“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one's head.”~Mark Twain
My apologies dear readers, for being in absentia these past few weeks. A constellation of factors has contributed to this hiatus from my blogs but I have returned with a passion! "Storm Over Wesleyville", 2009, 36"x24", Oil On Canvas, is another painting for my upcoming "Portraits Of Newfoundland" exhibition in November at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario. I will provide information about the show at the bottom of this entry here.
Wesleyville, and Newfoudland for that matter, and any place that lives perched on the edge of water, will usually have tumultuous weather that transitions quickly from calm to tempest. On this particular day I was leaving the studio and turned left to see a dark storm cloud approaching, yet it didn't feel as though it would rain. The ominous yet beautiful cloud loomed over Wesleyville and like a dark grey blanket began to cover everything up slowly but surely. The house on the hill, the little white house belonging to a lovely man named George, was like a beacon glowing, defying the inevitability of the storm away before it was swallowed up.
I have recently begun an artistic love affair with Ansel Adams. I finally saw that PBS special called Ansel Adams: The American Experience and it changed my perspective on life and art. I will blog more about this epiphany later on. Adams was a genius in all senses of the word. I love his light and shadow, his harshly beautiful landscapes and the storm here, the feeling of that moment, reminded me of something that he might have enjoyed and been moved by. I loved that the last bit of sunlight warmed the rocks below the houses, and that this rock itself demonstrated how the houses in much of Newfoundland are themselves perched on the edge of the world.
I'm the first to admit that I find painting skies a challenge...they are by nature pretty smooth-looking, and don't suit a chunky painting style well. However here I was determined to employ my style and make it work....to find a bridge and a solution with the brushwork and colour...I thought that if I tried hard enough I could add a bit of emotion and foreboding to the clouds with the direction of the brushstrokes. It isn't totally chaotic but its pretty loose and impressionistic up there in the top sections of the piece. The contrast is the more detailed areas located near the bottom: the houses, the rocks, the sliver of road you can discern at the bottom. I love creating a tension and a release in a painting...I like having areas of refinement and areas of looseness...I think it helps a viewer's mind and eye to relax and then circle back in to areas that are conducive to more concentration. Now, hyper-realists, who render each square inch to within a millimetre of their lives, are extraordinarily talented and patient, don't get me wrong. Their abilities blow my mind. However I simply cannot render the entire canvas in an equal way....thus sometimes paintings that are totally, painfully detailed, can paradoxically be rather flat in that the eye never rests as it is always delineating a leaf, some fur, an eyelash, a fingernail. I prefer to try to capture the overarching emotion behind the piece...otherwise, like Adams, take a picture.
Wind. It is everywhere and always in Newfoundland. If someone asked me what I remember most from Newfoundland, besides partridgeberry jam, I would say WIND...beautiful, glorious wind. It keeps any tendency towards statis at bay, it is always moving the land and the people forward and onward, and I too moved along with it. It was cold at times, and often challenged my jacket's power to keep it out.. But this wind provides a freshness and an immediacy to the land, it keeps you in the moment by being in your ears at every turn of the head, by being in your clothes and on your voice as you talk to others and raise your volume a bit to keep pace with it.
I hope to capture a bit of these elements of Newfoundland in this painting. Newfoundland truly does cast a spell on you. Yes, I'm a romantic so you have to take that into account, but I'm serious: I have never been anywhere else like it, and probably, fortunately, won't ever be again. It exists in its own time and place...with its windswept shores, its loving townspeople, its simplicity of living and its tenacity of spirit. Give me the storm, the wind, the Rock and feet to explore it...and I will be one happy artist.
Here is an excerpt that Ansel Adams once wrote in a letter. His words moved me deeply:
“A strange thing happened to me today. I saw a big thundercloud move down over Halfdome, and it was so big, and clear and brilliant, that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me; things that relate to those who are loved, and those who are real friends. For the first time, I know what love is, what friends are, and what art should be. Love is a seeking for a way of life, the way that cannot be followed alone; the resonance of all spiritual and physical things. Friendship is another form of love; more passive perhaps, but full of the transmitting and acceptances of things, like thunderclouds and grass, and the clean granite of reality. Art is both love and friendship and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things. It is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty. The turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is a recreation of another plane, of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men and of all the interrelations of these.”
Whether alive or deceased, other artists and people have the power to live within us, move us, change the way we view things and alter our lives. I think Ansel Adams will continue to do that for me. Have a beautiful weekend and savor every moment!
Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm