Monday, March 14, 2011

What is she thinking?

I painted this little study from a snapshot that I took when I was in the Dominican Republic a few years ago. The quality of the snapshot is not very good, but I was compelled to paint from it anyhow, simply because I liked the expression on the girl's face. Perhaps one of the reasons her expression intrigues me is that I find it difficult to read.

The resort where I was staying had arranged a tour of the local countryside, so that vacationers could spend a day seeing what the real Dominican Republic was like. It was a humbling experience to see the living conditions of many of the people, and I sincerely hope that the money brought in by the tourism industry trickles down to the local economy and improves the lives of the people there.

I saw this little girl sitting outside of her house, watching the tour group as we walked past. In the snapshot, she is gazing at us and I can't quite tell what her opinion might be. There is a maturity in her face that seems beyond her years—but there is perhaps also a mischievous loof there as well. Is she interested and friendly? Is she about to play a prank? Does she think we are intruding with our cameras and our curiosity? I've studied her expression while I paint, and I still can't decide.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You talkin' to me?

This is my most recent study. I love the character and expression in this man's face.

I painted this from a photo, but set a timer to replicate the time constraints of painting from a live model. A friend of mine took this photo when she was touring Europe last summer, and I don't think this fisherman was exactly pleased to have his photo snapped. I'm grateful that my friend is such an intrepid photographer! I've title this study You talkin' to me?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Portrait study: 18 days clean

Here is a portrait study that I painted a few months ago. The model who posed for this was a man named Francois, who I saw panhandling on the street in downtown Ottawa. On the day that I met him, Francois was on his 18th drug-free day. He had battled with a cocaine addiction for several years, and had tried to break his addiction in the past, but had never made it for more than two or three days. This time, he had made it for 18 days, and was determined to stay clean.

I have thought about him a lot since the day that he posed for me, and although I have watched for him whenever I am on the downtown streets, I have not seen him again. Here's hoping that it's a good sign, and that he's moved forward with his plan to get off the streets and lead a happier life.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Countdown to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games!

There is just one more day until the Games begin!

Like many Canadians, I am looking forward to watching our athletes compete on home soil. Although I am not usually a TV-watcher, I am always riveted to the television during the Olympics. I suppose it is the spectacle of human endeavour that I find so compelling.

This year will be even more special than usual, since the Portrait Society of Canada has chosen the Olympics as the inspiration for this year's annual exhibition. I am extremely honoured to have had the opportunity to paint a portrait of Clara Hughes, Olympic gold medallist in long-track speedskating, Olympic medallist in cycling—and most importantly, a humanitarian. Clara will carry the flag for Canada at the opening ceremonies this Friday; there could be no better choice. You can read about Clara, and her humanitarian work, on her official web site.

The Portrait Society of Canada is planning an exhibition at the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto in March 2010, which will celebrate the Vancouver Olympic Games and the achievement of Canadian athletes. The exhibition will feature portraits of living Canadian Olympians, created by our member artists. Watch the slideshow below to see a preview of the exhibition.

The exhibition will include an online auction of the work to help establish a Commission Fund. This fund will be used to commission portraits of Canadians who have made exceptional contributions to our country; the work commissioned will not only focus on well-known Canadians, but also people who have made the sort of contributions that are often less visible to the general public.

The artists of the Portrait Society are pleased that athletes in Canada have shown their interest and support by agreeing to collaborate with artists in this project. This project will give the public an inspiring Olympic exhibition to view, and will help, in the long term, to create more portraits for Canadians to enjoy and to use as a way learn about each other. The Olympics raise such a sense of good-will and pride across the country, and we are pleased that wonderful, creative energy surrounding the Games can help other aspects of Canadian culture, such as portrait art, to grow. Just as our athletes are invigorated by the crowds that come to see them perform, so are artists invigorated by the athletes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Remembering Robert Hyndman

Today's blog is devoted to remembering Robert Hyndman, a well known artist and teacher who passed away earlier this week.

An accomplished artist, Robert was also a teacher and mentor to many in the art community. He was passionate about art, and deeply interested in people—two qualities that are evident in all his paintings, as well as in his teaching. This portrait, which I painted of Robert in 2008, was special for me, since Robert was the first person to teach me lifedrawing and portraiture.

I have been fortunate to learn from Robert and to call him a friend. I think the thing I will miss most about Robert is his humanity. Robert had a genuine interest in people, and a compassion for others. He was always able to find something good in everyone—which was evident in his portraits—and he believed that in creating art, it is important to make a positive statement. Robert continued to paint until his death, at age 94, because he continued to have a positive statement to make.

Robert's War Art

Robert served as one of Canada's Official War Artists, in addition to being a Spitfire pilot. Canada appointed 31 Official War Artists in WWII. These artists had the task of painting the activities of the armed forces at home and overseas.

