Artist at heart

If there is one thing that this Christmas holiday has reminded me of, it is that I am an artist at heart.  I am so far removed from your quintessential Canadian male who watches bowl games till they atrophy, drinking beer, yelling, and crying like a petulant baby when their team falls to defeat.  Don't get me wrong, I've been there once or twice in my life, the few times that the Saskatchewan Roughriders have made it to the Grey Cup.

I gravitate to the creative when time is on my hands: to the computer early in the morning to write a new blog post, to the carpentry shop a few hours later to build a frame for the painting I had done the previous evening.  These are my happy pursuits, my time well spent.

My Happy Place, 2011
As I began painting again a couple of months ago, initially as a father-son project to get Ben away from the screen for a few hours, I had no idea the result would be so interesting or that it would spark additional projects in the approaching weeks.

Mayor Blake asked me how long it had been since I had painted.

"It's been at least 10 years," I said.  What I didn't realize at the time is that I have painted more recently than I realized.  While there had been a little lull in activity in recent years, the number of pieces scattered around the house surprised me.

Eric Clapton, 1993
This is the project that really got me going, during the personally turbulent years shortly after the end of my first marriage.  Eric Clapton.  This portrait was done on a small piece a scratch art paper.  Using an X-Acto knife, I turned a 3" x 7" scrap of this black substrate into a compelling picture of the famous guitarist. It was one of only a few pieces that I attempted to monetize by making and selling some limited edition prints.  Ray Charles and Willie Nelson followed in close succession.

Willie Nelson, 1994
I descended into the long and laborious process of creating these intricate portraits as a way of filling my time and soothing my broken heart.  The combination of grief and unexpected free time proved to be a creative cocktail.

Many of the original drawings and paintings are scattered across the country.  I have a vague idea of where some of them are; others I've lost track of as people have drifted in and out of my life.  One of my favourites, a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. is on the wall at my sister Corinne's house in Trenton, Ontario.  This portrait of Wynonna Judd hangs in the television room in my brother Greg's home in Kamsack, Saskatchewan.

Wynonna Judd, 1993
I know my cousin Rachel has a shockingly colourful attempt at painting Anthony Hopkins in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and Dylan's grandma Patsy has a number of more recent paintings in her new home in Fort McKay, among those, Marcel Marceau.

Marcel Marceau, 1998
I told my mom that I had started painting again.

"Are things not going so well?" she asked.

"No, quite the opposite," I said. "Things are one hundred per cent."

In reflecting on her instinctual assumption that I was going through a creative streak as a reaction to something bad, I realized that I am inspired by both edges of the emotional spectrum.  When I am blissfully happy, the ideas pour out of me like an endless fountain.  When I am desolately depressed, I find solace in my creative pursuits and am able to lift myself up off the floor with the help of the pen or paint brush.

As I ran around the house gathering paintings scattered hither and thither and snapping their picture, an interesting timeline emerges.  I hope that some of the pieces that have been given as gifts come back to me in the form of digital images.  It would be great to be surprised by a few that I've completely forgotten about.

Bob Dylan, 1995
Allen Ginsberg, 1996
Ella Fitzgerald, 1997

Bob Dylan, 1998

Young Frank Sinatra, 1999

Daffodils, 2003
Benny Carter, 2004

Dawn at Keyano, 2011
Christopher Hitchens, 2011
Steve Jobs, 2011
Wilfred Grandjamb (pencil), 2011
Wilfred Grandjamb (watercolour), 2011

Leonard Cohen, 2012
It's been fun putting this representative collection of drawings and paintings together for this blog post, if only to put them all in one safe place.  I hope this collection grows as more treasures are unearthed.


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