Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Life's About Family

I must apologize for the delay in posting this salute to the other members of my family... who have contributed to the success and joy of my life since they entered into my family circle. Each of them brings their own sense of uniqueness and specialness to our lives. Our lives would be so diminished and hollow in their absence... were that to occur. I pray that it never does... again!

So much of my time, energy and focus... even here on my blog has been directed towards trying to make sense of and to come to grips with the sudden and tragic loss of dearest Allison on April 24th, 2017. I think it unnecessary to apologize to them from the oversight that I bring to you here on my blog site. I feel that even for the ardent members of my blogging family, I need not apologize for any feelings that I have displayed or spoken about. You simply understand... and I read that from your continual presence and uplifting words of love and support.

Monday, February 19th, 2018... just passed was the perfect moment to acknowledge the gift which these family members are to me. It is the day set aside in Ontario... and other parts of Canada as "Family Day". Families lucky enough to be located nearby each other attend functions created by the family itself, or the community where they are located In many cases... those events are held outside... such as skating on the world's longest skating rink... on the frozen Rideau Canal which is groomed and maintained for that purpose. Thousands of individuals strap on their skates and wend their way along the miles of ice surface... stopping for a warm up coffee or hot chocolate and a taste of the iconic sweet "Beaver Tail" pastry. Quite a party that we as a family have enjoyed....

So this morning... I humbly and gratefully reach out to Lisa (in the Barbados).... Andrew, Melissa, Mac and Whitney (in Rockwood near Guelph in S. Ontario)... Liam (in Oakville west of Toronto)... Bryn (studying at Trent University in Peterborough)... brother Don ( sort of retired in Victoria, BC and Joan Allison's lovingly lovely Mom in nearby Kingston).

Life would be unbearable and meaningless without the presence of each of these family members in daily life. You are each strong ling links in our family chain that Deb and I hold on to and depend upon. Deb... you fuel my daily life with Hope... Joy and Laughter. Without those magical and necessary elements of a happy life it would not be possible to continue "Believing in miracles"... which is what our beautiful celestial being Allie challenged us to carry forward in our daily lives for her.

Let us do that together... as a family!

My undying love and gratitude to each of you! Rich blessings of Health ... Happiness and Joy!

Cribbage and other board games are REALLY BIG in our family!

The first brood of Sherman Grand Chicks... dining in Toronto
(Lto R- Braden... "Two Amigos"... Lisa ... Ryan and Mica

Melissa and  our newest "Sprite/Sprout"...Whitney

The Homecoming... Andrew and Mr Mac 

Deb... "beside still waters".... Algonquin Park 

The Grand Gals (l to r) ...Ella Sophie and Ava Marie... the apples of Gramma's eye!

Snow Bros... l to r ... Don and Bruce

Four reasons to give thanks... (l to r) Bryn... with Gal Suzie Plamondon... Liam and Chefette Deb

                                    Gramma Joan with Mr Mac at the Cataraqui Sugar Bush

"Let your Light so shine before your fellow men (and women)... so they might see your good works and glorify your Creator..." And she DID!!!

We love "You" FOREVER Jemima Puddle Duck... to the moon and back!... and miss you every day!!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Finding Love... in the strangest places

                                                              Scottish Seashore Heart

                                                         Asphalt Heart in our driveway

                                                    Heart peeking out through winter ice

"Damaged" heart

                                           A small segment of Allie's Garden of hearts

                                                                     Pothole Heart

Sea Glass Heart... from the Barbados

Brick shard heart from St. Andrew's, Scotland 
Gathered on my visit to celebrate Allie's PhD Grad

                                       " A little love... on the side".... OOPS! ... Naughty Bruce!

Bird Feeder Heart

Love... going down the drain... Unstaged! Really!

Love... in the making.... in the dead of winter!

"Foamy" hearts... from the tin... every time I shave! 

Our beloved Mr Chips says it best Folks:

"Home... is where the Heart is!"

Humankind ... and particularly lovers fete Valentine's Day with profuse heart offerings to openly profess their love on a single day each year... February 14th. The Natural World celebrates using the heart ever so quietly... almost everywhere on the planet and in every season of the year.

Little wonder that the creative minds of musicians, poets, artists, artisans and architects latched onto the heart as a template for recreating harmony and whimsy. The heart trumpets its magical presence and the power of love in its very form... as no other geometric shape does.

