MWR goes back to India

IMG_0013_Flying_OSIn 2006 I made a promise to a very special group of girls in India that I would be back.

After a very long absence, much longer than I anticipated, I returned back in October 2012.

This time, I took my 17 year old nephew (Max) in tow, giving him a life altering experience. Together we took another 150 pounds of art supplies generously donated by friends, family and co-workers, and spent some amazing time rekindling old friendships, and starting a few new ones.

3 Buddhas – H.O.P.E. silent auction

I felt very privilged to be asked for a third year in a row to donate paintings to the H.O.P.E organization’s annual fundraiser. This year H.O.P.E. is focusing on human trafficaing, with all funds raised going towards establishing an alternative income source for the women of the remote village of Kamoda.

These 3 Buddhas are but another take on the large bronze Buddha I met and conversed with in the Japanese gardens in San Francisco in 2007. I have used the inspiration I received from the encounter with this bronze Buddha in several other paintings as well, but they have really evolved along the years as I experiment (and grow more confident) in different mediums.

Due to my ongoing battle with arthitus and chronic tendonitus in my left hand, I decided (errr… was forced) to change my tactics in painting technique and medium.  This go round I attempted to paint with more volume and texture, adding a choppiness to the paintings by using extra heavy gloss gel to the acrylic paint to give the paintings a heavier and edgier feel, which increased (I think) the intensity of the paintings while at the same time decreasing the pain and stress to my hand in the creative process.

The swirls and designs in and around each Buddha head symbolize luminous wisdom. The Buddha is often depicted with an elongated topknot of hair to represent his enlightenment. Here I have depicted supreme enlightenment as colours flowing and dissolving from the Buddha’s head into the suspended air of thought, emitting radiance and compassion in every direction.

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4 Turtles – Hope and Opportunity charity silent auction

This was designed for a silent auction for a group I’ve donated a few paintings for in the past for

In the world of symbolism, the Turtle is one of the strongest and most revered creatures on the planet. It has transcended all cultures, religions, and corners of the earth. It is a being whose magic united heaven and earth, and the sea turtle in particular is a prevailing mythic figure and archetype. The Turtle encapsulates protection, patience, wisdom, courage, compassion, perseverance, skill, longevity, loyalty, peace, confidence, love, adaptability, healing, and knowledge. Impervious to attack, the turtle is seen as a very model of settled, universal order. It is steady, strong, protective, and unshakeable. A self-contained creative source the Turtle is also called “the keeper of secrets” considered long-lived, wise, and secretive. The turtle is courageous because it makes progress only when it sticks its neck out, and moves forward with a patient, steady flow in order to achieve the desired destination.

The turtle has carried Wisdom on its back for many cultures throughout history. Wise with age, some psychological theories see in the turtle a connection with the self; the unity of the personality as a whole. Though life around us may be chaotic, the turtle can slow down and heighten its awareness, which continually allows it to see the connection to all things. Proverbially steady, in Eastern religions the turtle is thought to be the balance of opposing principles.

The turtle also signifies immortality and is considered a provisional dwelling places for souls making their way through a series of lives on the path to Nirvana. In many cultures, if you need grounding, focus, endurance or deep power, calling on the turtle for help is a time-honoured way of wisdom.

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A little 7+ year project

I started this painting back in 2005 for some friends who also happen to be habitual movers. It was originally designed to go in an upstairs hallway panel for their new home. Of course, I’d hardly had time to cut the canvas and start painting before they moved… again, leaving this panting rolled up and wallowing unloved in my studio for the past 7 years or so.

Then this past summer I had a request from a charity group to donate some paintings for a silent auction. I decided to revisit this old friend and finish it off as one of the offerings for the silent auction (I often like to have the charities decide which paintings they think would be the best fit for their auctions).  Unfortunately, one of the risks in leaving a painting unfinished for several years is that the paint colours you started with can sometimes become discontinued, which was the case with this one. Luckily I had a bit of paint left over, but decided since one of the nice things about ethnic art, is to make sure there are imperfections in it, otherwise, it doesn’t look authentic to me.

