Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Queens Alumni Review 2013

I was aware that Queens Alumni Review was preparing an article on my CSI (Creative Scene Investigation) Presentations. They didn't know about the work we are doing on the "50 Years of Our Flag" project - with several other Brockvillians. They certainly are not aware of our direct association with the "Father of the Canadian Flag", John Ross Matheson. Imagine my surprise when I received my copy of Alumni Review and discovered the article immediately under a photo of John chatting with David Johnston, Govenor General of Canada. What are the odds?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Do You Have CCD?

Another true story... My good friend, the really great artist I mentioned in the previous Blog, thinks he has a disease. Every day he feels compelled to forage out into nature to create another plein air painting ... to add to his inventory of hundreds of similar plein air paintings. He feels it must be a MHA (Mental Health Act) disease. Why would a sane person persist in doing something that apparently no one wants?
This is a terrific artist we are talking about. Why does his art stack up in orange crates in his front parlour? Anyone with any understanding of his art would snatch up these little masterpieces to hang proudly on their walls. Is it lack of exposure? Lack of art understanding? Are artists like my friend too prolific for the limited artist appreciation and even more limited demand?
He doesn't bother to try to answer these questions. He paints every day. He is happy. So am I. What's wrong with this? No harm is being done ... is there? We might be featured on an upcoming episode of "Hoarders". I might need to build a bigger garage. My wife might rent a dumpster.
The disease must be contagious. Maybe the next plein air piece will be "The Masterpiece" ... maybe... It is worth a try.  If we give a disease a name that is half way to finding a cure. Let's call it "CCD" - Chronic Creative Disorder... that works for me.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is Art? Continued ... Does art require an explanation?

A truly excellent artist, who I am proud to say is a good friend of mine, told me a story of a scientist who asked to study him as he painted. The scientist patiently sat, watched and said nothing. After a couple of hours the scientist who was probably attempting to make some sense out of the artistic process, stood up and asked to be excused. Upon questioning, the scientist remarked that he could make no pattern or sense out of the painting process. There appeared to be no great plan in either the selection of colours, the picking of brushes or even where to apply the pigments. The end result was certainly a fine piece of art but how it got to that point from bare canvas was a complete mystery to him – a random stroke generator better explained how the painting evolved – perhaps even chaos theory. Maybe art defies explanation. Does art need an explanation?

This story came back to me today as I was painting on the “50 Years of Our Flag” Project. I was applying a bold dash of colour. I immediately knew it was a good stroke. It felt right. When I stepped back, it even looked “right”. But how did I know? For every good stroke there can be many “bad” strokes. They feel bad. They look bad. They have to be fixed. The best easel days have more good strokes than bad…
It seemed to me that when an artist is in “the zone” the creative process is more like subconscious chaos. The “zoned in” artist is still immediately in touch with what is good, what is bad and what is ugly.  Maybe it is best not to ask how or why – just be content that the painting might be successful. There is still lots of work to do :>)

Friday, February 15, 2013

What is Art? 50 Years of Our Flag Project on Flag Day

My Daughter made a scholastic career out of this question. To my knowledge she never came up with a final answer leaving the door open for the same essay in the following year. This continued right into the Masters program and is bound to be a big part of any Doctorate…

For the Group of Seven and their contemporaries “art” was a way to brand a nation and its people. Prior to the Group, art in Canada was dominated by European influences. Canada was painted in the style of the masters from the “Old Country”. Canadian scenes could have been anywhere in England or Europe.
Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven saw Canada very differently and felt that Canada and Canadian culture were uniquely shaped by the land, weather and climate. Their goal was to create a distinctly Canadian art culture that better represented the new nation. Canada was also in search of its identity - exactly like any young kid. That Tom and the Group succeeded in creating a Canadian artistic culture is witnessed by the fact that we still admire their creations 100 years later. They became the Canadian Masters of art.
In 1964 and 1965 the minority Liberal government wanted to achieve a similar Holy Grail – to create a flag that would be uniquely Canadian and recognized around the world. They were searching for a distinct design that would represent the unique Canadian identit.  The flag since the 1867 Confederation had gone through eight iterations and all featured the Union Jack in the upper left. The Red and Blue Ensigns better reflected England than Canada. The Canadian national identify was still in limbo in 1964 just like Canadian art prior to 1920.
Lester B. Pearson ran the 1963 election campaign promising “a national flag within two years of his election”. The Liberal government set the goal to find a flag that would be “Canada’s own and only Canada’s”. The task was assigned to “The Flag Committee” but John Ross Matheson was by far the key architect to design the series of events that would achieve what had been very elusive in two previous attempts. The Flag Committee vote was unanimous on the choice of the current Canadian Flag. Lester B. Pearson beamed that no one was more responsible for success in establishing the Canadian Flag than Brockvillian John Ross Matheson!
The painting that I am working on wraps the Canadian Flag in Canadian art. I am simply the “Group of One”. I am not Tom Thomson or any of the Group of Seven. I am just “Phil the Forecaster”, a passionate Brockvillian who relied on meteorology to make a living. That I paint in a style reminiscent of the Group of Seven is no accident. We were and are inspired by the same land, weather and climate that make Canada unique. To paint “en plein air” (outside), surrounded by inspiration compels one to paint with bold strokes and lots of colour. In the past 50 years since I first took art lessons from Old World Master Mario Airomi at his river side cottage east of Brockville,  my style has evolved into bold and colourful strokes as well. Perhaps I have been painting my entire life to prepare me for this effort. The 50 Years of Our Flag Project has given me the rare opportunity to wrap the Canadian flag in Canadian art that might make viewers remember the other bold Canadians who created a Canadian artistic culture.
What is art? I still don’t have the answer but it defines a culture. Life is good!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Transitioning from Sky to Sea - 50 Years of Our Flag

