Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)

The Introduction…

For the last several years, I have been enjoying sharing stories about my art adventures, gardening experiences and thoughts designed to inspire a world to realize our responsibility to act in positive ways to ensure a peaceful future for all life forms that inhabit this Earth. The one thing that I have yet to do, though, is share the story about how I became the artist, the gardener, the teacher, the musician… the activist and architect for peace. This story dates back to 1996, but before I get into that I want to briefly describe how this story first came into being, so that you’ll understand my reasons for writing it in seven small parts…

So… it should be obvious that this story revolves around a thing called Temagami – after all, this word is in the title – eh! Temagami is the name of a place where a unique species of forest exists.

This forest species was (and still is…) threatened with extinction and I decided to do something about it.

After this adventure, I discovered that I had been blessed with a gift for expression… I was becoming an artist. I had thoughts about creating a series of artworks to share the beauty of this region so that more people would become involved in the efforts to preserve these lands.

The artworks created by Canada’s most noted talents ‘The Group of Seven’ were my inspiration. I wanted to create a series of seven Temagami landscapes and I was going to call it ‘A Group of Seven’. I thought a bit more deeply and came up with the idea that each landscape would have a reflection in it. The concept of reflections (thoughts reproduced to the eye of the mind) is very important as this allows one the ability to regard the past so as to improve the future.

Soon, the first artwork in this series was completed. I had named it ‘Reflections of Temagami I: Fallen Comrade’. You’ll see this artwork in my next blog.

Although I was very pleased with this art peace – it still graces the walls in my parents’ living room – I found that my mind could not gather the strength to continue with this series…

I became rather depressed. Although my adventures in the Temagami forestland were filled with many enlightening experiences – in one instance my body became a tuning fork and I vibrated with the energies of ten thousand years of life – I felt that this series of artworks would be seen as Temagami’s epitaph instead of its resurrection.

How could I bring inspiration to the world if the subject matter delved into the ‘Fallen’? Was Temagami to die so that I may live?

To battle this depression, I focussed my mind on new and different thoughts… shedding the past to rebuild my future. Temagami had become the most important chapter in my life (to this date), but a chapter that I had to put back onto my shelf – not to be forgotten, but not to be trapped within.

Two years later, I was embracing a new art project that would fill the next five years of my life. “Canada: Glorious To Be” took my wife and I across our great nation – from Manitoba to British Columbia to Nova Scotia and way up north to Nunavut.


During these adventures I expanded my art training to a variety of different mediums – needlepoint, paper collage, acrylic paints, even rocks! Many community organizations were thrilled to have me create workshops for the local youths and soon I was learning how to be a teacher.

I shared ideals about how important it is for individuals to act in positive ways to benefit their community - “Think globally… Act locally!” - and after five years I began to find it ironic that I was not living according to these ideals for I had no community to call my own. Joanne and I moved back to Ontario to create a life for ourselves.

Soon, I had established myself as a freelance environmental art teacher and life was moving along smoothly.

The topic for most of my classes was… you guessed it… Temagami!!! To help in my teaching, I had to revisit many of my early photos, drawings and books on the subject. Since most of this material was over a decade old, I did a little investigating to see how this forest was doing now.

I was elated to learn that although many problems still exist – the pressures by the large logging corporations – many new laws and programs had been created to set the foundation for the preservation of these old growth forest stands!!! I was filled with a renewed sense of hope!

The story of Temagami was not over. In fact, I felt that it was just beginning. My doubts and hesitations from a decade before were eroding and my fires of inspiration began to smolder until a new flame awoke within me. A new audience had evolved during this time and I felt the urge to create a new chapter in the world book of Temagami.

Yes – Temagami was my ‘Fallen Comrade’, but ‘Fallen’ implies that it can be picked up again.

As I continued with this ‘A Group of Seven’ titles like ‘Three Soldiers Standing’, ‘Earthangel’ and ‘Forest Breathing’ began to emerge at the ends of my nimble fingertips – filling the viewer with a sense of great struggle and the will to overcome adversary. I used this opportunity to showcase both the beauty of the Temagami forestland as well as the evolution of my artistic abilities. Each of the seven artworks were created using the artforms that I had been experimenting with over the last decade.

While I was completing these artworks – which took me a little over two years – I was organizing my first art tour. Yes – I had had many art displays here and there throughout London (and the rest of Canada) - but this was to be my first tour showcasing a completed body of work. The tour went through many libraries and it also expanded to many of the communities that were involved in my initial adventures a decade before.

The launch of ‘Reflections of Temagami: A Group of Seven’ was mere weeks away and I was making my final preparations when I had a gut feeling that I was missing something. The artworks were finished and framed. I had built the easels that would be needed for a few of the venues. My accompanying photos were mounted and ready. And then it dawned on me… I had created this new chapter filled with images but I had no words. It was then when I realized that I had to share the intimate details about how I heard of Temagami, what this meant to me, how it inspired me, what I did and what the results were.

Since I had seven artworks to showcase, I thought that it would be a great idea to share my story in seven equal parts. One part of the story would hang beside each of the artworks. Simple!

This is the story that I am going to share with you over the next few weeks. Each story will be accompanied by one of the artworks in this series as well as some additional photos and sketches that were created during this time.

Please enjoy!


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