MWR in Ghana

Mamia

This is my favourite photo out of the some 2,000 taken during my trip. A quick snap of Gifty Mamia in a rare moment of pause before she jumped back into her mischievous (but ever so endearing) rampage about the orphanage

Once again, I had the amazing opportunity to combine my three passions – Art, Travel and Children – into another amazing adventure, this time to Ghana, Africa. I spent the month of February out of the Canadian cold immersed in the overwhelming heat of the Volta Region in Ghana, Africa, where I lived and breathed (and ate… talk about “extreme cuisine”) with the children of the Volta Home orphanage in the remote town of Ve Deme, about 30 minutes outside of Hohoe.

This wasn’t my first time doing this type of thing, but the conditions these children live in shocked even me. The orphans I worked with in India last year seem like millionaires compared to the these children. Still, they welcomed me into their lives with a voracious desire for learning, stimulus, and just plain attention. And like all children around the world, they were thrilled to receive the approximately 150 pounds of art and school supplies in two bulging suitcases I brought for all the kids to enjoy, generously donated by family, friends and co-workers.

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Fish from a Tree

At 2 months old, Alexa Warren now officially becomes my youngest client. This painting is an addition to the set of three I did for Andy, Fiona and Rafe last Christmas. Now that they have a new addition to their family, of course, a new painting was required.

Alexa is quite the old soul. You can tell by the way she makes constant eye contact with you. “Looking at me for ghosts” I call it as we have deep conversations between our own gazes. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have polarizing sides of her personality already evident. She is an absolute Zen Being one minute, and the next a tormented screeching screaming demanding ball of twisted fury. Then she snaps right back to waxing the world non-dual… or as much as she can see of it from beyond the bars in her crib.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to paint the Koi fish for her. It just sorta showed up one day. I sketched it out this past summer, but didn’t start painting it until a few weeks ago. I’d painted a set of Koi Fish earlier this year, but I wanted something with more of an African fusion to it (and yes, I am well aware there are no Koi Fish in Africa…but I can’t argue with the Muse. These things just show up, and I’ve learned not to question their origins). Anyway, I wanted something more angled, as if it were carved from a tree… or born of a tree…because technically, it was. In the set of paintings they already have, Andy is a tree, so I took the liberty of focusing on Alexa’s connection to her father.

As with Alexa’s older brother Rafe, I have broken protocol and made an exact twin of her painting. I took the twin of Rafe’s elephant to India and left it with the orphanage I volunteered at in February 2006. I will be taking the twin of Alexa’s painting with me on my upcoming trip to Africa (Ghana) in February 2007, to present to another orphanage where I will be spending the month volunteering.

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Radially Radically Outward

Radially OutwardThis is the mate for the painting of David’s Eagle, for of course, David’s wife, Diane. I didn’t have this painting completed by the time I gave David his painting in late October (it was still in my head), so these 2 paintings arrived 6 weeks and one trip to Siberia apart from each other.

David and Diane are two of my most favourite beings on the planet. I have always admired and revered their relationship, and they way they interrelate with the world around them. Thankfully, Diane’s symbol didn’t take nearly as long to come to me as David’s did. David’s Eagle took over 5 years to come to me. Diane’s Dolphin just kinda showed up on my proverbial doorstop one day when I wasn’t looking and said, “Yo… paint me.” I then sat down, grabbed a pen.. and there it was. I wish all my paintings came to me so easily! But like David’s painting, I don’t even feel responsible for creating this. It just sort of came through me one day, as though I was taking Divine Dictation. That’s exactly how it feels. Someone else (or something else) gave David and Diane these paintings. I just wrote down the message.

The Dolphin (and Diane) represents Joy, Harmony, Life Force, Rhythm, Breath of Life, Intelligence, and The Connection to Self.

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Elephant Toronto

I actually had this painting completed way back in August, however, could not put it up on the website until now as it is was commissioned by a previous client to give as a gift to his mother on her birthday in December.

While initially I was squirming at the idea of adding blue to this
colour scheme (I’ve always used green), we were trying to match a
certain blue already present in the room it was going to reside
in. Of course, matching colours is always a challenge, even moreso
when you live 3,000+ kms away from your client. But luckily I’m
connected enough with Ralph that I knew what he wanted, and I created
the right blue that made the painting work, and matched the room perfectly.

Pure Vision

Pure VisionThis hanging went to Ruth Bieber to represent her incredibly innate connection to the world around her. Ruth was an absolute dream to work with. One of my biggest tasks at the start of any painting is figuring out why symbols to use. However, back in July when Ruth first contacted me about doing a painting for her, she stated she already knew exactly what symbols she wanted, as her and her 2 sons had all visited a local Shaman outside of Calgary.

We did have one more symbol to come up with to even out the painting. Ruth is the Artistic Director of the Inside Out Theatre based in Calgary, Alberta. In short, this program enables participants with disabilities (mental, physical, sensory) an opportunity to benefit from an innovative training program involving the Theatre Arts.

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Wing Span

This painting was 16 years in the making, but it all came together in one amazing instant this past August. Simply put, this is one of my best creations.

