Over the course of the next few hours, all the classes in the new school came to watch and ask questions. They sat on the floor around me as I put the first layer of colour on the canvas.
"How long have you been an artist?"
"What's your favourite painting?"
"How many brushes do you use?"
They asked lots of great questions, always with their hands straight up in the air (which I rarely saw because I had my back to them). I even asked a few students to come up and help out.
The first stages of a big painting like this always look a little rough. However, the students and staff were very gentle with me and had lots of encouraging words to say. They were kind, just like Elsie.
She was sitting on a bench made from some driftwood that I found on the shore of the Athabasca River when this picture was taken. It was the day we brought her over to the house to see the mural.
"She lent me her binder of prayers," I shared with the students. "I wrote several of them into the mural." I had the sense that they would be helpful to those who passed by in the years to come.
After about three hours of painting in the school, I needed to take a break. If truth be told, I needed to have a nap. I packed up my gear and the canvas and made my way down the hill. I spent most of Tuesday adding more layers to the large portrait and will finish it up today.
It will get unveiled next week as part of the grand opening ceremony. It is my joy and honour to be able to donate this piece to the school in lasting memory of a remarkable lady.
(My thanks to the staff at Elsie Yanik Catholic School for taking so many wonderful pictures during the process. You can see them all on their Facebook Page.)