I spend so much "quiet" time with Nature that the discovery of a new heart... in a new place, in itself is not surprising in any way to me. However, each discovery '"touches my heart" and beckons to me to share the experience and object with those whose "hearts" are open to the mystery of its creation... and my finding it.

My dear daughter Allison and I had a ritual that lasted right up to her passing. On each and every visit to see/be with her... I delivered a heart that I had found on the way to that visit to her. It was a ritual that led to her window ledge becoming the "heart depository."

It is a ritual that I have continued on my nightly walks. Every night I return with an example of s heart to add to our growing garden display. Visitors have made it a special site to photograph... and I am always anxious to share the Heart Story with them. "The beat"... goes on!

Hearts appear even during winter... on frost-etched windows,stone walls, grassy areas in the snow of our bird feeding stations.

Finding  a Story of Love... within Sorrow and Loss

Yesterday afternoon, Deb, Joan and I met in Kingston to celebrate my (??th) birthday. After a delightful birthday brunch treat at the Toast and Jam Eatery... we went down to Allie's Ginkgo tree memorial and hung lovingly crafted "heart gifts" created by Deb to brighten a colder than usual  February 14th Valentine's Day. I thank Deb for taking time  (on her own initiative) to provide this colorful and uplifting tribute for us all. We all departed feeling better about our lives and the blessing of life that was ours to share.

                                                              A Heart ... within a heart

                     Even Love.. in the smallest doses counts... in the big picture

                              Hearts can be warm... even in the cool shadow of winter

Love... lifts me higher

                                              Hang in there everyone! Share your love!

So on this very special Valentine's Day, I send along to all of you my,,,heartfelt" wishes for rich Blessings of Health, Joy and Happiness.

Good Painting ... to ALL!... and ...Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Yesterday (Something old) vs Today (Something new)

So often we reject looking back as being a negative, and throw about derisive platitudes such as, "You can't live in the past." While that is true for many things, you will discover that in most human endeavours and activities, it can be readily seen that repetition over many failed attempts actually can lead to a superior  process and result.

As a plein air advocate for most of my painting career, I prided myself upon creating a number of paintings... start to finish... on each and every outing. I must admit that I felt a sense of failure if I didn't fulfill that 2-3 finished works result. Even size didn't enter into the formula. I often brought back one or two larger scale paintings.

Looking back on the practice now, I realize that the strategy offered both pluses... and minuses. On the plus side, I learned how to make decisions rapidly and to accelerate the speed of my brushwork. This did indeed result in "loose and painterly" results... which were the "go words" in the painting world at that time.

All the "how to" books of a generation of artists preached and pitched that approach religiously. Galleries chimed in using it to ramp up their sales and interest in specific members of their stable of artists. It reached cult proportions in the seventies and eighties.

On the minus side... many dashed off works lacked a full sense of understanding and cohesion... if one looked carefully and honestly at the works. Glaring mistakes in tonality, composition and lighting often diminished the overall effect and quality of the work greatly.

Something Old.... from Then

In the west corner of my studio space sits a number of what I considered were derailed plein air train wrecks. Not everything that we paint should find its way to the wall immediately, or in some cases never!

Lately, I most often set a new work aside for a period of time and glance at it occasionally... hoping to discover a glaring weakness needing resolution ... or a previously missed redeeming feature.

In years gone by such time for reflection was rarely, if ever was possible. When I was producing work for sometimes up to eleven well-respected galleries across Canada, the need for a constant flow of work to send off to satisfy the demands imposed often exceeded or pushed hard upon my ability to deliver.

Hence time became the governing factor an a focus upon quality more often than not took a back seat. Paintings were often barely dry and some, in my opinion today were even "weak-kneed" when they were shipped to galleries.

Today, I regret that reality greatly. However, it was a time.. when being a "market painter" was essential to maintain a livelihood and became the norm in the art business really. Only a few of the older and better established artists enjoyed a sense of free agency and personal control over their work.

My only solace today, lies in the fact that my collectors then were very much aware of my "emerging artist" status and that they felt that they were receiving decent dollar value for my work and that my work met the criteria they themselves decided upon to purchase and form collections of my work.

