To boldly go, or in my case, not so boldly until my hand was forced and I had no other choice.
If I was born with one traight that I wish I could fix it would be without question my inability to make a decision and move forward with it without wavering. Unfortunately for me this is not the case, and it dogs me through every major turn in the road of life that I travel down.
I will never forget the day when my boss at the time, large bank, downtown Toronto banking district, 29th floor of the Canadian Pacific Tower, wanted to ask me to take on a small promotion. She called me for the meeting to address one concern she had about my readiness for the position. "Robert", she said firmly, "You are like a nervous driver who's afraid to change lanes!" She continued, "You need to pass a slow driver up ahead but you are afraid to do it so you just drive slowly behind the slow driver until they finally leave the highway!"
She was absolutely right, best judgement call, most accurate personality assessment of me anyone could have made. And there it was. I'm the Deer in the headlights and the truck is going to knock me right off the road if I don't wake up and make a move.
This would become a pivotal moment in my career and life. I did get the promotion, but it didn't last long. Shortly after when higher ups were making their own critical decisions about staff reductions due to outsourcing and downsizing, my job along with 64 others in my division would be let go and sent off into the world to find ourselves yet again.
Enter pivot point number two.
About a year prior to leaving the bank I had begun creating a website to promote and sell the paintings I was doing in my spare time. Sales were going very well and I knew this was a good thing. I didn't know it would become my career but on that fateful day when big bank decided to jettison our whole department, I was faced with aa decision point that was most certainly a headlight moment. There I stood, with all of my co-workers as they told us how much they appreciated our contribution to the bank all these many years. For a few brief moments I became the Deer in the headlights. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, I had to make a decision and it would impact every area of my life. To brush up my resume and seek a new position at another bank or take the biggest leap of my life and become a full-time artist?
It's been 14 years now, years that have not been without challenges. Would I change that decision if I could go back? Not for one second! For certain the roller coaster life that ensued and continues to this day is rough sometimes, but the rewards are far and away worth the risk. I still suffer from "Deer in headlights" syndrome, lol, and it pains me regularly. I have learned so much about myself through it all and the road ahead is very clearly all about art. Going to the field to gain material, painting it and marketing it every day. It's a life that is not for the faint of heart. If you aspire to be a full-time artist I can only say be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
It's a decision you will have to follow through with on a daily basis. You will have to self-motivate. You will need to get your blinders on, to look straight ahead and don't chicken out. It would be grand if you have some other source to maintain your income, such as a well-paid spouse, trust fund or some other source like that. If you don't, like me, it will be lonely sometimes.
Be beave! Be sure! Pray for Gods direction and provision. Most of all, enjoy your wonderful decision!
Wealthy? No. Extravagant? No. Blessed? Yes, extremely blessed. I’ve toyed with channels and ideas in art that would create wealth and allow some extravagance but not far into them I’ve backtracked in favor of pure art.
This notion, pure art, has cost me. Pure art has defined my paths, for me it has meant resisting anything that takes me away from the humble yet imperative act of simply painting.
Along the way there continues to be the little luxuries I believe one must allow themselves, in fact, must insist on for the good of mental health and inner peace. One such “luxury” is a moment each morning in sanctuary with a very personal Java and baked treat.
A practice I highly recommend.
My location of choice lately has been Brock Street Espresso, so if you’re there don’t be afraid to lean in and say good morning. And if you get some Java there be sure and tell them that Robert McAffee sent you.
Canadian Landscape Artist. Art Blogger, content creator Robertmcaffee.com
#luxury #littleluxuries #lifehacks #mentalhealth #momentsofpeace #metime #mytime #principles #pureart
Ships in the harbor
I turned 60 this past May, if I've learned learned nothing else in life or about life it would be safe to say that I am nothing more that a kid in a grown ups body doing grown up things, but still having child like passions. I do the responsible things like pay bills, meet appointments, be at events that are important, I've learned to play the part well.
There remains deep within me a not very well hidden child.
The child within, while mostly hidden, creeps out from time to time when I can get away. What young boy isn't fascinated with big ships? The sheer size of them, I mean, when you see them in photos or on television, for those who still watch television, they are bigger in real life. In fact they are massive! I don't watch football so I have no idea how many football fields they length is but I imagine it's a couple at least. On some occasions, more lately than I've seen in years here in the Port of Oshawa, there may be two or even three tied up to the docks. They stand like massive structures that dwarf the buildings they flank. The dock forklifts are nut tiny Tonka toys compared to these great tubs!
even if it's just a Life is short, there's only so much time to do the things we really love to do. We devote so much of our precious time to the responsibilities we saddle ourselves up with. Before you know it you are making retirement plans and you're lucky if your health is up to the activities you have been saving up for years to fulfill. Or maybe you are waiting for someone in your life to get there so you can enjoy together. That is noble of you but chances are the people in your life have other plans.
Seize the moment while you have it to live. There's no time like the present and you should take every moment you can, even if it's an hour here or an hour there. Take that hour to drive out of your way, go to the dock, go to the forest, go to the diner, the cafe, the movie. Whatever it is, go!
Let the child within breathe and live from time to time. It's worth it.
The JOY of ART
Can you even imagine? How many times I’ve been in a home or living space and the atmosphere is void. Empty walls become larger with the miles and miles of neutral paint colour that leads to nowhere. A sofa that disappears into that void that dwarfs them. A reflection of life as it seems sometimes, absent is the presence of life and hope.
Life without art, life without books, life without some interruption of colour and texture, is a life in need of some disturbance.
I heard a well known television personality, Steve Harvey speaking of his forever practice of allowing himself some even small “upgrade” to improve his mere existence. He spoke of the mundane act of flying and his budgeting himself the luxury of first class rather than coach was something that for him was a necessity for his personal well-being. Not a sign of wealth or prosperity but an insistence of remembering that granting yourself some pleasure in life is something many people overlook and therefore rob themselves of joy.
Life with art is that opportunity we have to allow ourselves to have some joy. Unlike a first class seat on an airplane such joy with art needs not be expensive or in any way lavish, it can be something so simple. A row of books selected from the second hand store book section for .50 each. Joy can be had with finding a beautiful flower pot in a garage sale. It can be found with the hanging of an Asian wall fan mounted on that space above that lonely sofa.
Joy can be found in simple articles that begin to change our surroundings and hence our lives.
Joy can be found in a simple fresh scone accompanied by a hot mug of coffee and there on the table, that simple, tiny 3”x5” canvas with an artists simple rendering of a high view of a northern lake as the evening light disappears below the horizon.
Life without art is easy to remedy, and the remedy doesn’t need to cost your life savings. What then is the value of joy?
Share your joyful moments in the comments:
Years ago, almost in another world it now seems, I was a busy drummer. I miss those days, I was happy in that role. There have always been two places in life that pleased my ambitions, art and drumming and on one drumming tour I did with a band into Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario. I realized I was just 30 mn drive from Algonquin Park. This was years before I had begun making regular trips to the park, I was still employed in with TD Bank Financial Group. This was the first time in my adult life when I was in such close proximity to Algonquin Park and I really wanted to get over and see it if I could.
We had an afternoon show that weekend and I decided rather than head off to bed, I would drive over and catch a sunset at Algonquin.
I arrived at the West Gate at approximately 6:30 pm and took my time driving along Hwy 60, the main route through the lower portion of Algonquin Park, the route most visitors take when coming up from the city. It takes you through all of the iconic lakes and trails as are known for the most dramatic views. As the time passed, and I knew I couldn't stay too late I decided I wanted to get in a good sunset to mark the day.
I remember the discovery of a little spot along the hwy, on the south side with a spectacular view of Smoke Lake. A little parking area only large enough for six or seven cars. The sun was low in the western sky and I decided to wait it out from that spot. It would reward with a lifetime impression. As the light grew dimmer and the outline of the northern sky and clouds became more pronounced I could feel the emotion of the night like no other time I had ever known. It would be the beginning of what I like to refer to as my dedication to the rendering of night in my paintings.
Rainy Days and Mondays
Remember that song? Karen Carpenter sang those words, "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down", and we all sang along. Perhaps, maybe not all of us, may just those of us over the age of 50. Those of us who loved those harmonies and sweet sounds by the brother and sister duo.
There was and still is an irony in that sentiment, and I draw your attention to the feelings we have when we bundle up for a stroll in the forest or along the shoreline on just such a cloudy breezy day. It may be grey but do we ever love the feeling, all bundled up, the cool breeze on our face and looking forward to hunkering down afterwards with a nice hot coffee or soup and freshly toasted bread!
Such is the vibe around cloudy stormy paintings. It only takes a click or two around robertmcaffee.com to know that yours truly gravitates to these kinds of scenes. As an artist it is easy, perhaps somewhat normal to just present the sunny skies, it's not about the storm but more so about the rescue, the comfort that comes thereafter.
Many times as I travel the rugged northlands of Ontario and the Maritime's I choose September and October as my go there season. It's cooler, windier, stormier, cloudier, etc, etc. You know what I'm saying. The drama flows over the crests and through the trees. The sketches done on small canvases and birch boards are usually rendered very quickly for all the above reasons, lol, get it done and get back to warmth and safety. Those little sketches are usually rushed and simplistic, capturing the very essence of the scene. The details and fine tuning can be accomplished later in the studio.
I ask you, isn't that ruggedness the very thing we so love? When you can almost smell the wood, the green moss, the morning rain? If you focus even on the tiny sketch you can envision the brush, the branches rubbing against your shoulders. That's my goal, to allow you, the viewer of the art to experience with me those essential elements of being there in the charm of the moment. Consider, if you will, that a Robert McAffee painting is not just a painting of trees and lakes, it's actually your very own personal window, a portal to places you have been to or wish to return to from wherever you may be at this very moment.
May you breath the air, feel the breeze, and all while you sip your coffee or other warm comfort beverage. As you retire for the evening and begin to relax, this is that moment that happens as you settle on the side of your bed, contemplating the glorious sleep that is moments away. There on the wall in front of you is that moment that sets your dreams in motion. Your very own small, medium or even large McAffee filling your mind with peace and rest.
This I hope is the case. For those who have their own McAffee, I thank you. For those who are considering, I invite you. Join the family, enjoy the essence.
To create freely or to become restrained for life? That is the question, or possibly one could put it the way so many artists and front line entertainers have put it: To be true to yourself or to sell out?
Which will it be? Tom Thomson is known for his loose unorthodox rendering, quick sketch like finished works for which we all deeply love. Lawren Harris is instantly recognized for his abstract structured and heavily layered images. Mark Rothko, one of my most favorite artists, clearly screams out his own name with those iconic big singular coloured squares and rectangles. These artists resisted the temptation to fall on the one that sold fast, the one that got the highest price. They followed their hearts every step of the way and became the ironically respected giants that they are because of it.
Let's divert a little for a moment, let us consider the early development of an artists methods. In music as well as painting or any creative field, we all have our hero's. As a drummer growing up in the sixties and seventies and I was most influenced by my favorite drummers, Neil Peart of Rush and, of course, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. For certain I wanted to be just like either one of those giants. I even set my drums up just like them. Grew my hair long like them, and my fills and licks definitely would tell you who were my idols.
As I matured in drumming I gradually moved away from those images and my very own style and look began to emerge. To this day I still employ certain Peart and Bonham methods in my playing but I know that I have moved significantly in my own direction.
In my view this is how artists should evolve. We all bring different influences into what we do in our current work, and it's all of those influences that shape us and make us unique in our own respect. As we develop over time our own methods evolve and we become known for what we do. All of those influences make the cake taste the way it does.
If you are a Canadian landscape painter, as I am, you are inevitably going to have people say to you how much your work is like the Group Of Seven. I always have an internal chuckle over that one. Truthfully I have to thank each one for that very high compliment, Theres no way I come even close to any one of those masters! I realize it is just the easiest way for people to say they really like your work. We all grew up studying Group of Seven paintings, we went on class trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario, The McMichael Collection, etc, etc, and we all know the groups work so well. They were most certainly pioneers and masters of the genre and I kiss the ground they walked on. Greatest possible respect for certain. When I began painting in oils I most definitely employed those characteristics.
Even before I had any idea who the Group of Seven were I had a hero in my very own family. My late uncle Jack Reid. His watercolours were my first and greatest influence by far.
Here we are so may years later. I like to say my work is a conglomeration, a recipe list of all of those amazing artists and influences, but I know that I am comfortable in my own skin. I follow my own heart and move in directions that feel right and free for me. There are certain images I have painted that I know I could repeat at nauseum, just because I know they sell quickly. It's a rampant problem out there today. Those artists who do that, in my own opinion, have sold out to a more commercial business model. Sacrificed their own creative gifts and given in to the all mighty sale. The proverbial cash cow. "Wow, that sold fast! I'll do another one, and another one", etc, etc, etc. It's sad, and it's a real indication of insecurity and lack of self confidence. The worst aspect of repetition is that it severely limits an artists natural evolution, exploration of new techniques, methods that might well bring many new rewards to an artists career.
There's always always something new and fresh in the world to paint. There is always some new story to tell. Our souls are made for it, to breath it in, absorb it, and artists are made to paint it.
Be brave, be bold! Let your brush live and breath. Allow your work to ebb and flow in whatever direction it chooses. Celebrate creativity, give way to freedom, create as your soul desires!
#rothko #markRothko #lawrenharris #jackreid #art #arttalk #artchat #create #Genuine #freedom #sellout #expression #impressionism #impasto #texture #boldbrush #colour #colourpop #canadianart #canadianartist #groupofseven #artgalleryofontario #AGO #McMichaelGallery #mcMichaelcollection #mcmichael #robertmcaffee #robertmcaffeeartist #artistrobertmcaffee #robertmcaffeeart
The Solemn Tree
This tree means many things to many people. This image of solitude, image of survival.
I knew someone who believed that life was all about the effort, the work you applied to each day. If you just plan and follow through, your life will turn out well. At times I began to believe that, pouring myself into work and diligence with passion and unfailing drive.
