Sunday, May 3, 2015

When the treehouse comes down...

It's taken me longer than normal to write this post. I began on Easter weekend. You'll notice a number of different sections to indicate a new writing day or topic.

I am in the process of dismantling the green treehouse in the backyard.  Someone asked if it felt "bittersweet".  It is.  The years are flying by and the boys no longer make use of it.  The tree is also getting older and growing - once plumb and true, the structure now decidedly slopes from back to front.  As of this Good Friday morning, most of the deck boards and rails are removed with just the main beams and ladder to come down today.

After a long winter, it is once again nice to spend time outside, though ice still forms every night.  It will be a week or so before the frost in the ground gives way to spring allowing the melt to dissipate into the soil.

We are already three full months into 2015, 90 days that have been filled with adventures in Arizona, visits from family, rehearsals (for Dylan), workshops, client sessions, and so much more.  It has also been filled with a tremendous amount of painting and some remarkable stories of how this portraiture adventure has taken off.

Heather coaxed us to go down to Arizona for our January escape.  She had been down there the year previous.  I am so glad she did.  Sedona, which was our base of operations, is a beautiful place and offered lots for us to see and do.  The weather was comfortably moderate.  In other words, it wasn't super hot and it wasn't cold; it was just right.

We were blessed by a guided tour by Jesse Kalu, a local flute maker and performer whom Heather had met on her previous visit.  Using his 4x4 Jeep, we traversed rock and mud to get to some pretty remarkable places in the hills and mountains surrounding the community.

An abundance of art galleries and holistic healing attractions, Sedona felt like the perfect spot for our combined sensibilities.  The boys also seemed to appreciate the slower pace, the cuisine and the little adventures we went on including a day trip to the Grand Canyon.

As Dylan dived into preparations for A Rope Against the Sun, a one act play, I started directing The Odd Couple. Both projects will come to an end in the next two weeks, Dylan is off to the Provincial One Act Play Festival with his show, while we open ours just a few days later.

Heather has become increasingly busy with her work, and enjoyed a lot of good exposure and successful workshops during the Peace Warriors Health and Arts Festival.  This is also the venue where Dylan told his story.

He had been encouraged to audition by one of the festival organizers.  He did and was accepted.  Over a number of weeks he worked on "the talk of his life" and knocked it out of the park on Friday night.

Chris Koch, the keynote presenter at the event, made this comment on his Facebook page:

I would love to introduce you to a very amazing, inspiring and courageous young man. Dylan Thomas is a 15-year-old young man from Fort McMurray living with cerebral palsy. I had the absolute pleasure of listening to him speak before I went up on stage. I cannot put into words just how much I was moved by his story. It was by far one of the most incredible and impactful presentations I have ever seen. This next link is to a blog done by his father which will give you an idea of last nights events but more importantly a little insight into Dylan's presentation: Peace Warriors and Dylan's Watershed Moment. I sincerely believe Dylan Thomas is a name you'll be seeing more and more of. You did an amazing job buddy.

In addition to my studio paintings and murals (over 80 and counting), I have done two live painting events to raise money for charity.  The first one happened down in Calgary at the Deerfoot Casino where I did a portrait of Robin Williams as Patch Adams in front of 200 people.  I started painting at about 10 am and finished at 2 pm.  It sold for $6,300, funds that were split between two hospital foundations.

Last weekend, I painted Dr. Clark here in Fort McMurray. He was a scientist who became known as the father of oil sands extraction and the namesake of Dylan and Ben's elementary school.  This time the audience was about 800 people.  I started painting as people started arriving for the dinner and finished about four hours later as they began the dance.  It sold for $10,000.  The purchaser, the owner of the local Chevy dealership, will be donating the painting to the school.  Another bidder decided to throw in an additional $5,000 to the cause, which was a group called HALOS (Helping Assist Local Organizations Society - they raise money to give it away).

I'm not under any illusions that my paintings are worth that much money, but the magic of the moment combined with the novelty of seeing a painting emerge from the canvas right in front of your eyes inspires remarkable generosity.  Feel free to LIKE my Facebook page to follow along with the fun.

A big part of my professional work this year has been prepared to move The Redpoll Centre, home of the United Way, to Shell Place.  In a sense, I've been acting as the general contractor, working with a variety of contractors and suppliers to stage the development of our new 8,300 sq. ft. nonprofit shared space.  I've also been engaging with nonprofit organizations, presenting the concept of The Redpoll Centre, and ensuring that we open our doors with a healthy uptake of subtenants.  Lord willing, we will open the doors on June 1st and welcome 15 different organizations.  With a total of 46 workstations in the space, we anticipate having 44 leased by opening day.

The robins came back this week.  Heather spotted 10 of them feasting on the front lawn a few days ago. With them, other species have returned, giving us a beautiful birdsong symphony to brighten our days.  Enjoy your spring!

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