By the time the dust settles on 2021, I will have created almost 290 original paintings. How do I keep track of them all? Good question. Two ways. I have an old school monthly calendar that I keep open on my desk. As paintings get completed, their names and dimensions get written down and highlighted on the date they were done. I also maintain a spreadsheet that goes back to the very beginning of this crazy journey that records everything: paintings, prints, art cards, puzzles, workshops, etc.
I went back through my monthly calendar and reviewed my notations for every single painting. Here are 21 for 2021 that stood out for me and a few words about why.
1 | Winter Camp, January 16, 12" x 36"
This painting was inspired by a photo taken by our friend Patricia Morrison up in Fort McMurray. I took some liberties with the composition, but set out to capture that cold, crisp and enchanting winter light up in Wood Buffalo.
2 | Jackie Robinson, January 27, 18" x 24"
Many decades ago, Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in baseball. This moment of him sliding into home plate is the image cemented in my mind that expresses his greatness and legacy. I set out to capture it using sepia tones.
3 | Wisdom of the Elders, February 24, 18" x 24"
Someone on Facebook shared a screen shot from the 1970 film Little Big Man
that grabbed my attention. Off on the far right of the screen was a profile of Chief Dan George that I was inspired to put on canvas.
4 | Giant Tortoise, February 28, 24" x 36"
This painting of the giant tortoise has been on my wall since it was created back in February. The texture, colours and details always draw viewers in. He dutifully watches over the studio.
5 | Emerald Lake, March 24, 12" x 18"
2021 inspired me to start exploring landscape painting. This view of Emerald Lake from a vantage paint on the south slope really resonated with people. Me, too.
6 | Brown-Lowery Tree, April 4, 16" x 16"
We went on an early spring hike in Brown-Lowery Provincial Park with Mark and Jody. This study of single tree, while impressionistic, is remarkably realistic when viewed from a distance.
7 | Ray, May 8, 18" x 36"
This painting would be in the Top 10 of all the portraits I have ever done. I am so grateful that it is on my cousin Andy's wall (a gift from his wife Lori). They are amazing music fans and music artists.
8 | Medicine Joe, May 8, 18" x 36"
It turns out that two of the 21 paintings I have selected were completed on the same day. I wonder if there is something significant about May 8th in my astrological charts. This fine fellow was known as Medicine Joe of the Standing Rock Sioux. It was inspired by a stunning photo taken by Frank Fiske over a century ago in a studio at Fort Yates, North Dakota. Joe was known for always wearing a single eagle feather in his hair.
9 | Willie on Black, June 16, 12" x 24"
I have been a fan of Willie Nelson since Carol Konkin introduced me to him back in about 1983. She had a copy of one of his greatest hits collections. It was my first exposure to country music and began a love of the genre that has stayed with me for 38 years. This portrait, subtle and simple, captures that artist in a way that honours a career that now spans a remarkable 65 years.
10 | Babe in Blue, July 8, 16" x 20"
The notion of doing monochromatic portraits hits me from to time. It hit me hard when I saw this old photo of Babe Ruth.
11 | Simple Twist of Face, August 7, 24" x 24"
As I type this, I am listening to Bob Dylan's "A Simple Twist of Fate". Totally not planned, but this is the song that inspired this odd portrait of Pablo Picasso. The interesting nugget of trivia is that not a single visitor to Birdsong Studio has been successfully able to identify this subject. I trust it's not a commentary on my painting but rather the hint that most people have no idea what Picasso looked like in real life.
12 | Honus Wagner, August 12, 16" x 24"
Thanks to an invitation from Sherry at 94 Take the Cake, I started doing black and white paintings and displaying them in this iconic coffee shop and bakery on historic Elma Street in Okotoks. This portrait of Honus Wagner spent several months on the wall in the late summer and early fall in 2021. When viewing the painting in real life, it has a three dimensional quality that is quite intriguing. That was a happy accident, as Bob Ross liked to say.
13 | Ravens on the Rails, September 27, 16" x 24"
When we moved from Fort McMurray to Okotoks, I was seriously worried that we would no longer encounter ravens. I was wrong. These two were sitting on the rails just a couple of blocks from Birdsong Studio. I really enjoyed putting these two marvellous birds on canvas.
14 | The Confluence, October 15, 30" x 60"
I am deeply grateful to my friends at Aircon Technologies in Fort McMurray for commissioning me to paint this magical spot for their conference room. This was my "happy place", at the confluence of the Clearwater River and Snye, where I spent countless hours fishing between 2009 and 2014. It was a painting that connected strongly with current and former residents of Wood Buffalo.
15 | Stonehenge, October 23, 18" x 36"
There is no question that I have been fascinated with stones and rocks during this painting journey. There are no more famous rocks than the ones that form Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. I love the fact that this painting ended up in the home of a beautiful family here in Okotoks, great friends of Birdsong Studio.
16 | Fergus, November 13, 12" x 12"
The unquestionable surprise hits of 2021 were the nine gnome paintings I did, starting with Fergus. Credit needs to go entirely to my sister Corinne who challenged me to paint one in one of her blog posts from The Craftiest Workshop
17 | Hobbiton, December 3, 18" x 36"
This was a commission project that challenged me to paint a spot in New Zealand where they filmed The Hobbit
and The Lord of the Rings
. It takes me back to my childhood and a fascination I had with designing and building forts and hideaways. This may end up as an art puzzle in 2022.
18 | Rickey Henderson, December 8, 18" x 36"
A client in Fort McMurray trusted me with capturing this stop motion image of Rickey Henderson stealing a base for the Oakland A's. If someone was to ask me to name my favourite painting of 2021, this would probably be it. Why? Because I set out to paint what was sitting in front of me, purposely not getting too caught up in the detail. Rather, I wanted the image to sing in its composition. I believe it does.
19 | Waterton Spring, December 18, 18" x 36"
I knew I would paint this view from the village of Waterton one day, but I needed to wait for the right moment. That moment came at the end of a very busy Christmas commission season and was a wonderful experience. I had taken the photo during an early and quiet spring visit to this amazing spot.
20 | Morgan Freeman, December 21, 16" x 16"
There are some occasions when I know how a painting is going to turn out after only a few strokes. That was the case with this portrait of actor Morgan Freeman.
21 | Autumn Morning, December 26, 18" x 72"
I could have picked any number of tree paintings for this list, but I'm going to pick one of my recent ones, and the largest. This collection of trees was done for one of favourite clients who builds homes in southern Alberta. It will be displayed in one of them to start 2022. Thank you Stephen.
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