So, you might not be able to pick up the subtle undertones of slightly different colours throughout, but they are there somewhat on purpose, due to my neglecting this poor fellow for enough time as to make his original paint tones extinct.

There is no rhyme or reason or any imbedded symbolism behind this one. I didn’t even plan it out in detail on paper as I do with the majority of my paintings. I just grabbed a pencil and sketched out some of the basics, but for the most part, I just added each design as I went along.

Imagination is more important than Knowledge

From time to time I like to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone and try something completely new.

This year, I tackled Albert Einstein.

There were some very personal reasons for why I wanted to do this painting. I needed something large to “chew” on (so to speak) while I made peace with some demons from my past. I don’t want to make this out to sound more dramatic than it is. The simple explanation is I was “officially” diagnosed with two fairly significant learning disabilities which explained a string of consistently bad report cards from Kindergarten right through to Grade 12. Truth be known, I’m not sure how I managed to pass each year (they certainly didn’t pass me because I was too tall, which I’ve heard has occurred from other students back in the day).

Anyway, to make peace with some of these fairly horrific teachers I had, especially in elementary school (where you could become a teacher pretty much out of high school – taking courses in the summers), I decided to go to the energy and wisdom of Albert Einstien, making a mock  cover of a magazine which doesn’t exist (until now).

The Einstein quote on the magazine has long been a favourite of mine, as is the following:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

This pretty much encapsulates most of my formal eduction. In fact, were it not for my marks in band and art, I would have most likely failed every year.

Painting Einstein I was able to channel the pain from my past that I’ve always carried towards some of those tyrannical teachers (and as a dear friend wrote: “…they probably weren’t actually educated enough to come up with a better professional solution that might require something more of them than the universal panacea: you work harder; we’ll sit back, keep our imaginations in park, and judge.”)

Regardless, it is something that made me who I am, and at the end of the day, I have to meet it half way and shake hands with. As the same dear friend wrote: “Hard for me to envy the testing but easy to see how it builds character, personality, unusual neural networks that others don’t/can’t have unless they bang into a big constraint.”

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Sara and Jason

This set of 2 paintings were done for Sara and Jason (New Brunswick) back in January 2011 (it’s taken me a while to update the site – apologies!).

Sara – Loon

The Loon symbolizes Peace, Tranquility, Generosity, Communication and Serenity. It was about 10 months between the time I agreed to paint these and the time I actually got them done. It didn’t take too long to come up with Sara’s symbol. I narrowed it down to about 3 options, and the Loon was the one that Sara immediately connected with. Sara confirmed she always had an affinity to the Loon, so the fact that it was one of the options I gave her made it the perfect choice.

There are 2 Loons in the painting for Sara, in a Yin and Yang motif. The colours I chose represent her electric personality, and the energy and mystery of the Loon. Vibrant red with a dark gun-metal / earthy toned grey for contrast, and a smidgen of grey/taupe to meet the opposing forces in the middle.


Jason – Whale

The whale is the historical record keeper and the master of navigation. It symbolizes regeneration, death, rebirth, guardian, power of water, traveler,creativity and intuition.  Is is thought of as being all knowledge associated with voice, psychic and telepathic abilities.  It is attached to all aspects of the sea, connected to the emotional depths of the ocean, beauty of movement, creation, power of song, awakening inner depths. It symbolizes well-being, nurturing as well as emotional depth.

It is said that people who have a strong affiliation with whale energy may also be very deep and sensitive souls. People with Whale Energy (or who carry the Whale Totem) are perceptive and nurturing and must be careful to not take on the pain of others.

People who are attracted to the whale often feel devoted to a greater cause, and although they may struggle with their own personal emotions, they tend to naturally conjure healing powers towards others in emotional trauma.

