Launched in July 2014, the People of Canada Portrait Project is off to a good start. We have received photos from a diverse group of Canadians, as diverse in their cultural roots as they are in their life pursuits. This is the third painting I have created using one of the submitted photos as reference. ‘Not For Sale’ is a portrait of a Canadian couple, one who immigrated from Southern California and one born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
I chose a west coast Canadian ocean view for the background as the Harbour City of Victoria is the place the couple call home. I wanted an almost never-ending view to a far off horizon as it speaks of adventure, seeking new shores and new experiences, both figurative and literal. Rather than paint them at their home or in front of a Victoria landmark, I chose a houseboat. This houseboat actually exists and has always intrigued me, it sits docked at Fisherman’s Wharf just outside the Inner Harbour of Victoria. I find it unusual, as to me it represents both a prairie home and a boat, almost like the two were glued together. I felt that the houseboat fit Janice and Graham’s stories and experiences. It speaks of moving from their homes, one across the land and the other across the ocean to meet in Victoria. Now, I noticed Janice wearing the, ‘I Love NY’ t-shirt proudly and almost defiantly. This conjured thoughts of Robert Indiana and the POP Art Movement in NYC of the 1960’s. I also know that they enjoy the occasional afternoon game of darts, which made me think of Jasper Johns ‘Target’ painting, also from the NYC POP Art period. This brought me to adding a touch of nature, that the couple perhaps nurtured during their journey. I wanted yellow flowers to the right of Janice to give the composition balance, I settled on what is perhaps the most famous pot of flowers ever painted, ‘Sunflowers’ by Van Gogh. This reference to Van Gogh seemed to fit for many reasons, for one, I think Graham resembles the Dutch painter in some ways, with his red beard and his proudly quirky aura. Secondly, the rough beauty and emotional honesty that can be seen on his face, much like the paintings of Van Gogh. This brings me to the title of the piece, ‘Not For Sale’. The title is contradictory to the sign placed between the heads of the subjects, suggesting material items are for sale, even a home, but their minds and their experiences are not for sale, they are for sharing. They are proud Canadians with the maple leaf pinned to the centre of the dart board by a yellow winged dart, but they are more than a flag or a maple leaf, they are the sum of all the experiences they have had and will have, they are ‘Not For Sale’. You can read my interview with Janice & Graham here.
Finished painting and photos below used as reference in creating this portrait. The photo of Janice and Graham was provided by Janice. The photo of the landscape was taken from my Vancouver Island studio looking towards Port Angeles, Washington and the houseboat was discovered on one of my west coast walks through Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, BC.
I am looking for photos of Canadians. As an artist I understand how much courage it takes to put yourself out there in the spotlight, and sometimes under the microscope. I am asking you to take a courageous leap and share your story with me, and the world. Submit your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have your portrait painted. All submitted photos will be exhibited with the resulting portraits in a major solo exhibition slated for 2017.