Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where The Children Play

I’m always happiest when I’m working on a commissioned painting. I’m sure that you will agree that it is one of the highest forms of flattery an artist can receive. I always put my best efforts into these paintings because I know that the artwork is of a very personal nature for my client – because it’s usually a painting of a family member or pet.

I’ve always found most portraits to be rather boring and lacking in personality – even if the painting is masterfully created. An image of a person sitting in a chair with a forced smile just doesn’t ‘turn me on’. I always try to create a scene with the subject being involved in the environment in some way.

This is a portrait of my wife’s boss’s kids. Julia has always complemented me on my painting skills and last June she decided that it was time for me to create a painting for her. She gave me a small selection of photos with her two children that were taken about four years ago when they were on a vacation in Northern Ontario.

In all the art classes I teach, it is always very important for me to emphasize the importance of ‘texture’ – how the paint is applied to the canvas. There are so many different ways of creating texture and I’d say that it is probably the most important aspect of any work that I do. I had a really cool idea for the texture of this painting that would add much more dynamics to the final product.

I overlaid a second image onto the outline of the children in the boat. It was a very simple image, but it gave me the ‘formula’ for the texture I would be creating. Since the children were in a boat, on vacation, in Northern Ontario, I decided to create this simple image to symbolize this.

The water is symbolized with simple wavy lines that fill the bottom half of the painting. The trees of Northern Ontario are drawn to the left side (there’s four of them) of the image and the sun (symbolizing happiness and peace) fills the remaining space – being drawn with circles that get larger from the central point.

So… while the colours of the painting were designed around the two children, on a small boat with water in the background, the way these colours were placed on the canvas followed the second image of water, trees and sun. This was an extreme test of my patience and organizational skills. A great challenge, indeed!!!

Then it was time for the title of the artwork. Luckily this came to me very quickly. During most painting sessions, I usually listen to music – either a mixed cassette, CD or even a record – yes that’s right – a vinyl album. On one of the days I was listening to Cat Steven’s ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ and the song “Where Do The Children Play?” began. I’ve always enjoyed Cat Steven’s philosophy concerning ‘man’ and the ‘environment’ – it was through listening to his songs that I became aware of our civilizations need to evolve peacefully above oppressing industrialism. Here are some of this song’s lyrics…

Where Do The Children Play?

Well you roll on road
Over fresh green grass
For your lorry loads
Pumping petrol gas

Well you’ve cracked the sky
Scrapers fill the air
Will you keep on building higher
‘Til there’s no more room up there?

I know we’ve come a long way
We’re changing day to day
But tell me –
Where do the children play?

I had a smile on my face when I titled this painting. I sent a thought out into the world, “Tell Cat Stevens that I’ve just answered his question… I do know ‘Where The Children Play’.”


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