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


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.

In the Buddhist religion, the Koi is symbolic of courage. Humans move through the “ocean of suffering” without fear, much like a fish moves through water. In Feng Shui, fish are an auspicious symbol and a double fish represents happiness.

Some people say the symbol of a fish in the home signifies the successful attainment of one’s goals. Others say it means fortune or good luck. May good fortune and good luck shine upon who ever hangs this in their home.

I revisited the 80s and my own traumas with the 12 years of formal education I endured (1975 to 1987). These are just a few of my favourite songs that accompanied me as I painted that I remember “escaping” into to help dissolve my frustrations and fears:

  • Subdivisions – Rush (ultimate 80s anthem for peer pressure. When I thought about this painting, this was the first song that jumped into my head, and really is the main anthem for this painting. This song must be played LOUD!)
  • Under Pressure – Queen
  • Lovers In A Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn
  • Lust For Love – Images in Vogue
  • Little Red Corvette – Prince
  • Round Round We Go – Trooper
  • Space Age Love Song – A Flock of Seagulls
  • Always Be Mine – Aldo Nova
  • Back on the Chain Gang – The Pretenders
  • Forever Young – Alphaville
  • This Means Anything – Paul Young
  • Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
  • Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
  • Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
  • I Don’t Like Mondays – Boomtown Rats (I remember how the story behind this song almost made me physically sick to think something like that could happen when I first heard it when I was about 12. Now it isn’t even front page news anymore…)
  • Vienna – Ultravox
  • It’s My Life – Talk Talk
  • King of Pain – The Police
  • Not In Love – Platinum Blonde
  • Waiting on a Friend – The Rolling Stones
  • Wishful Thinking – China Crisis

Misunderstood Brilliance
August 2006 / 18″ x 18″