What is wrong with that philosophy? I quote Robbie Burns with this answer: “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry”. A lost job, a failed marriage, an illness that takes a toll, so many ways that life, in spite of all our best efforts can cause our plans to melt away like sugar in hot water.
I lived my life amid that panacea of work hard and do all the right things. Even in those times I looked upon the homeless as I passed them on the streets, pity, but never knowing how close anyone of us are every single day to becoming one of them. A string of unfortunate events that no one has the ability to avoid can befall us at any time, how fragile we really are.
I am not homeless. I am healthy. I have modest things, I am present. By the grace of God there go I. In his grace we live, eat, walk, breathe. Those that choose not to believe, it is theirs to make that choice. For me is faith that Gods grace is sufficient for all of our needs. My life is a living testament to that.
This tree, this solemn powerful tree is rooted well and survives all storms and powerful waves. God cares for it.
God cares for you, and me. Even through our darkest moments in life, he is ever present.
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it
Red Algonquin Sky
8" x 10" oil on canvas
Photograph compliments of Elizabeth McLoughlin
The proverbial treadmill, I have a real one and I should use it way more than I actually do, however, the treadmill I'm referring to is the one we all are on every day. Maybe not everyone, I know some have a pretty good life, but for most of us the demands of life have us running on a proverbial fast paced treadmill. From our responsibilities to others, to family, to the mountains of useless stuff we own and not the least are the responsibilities to our very own selves.
When I was a child I admired artists who made their living from their craft. I grew up dreaming of becoming a career artist but I had no idea what such a life involved and I would learn surely enough. Artists become aware soon that they must not only become a creator, also a marketing expert, a web designer, also a distribution expert and so on and so on. Not to mention the more important responsibilities of family and personal care.
The pandemic came along, as soon as that broke out things began to change rapidly. All cultural events halted, the ability to show art face to face came to a sudden stop! I remember thinking artists were dead in the water, that I would be forced to take a break from this treadmill that was my life. Until yet another curve appeared. To my utter surprise shoppers of all types began shifting to online avenues. My web traffic exploded and suddenly people who were previously hesitant to commit to buying art online began emailing with their requests. It was the most pleasant surprise. The treadmill continued.
One year stretched into two and in the process I began to realize that I wanted to take greater control of my path and life. I made the conscious decision that once shows and events began to happen again, that I would take a step away from them and would focus more on my own personal health and wellbeing. Me time, I suppose you could call it.
There were other changes that seemed important to me during that period and I have gradually been implementing them.
Today I find myself painting most days as always, but the busy life that was mine before the pandemic is for the most part, no longer the way for me.
What is important in life? Each person must answer that for themselves, for me I believe my faith, my family and my health come before all else. I thank God for this wonderful privilege I enjoy of making my life and living around the art that I love. I have been so remarkably blessed.
As long as I have breath in me I still live to paint this beautiful land we live in here in Canada. I still wander around on day trips for my art, it's what I refer to as my Research & Development department. The only way to properly paint the land is to actually experience it. My travels happen randomly, very little planning, just an impulsive get up and go life style and I couldn't be happier. When I travel I generally set out a plan but along the way if a right or left turn seems more appealing, off I go!
Life still has it's treadmill moments, for this artist I have chosen to step off and to release myself of its demands. I have chosen to follow my heart and paint for the love. How honored I am to see that you continue to seek out my work and add them to your welcoming homes.
Let's see what the future brings, every corner offers adventure and challenges. I'm here for it, I'm built for that.
Sunrise at Canoe Lake
10" x 8" oil on canvas
For as long as I can remember I have always loved the look and feel of the rugged untouched remote landscape. Having said that there is commonly evidence of human footprint almost anywhere you go. No question about it, you would be surprised at the glow of a discarded red coffee cup with a name that sounds like Jim Portman on it!
There is commonly discard around from previous adventurers and hikers, campers and so on, there is just no escaping it. No way, unless you are an artist.
When I set out to paint a location it has to connect with me in a deep and moving way. I must feel the vibe of the natural textures and depth of view. The layers of the setting must speak to me, as if to say “I’m here! Come and paint me!” Occasionally there will be some form of footprint. Might be a fencepost, maybe an abandoned car or truck. When I come across this sort of interruption I just omit it at the time of painting. You would be surprised how many of my painting locations have noticeable objects that I conveniently left out of the composition.
I avoid at all costs the inclusion of human used objects such as red canoes, lawn chairs on docks, Cattle loading ramps, etc, etc. My goal is to preserve nature as best as I can. That is what thrills me in the end, to know that I have in my own small way returned a landscape to its original state.
I’ve never been called a restorer but it fits. For this artist the world around me is one big Restoration Project.
The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
I invite your replies and comments, on my virtual welcome mat.
This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.