Although this painting was not done for Remembrance day, it feels like the appropriate time to talk a bit about the inspiration behind it while we acknowledge those who it honours. Our soldiers are well respected by civilians and militaries around the world, and I wanted to capture the noble spirit of these men and women from our past to present day in one painting.
General Rick Hillier unveiled this piece, ‘Canada’s Proud’ at a ceremony held at Mile One Stadium in St. John’s, NL, and I was humbled to meet him. I also met and briefly spoke with his bodyguard, who personally thanked me and shook my hand offstage for a job well done. I felt a strange mix of relief and pride after spending many exhausting hours researching and gathering images before my brush ever got to the board to paint the final image. You can learn more about this painting here.
My great-grandfather and my grandfather were in WW1 & WW2 respectively. They both returned but were not the same. My great-grandfather had lost his leg and was given a wooden one that he hid his paper money in.
My great grandfather, Arthur Henry March Sr.
My grandfather (who was in the same unit as ‘Scotty’ from Star Trek), was injured with shrapnel during the beach assault on D-Day. His wife, my grandmother, was a bomb girl in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. She manufactured the bombs during the war that were used to support the troops (and her husband), in Europe.
My grandfather, Arthur Henry March
I would spend a lot of time talking with my grandfather about his war years in Europe, but he never really got into any depth about his experiences. This frustrated my curious mind as a kid, but as an adult I fully understand why.
These two men were constantly over my shoulder while I was working on this piece, and were definitely the inspiration behind the two world war soldiers portrayed in the final image.
I have friends and relatives who currently serve, and I was once part of the Canadian Forces Naval Reserve many years ago myself. I took the responsibility of honouring these men and women who protect us very seriously, and I sincerely hope it shows.
Rough sketch of soldier with LAV.
The sketches included here just scratch the surface of the immense reference material I had to use to be sure that I made no mistakes in uniforms, machinery, weapons, equipment etc., because military purists and historians would be all over me if I goofed anything. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given the nod of approval that what is portrayed in this piece is accurate!
Rough sketch depicting modern urban combat.
Maybe too accurate. I received a very ominous phone call from the Canadian Military after I released the final painting asking who helped me and where I got my information, reference material and so on for this piece. There was particular emphasis on wanting to know how I got the technical accuracy of the Leopard Tank kicking up dust in the background of my painting. For some reason I should not have had access to something included on it at that time. If you are Tanker, or a tank enthusiast, perhaps you can enlighten me. I’d love to know.
Final background concept sketch.
Also, you may have noticed the Maple Leaf in the background of the final painting is sideways. I felt that it held more significance this way as it was pointing forward to the future of peacekeeping, and fit very well compositionally in the final image. It was, however, brought to my attention that this is how the flag is presented on the coffin of a fallen soldier. I received many emails and phone calls thanking me for the subtle imagery honouring those who have fallen. I cannot take credit for that or claim that was my intent, but I am absolutely pleased that it holds such powerful significance.
Rough concept layout sketch.
I am very grateful for all the assistance I received from civilian and military personnel to help complete this painting. But I’d like to give a special shout out to two particular people.
A big thank you to my cousin, Warrant Officer Bill Norman (ret’d), for all his efforts and help with this project. Bill was stationed in Europe when I was a young boy, and I couldn’t wait to hear his stories when he’d come and visit us in Toronto. His storytelling always had my imagination in overdrive. He was the first person I contacted when I started this project, and he provided me with loads of visual and historical reference material which I leaned heavily on for accuracy. Thanks for all the help and great memories Bill! Very much appreciated.
And I’d also like to single out and personally thank Warrant Officer James Hearn (ret’d). He was absolutely instrumental in the technical accuracy of images and information in the final piece. He endured an endless barrage of nit-picky and seemingly unrelated inquiries, all while being posted in Afghanistan. Thanks brother! You made a mountainous task a whole lot easier.
Rough sketches of soldiers.
Regardless of your politics, there are men and women who truly want to help their fellow human beings here and in other parts of the world by placing their lives in danger to protect us. It has been true throughout history and it is true today. I have the utmost respect for them.
I hope you find a moment of silence this Remembrance Day to thank and honour the men and women who gave up all of their moments for us to live a free and peaceful life.
Oh, and don’t forget your poppy!