Fan Questions, Part 3

 I spent Tuesday morning at Canyon School in Pincher Creek painting inukshuks (inuksuit) with grade six students. As the experience was coming to an end, I told them about this blog series and asked them to ask me some brilliant questions. They didn't disappoint. Here was the question that stood out the most to me.

Do any of your paintings have deep hidden meanings?

There are some artists that take a very intellectual approach to their work and can expound ad infinitum on the ideas or themes they are exploring. That is not me. I don't spend a lot of time in my head when painting. However, once in awhile, I go into a project trying to express a feeling or point of view.

As an example, I have painted many celebrities after finding out that they had passed away. Sometimes, the creation of these portraits taps into the energy of the world during those sad hours. I remember clearly finding out that Robin Williams had taken his own life. My older son Dylan told me at about 6:30 pm that night. I was already planning to go out in the studio and paint so I found a photo that caught my attention and this painting poured out of me.

It expressed so much of the man, how he was seen by the world and what he might have been going through inside.

I try my best not to take an overt political stance with my work. My first portrait of Donald Trump, done before he became president, can be viewed a number of different ways, depending on the viewers personal perspective on the man and his approach.
I had a print of this painting hanging in the studio in Okotoks and visitors often reacted to it. Some expressed unhappiness with his leadership style and character but many more expressed the opposite view. 

The deep meaning contained in some of my paintings rarely comes from me, but is generated by the subject or circumstance. This is a very simple painting of the only photograph I took on May 3, 2016, the day that will live in infamy for the people living in Fort McMurray at the time. This is what I saw driving back into town from the south as the neighbourhood of Beacon Hill burned.
Behind those massive smoke plumes families, many of whom I knew, were losing everything: possessions, precious family photos, and in some cases, their livelihoods. I will never know the full scope of emotion or meaning that a painting like this inspires. 

The pandemic, or the Covid 19 crisis, feels like miles away in the rearview mirror. It affected every single one of us in ways that range from mild concern to abject horror. Many of us lost family members during this crazy time (I resisted using the word "unparalleled" in this sentence). I did a series of paintings that helped me cope during the worst of those days. Here are a few.
Falling, 12" x 12"

The sun will rise and the birds will sing, 24" x 36"

Tranquility Rocks, 16" x 20"

The last painting of the inukshuk brings back many memories for me. I was feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the pandemic and needed to get out in nature. I took a walk to Waller Park near our former Okotoks home and found this bed of flat river rocks. I took some meditative time and built an inukshuk, photographed it, came back to the studio and painted it. That walk, that place, will always be the Tranquility Pond for us. It was the place we went when we needed to get grounded.

The answer to this great question could go on and on. A painting is just a painting. But it has the power to be a connector to memory, feelings and meaning. So many of them do. 


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