I thought it might perhaps be an interesting exercise to take one "failed" sketch from back then and to work it up from memory only... making use of the a mix of remembrances and feelings about the scene.

This exercise might highlight my growing belief that though plein air provides a certain freshness and dash... it as well contains areas that should be reconsidered and built upon to create even stronger landscapes.

Plein air painting presents a great opportunity to learn directly from the subject. Perhaps if one is fortunate as I was, you might find mentor(s) willing to share their experience and knowledge. The process offers a wonderfully stimulating classroom to learn about your own painting abilities and interests.                .

Last Light, Gould Lake - oil on canvas 11 x 14 inches

This sketch was produced back in 1996, a time when my paintings were mostly small sketches and completed "in one go." Most were signed right there on location... or rubbed off immediately if painfully bad. I specifically remember this scene out on the Gould Lake Road, north of Kingston. My painting companion and I had decided to stop at this site... have a quick bite of lunch and a coffee before beginning to paint. What was so impressive and attracted my interest was the intensely warm light and shadow interplay. It was truly a golden moment!

We were no more than into the actual painting process when that light disappeared completely for the rest of the afternoon. It never did return... nor did I "catch" the spirit and the elusive golden lighting effect that had drawn me to this landscape in the first place. Deflating!

Good structure... and compositional elements. BUT... where's the light??? A very flat and two dimensional space that lacks drama and verges totally upon very ordinary. The whole raison d'etre for making the painting in the first place was lost in translation. It was, at most a poor copy or representation for what was there.

Something New... from the Now

This week, I decided to use my memory of the day and experience to revisit the past. For the sake of a better word... let's call the process "Imagineering"...

I spent an afternoon leisurely searching for areas of the painting to introduce stronger light and colour. At first, it was difficult to let go of the past. The fear for disturbing what had been the recording of a long lost moment in my life was at first disconcerting. As new passages revealed improvement that was pleasing and stronger light, the momentum to complete the exercise grew quickly.

Here is the final take on the result of this experiment. What do you think?

I wonder... Let me know how you feel.

Note additional elements added to foreground. Every "newbie" painter... whether painting from digital images, or en plein air encounters difficulty with the foreground area. Many times, as seen in the first version... the road or water simply sweeps unceremoniously forward engulfing the immediate front area of the painting with... nothingness.

Here in the final edition, the combination of light and shadow plus the addition of the dark puddle creates something to stop the eye... and to make a statement which adds to the composition.

Just some food for thought... from one "old(er) painter passing through." Maybe... an idea to think about in your own work!

Much Joy... Rich Blessings and Good Painting... to ALL!!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When "Enlightenment"... Displaces Grief... even Temporarily

Awakening... Applying the "Camino Format and Walking Towards The Light

"Life isn't a science. We make it up as we go."
                    - Al Hirschfield (American Caricaturist)

My Dilemma... a Crossroads                                                         

Many misgivings have percolated through my mind as I plodded my way through this difficult writing and painting assignment. On more than one occasion, I very seriously considered packing it in with every new self-doubt and seemingly impenetrable impasse that crept into the exercise.

The whole purpose of undertaking this painting challenge had been to help foster a therapeutic experience to encourage feelings of renewal. It was never remotely designed to become a taxing emotional assault on an already weakened spirit.

Each new barrier that I encountered (or created) emotionally when added to my artistic clumsiness seemed to focus upon my own feelings of inadequacy in portraiture. It seemed virtually impossible for me to achieve a pleasing and passable likeness of Allison ; one that I would be proud to exhibit publicly to honor her.

The undertaking was intended to interface me confidently with my personal grief. I had hoped that my art would afford me strength and become an ally, helping me to achieve my painting goal. My grief counselor Lisa and a fellow blogger, Caroline Simmill of Scotland (whose work and ethics) I deeply admire, both shared a common belief that my art could help me to navigate my way through the grief that had caused me to become "stuck" emotionally and artistically.

It was this during this see-saw juncture that I recalled a mantra that  had long laid embedded in my memory and practice. It had never failed to guide and offer me support in my journeys. What did I have to lose???

"Listen to your heart. It knows where it's going."

I decided from this point onward to trust my instincts and the practice upon which most of my painting strength and knowledge had previously been based. I would use my landscaping painting knowledge and techniques as a familiar template. I spent almost a full week planning so that the activity would begin with a fuller understanding and foundation.