In the native culture, the whale symbolizes new beginnings and the creation of all life on earth as we know it.


4 Buddhas Toronto

These 4 Buddhas went to Ralph and Daniella in Toronto.  They are similar to the set of 4 I did for the All For Humanity fundraiser, however they have one extra colour level (5 colours instead of 4).

The inspiration for this set of 4 paintings came from photos I took back in 2007 of the large bronze Buddha (cast in Tajima, Japan in 1790), that now resides in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I have also used this same image of the Buddha for other paintings as well.

Once again, these are done on one of my new favourite mediums, 16″x20″ birch boards.

At first glance, they all look very similar, but each is slightly different in its own unique way (as we all are – not just to one another, but within our own psyche and the different sides of our personalities).

The swirls and designs in and around each Buddha head symbolize luminous wisdom. The Buddha is often depicted with an elongated topknot of hair to represent his enlightenment. Here I have depicted supreme enlightenment as colours flowing and dissolving from the Buddha’s head into the suspended air of thought, emitting radiance and compassion in every direction.

Remember not to settle for the meaning of life, rather opt for the intense experience of it.  Be trail blazers on the road of original experience.  Savour the eternal memories that appear out of the fleeting moments. Travel undaunted amid the wonders and sorrows that will appear in the labyrinth of your journey together. And most importantly, experience the radiance of the world and your pairing with awakened hearts.

Seek what you already are my friends – enjoy the journey.

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Follow Your Bliss Update

Daniella, Ralph and I with the new photosOccasionally, people “out grow” their paintings. From changes in experiences to evolving beliefs or even Life Event changes. In Ralph’s case, we “both” evolved from the original painting I did for him back in 2005.

When I was in Toronto back in December 2009 I noticed that Ralph had transcended his original painting, and knew I wanted to break it down into individual pieces to now incorporate Daniella into his life in images.

There will also be a fourth painting to this trio, representing Daniella – which will be forthcoming in the next few months. [Read more…]

All for Humanity Fundraiser Donation, 2010

Four Buddha paintings: blue, green, orange and purpleThis set of 4 was painted for Rhonda’s All For Humanity charity fundraiser (silent auction) on June 19th, 2010.

I have to admit, these paintings took more time from idea to completion than almost any other set of paintings I’ve ever done, particularly in the design stage. I spent more than 3 months getting the image just right.

These are also painted on birch boards (16×20), not canvas as all my others are.

The charity event was a resounding success and at the end of the night, Linda McCue who commissioned a painting by me back in 2006, won the highest bid on the set of 4 paintings. Congratulations Linda!

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Turtle Tattoo – Czech Republic

Jan's Turtle TattooIn November 2009 a young man from the Czech Republic emailed me regarding one of the turtle’s I had done for Simon’s painting. Initially he was asking for permission to use that image for a tattoo for himself.

“I found your web site today by searching for man in maze symbols. I was very absorbed by the turtle with man in maze. In this time, I am going through a hard time in my life and I am searching for what I wanna really do – job, be happy with that and doing good things to other people. As a reflection for this I would like to get a tattoo with man in maze – symbol for my life path, for good and bad times, and searching for higher spirit. So my question is if you will give me please the allowance to use the painting of turtle with man in maze as a base for my tattoo.”

I thought that showed great integrity and class that he emailed me for my permission to use it. As an artist, all my work is copywritten, however that does not necessarily stop anyone from using it without my permission. I was grateful that Jan took the time to send me an email, explaining his desire and understanding of the symbol, and the reason it was so important to him.

I replied stating that he could indeed use the symbol, but he must allow me to change it slightly for him. As I’ve stated before, all of my work is one of a kind, and the original symbol he saw was for Simon, and Simon alone. So, I suggested I could alter the image for him slightly to better fit his personality. Jan replied,”I would be very happy about the changed painting, it would be a honor to wear for the rest of my life symbol from person like you.”

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