Almost forty years ago when I decided to turn my attention to paintings of the Mennonites, I found, to my naïve surprise, that many of our friends and acquaintances thought the idea a poor idea. Now it is hard to remember a time when this genre of art work was non existent.
A number of people took me aside and confided that “if I want to see someone cutting hay or making maple syrup, I can just jump into my car and witness all that old-time stuff. Why would I want a painting of farm life?” The second part of their kind advice, and it was kind, was “Why don’t you do paintings of the Rocky Mountains? Now that’s worth recording.” Although I was dismayed, I was not dissuaded. Youth is so oblivious.
Over the years, as you know, I did direct my attention to painting Mennonite life, but as well, with much travel in Canada and abroad, I also painted many other subjects.
Last year, Marilyn and I decided that we should pursue the compilation of my many paintings from across Canada into a book. A study of photos of those works showed that our weakest area of the country was the western provinces. So last summer we drove across those Prairie provinces, hoping to mend the holes in our personal Canadian fabric.
Just as a darning needle is moved up and down, we zigzagged across the west, avoiding the #1 Highway. Taking photos as we explored, we went to many new areas for us. Many of these views have been translated into paintings that will be presented with stories in a new book that will, we hope, be available this fall.
Marilyn is writing the text with great diligence and finding that happily we have too much to say and to show. Gathered around the round table in my upstairs studio, Marilyn and I debate the virtues of this small town versus that. We are slowly coming to a set of decisions that will steer the course of our still untitled Canadian book. Since our travels, and hence paintings, span many years, this task will not finish soon.
It is ironic for me to realize that after all these years, here I am composing paintings of the Rocky Mountains, just as friends suggested so many years ago. Life is indeed circular.