Grizzly Bear Father, 2014
24” x 36” x 1.5”
From the Mortuary Totem Pole With Grizzly Bear Crest, UBC MOA,
Carved by Bill Reid & Doug Cranmer
By this time, I began documenting bits of history and acknowledgements to the master carvers, for future use in potentials exhibitions, printing and postings on my website. It was deeply connected to the need of continually nodding to the Masters and the actual totems. I am not creating anything new in that sense, but honouring these treasures of the West Coast. At this very early point in the journey, I only had a vague idea of the promotion requirements that would come later. But keeping notes would be useful in the future.
After completing the Frog Totem, I wanted to do another painting of the same size. I liked the 24”x36” size as it allowed me more options in selecting more from of an image, unlike the 24”x24” format, and give the totem more of a presence.
It was time to go back to my library of images from the MOA UBC outdoor collection. The indoor collection is problematic in that the totems are artificially lit and the great wall of windows to the north gives a cool blue cast to the totems, and the richness of the muted colours are lost. And a camera (mine anyway) just isn’t able to catch those subtle colours, and picks up the blue cast. So for now, while I would try to do make another visit to the museum, the outdoor collection was my best option. But with the outdoor collection facing northeast, the shade takes over pretty fast, but I had a picture of the Grizzly Bear Father on the Mortuary Totem that had sunlight catching the left eye and cheek. I was taken by how the whites played with the light. The shade also did interesting things with the aged red pigments.
Once having done the usual graphing of the design, the nose and the eyes were challenging in getting the lines just right; with the shape of the totem and the specific shape of the eyes and nostrils.
The wood tones were straightforward enough. The new discoveries for this painting were the muted tones of the aging mouth and getting the whites just right. The mouth and nostrils was the observation of how the sunlight reflected on them from nearby surfaces. And the reds weren’t red at all, but very muted versions of orangey and brown reds and grays. The other key point of observation was studying how the sunlight worked on the surfaces around the eye and cheek. Again the whites aren’t white but varying degrees of light blues and grays. But against the wood tones etc., they look white. That is one colour technique that I’ve carried over from my experience with the icons. Rarely are colours white, but light shades of green, blue, beige etc. A pure white would be too jarring and unnatural.
Having completed the Grizzly Bear Father painting, I was struck by the strength of the eye and the highlights surrounding it, as well as the nostrils and mouth that reflected the light. It is one of those moments where, as the artist, I ask myself ‘Where did that come from! I’ve never done something like this before.’ And then there is the question ‘Will I be able to repeat this again?’
Link to the original totem at MOA UBC: