Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)
Part V

Three Soldiers Standing
9” x 7”

It was about one month before our “walk” throughout Southern Ontario was to begin. My partner, Alan and I were very excited to realize that our efforts in creating ‘The Temagami Trail Tribute’ would bring to the public’s attention this ancient forestland’s struggle for survival as bulldozers and chainsaws were being fueled. We had the venues for our presentations in ten communities organized, travel and documentary equipment had been sponsored and now we were ready to focus on promoting these events.

Our next efforts concentrated on talking with reporters from each of the communities we were to visit. The overwhelming support that we received was very surprising and we were both greatly encouraged.

Each community newspaper wrote an article about our upcoming walk and what our goals were. These stories educated the public to realize that our environment was in jeopardy and many readers were inspired to learn more by attending our presentations. Reporters also attended our event and later, other stories were published to continue spotlighting the issues concerning clear-cut forestry practices in the Temagami region.

During our time in Woodstock, Ontario the local radio station caught wind of our expedition and soon Alan and I were sitting in front of microphones with many thousands of people hearing our story. Because of this unexpected interest in our journey our audience, that afternoon, was significantly larger when compared to other venues.

The local police helped with our walk, as well. After each presentation we asked those in attendance to join our walk for a short distance. Our small groups numbering from seven and sometimes up to twenty-five people filled the roadways for a kilometer or so and this turned quite a few heads. The police helped to clear traffic as our group traveled through each town with lit candles and torches.

Although Alan and I were the leaders of this substantial effort, the successes that we reached came about because of the voluntary actions of a great number of caring people. We knew that alone we would not be able to ‘change the world’ and all of the support we received made us feel united with the people who would.

(To be continued…)

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Three Soldiers Standing is the smallest of the seven artworks created in this series. It’s small in size, but it still took almost a month to complete.

I dabbled in the world of needlepoint for a couple of years and I really enjoy all the different ways that coloured threads can be used to create interesting textures. I don’t think I used the traditional ‘cross-stitch’ even once during my self-taught training. The stitch that I’ve used in this artwork I have named ‘the log stitch’ cuz it looks like lots of different sized logs placed either vertically or horizontally on the canvas.

The title comes from the three large White Pines that are found in the foreground of this distancing landscape – they are a bit darker than the rest of the trees in the foreground. The news article (above) has the caption “Temagami trek ‘last stand’ against forest destruction”. A ‘stand’ refers to a group of trees. The three White Pines reminded me of soldiers ‘stand’ing on guard and protecting the forest, thus the title ‘Three Soldiers Standing’.

The title also was inspired with thoughts of hope for the Temagami forestland. Because of ongoing positive developments founded on the work of so many interlinked environmental protection groups, I believe that our future will include the Temagami forestland! More work still needs to be done – much more work – but the first initial steps have been laid and all of this positive action has inspired these ‘Three Soldiers’ to remain ‘Standing’ for as long as it takes to bring peace and under‘Standing’ to this ancient forestland and our distancing future.

This series of seven artworks was entitled ‘Reflections of Temagami’ and in each artwork there is a reflection. Most of the artworks use a reflection as a main design feature, but this artwork doesn’t. The reflection in ‘Three Soldiers Standing’ is very subtle, and you can see it along the edges of the two small lakes.

Again, this artwork was given to a close friend, after my year-long art tour had completed. Joe M. and I have known each other since Kindergarten and we had a chance to meet up at another friends wedding, a few years ago. Joe lives in the U.S. close to the west coast, so we rarely get a chance to visit. I could have mailed the artwork to him, but it was nicer to have been able to present it to him in person.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)
Part IV

Forest Breathing – A Detail
36” x 48”
Acrylic Paint on Canvas

Alan and I had decided to create a walk throughout Southern Ontario to raise awareness about the Temagami forestland and the threat to its survival. This walk became known as The Temagami Trail Tribute!

Since Alan and I had never done anything like this before we first had to create a plan of action. We decided to focus our action on education. To do this we created a forty-five minute long presentation, using slides and music, to tell the story of how this problem came to exist and our hopes for a peaceful solution. The Klienburg Art Gallery donated many slides of the artworks created be THE GROUP OF SEVEN artists which were used in our presentation to showcase the beauty of our Northern forestlands.

Next we had to figure out how long our walk would be and where it would take us. Many days were spent looking at maps of Southern Ontario as we calculated how far we could walk in a day and where we would be spending our nights sleeping. We decided that a ten-day walk, visiting ten communities between London and Toronto would be a challenge that we could accomplish.

After communities were chosen, we began contacting people within each community to arrange venues for our presentations. We received support and encouragement from everyone we spoke with. Every venue was donated to our cause and soon other businesses were helping us reach our goal. Novack's donated rain gear and hiking boots and Stan C. Reade donated film and camera equipment. Ecosource Paper, from British Columbia, donated all the hemp paper we needed for our promotional needs.

One day I was making photocopies on the 'tree-free' paper and a gentleman inquired about what my partner and I were doing. He was so impressed with our dedication to such a noble cause that he paid for all of our flyers. All of this support was very encouraging and inspirational, but we still had a lot of work ahead of us…

(to be continued…)

+ + +

My favourite subjects in high school and college were designing and drafting. In these courses we learned how valuable it is to create ‘detail’ drawings. A detail is like a zoomed in look at a particular area of a previous drawing. That was my inspiration for creating ‘Forest Breathing – A Detail’.

I really enjoyed creating the canvas ‘Forest Breathing’ and I knew that there were more ideas in that painting that my brushes couldn’t explore the first time around. I wanted to explore different colours and different ways of applying my brush strokes. I didn’t want to recreate the same painting, so I thought of ideas that I had learned while I was in college studying architecture.

