was open to all ideas including fantasy and make believe. Now, as I grow older, I know that I have adopted certain perspectives on life in general and art in particular that aren’t easy to change. I watch my seven-year old granddaughter, lying on the floor with a colouring book, carefully applying colours totally different from reality (a red cow, green sky). I ask myself, why not? Getting too old for imagination? I hope not.
Whenever I am asked to comment on an artist’s work or a group of artist’s paintings at a meeting, for example, I listen carefully. I start in by asking questions, hoping to determine what advice might be helpful. When I hear defensive walls going up such as “but, it’s not finished yet” or “that’s the way it was” my impulse is to be polite and move on. But when an artist asks, “How would you handle this subject?” or “I think I need help with design, don’t you?” my instincts tell me that they are looking for some fresh choices and I am pleased to be asked - especially when I feel that the artist is sincerely interested in my take. Quite often a simple question, turns into an interesting discussion.
Art is so personal. Relying on years of teaching and painting experience, I explain how I would approach the painting, offering possibilities to correct problem areas, perhaps suggesting ideas for a more dramatic approach by tweaking the composition – all in the form of choices for discussion. Even if the artist decides to reject any or all suggestions, in the end, they are farther ahead having seen their work through the practiced eye of another artist. Simply by asking.
It’s a two-way street of course. I get a lot of enjoyment from organizing the Manotick Art Association Plein Air program for example and dealing with the occasional request from a struggling artist. Each time we paint together I get to observe different painting approaches, I check out the latest art gizmos, and I try to understand how the others make time for their art with their busy lifestyles and commitments. It’s amazing.
Happy painting and exciting new choices,
A while ago, an artist, showed me his work and asked for some guidance. I had a look at their paintings on line and could see good evidence of sincere effort; we agreed to meet. I began thinking about what I should talk about when we got together. My train of thought drifted back to my early painting days.
It’s been forty years since I took up the challenge to become an artist, starting out with nothing more than an inspiration. At first it was reading art books, looking at paintings and rubbing shoulders with artist friends. Style couldn’t be taught, I was warned. You must study shadow effects, learn how to draw trees and become knowledgeable about the properties of paint, they said. And they were right of course. There is a lot to learn: the kind of knowledge that anyone serious about painting must cover. Much later, I would teach those basics to fledging artists at summer schools and workshops.
Experience is a great teacher; progressing in three different media, plein air painting, giving instruction and exhibiting at art shows eventually created more questions than answers. Understanding the importance of listening to one’s inner voice and learning to interpret takes on a new significance. Also, with practice comes the confidence of knowing that the painting will work itself out, and the expectation that it will reflect the desired intent (making a statement). Occasionally, I produce a work that surprises me; I may even feel that I have reached a new personal plateau. That’s why I continue to paint! The camaraderie of artist buddies and painting experiences are wonderful, but they come second to the satisfaction of surpassing myself in my work. . . .
OK, so this has been a nice journey down memory lane. However, I’m still unsure what to tell the nice artist that’s looking for some help with their work. I guess I will do what I always do: show by example, be honest and encourage them to seek their own way. The benefits that can come from a kind word and a positive suggestion can last a lifetime: I know because I have been helped by some very kind artists along the way too.
Charlie’s new work may be seen at The Ten Collective Show in Almonte, ON, April 4 and 5, 2020
Ah, the joys of plein air painting on a nice day! To be outside, immersed in the world of nature; struggling to find words that express impressions through the poetry of painting. It’s as inspiring as it is formidable. I love it.
Being a part of the MAA Plein Air group outings for the last four years, has allowed me to watch artistic talents grow and develop. Like the others, I, too, have learned many things from just being there, as I continue to strive for ways to improve my art. One major benefit to painting directly - whether from nature, life drawing or still life etc. - is that, occasionally, we create something that is beyond our normal grasp, and in surpassing ourselves we often reach a new personal level. We also learn from each, not-uncommon failure. Privately, we covet the hope that “our next painting will be our best one yet”.
If there is someone who would like to join our group next year, please see the Manotick Art Association website to read about the group and what you need to start. Send me an email to register. It’s that easy.
The painting, Floral patterns, is just one of a number of works that I painted last summer with MAA Plein Air. It was created on a foggy morning in the herbal gardens of La Fougèrès Restaurant in Old Chelsea Quebec, home also to Galerie Old Chelsea.
Floral Patterns will be on view at The 10 Collective Show, April 4 & 5, 2020 in Almonte.