The first and most essential part of that planning was to search out suitable reference materials which focused upon the compositional elements...theme or template upon which the portrait would be constructed. I felt strongly, right from the onset that I sought more than a purely photographic likeness to be be set upon a blank backdrop of "nothingness". I wanted the painting to have three divisions/layers of space... just like a landscape. Each would reveal a separate element or aspect of Allie's life.

Still, the real truth remains that I am not a "portrait painter", even though my interest in the portrait genre, figure work and the work of leading painters in these fields have always been something that I have admired greatly. My own experience in actually trying my hand at creating them is very limited.

In thinking about the portrait genre broadly however, I finally arrived at a belief that the face is actually in many ways very similar in structure to any landscape. Both broadly consist of combinations of planes, shapes, lines, color and tones.

Holding on to this premise, I felt competent enough to begin the exercise based upon this premise that I could likely handle the crossover from one kind of subject matter to the other in terms of their commonalities.. Besides, I possessed a fine library of books on the subject of portraiture to guide me through any uncertainties which I knew would most certainly crop up. It was refreshing to meet "old friends" again!

 Planning... Preparations to "Walk"

"Fail to plan... plan to fail"

To begin any landscape project, I customarily "scout out" something that interests me greatly... something that I have strong feelings about. At first, I didn't anticipate having any difficulty in my mind with this initial task.

However, I immediately found myself overwhelmed with the task of finding "the right view" in my mind's eye of Allie. A fully frontal view, with all of the foreshortening that would be necessary would in itself present great difficulty. Creating depth and proportion in a purely two dimensional and shallow plane would become a huge problem for this novice. Aside from the technical drawbacks... there remained the huge problem emotionally from actually looking Allie directly in the eye for any length of time. Not easy...

After searching numerous file folders, I rediscovered a file that had always been a favorite of mine. It showed Allison in a thoughtful, but relaxed three-corner view\. That is to say, a view looking on a corner. That has been a strategy I always use with buildings to add to a convey a deeper illusion of space.
While the actual pose was what I wanted, the background didn't really convey a sense of Allie I wanted to portray. I was looking for something that would provide the viewer more insight into her person, interests and life.

Stage One - Photo Reference # One - Allison

Taken in Venice on her final visit to the city she loved... I felt that this particular picture of her sporting a shortened and curlier post chemo and radiation"coiff". It hardly was at all representative of her once long and flowing mane of beautiful auburn hair. But it did accurately portray and capture the complete disdain for the cancer and her unyielding refusal to submit to the disease.

Her thoughtful gaze portrayed the profound sense of wonder and admiration she held for Venice, its unique people and culture throughout her tragically shortened life.

I purposely couched her safely in the lower left corner of the composition, hoping that this unusual... almost awkward positioning might translate to the viewer a sense of safety and comfort and an unrelenting Hope that she was winning her gallant battle. It seemed "right" for me to use it in the Now... despite the reality of the tragic outcome of her struggle.

Ironically, my choice clearly reverberates and fully identifies with Peter Coffman's comment in the Epilogue for his book "camino":

"For everything that is taken something else is given"

I have chosen to replace the anger, sadness, state of loss  I have felt  by juxtaposing Allison's courage and outright struggle right to the end of her journey by presenting her in a visual sense in terms of  a quote by acclaimed essayist, screenwriter, director and Academy Award Nominee Nora Ephron. Ephron herself lost her life to leukemia... "parallel journeys".

"Above all - Be the Heroine of your life - Not the victim."

The second and crucial part of my planning involved selection of the supporting background for this image. After several more days of deliberation and more uncertainties, I narrowed down my possible choices to Allison in Venice, or Allison here on the River where she had been raised, played and began her journey. Both places were equally special to her.

I mulled over both possibilities and finally asked for the opinion of some valued artist friends to perhaps shed light on this quandary and me to resolve the issue. One person that I really admire, without hesitation blurted, "Why not include both?" That spontaneous morsel of wisdom suddenly lifted the weight and veil of uncertainty from my shoulders. The suggestion added clarity and direction. The painting pilgrimage could finally get underway. Two planes of Allie's reality! Double vision!!!