I bought a different sized canvas – larger this time – and although I used the same colour slide image to create this painting, I zoomed in on just one smaller area, creating my detail.

+ + +

As I mentioned, in my last blog, I decided that I didn’t want to sell this group of artworks, after my year long tour through Southern Ontario was finished. I had decided to give them away, to family and close friends.

This artwork was given to a friend who I have known since Kindergarten – almost my whole life.

Mary-Jane S. lives close to the town where we went to high school and she is now a teacher in a local elementary school. Joanne and I have visited with her and her family on several occasions while enroute to my parents’ house.

I often wonder if Mary-Jane has ever used this painting to teach her students about the Temagami forestland, and the importance of preserving natural environments.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)
Part III

Coloured Ink on Drawing Board
16” x 28”
November 2006

I left the Temagami information session in Toronto with a smile on my face and determination in my heart. “We will save this ancient forest!” I thought to myself, “We will!!” though I had no idea HOW.

One month later a curious event took place… It was my day off work and I was enjoying the sunshine as I walked along the Thames River Bike Path, here in London, Ontario. Along came this beautiful Husky dog, bounding my way, and close behind was her owner. I bent over to scratch Mia behind her ears and Alan and I exchanged friendly words.

Soon we were talking about the architecture of the future and being done with the subdivision sprawls that are overtaking this city. Alan was a recent graduate in the field of Aquaculture and he shared ideas about using this education to build a clean water existence in homes and communities that would benefit Nature. We both knew that these ideas would take decades to achieve. We both agreed that it was hard enough trying to encourage people to recycle and be nice to each other and here we were dreaming about PEACE ON EARTH and which ideas would lead us there. We both wanted to do something positive.

I told Alan of my most recent educational experience where I learned about the Temagami forestland, located in Northern Ontario and how this unique species of forest is being threatened with extinction by the hand of man. He listened intently as I explained how a natural forest breathes and lives. I asked him to join me and my ambitions to raise awareness about these issues with others.

I told of my most recent ideas inspired by peaceful warriors of the past. I wanted to create a walk, similar to other great walks that colour Canada’s history. This walk would be a tool to share the story of Temagami’s struggle for survival and to share a vision for peaceful understandings leading to positive action for future generations. Alan smiled. THE TEMAGAMI TRAIL TRIBUTE was about to be realized…

(to be continued...)

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To create my ‘Reflections of Temagami: A Group of Seven’ artworks for my then upcoming 2007 art tour, I was using the colour slide photos I had taken – while in the Temagami region - as my inspiration. But, I had to be very selective as to which photos I would use. In keeping with my idea, any image that I selected had to have a reflection in it.

This is the photo that inspired ‘Earthangel’. You can clearly see that the majority of this photo is of the water, with the forest being reflected on it. My main focus while taking this photo was to capture the reflection of the shoreline, with all the wonderful textures of the rocks. The reflected blues of the sky were an added bonus.

As with ‘Forest Breathing’, I felt compelled to rotate this photo 90 degrees. I spent many moments enjoying how this rotated photo filled my imagination with delightful thoughts and impressions. Within the rocky shoreline I saw head, chest and belly of an organic beast. The tree trucks were arms held aloft and covered with the greens of the trees to become wings for my rock being. This creature looked like it was flying through a sky filled with the deepest of blues.

Since this creature was flying, I thought that it was an angel soaring over the Temagami forestlands, filled with my prayers of hope for its salvation. Since its body was made of the rocks, soil, bushes and trees of the Earth I thought that the final artwork should be called ‘Earthangel’… my personal prayer.

So… I had my inspiration. Now I needed to figure out what medium and which style of rendering I was going to use.

I woke up one morning, and as I was rousing around I was wistfully enjoying a quilt that my wife had made and hung in our bedroom. This quilt is quite a delight for the eyes – it’s one of my favourite art peaces that adorns our walls. I became taken in by the colour shifts throughout the quilt – colours beginning in a mixture of purples, slowly shifting into dark blues.

The background of this quilt was made using squares. Each square was made using five different angular shapes. A lightbulb lit up over my waking head!!!!!

I used the same idea – just arranged slightly differently. This square – made up of five different angled shapes became the blueprint for the texture used to create ‘Earthangel’.

I allowed myself to be able to rotate this design to look like this…

… and this…

… and this, to allow me to have four possible ways to use this one design. This proved to be very helpful when designing the most intricate part of ‘Earthangel’ – the tree trunks/wings.

I decided to use coloured inks for this artwork. By adding small drops of water to my inks I was able to create the many different tones of blue used to create the sky. When looking at the above detail you may think that I used three or four different tones of green, but that is not the case. Only one tone of green was used.

One thing that I learned about painting with coloured inks is that deeper and richer colours can be created by painting an area more than once using the same colour. There is a limit though – at the limit an area can be painted only four times and then it becomes saturated. Any attempt to paint an area five or six times will see the drawing board being worked on, fall apart in little clumps of soaking paper.

By using this technique I was able to quadruple the number of coloured tones to be presented in the final artwork.

+ + +

As all of the seven artworks were being completed, I began to wonder what I should do with them. Should I put them up for sale? Should I donate them to a charity after the art tour was finished?

I finally decided to give them away to my friends, who I know would respect and cherish them. The first in this series of seven ‘Fallen Comrade’ was given to my parents. ‘Forest Breathing’ was given to my friend Jim Mikol – he appears in the above newspaper article. ‘Earthangel’ ended up being my favourite of the seven and so I decided to keep this one for myself. In a future blog I’ll continue to mention who the other artworks were given to.

Here’s ‘Earthangel’ as it appears on my dining room wall. This photo was taken just two hours ago.

But wait!!!! What’s this???? Who’s this bald guy???

Yup! It’s me, but what’s with the sporty bald look?

Indeed… that’s another story!