8"x10" oil on wood
There are two things in life that move my emotions to either extreme on the scale: They are with out a doubt the happiness of a child and the sadness of a child. When I see a child, not necessarily my own, who is happy and joyful it also brings happiness and joy to my heart. Likewise, when I see a child who is sad or hurt it really goes to the deepest part of my soul.
Such is the case of the Aboriginal Residential Schools. Since their very inception in the late 1800's in Canada, children from Aboriginal homes across Canada were removed to live in facilities geared towards education and reforming their minds and lives, or so it was thought. Let me say for the record of this blog that it is clear that most of the staff of those institutions were not participants in the abuse of the children, many of the staff were simply ignorant or kept away from knowing the sad truths unfolding behind closed doors. Those who inflicted the pain and damage on those children's lives were truly monsters of the highest order. In this posting I do not wish to dwell on them as they are being dealt with one by one through both the courts and the courts of public opinion and shame. For this posting I choose to focus on the children.
While I remain a truly proud Canadian, and proud of so many wonderful aspects of this great land, I also stand with those who feel utter shame and pain at the very sound of those words: Residential Schools. From time to time the news carries images of those children in their classrooms, sitting at desks and all the while you know the horror some of them were living through. Each time I see them or hear about them my heart withers in pain and sadness. I wish there was something that I could do. Certainly no one can erase it all. Certainly no one can even rewrite the past. But we can share our thoughts and make certain it never happens again. We can show love and compassion to those victims and relatives of victims who carry with them the pain of the experiences.
This brings me to the point of this posting. Some time ago I determined that I would do a painting that expresses my inner most feeling about this sad part of our history. My painting would address each of the elements of the story and leave out mentioning the inflictors of the pain (They have received enough attention). My painting would support the survivors and give hope for a better future. It would not simply generalize the entire group of victims but draw attention to their individuality as humans and persons of importance.
I want to say that I am not Aboriginal, neither am I related in any way to Aboriginals. I have no connection to any survivor of the Residential Schools. I am also not a practicing artist of Aboriginal art. Having said that I want to say how moved I am at the methods and colours used by Aboriginal artists. I have veered off of my usual and known style of painting to create this piece I present here to you called "Healing". Mine is an effort to share my inner most feelings and to approach healing in a meaningful way. May I encourage you the reader to share this story and image of my painting with others who would benefit from it spiritually, emotionally or who also would like some form of expression for what they feel with regards to this history.
What this painting symbolizes:
The red background: represents the ground where Aboriginals grew their crops.
The Sun: represents the sun and sky, the Aboriginals relied on the sun to help grow their crops.
The water: The Aboriginals relied on the water to provide for fishing and transportation.
The Peace Pipe: A symbol and instrument of peace between Aboriginals and non-aboriginals. In this case a symbol of peace, an expression of this artist asking forgiveness on behalf of this country, and hope for healing.
The string holding the feathers: The common thread of each of the survivors.
The feathers: represents the innocent individual children who are now survivors. Each feather is unique as are each of the children who suffered. Each has it's own story as do the children who endured.
The eagle on the mouth piece: Carrying us forward, may we never forget and never allow this to happen ever again.
In addition to this post I am including some links here for more information regarding the history, current court proceedings/settlements, and support groups for survivors of the residential School system. http://www.residentialschoolsettlement.ca/schools.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_school_systemhttp://www.ahf.ca/contact-ushttp://www.sacsbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=145&Itemid=390
Trees at night
30"x40" oil on canvas
Dark night paintings at first consideration are a bit intimidating. So when one is tempted to do one it calls into play a whole different way of seeing things. My inspiration for doing this night scene was to show the various colours that become evident only at night. The glow of the moon light over the various textures and shapes can be as interesting as daylight. The purples, the deep greens, the infinite blues of a hundred or more shades. Just think about it next time you are out at night. Look into the shadows and see the many layers that are waiting for your eye to unfold.
Early work by Jack Reid in raw sienna and burnt umber
In this more recent image of Jack Reid you can clearly see the light blue's and ultramarines he used, both in the painting on the wall and the one being worked on in front of him.
Those are the words I recall immediately on hearing or seeing the name of my late uncle, Canada's master of watercolour and particularly of snow. Jack could paint snow. That seems a simple thing to say but Jack really could paint snow as if you were there standing in it. Remarkably he had the ability to do it very quickly. He was a master of it and he also was a master of making it look effortless and without challenge. When you watched Jack paint, like over 30,000 students did over his 40 years of teaching, you would be mesmerized as he laid down the water layer, then with a few wide strokes of a large "flat" brush he would "lay in" the ultramarine or royal blue. In the early years he used darker tones as with paynes grey and burnt Umber, but as he grew older he began to use "happier" colours.
I watched this transition over the 40 years and noticed it changed with his personality. Everyone who knew Jack on a personal level knew of his demons. He would say that you never really loose them, you just learn to control them. I prefer to leave the details of those struggles out but suffice to say, and to make my point, Jack's inner feelings were evident in his work.
