The richness of what lies beneath


The last time we were displaced for a long stretch of time was when we had to evacuate during the Fort McMurray fire in 2016. The difference then was that I had escaped with some basic painting supplies in the back of the car. You see, I was doing a painting workshop that morning outside of town. Those supplies came in handy as I started to paint during the evacuation period to raise funds for the recovery of the community.

Our displacement in 2023 is going on six weeks; we are still between homes. This time, all of my paint supplies are buried in the back of a storage pod that is safely tucked away in a giant warehouse in southeast Calgary. I went out yesterday and started buying some interim supplies and something to put them in. 

I found this toolbox on wheels at Canadian Tire which will make it easier for me when going to live events. It has enough storage capacity to hold everything I can possibly need when away from the studio.
I needed to stock up because my first live painting gig is coming up on Saturday.

The Baby It's Cold Outside gala is a fundraiser that is going to help families in need. Fifty percent of the funds raised will help the Byerley family (owners of Yooneek Books in Okotoks) as their son Kolton is beginning an expensive course of radiation treatments and drugs that will fight the cancer that has returned to his body. 

When Pamela Morgan, founder of Baby It's Cold Outside, graciously invited me to do a live painting at the event (last year I did a portrait of Marilyn Monroe) I instantly thought of doing my first live tree painting. In that same moment I thought that having Kolton and his brother Weston help with the under layers would be perfect. Their mother Rae-Lynne checked in with the boys and they both enthusiastically agreed.

In their awesome creative corner in their basement, we started with a blank canvas. Kolton decided what was going to be sky and what would be earth. He then drew a horizon line and off we went.

I asked both boys a series of questions and had them respond by writing, drawing or painting their answers on the canvas. We explored their favourite toys, vacations and friends. We talked about family and they shared their memories and a lot of heart. 

At the very end, they covered up the sky and earth with a wash of colours. Both Kolton and Weston signed the back of the painting. This will be my starting point for the live painting on Saturday at the gala event being held at The Ridge, just west of Okotoks.

Their memories, their marks on the canvas will be the richness in the soil from which will emerge a copse of trees reaching for the sky.
Westin Byerley (left), Kolton Byerley (right)


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