The painting I completed last night of Ruby Bridges, the activist who, as a young girl, walked bravely into an all-white school in New Orleans at a time when that just didn't happen. It was the 499th painting since I started painting with intent back in June of 2014.
The number is staggering to me. I would have a very difficult time listing them all; some I will have forgotten over the last few years. That is why I have a spreadsheet that I maintain and back up in several different places. It is also why I display completed works on my website.
They are shown in chronological order. If you went through and counted them, the number would actually by smaller than 499. I haven't taken the time to go through the list and cross reference things. When paintings are done as surprise gifts, I don't post them until the presentation is made. In some cases, I have forgotten to go back and upload them to the website. My spreadsheet says that I am at 499; that's what I'm going to believe.
It appears that #500 is going to be No. 5 of 9 paintings I am doing of Mayor Naheed Nenshi from Calgary. Why am I painting 9 paintings of the same guy? Great question. "The wind just seemed to blow me this way" - to quote the Robbie Robertson's song, Somewhere Down the Crazy River. I feel that I meant to learn something through this exercise, discover something about myself as an artist, maybe even as a person.
Commercial artists, men and women who produce art for a living, will create thousands and thousands of pieces in their working life. In that sense, hitting the number 500 seems to pale.
For me, this journey is not about quantity, achieving commercial success or receiving critical acclaim. Rather, it is about hundreds of individual projects and the people and stories that inspire each of them.
I did a painting of some dogs this weekend that I am not at liberty to share yet. Behind those dogs is a beautiful story of compassion, loss, generosity, and profound friendship. I was able to connect into that story through a painting and a brief interaction with the couple that commissioned it. I get the honour and privilege of being invited into the most precious, lovely, heart-breaking, inspiring, and magical spaces of clients here in Fort McMurray, across Canada, and in a few cases, on the other side of the world.
Where will I be 500 paintings from now? Who knows? That's absolutely the coolest part of this gig.