One of the things I noted about my uncle was the impossible task it was to get time with him. He was so very busy. I respect that, now as I enjoy my own success as an artist, but he was defensive and protective in the early years. Then as he entered his 60's and onward he started to open up more. In his 70"s I was able to visit him just about any time I wanted too, and he seemed to be open to having me around more. In those times I learned most about his work, work ethic and his philosophy. Knowing Jack Reid you could not escape his philosophy. He was always ready with another quote or saying that summed up his opinion about something, and his references almost always started or ended with a joke.
I miss my uncle this morning. I am painting a very large (96") painting and thinking of him while I work. I welcome your comments here on your recollections of the Master of Snow.
Jack Reid's last drawing/art table before he died. I am the proud recipient of it. Left to me by my uncle Jack. On it he inscribed one of his favourite little quips.
My other worldDrumming for the WCA Band, Easter, 2012
I watched a documentary about the bass player for Motorhead, Lemmy. In it, after 50+ years of playing his instrument an interviewer asked him: "After all of these years what makes you keep doing it?" Lemmy's response: "After all these years Why stop now?"
He also said "You grow up dreaming about doing this and now your doing it, so why stop?"
Weather you like Lemmy, Motorhead or thrash speed metal is not the point. The point for me in music as well as painting is that when you grow up dreaming to do something and you get to do it, well, you just don't stop.
Someone asked me today after I finished playing drums for a set, they asked me if I had any plans to quit? I said "if they find me sitting on my drums or holding a brush in my hands when I die you will have to know that I could not have been happier.
Drumming, like painting began when I was just 6. Just like painting it was something that I discovered while at my uncle Allen's house in Toronto. I had seen drummers in my church growing up but it was mu uncle Allen who gave me those first set of drums to take home and bang around on. Was the beginning of a lifetime of drumming. If I had to decide which was more passionate for me; drumming or painting i would not be able to decide. Both were inter twined and integral to each other. Art gave me the colour I wanted to express and music gave me the volume and sheer pleasure of enjoying the musical vibe and chemistry.
Though never a Motorhead fan myself, more a Rush, Zeppelin, and more melodically Gordon Lightfoot, Sade fan, I dipped my feet into so many musical pools and enjoyed all of them.
Still do. Thank God for the strength to keep it up.
Thanks to Renaldo of Rad Photography for the use of this image.
So you have hit the wall. No hope, no help. Or so it seems. Today I had a very rewarding experience. I spoke as a motivational speaker at the Durham District Alternative School and all though I was there to give them support and encouragement, I ended up feeling pretty encouraged.
There are always choices in life and your movement forward or backward is usually dependant on your choices in life. DDAS is a place where kids and young adults, boys and girls come when they realize they have made some wrong choices or have been dealt some bad hands. They have come face to face with the choice: work at fixing my life with help from DDAS or continue on the road I was on. This class are firmly on the fix it side.
I had the opportunity to talk about how I deal with and have dealt with bumps on my road to success as an artist. I talked about having a dream and while dreams take years to realize sometimes, you need to eat, sleep, wear clothes,,,so you need to work somewhere in the mean time. Helps if you have a good education to fall back on but in any case you have take an income while you work on making the dream come true.
As I looked into those girls (it was a girls class) eye's my heart was tugged. Tugged by the knowledge that their lives were rough and they were all paying for wrong decisions made. But my heart was also really moved by their desire to get over it and move ahead with their lives. To take control and make a difficult situation work to their advantage.
I could not expound on my spiritual experience but here I can say that I felt Gods heart and how he wants to reach each of them with his loving hand of compassion and care. Always merciful, never judging, never condemning. Always willing to forgive and carry you forward.
Thanks to DDAS for the invitation and I look forward to the next opportunity to share and be blessed by your great work.
Break of dawn,
near Whiskey Jack
36"x48" oil on canvas
I've heard it like all artists have hear it...never paint with solid black or white. So, of course, I do. Not trying to pick a fight with the art establishment or anything but just saying, rather, asking: have you ever noticed the multitude of colours that appear in black? Especially when black is applied with a rough bristle brush and leaves rows or texture lines behind each stroke! Wow, it really is a rainbow in a dark void.
So I have been painting a few dark paintings lately. I used to hear artists say that it was a refection of how they felt at the time. I know one artist who used that line purely for humour (thanks Jack for that). For me it is not so. I enjoy black like I enjoy red, or yellow or any colour for that matter. I like to spread it all over a surface and see where it takes me. In the case of the picture shown here, I started like that. Just a thick black layer of plain unmixed black. It was pretty overwhelming on a 36"x48" surface! Then I just stood back and looked "into it" and saw this familiar place. This place I had been this past summer. It was Canoe lake but it could have been any lake at night for that matter. It was a passage between two tree lined shores, with layers of receding horizon lines behind it. It was for certain the entrance to Whiskey Jack Bay on Canoe Lake.
At night the water settles down. Call it the moon effect or whatever, I don;t really know the science behind it but it is very still. The tree's seem to stand taller, more formidable, and as if on guard of their inhabitants. That's it! That's the mover in all of this. It's the fact that the forest comes to life with the night creatures. It is not really still. It is much busier at night.
That is what I see in the dark of black. That is the motivation behind my latest series of paintings.
Hope you enjoy them. Love to have your feed back.
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.