Five years ago when I started painting these, the idea came to mind that I would paint something some day for my dear friend David. Painting comes far more naturally to me than writing does (I wish I could write as easily as I paint), and I have always wanted to paint David something that not only represented him, but also represented my appreciation for his continued encouragement, compassion, and friendship. I could go on and on about what an inspiration he has been in my life, but words simply can’t do it justice, and you can’t just thank someone as wonderful as David for being in your life and expect that to be good enough. Besides, sometimes a picture can lock into place what we cannot encapsulate with words alone.

However, I was at a complete loss as to what to paint. How do you paint a single picture for someone who has had the greatest and most positive influence in your life? How do you capture Connection, Spirit, Inspiration, Wisdom, Encouragement, Enthusiasm, Validation, Non-duality, Inner-luminosity, Unconditional Love and Support, not to mention the all important 3-day corduroy trains-of-thought, into one single painting? So I put the idea on a shelf in the back of my head, dusted it off from time to time, and waited some more… and painted some more. I think I needed to find my own form and balance first, and then I’d be ready. I knew that the image would come to me eventually, and that would be the right time for the painting to be born.

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2 Loons – 2 Whales – Uroboros

Tammy first expressed interest in one of my paintings way back in 2002, but wanted to wait until she had her own place and her own wall to hang it upon. Of course, you would think that after 4 years of knowing that eventually I would paint her something, I would have come up with a title, but they don’t always accompany a painting, or set of paintings. I guess I could technically call the set of paintings “Stupid Store” but that is a private joke between Tammy and I, and while we would think it funny, the rest of the planet would find it most odd. Then again, most of the planet finds me odd anyway, so no great loss there. Anyway, Tammy’s dream came true this pace summer when she moved into her brand new house with her partner Tyler and 5-year-old son Parker.

We started to discuss her paintings more seriously back in June 2006. We agreed on the wall we’d be using and she loved the symbols I suggested, and I went to work on the designs. It didn’t take me long. In fact, I had all three ideas drawn out in a matter of hours. However, it took me over 3 months to get them to a place I was satisfied with colour wise (granted, this past summer I was working on 9 paintings at the same time – so my focus was more challenged than normal). In fact, I painted the Whale and the Loon paintings twice. I just wasn’t satisfied I’d captured what I’d wanted after the first attempt, so I trashed them and started over. I am much happier with my second attempt.

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4 Wolves

I actually had this painting completed back in July, but I couldn’t put it up on the site until now since it was for a surprise birthday party, and, through 6 degrees of separation, had to keep it under lock and key just in case the recipient happened to wander in here.

This painting was specifically commissioned by Linda McCue for her husband Chris to represent all the impenetrable qualities he shares with The Wolf. In many native cultures, the Wolf is known as The Pathfinder. It embodies a strong sense of self, strength, instinct, success, perseverance, movement, and is an intuitive problem solver. The Wolf is a teacher of new ideas that provides stability and support that one normally associates with a family structure. They are sleek, daring and wise, yet very misunderstood creatures.

The main essence behind this painting is in reverence to Chris’s weighty embrace of life, love and spirit. Chris is extremely passionate about the outdoors and loves spending his free time mountain biking and skiing (always moving, like the wolf). The small border in a circular shape around the 4 wolves not only represents his mountain bike tire, but his love for travel and culture. The 4 triangular points at the edge just off the circle are his ski tips, for his love of the mountains and skiing. The Haida Sun is in the middle of the painting, shining its warmth, energy, approval and grace upon the wolves, and Chris’s life.

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Challenging Brilliance

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone

Rush
Subdivisions

This was donated to the silent auction for the Foothills Academy in Calgary on October 28, 2006 at the Calgary Convention Centre. Foothills Academy is a school that helps children with learning challenges succeed in a positive and nurturing environment designed to specifically address their learning strengths and weaknesses.

What better symbol to encapsulate the amazing work this school does, and the “Misunderstood Brilliance” of the children that attend it than the Koi Fish. The Japanese generally associate the Koi fish with determination and strength of purpose. According to Japanese folklore, if a Koi fish successfully accomplished the insurmountable feat of climbing the waterfalls at a place called Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, the fish would magically be transformed into a dragon. Based on that ancient wisdom, the Koi Fish became a legendary symbol for perseverance and adversity, ambition and achievement. Because of the Koi fish’s strength and fortitude to overcome obstacles, it stands for bravery and victory against physical, societal and emotional barriers that try to hold it back.

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Wings of Hope donation

This was donated to the silent auction for the Wings of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation’s Wild West Auction – A Night In Support of Women with Breast Cancer, being held on June 17, 2006 from 7pm to Midnight at the Big Rock Brewery in Calgary.

Wings of Hope is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that raises funds for Calgary area patients living with breast cancer. With no staff costs, virtually all dollars raised go directly to their Endowment Fund which is used to provide immediate financial assistance for everyday living expenses and medication to those in need who are undergoing traditional cancer treatments at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

Tracy Quon, treasurer of the Wings of Hope approached me asking if I had anything I would like to donate to their silent auction. I didn’t have anything on hand, but after a brief discussion, we agreed a Phoenix would be the perfect symbol and emblam for this organization and the spirit and determination it represents. The problem was I had 5 days to paint it to meet the donation dead line. But for Tracy, and for this cause, I’d do just about anything.

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