Stage Two - Photo Reference # 2 - The River

This pastoral autumn scene lies due south of our home in Rockport. It was a panel one in a triptych that I completed a few years ago. When Allison first saw it in our gallery, she was deeply moved by its beauty. The site ties us ever together from the early years right up to Now and continues to be significant to all of us in our family.

It is a familiar and deeply comforting view that Deb and look to together... first thing to begin each and every morning. It's is the site of my own daily evening vespers of gratitude and reflection offered after my walk about. It looks out on the very site Allie and I shared when swimming together.

A triptych that I had painted earlier of this landscape in autumn was gifted to Allison and we hung it above her in her bedroom. It hung above her during her entire struggle with her illness. It remains hanging there still...  stoically watching over her treasures and her cremains spread carefully upon her now empty bed. It seemed a fitting River memory that echoes the contemplative and peaceful mood reflected in the first photo reference.

Stage Three - Photo Reference Three -  The Bell Tower - paron de casa ( Master of the house) - Venice

This image captures the very central heart and grandeur of this magnificent magical place... Venezia! It is the beloved bell tower, known affectionately to Venetians as "paron de casa" , or master of the house. The tall brick structure towers majestically above all other structures in Venice and dominates the looming medieval landscape as one first approaches the city via the Lagoon. There is no other comparable or more important structure in the city... other than the Doge's Palazzo in the central square fronting San Marco Cathedral.

I wanted to include this in some way to roll together the three layers of the portrait... creating a virtual, but believable new reality to create a recognizable "read" for the viewer.. Such a landscape storyline would engage the viewer as a fellow pilgrim... sharing Allison's Canadian Camino

The Painting Process

Initial "scratchings"

I decided to use a gallery wrap canvas toned with black acrylic gesso. I felt that the subject needed to be dealt with, maintaining an informal scale to compliment the quiet, contemplative mood I was wanting to achieve. I have had great success in the past achieving warm color and lighting effects using this combination of painting support and ground. I decided upon a manageable 16 x 20 inch format.

Using each of the photo references mentioned above in succession, I arrived at this very loose and flexible composition "possibility" upon which my initial painting could begin. This white chalk "scribble", or shorthand drawing would serve only as a guide to explore ideas as they arose.

First Application of Color

I decided to begin that search using paint in the sky area because it would determine the rest of the painting's mood coloristically and tonally. Even at this stage... nothing would appear in its final state. Each passage  was to simply be a statement of "possibility" using only very transparent washes of colour.

Allison's First Appearance
This photo doesn't really capture the real sequence of events as I had planned them. I mentioned that I was treating the painting based upon a landscape approach which despite this photo was the fact. I did paint the far shoreline in as it appears here and was immediately confounded by the emptiness by the result. I felt strongly that I needed to include some reference to Allison right at this point.

I decided to "shoot from the hip", using much the strategy that I use when working en plein air if I am overwhelmed, or feel that I am losing the painting. I laid in a very broad and very transparent wash in the water area, just to give the blackness less emphasis and then began the process of blocking in colour (somewhat extraneously)  to allow Allison's image to appear. There is actually more attention paid to her clothing than to her facial features. This area actually appears very clumsy... even amateurish.

The strategy actually pulled me through this first challenge. Even at this very early stage, what is recorded helps me to clearly establish the three distinct divisions which contribute to creating a sense of depth of space - foreground to middle ground to background... albeit that the distance between the latter two is still rather shallow.

This entire project, closely mirrors the largess and risking that undertaking a pilgrimage a one thousand mile trek presents. There has to be a continual risking... a pushing of the envelope to bring about finishing. I did not want to return to the plaguing uncertainties which I knew occur with over planning. I well know where that leads in plein air painting.

So at this point in the game... I am going to "go all in." By that, I mean that I am going to lay all of my cards on the table... without boring you with my commentary or explanation. I will be content to let you read it as you may and hopefully, as is my intent... you can relate visually to the development of the painting towards its finish.

"Canadian Camino... il Camino di Allie"
oil on canvas - 16 x 20 inches

Closing Time...

At this point, I had thought the painting finished... but in closer scrutiny I realized that I had mistaken two very similar Venetian bell tower monuments. In my first take I had mistaken the tower at Santa Maria della Salute which sits in the lagoon facing the tower located centrally in the San Marco Square in Venice itself. Not a huge or entirely noticeable error to the untrained eye... but the scholar in the picture would be glaring at me in disbelief and scorn!
I made the small very subtle changes necessary to calm the critical and knowing eye of any academic... including Allison's. The Universe speaks in mysterious ways! HA HA!!

