Where do we go from here?
As the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018 I put the finishing touches on the portrait of one of the elephants from the Elephant Haven near Kanchanaburi, Thailand. It sparked a great dialogue the day before during a painting workshop as a couple of the participants were considering a trip to that part of the world and had envisioned riding elephants as one of their bucket list items. I think they were also interested in seeing that amazing elephant who likes to paint pictures.
They were both a little surprised to hear that the elephants we got to feed, wash and walk at the Elephant Haven had all been rescued from those kind of activities. The fact is that elephants that are put into tourist service or are cleverly holding a brush with their trunk, dipping it into paint and splashing it on a canvas have all been trained to do so. The training largely consists of breaking their spirit, and that is not pretty.
The elephant in the portrait now gets well fed every day, goes for walks in the forest, enjoys mud baths and soaks in the river. The tourism connection to his retired life is that we help with the food preparation and distribution. We also help clean things up when it comes out the other end. The experience is intimate, holistic and spiritual.
While I struggled with it for a time, in the end I found the colour balance I was seeking and ended up with a painting that I feel really great about.
Looking ahead to the next 12 months and my first year of devoting my time to painting on a full-time basis, I get excited knowing that I don't know where I will go, both physically and artistically.
The Kanchanaburi Cow is a great example of an unexpected detour. I am open to trying new things and taking chances on new techniques.
As an example, I'm hoping that Reinalie will give me a knife painting lesson. I've tried it on my own but failed miserably. I want to be able to have this technique in my quiver for future projects.
I want to take more time to do photography. The photos from our Cambodia/Thailand trip are proving to be great inspirations for my paintings. There are dozens and dozens that could turn into paintings in the coming months.
Our company goal (Birdsong) is to continue improve how we do things in service to our clients. I'm keen to focus on things like workflow, planning, packaging, and even merchandising. It's the small little improvements every single day that will make the biggest difference.
Every new request is a new adventure. I'm grateful they keep showing up and that people are still interested in my art.