Chat Tom


For the longest time, I referred to him as Tom.  It was only on the final day in Cambodia that I picked up the fact that there needed to be a "Chat" in front.  Chat Tom is the father of Sriann, Socheeit and Wanchee, also husband to Anne.  They were recipients of one of the houses that were built by Bracelets 4 Buildings in a small village near Siem Reap late last year.


The prompt on Day 8 of my 18 Day Painting Challenge was "a person who has impacted your life in the past year".  Lots of people came to mind with this one.  Lee and Kent, the co-founders of Bracelets 4 Buildings were there; as was Heather, who inspired and supported my move into semi-retirement and my new life as a full-time artist.  But it was Chat Tom who rose to the top in terms of the person I needed to paint, though articulating why is impossible.


I watched Chat Tom worked like a dog from the day we arrived to the day we left.  As one of the recipients, he was required to put in sweat equity, but he just didn't stop.  He laboured away at chopping out a huge tree trunk, right where a concrete pad needed to be poured.  He moved earth by fill up buckets, for hours at a time.  He did it all with determination in his mind and gratitude in his heart.


Meanwhile, I was painting an elephant with his children, and several other neighbourhood kids, under the shade of an adjacent home.  Every once in awhile he would glance over and see what we were up to.  Every couple of hours he would walk right over to check on the progress of the elephant, and then the portrait of Buddha the following day.


I went overseas with a hope to paint, but with no real plan as to how I would do so.  Lee found the canvases; I found the paints; after that, what needed to happen, happened.  Where the paintings needed to live revealed itself to me as I went along.  Even the painting supplies - which I had no intention of trying to pack into our luggage - stayed behind, with Chat Tom's children, for them to use.  Everything happened naturally and beautifully; Chat Tom was a big part of it.


I built on my experiences of painting Chief Jim Boucher (Day 6) and Tesla (Day 7) in doing a small 8" x 10" portrait of Chat Tom.  I really love this one, both for the aesthetic of it, and the subject it portrays.


As I type this, I am about to close my eyes, reach into my Bracelets 4 Buildings hat, and pick the prompt for Day 9, the halfway point of this painting challenge.  It's been a heckuva trip so far.

Chat Tom, 8" x 10", acrylic on canvas

Chat Tom getting his first glimpse out the window of his new home.

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