Wild Colour Portraits by Russell Thomas

There was a moment when Ana Maria Mendez-Barks was starting the process of hanging my paintings at the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery when it really started to sink in. I got a little emotional for a brief second, then carried on with the work required to get over 80 paintings hung on the wall.  My stress had been building for weeks as the date of this exhibition got closer.  As of this morning, the entire show is installed and ready for public viewing.  Now I shift my energy back to commissions, live painting events for charities, workshops and the Opening Reception scheduled for the evening of December 1st.

The Wild Colour Portraits exhibition consists of sections or groups, paintings that thematically make sense to display together.  For instance, there is a section of painting masters, largely consisting of the Taylor Donald Collection.  Another is made up entirely of animals.  The feature wall, or the first you see to the right when you walk into the space, is made up of works that made a significant impact.  BB King's portrait done the day after he died is up there, with David Bowie's tribute, and two different portraits of the much loved actor who passed away earlier this year, Gene Wilder.  The first painting in this section isn't a painting at all; it is a photograph of a painting and a special lady.

I couldn't bring the piece that started this crazy journey, as it is attached to the exterior wall of Birdsong Studio.  But Points North Gallery had kindly framed a photo of Elsie Yanik sitting in front of her portrait back in 2014.  It is the first, and will always be the first.

The placement of paintings within the sections ended up being a collaborative effort between Ana Maria and myself.  Her eye for colour balance and visual interest is incredible.  I love how the show looks, how the paintings and the stories link together, and the conversations they have already inspired.

"The kids and I walked and talked about each of your masterpieces while we waited for Millie's dance class to start. Elias was curious who had passed away and who was still alive. They had a good laugh at the horse and each brought up some really neat conversation. Amazing work! We loved it all."    Sarah

So drop by any time.  The MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery is located on the 2nd floor of the Suncor Community Leisure Centre.  If you want to have me join you for a guided tour; I'd be honoured if it works with my schedule.  Story is a big part of these experience.  Several are shared in the printed form, but there are so many others.

Please, please, please mark December 1st in your calendar and consider coming to the Opening Reception starting at 7 pm.  There will be a number of surprises, some of which haven't been painted yet, and an exciting blind auction in support of United Way.  I'm also going to attempt to paint 10 portraits in a single day; they will only be revealed that night.  It could be your chance to pick up an original painting of mine right on the spot.


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