Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"The Berry Picker, Greenspond"

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are paintings that, when looked at months after completion, transport you back to that place and time instantly. "The Berry Picker, Greenspond", oil on panel, 50"x35", is one such painting. When I look at this painting it I feel an invisible thread with the strength of a thousand mountains pulls me back to that remote and windswept hill on the northeast coast of Newfoundland last August. 

The wind was a major player, of course. The wind, the wind in Newfoundland....it is ubiquitous and as reliably next to you, all the time. Greenspond is a tiny town in the Northeastern area of Newfoundland. There is a beautiful hiking trail that wraps around the mass of land that lies at the end of a small causeway. On the crest of the large hill that is contained within the trail network I saw this woman, Milly, collecting partridgeberries in her scarlet sweater. She was wading through tall golden grasses that covered the hillside as I approached her and asked if she would mind if I took her picture. She was humble and sweet, as Newfoundlanders are by nature, and I appreciated her obliging me.  

Sometime when you shoot reference for paintings, you can feel the painting already there, just waiting to be created. This blissful feeling happened while I shot the pictures of Milly filling her bucket with bright red partridgeberries...I envisioned the painting then and there. The little town sloped away on the horizon line and I knew it would be fun to render the buildings off in the distance while keeping the foreground nice and expressive with broad strokes of colour.

Berry pickers are themselves ubiquitous in the latter months of the summer and early autumn. Wherever we drove we saw a car here or there parked by the road, invariably one or two figures in sweaters could be seen about a hundred feet or two hundred feet out, bending over the spongy ground, filling containers with cloudberries, partridgeberries and wild blueberries.You can read a little bit about these commonly found berries here.  Milly was focusing on partridgeberries, and I thanked her profusely after the mini photoshoot as I think she might have been a bit shy. I am so thankful to her for helping me capture a moment of the beauty of Newfoundland, the simple pleasure found in a meditative act such as picking berries to nourish your family and yourself and to simply enjoy the fruits of the land. Beautiful New-Found-Land, a small bit of it hopefully contained within this painting. 

Technically it was a lot of fun doing this piece, and I am sure that also had to do with how much I enjoyed the subject. Painting on larger panels and canvases can be a little intimidating sometimes but I had such a belief in the theme and composition that I simply flung myself into painting it with lots of gusto, and lots of paint. The colours of Newfoundland are so vibrant and immediate, so unfiltered and pure, and I tried focus on rendering them as accurately as possible. 

Time is flying towards the Newfoundland show in November! Although still months away I have to budget time because these paintings take time and patience. We must balancing life, family, travel and time to create within the mind too, to turn over ideas for paintings that might not be fully resolved. There is much to be said for not creating, for distilling and assessing, for contemplating. Only after contemplation and consideration is it prudent to act, however there IS a lot to be said for spontaneity too! I suppose each approach has its own time and place. The important thing is to march to your own creative drummer, for if you are true to yourself you cannot go wrong. 

"Yes. Feet on earth. Touch stone. Knock on wood. Good luck to all."~Edward Abbey 

Here is some information on the exhibition in November of 2009. I hope to see you there!

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm

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