Robert trained as an artist before the war, studying art at Central Technical School in Toronto, and in London, England at what is now the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
With war looming, Hyndman returned to Canada in 1939 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He served as a flight instructor and later flew Spitfires on bombing runs over the English Channel.

At the end of his tour, in which he flew 155 missions over France and the Netherlands, Robert was appointed an Official War Artist. He created a total of 68 paintings during his appointment. Most of Robert Hyndman's war art is portraiture—he painted portraits many air force commanders— but he also captured his experiences as a pilot, and these paintings are perhaps his best-known works. One day when I was visiting his studio, Robert showed me a picture that he had drawn when he was a child of 7 or 8 years old; this drawing shows diving planes, strangely similar to what he would witness—and record—as an adult.

This painting, like all works created by Official War Artists, belongs to the Government of Canada. You can find this painting at the Canadian War Musuem.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Women in the services

Today's blog is about women who served in CWAC, the Canadian Women's Army Corps during the Second World War.

Helen had two brothers who went to war, and wanting to serve her country as well, she lied about her age and enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps at the age of 17. Helen was stationed in Ottawa during the Second World War, working for the Directorate of Signals. She is proud of the contribution that women made to the war effort, and also of the precedent that they set:

“We proved to the old military establishment in Ottawa, in 1939, that there was a place in our armed forces for women who wanted to serve their country." There was still inequality, however: women were paid 90 cents a day compared to the men's salary of $1.30 a day. "But we didn't complain. Getting less pay than the men was no big deal. We were where we wanted to be. We were in the military and doing our bit to win the war."

"We set a precedent and opened the door for the next generation of young Canadian women who are in our armed forces today and who serve in all operational aspects in our military."

Evelyn served in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps as a driver. Evelyn drove jeeps, taking officers to hospitals to visit the sick or wounded; she also drove trucks, taking troops to events, such baseball games. Like other women in the services, Evelyn was discharged after the war to allow men to return to their former jobs; however, the time spent in the army was good preparation for new challenges. “This taught you to do other things in other organizations where women hadn't stepped forward before. From being in service, it gave you a lot of confidence,” said Evelyn.

Like Evelyn, Doris served in the Canadian Women's Army Corps, and found that she gained new skills and confidence from the experience.

Doris enlisted at the age of 21 and served with the Royal Canadian Army Ordinance Corps as a clerk. As a clerk, Doris worked in an Ottawa depot, helping to procure and issue the material goods required by the army, including clothing for returning prisoners of war. For Doris, serving in the army was an experience that she would recommend to other young women: “it’s a good opportunity to learn new skills, and also to develop self-discipline.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The beaches of Normandy

This week, in honour of our war veterans, I am profiling some of the men and women who served Canada in the Second World War. These veterans sat for portraits for me last year, as part of a series I was creating, and kindly shared their stories with me. Now, I'd like to share them with you.

This portrait is of Fred Turnbull. Fred enlisted in the navy at the age of 17 and served in Combined Operations, as the bowman in a landing craft (LCA). The crews of LCAs had the job of landing allied troops on enemy shores. The following passage is from Fred’s diary entry describing the D-Day landing:

“At 6:45 a.m., we were given the order to lower away and unhook. The sea was extremely rough and as we started our seven and half mile run in, the soldiers were very sick. All the flotillas of our force were in line ahead and as each mile slipped by, the roar of gunfire from our own ships, the gunfire from the shore, the bombing from Allied planes, the odd plane being shot down overhead increased. It was a sight never to be forgotten, seeing Allied troops moving closer to the coast of France.

At last the town of Bernières-sur-Mer, our objective, loomed in the horizon and all was to be seen were fires and out of the fires, the odd church steeples. About one mile from the beach the signal was given for a deploy and the flotillas moved in abreast. We had been told of the minefields guarding the beaches and as we moved in at half speed ahead, the mines could be seen spread out for a distance of 500 yds. all very close, making it seemingly impossible for an LCA to get through. As I looked over the bow and saw the dead bodies of Marine commandos, floating in the water, I realized what we were facing. The Marines were supposed to have cleared the way for us and their being dead meant that we had to make our own way through the perilous “stakes in the water”. We were soon weaving through the minefield and with a strong tide pushing our stern within a matter of inches of each mine, I was ready at any moment to be blown sky high. To make matters worse, mortars were screaming over the craft and the odd Nazi sniper on shore was trying to find a good target. As we managed to skim through three rows of mines and were ready to sneak through the fourth, the craft on our starboard side could be seen breaking literally in two as she hit a mine. Then as I glanced around me I could see all the craft of our flotilla, only a matter of feet away, being blown in two, holes in their bows, holes in their stern and sinking rapidly but not before the soldiers were on their way ashore in waist-deep water. I couldn’t believe we were still afloat and making our way shoreward still.”