Thank you for your kind comments! I pondered the transitioning from sky below to the sea above in another corner of the painting.
The back lit cloud is darker in the middle and lighter around the edges. The cloud itself is shaped by strong winds from right to left and the stable layer at the top of the planetary boundary layer - the layer between the frictionally dominated air near the earth and the free atmosphere above. The cloud is shaped in "gravity waves" and torn by the strong southwesterly winds.
The sea is also shaped into "gravity waves" from the brisk onshore winds - a thermally driven sea breeze. White caps (and the flag on the shore) reveal that the winds are more than 20 knots.
I blended the bright edges of the back lit cloud from below into the white caps of the sea above. The colours of the sky were blended into the shades of the sea. The meteorology is consistent from bottom to top... both in terms of wind direction and the direction of the sun. I still need to apply more paint but you get the idea.
My intention is to make this painting a series of science lessons to augment the history lessons behind the Canadian Flag... I will include this information in the book I intend to publish on CSI - Creative Scene Investigation :>)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

50 Years of Our Flag

I continue to paint away on the 3456 square inches of the Canadian Flag Project. It is not work when one loves what you are doing. The subject matter aside from the "laser lettering" are all favourite paintings that bring back memories. Most were plein air pieces whose strength relied on the boldness and colour of the stroke. I don't want to loose that! Not one square inch is finished yet although I am getting closer to covering the 4x6 foot canvas.
I am having some fun thinking up inventive ways to blend the images together. In the attached image of one small corner of the painting, I use birch trees to transform a forest into sky... I am not done but I think it will work!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

1965-2015 Canada Celebrates 50 Years of Our Flag

The 50 Years of Our Flag Project is occupying a lot of effort. The blocking out and "behind the scenes" effort to make sure that everything fits is quite a task. The plein air beakons me but on these cold days it is equally fine to paint in the studio with the wood stove.

 I will post intermediate steps on the 50 Years of Our Flag Project as I go along - without revealing the entire painting. At the moment I have been blocking out the names in oil which is challenging to do with strong colours. The problem with lettering in oil is that I am not a laser printer. The beauty of lettering in oil is that I am not a laser printer. I will continue to do my best!
One name in particular is Edward M. Chadwick who was the first in 1896 to conclude that "it would certainly seem that the Maple Leaf ... is pre-eminently the proper badge to appear on our flag." (Chapter V of Alistair B. Fraser's "The Flag of Canada".) Edward was apparently instrumental in placing the Maple Leaf on the badges and crests of the Canadian military in time for the First World War.  Back then there were other symbols that kept being mentioned including the beaver...
The other committee members of the 50 Years of Our Flag Project wondered if I was related. I said that I sincerely doubted it - the family name was just a coincidence. Bob Harper, the enthusiastic Chair of the Committee did some investigation and here is what he found...
"Alexander Chadwick was the 3rd son of John Craven Chadwick. He was born in York on Dec 12 1869. He is the father of John Lawrence Chadwick (my Grandfather) who was born March 01 1891... which I believe is your great grandfather, which would make you a great, great, nephew of Edward M. Chadwick who was the first son of John Craven Chadwick."
In other words my great great grandfather was John Craven Chadwick who was the younger brother of Edward M. Chadwick. It is a small world indeed!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Yes... Tomorrow is February 2nd... Will Phil the Furcaster see his shadow? There have many media requests all ready. The simple forecasted answer is "yes". The sun will shine and I will see my shadow. A thermal trough over the Great Lakes will result in light northerly winds over eastern Ontario and a minimum of cloud. Unfortunately this means there will be six more weeks of winter. If I do not see my shadow under cloudy skies then spring is only six weeks away.  Either way the forecast is a winner. No one really expects the ground hog to be right. Any ground hog emerging from his burrow now is either demented or looking for love and neither of these have any connection to weather. Enjoy the day... And the weather!