Thursday, May 27, 2010
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?...
Not at all a strange question for this time of year when spring wildflowers quickly appear... then disappear just as quickly... to be replaced by the next succeeding flower in the spring cycle.The lilacs... like the trilliums have waned... and faded... leaving only their greenery to remind us of their earlier exhilarating presence.
During my last post... it must surely have been evident in my description of my Barriefield Village experience with the solitude... the lilacs and the sense of Home Coming... that "I" would be off and running back to the Paint Box Gallery to dive headfirst into a series of paintings based upon this adventure... and lilacs.
"I" did exactly that over the next three days...but strangely for "Me" and my usual painting process... "I" could not settle down to finish a single piece. I ended up with three pieces... in a state of partial finish looking back at me from my easel.I had two still lifes set up nearby my easel... and the whole studio and Gallery space to myself... since Deb was visiting her family in Saskatchewan.One particular set up struck a deep chord... and "the Idea" had been lying dorment inside "Me" for three years at least, so I decided to settle down to that one... to the finish!
It has been my normal practice in both my teaching and painting processes over the years to plan and work employing a "thematic approach". While that is neither a novel nor a unique method of working... many teachers and artists work from that same base... it has always been my own personal approach where "I" feel comfort and energy to begin working.
My approach begins with my seizing "an Idea".... sometimes a single word like Lilac... or perhaps a season... an activity like maple syruping as the basis for the next step in the process... which is a "hunter-gatherer" search which hopefully links images ... ideas... thumbnails... poetry perhaps. Anything from which one can create an image that relates to the theme. Often these ideas never appear during the initial series... but they are recorded and stored safely for later use in my sketchbooks.
After this initial gathering comes selection of the "Idea" that most excites "Me"... and it is here that "I" begin mining the materials gathered. Surprisingly... the initial "plan" can be changed radically... even abandoned... if the energy takes "Me" elsewhere... and very often beyond the earlier scope of the series. In my classroom, if we as co-learners agreed then the direction and time allotted could shift over and over again until we lost the energy flow... or tired of the theme. Thus, the learning is open-ended and learner-centered ... just as it is in my painting sessions.
The painting that bears the title of this blog was not a part of the series as "I' had earlier "forseen" it. It was triggered by both events at Barriefield Village on the day... and then early in the morning as "I' had coffee and planned for the day. The painting originated from no thumbnails or studies... it was ..."imagineered"... when two separate experiences meshed... creating a more unique and certainly more emotional subject for "Me".
Barriefield is not just a lovely quiet solitude... heavily laden with lilac scent...nor my own personal historically significant artistic enclave. No... it is much more than that to "Me". My children Allison and Andrew had attended J.E.Horton Elementary School along with all of their neighbourhood pals. Lower down from the Village... "I" could see Constantine Arena... a morning meeting place for Andrew's peewee hockey team that I helped coach with two other dads.
Barriefield is a field of memory in my life and my family's. But the single most vivid memory that filled my heart on that morning... alone in the studio... was the beautiful memory of a hockey pal of Andrew's... a "Flower" plucked "too soon"... by the treachery of a distant war in Afghanistan.
Captain Matt Dawe, 27 years old was killed along with five other Canadian soldiers and an interpreter by a roadside bomb on Wednesday, July 5Th, 2007. He has left behind his parents Lieutenant-Colonel and Mrs. Peter Dawe(retired and Head peewee hockey coach), his wife Tara and their now four year old son to grieve. "I" know that a part of all of us who had the privilege to have shared even a brief part of our lives with Matt is missing forever as well. He was a born leader... even on the ice as a peewee hockey player... we was witty ...bright and had a wonderful full life ahead of "Him". But now... like our spring flowers... "He" is gone from us... we know not where.
I had wanted... in my own way to record not just the sadness that we all share in the loss of many Matts to us. "I" wanted to create an image that was not maudlin... not heroic... one void of the politics that led "Him" along with too many others to their untimely ends.
"I" DO support the young men... troops we send... FULLY... as peacemakers and re builders! But "I" question the combat role that we seemed to have slipped into ... and why we continue to sacrifice the cream of our society... over and over again. It is not our mistakes that define us. It's what we learn from them.
The words that form this title come hauntingly from an anti-war anthem of the 60's by Peter, Paul and Mary. I ask "You".... What have we learned?
I hope that beyond the tragic circumstances that "I" have revealed to "You" in this post... one can see that we must be motivated to paint whatever is in our soul. For "Me"... its conclusion brings a sense of closure to a painful experience... and at the same time... it offers "Me" the opportunity to share this painting as a token of my respect with Matt's family... and others... who might closely share this experience in their own lives.
Ironically, on the day following the completion of the painting... we lost a 20 year old Horse Shoe Valley resident Pte. Kevin McKay... two days before his tour's end.
My message is not intended to be bleak and mournful. Perhaps what each one of us... can learn... and apply in our own lives... is to be thankful for the many small blessings that surround us all in our own daily lives.Love your children. Spend time with them... and above all... allow them to enjoy their childhood. Their flowering is a joy to behold... and it is too short!
Good Painting to all!
I will post the other three of the series "Lilacs" that I have completed later next week.