Final Footsteps... into Enlightenment

The title in no manner intends to say that my journey, or current feelings of "enlightenment" are permanent. By any measuring stick, be it  a spiritual, religious or academic one... this state is only temporary. The intent in all three areas is that one continues to pursue further growth and knowledge to bring about new experiences and opportunities to experience life on a higher plane... and with greater gratitude and a greater appreciation for the small daily blessings in life.

Through my grief which has been crippling... I have indeed opened the door a crack and have begun my walk back into the Light of "before". I try desperately not to look back towards the "old" normal. However, it does contain many memories and moments of joy for certain.

But I have chosen to walk a new path. A new journey on which I carry only those precious memories from the past which I am able to carry with me... leaving essential space to gather new ones along this new path as it unfolds before me.

I intend to paint with more purpose... only those subjects which I consider valid to me... given the time left to me that I can expect will permit me to paint. I have always been a "Dreamer" - a title and social expectation which still today carries along with it... very negative views and implications. I just have to look and listen "Southward".... some things simply don't die easily.

I would like to close out this lengthy post dedicating it to two other "Beautiful Dreamers". They both... dared to dream... and they both contributed so much to Life... Joy and Peace for others. One is obviously my dearest Allison. 

The other is Jeffrey J. Boron, A Victoria, BC artist, poet, blogging friend and fellow dreamer who sprinkled his stardust so generously throughout his entire painting life. Jeffrey passed away too soon on Thursday, January 11th, 2018 at 68 years of age. This brief sampling of his dreaming-into-verse tells the whole story ... for us all really:

                                   "We are all formed from stardust and to the stars we return."

Twinkle and shine on Allison and Jeffrey... till we join you in your constellation of fellow dreamers.

I love you FOREVER Jemima Puddle Duck!

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Canadian Camino... a beginning and an end

My thanks and gratitude to fellow blogger Caroline Simmill of Scotland for her generous presence and the encouragement that she sent for me to undertake this journey and this project.

                                                                Canadian Camino 
                                      " Il Camino di Allie" - oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

                                         "No one who walks with you ever leaves you."

                                                   -Camino -Peter Coffman - pg 73

I recently had the good fortune to reconnect with two of Allison's wonderful peers/friends and artists, Peter and Diane Coffman at a book signing and speaking event in Kingston to launch Peter's newest book Camino.

Camino is a deeply spiritual and rich literary amalgam of his photographic and prose gifts.The book chronicles a quest that four modern pilgrims... Peter, his wife Diane, Peter's long time friend... musician/violinist Oliver Schroer and his partner Elena walked and endured together.The spiritual test twisted its way across a distance of one thousand painful kilometers. This ancient and well-travelled pilgrimage route is known as El Camino... or the Santiago Camino.

The medieval pilgrimage route El Camino sprawls and climbs high through mountainous regions and along flat dry plains, before finally spilling into its final destination at the cathedral of Santiago di Compostela in the south-west of Spain. Hearing Peter speak so passionately about his journey compelled me to purchase his book... which I could pour over at my own leisure... while listening to the hauntingly beautiful musical compilations from Schrorer on his titled CD Camino released in 2006. Sadly... Schroer would be stricken with leukemia and his violin would be forever silenced in 2008.

It struck me while I was reading this compelling account by Peter that strange parallels to the struggle that I was encountering daily in completing my portrait began to reveal themselves. Each stage of painting process.. the need to rest and the actual motivation for me to undertake this painting challenge became ever more like the physical pilgrimage that the four had completed.

Further to that uncanny sense of sameness was the actual fusion of the senses and the artistic gifts of both men. The interpretations of what they created together... and alone... during and after the actual journey uplifted my own artistic spirit.

What they achieved together underscores my constant belief that the arts,when unified together create a powerfully spiritual essence that crosses all borders, politics and religions. It embodies all that is good about humanity.

I had simply been "stuck." Paralyzed artistically and emotionally. Grief was that wretched thief which robbed Allison of her right to live. It as well caused me to falter in the continuance of many of my basic principles and goals... and creative force.

