As fascinating as it would be to actually have a polar bear in my artist studio to paint "live" from, I realize the "live" part probably wouldn't apply to one of us for long.
So to simulate this experience I brought up one of my photos of the wonderful Inukshuk (the adult male bear at the Toronto Zoo) on my laptop. I positioned my laptop at a distance and height a human model would sit in front of the easel. Imagining the model before me was 3D, I blocked in the shapes, values and colours I observed on the blank canvas. There was nothing drawn up before hand.
In this style of painting, the background is more than a backdrop of colour to hide the white canvas. The paint helps carve out and define the outer edge of the head, helping it to stand out from the canvas. Only at the end of the portrait painting are the fine details, and pure blacks and whites added.
Of course, for me, whether the portrait subject is human or otherwise, the big reward is always when I get to finish the eyes. Thanks to the magic of oils, the polar bear eyes in these portrait paintings, as well as in my imagination, are very much alive.
Spoiler alert! Don't look at the interior photographs of the Small Arms Inspection Building below, if you want to be surprised completely at 2013 Doors Open Mississauga art show and WWII related demos Saturday, September 28, 10 am - 4 pm. This remarkable 144,000 sq. ft. architecture has a rich history involving the war effort (where the Lee-Enfield Rifle was manufactured) , women's independence, and the revitalization of Lakeview, Mississauga (then Longbranch). It sits empty now, but is it any wonder that the space, high ceilings, huge windows and skylights,have inspired plans to renovate it as a world-class arts centre of working artist studios, performance space, art galleries, a museum and coffee shop?
To give you a hint of just how dynamic this centre will be, 30 artists (including myself) will show and sell their art. My portraits of people and polar bears will be at the end of the hall on the first floor.
Also in the works! Heather Brissenden will sing hits from the Blitz, the Lorne Scots (this was once their home, too) machine gun teams will compete, The Honorary Colonel Gerald Haddon will speak about J.A.D. McCurdy, the Canadian aviation pioneer and much, much more (really!).
There is plenty of free parking. Just find your way to Lakeshore Rd., and Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON. For more info on what's on, how to get there, and about the Small Arms itself, please go to www.smallarms.ca