Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Tree of Learning and Growth

2006 was a very busy year for me. I had started a new job – I was a foreman of a crew of seven others working for a London courier company, I spent months preparing for and going to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and I had a year long art tour – for 2007 – to get ready for. In January of 2007 the art tour had started with much success and then I found myself wondering what my next plans would be. For years I had been teaching my ‘Art For Earth’ environmental art workshops on the occasional weekends – when time and money allowed – and now I thought it was time for me to take these ambitions to the next level. I began to make a few phone calls.

One of these phone calls led me to speak with the vice head of Matthews Hall Independent School. Janet greeted me with a smile and we had a wonderful conversation in her office. Simply, I spoke of my desire to create inspirational paintings with the students of the school. I had brought with me an envelope filled with photos of my art adventures from my travels throughout Canada. Janet complemented me on my successes. She thought that my ideas would fit nicely with the ideals that are taught to the students of Matthews Hall. A month and a half later, ‘And The Band Plays On’ was born (http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2008/07/and-band-plays-on-newsarticle.html). Janet thought the painting was lovely and I was invited back to create another one with a different class. I must have done something right, cuz a week later, Janet had called me to invite me to create another unique art creation with another group of students.

Janet explained to me that every year the school has a number of students who are a part of a special foreign exchange program. Most of these students were from Korea, with a few others coming from China. Each grade had a few students from these countries in attendance. Instead of working with all the students from a particular grade, Janet wanted me to work with all the exchange students from all the grades. There were close to thirty-five students in all. Of course, I agreed.

I had a few ideas that were starting to form, in the back of my mind, but nothing was really jumping out at me saying ‘Paint me! Paint me!’. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Then I had a vision…

Joanne came home from work one Friday evening and she was very tired. I had worked a bit later than normal, that same evening and I was also a bit weary. We decided to go out for dinner to a new Chinese restaurant that a few friends had told us about. Our meal was truly yummy! While we were seated in a booth I kept staring at a large painting that was hanging on the wall just above Joanne’s head. It was a simple painting of a tree with a very curvy trunk and many flowers on the end of each branch. I really enjoyed the flow and movement of this tree and I shared my thoughts with Jo’. During our dinner I spoke about my concerns for creating this third painting with the students and then I was inspired. I told Jo’ about the idea that was forming in my mind. “Now, if I change the colours, and move this branch to that location and I add a different kind of flower and I add this to the foreground… I’ll have a great painting!” I’m always amazed where inspiration is hiding for me to discover. This dinner was a greater experience than just the wonderful food we ate: my head was now full, as well.

The very next day, I went and bought the canvas and primed it. The next day, I spent the afternoon enjoying the spring sunshine on my back porch with a pencil in hand, sketching my ideas.

A few days later, I was ready to teach the students how to paint…

As we all know, our school experiences were filled with many, many events. As time moves forward and we grow up, many childhood experiences are forgotten. For this reason, it is very important for me to give each student that I paint with, something to remember this experience, so that when they grow up they will have something to connect their memory to the time we shared. I always give my students some of my peace Stik-ers and a print of my artwork.

For three days, I worked with these students to complete this large canvas.

Before the project began, Janet had told me that she would like me to incorporate the student’s names into the picture, some how. To accomplish this, I simply added a thick border around the image we were painting. I divided the border into equal lengths, based on the number of students that were participating and when each student finished their session I had them print their name in these spaces. To make this idea even more creative, I decided to have the students use their names as they are written in the language of their origin. Janet thought that this was a truly clever idea.

Before this painting began I had made a phone call to a reporter from a local newspaper. He was very interested in the work that I was doing and he agreed to come to the school to take a few photos and interview some of the students. This is the news story that appeared in the following week’s newspaper…

Inspiration, moves us brightly…


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