This book... a couple of family and true friends have unshackled the very things that I have shared and depend upon to exist with Joy myself.

I am greatly blessed!.... Thank you Peter, Diane, Oliver and Elana for having the courage to face the pain and uncertainty of your Quest. Thank you Peter for sharing your photographic essay and sacred thoughts to be woven so inextricably in tune with Oscar's hauntingly beautiful violin virtuosity.                                                                                 
I  have chosen to name this portrait/ode in memory of our beautiful daughter Allison, "Canadian Camino... Il Camino di Allie". I have conducted my painting pilgrimage in a rather altered fashion. I have chosen to reveal and share its conclusion, or final destination (the finished portrait)... to begin with.

I have decided as well that showing the work in progress afterward has value in bringing forward the similarities between El Camino and the journey to complete Allison's portrait. Visually... you can follow the actual steps along "the way". Some even clearly show the plodding nature and dead ends.

The final finished portrait emphasizes the message that an Australian aboriginal proverb offer me (via one of Sara Genn's recent Biweekly News Letters.

In closing out this post, I would offer that most journeys do work from a beginning to wards a desired end. However... it also holds true in my own spiritual beliefs that along with every end... there lies an opportunity for a wholly new beginning. Why else do we paint... or create????

I wonder..

"We are visitors to this time,this place
We are just passing through
Our purpose is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love... and then to return home."

My beautiful gifted and generous daughter that I commemorate here with my words and this "love painting" has most certainly returned Home. I choose to believe that... and continue to "Believe in miracles."

I love you forever Allie!

                         "Every time something is taken away, something else is given."

                                                            -Epilogue for:
                                              camino by Peter Coffman - page 85


Google camino - Peter Coffman for more details and price

Camino (the book) n- author Jeter Coffman
Available through: Wintergreen Studio Press
PO Box 75, Yarker,  ON K0K 3N0

Camino CD - Musician/Violinist Oscar Schroer (deceased)
Available through Borealis Records at:

Friday, December 22, 2017

Using your "Voice".... "Make a joyful noise..." - Part One

While my post title here suggests a speaking or singing voice, I am alluding to a deep and abiding belief that one's "voice" and choice of self-expression can reveal itself in a multitude of very different forms. None of these forms merits the distinction of being more valid than any of the others. All share a common proclivity to seek and strive for perfection and individuality.

Though all of these indicate the presence of a special gift... all demand sacrifice and commitments that stretch across an entire life time of practice and dedication. As Emile Zola aptly put it:

The artist is nothing without the gift. But the gift is nothing without the work."

On many occasions, an artist's "gift" bridges more than one medium or interest. Each medium can reveal a distinctly unique and different "voice". Often the gift is manifest and obvious at a very young age. Having spent my entire working life educating elementary aged children, I have been privileged to discover, mentor and share the artistic path with a number of gifted students in a variety of areas of excellence along the way.

I am very proud to count all of my own children amongst those and do so...  not because they are my children or my artistic "seed"... but rather because they responded to the consistent encouragement we offered each of them to dream and to live out their own dreams. On many occasions, they were thrown in with my class charges to dream together. Some of those early friendships have survived the test of time and were revisited and conjoined at Allison's Celebration of Life event.

How cathartic their embraces were to us at this very dark moment in our current lives! The Universe has indeed conspoired to offer many welcome surprises that defy serendipity as the lone cause. I would like to share one such "visitation" (for the lack of a better word). It came if the form of a series of emails that came to me from one of my "summer painting friends" over the past three years. I choose not to fill the space in this post with my words. I choose to tell the tale using collected digital files that better record events. Her presence and voice(s) speak so eloquently for "Her".

Enter Hana!

This is my young Friend Hana

Painting with me in our garden in tempera as a birthday gift from Gramma (12 years)

                                                       Hana painting in oils two years later

Hana... transformed today ... into a beautiful butterfly with a new "voice" in grade nine this year. What else need be said? The gifts... the work and "beauty... inside and out"... in her Gramma's proud words... We are blessed!

I think that feeling to be true... and "knew it" when first we met!
Hana's song... and musical accompaniment. Where does this gift come from?... and where will it take her???

I wonder...

Good luck Sweet Girl!

Moonlit - Hana.mp3

Stay tuned for Part Two.....