My grandfather had his 100th birthday on September 8th, 2018 and passed away on January 7th, 2019. My mother and my aunt were with him during the night and i received the call early in the morning. The news did not hurt me as much as I thought it should have, to the point where I almost felt ashamed. It then dawned on me that I had, unconsciously and preemptively, been processing my grief while creating his portrait. The artwork is based on a photo I took of him during Xmas 2017 and is my first true attempt at a classical, figurative and large-scale painting. It is only fitting that this depiction would be of my grand-father, Jean-Charles Bédard.
About the process
The whole process began in the cold month of March of 2018. In order to prepare myself, I sketched and painted two portraits onto smaller canvases. The purpose was warm up my dexterous fingers, but more importantly, to better acquaint myself with my grandfather’s face and to figure out certain technical details before moving onto the larger canvas. (see my Behance page for more images during the creative process)
For this project, I also wanted to have my first attempt at gold leaf gilding. I had initially been interested by the idea of gold leaf by watching a BBC documentary about the color gold, in which the famous Richard II portrait is shown. Created in the 1390’s by a forgotten artist, this artwork (today exhibited at Westminster Abbey) was instrumental in my quest to understand this process. After watching a few videos on YouTube and doing some preliminary tests on other paintings, I was confident in my ability to make good use of this fascinating method for this project. The effect of the gold looks heavenly, akin to what the medieval churches of Europe hoped to achieve in their holy depictions hundreds of years ago.
Another significant actor in the painting is the blue window. This important element not only creates duality through the color symmetry and opposite light sources, but it also conveys the symbolic idea of time by adding depth of field to the portrait. As a teenager, I had friends that lived in the house that is seen in the window. So, on a deeper and personal level, the blue house encompasses those uneasy emotions we feel, looking back on life. The window also might represent mortality and the afterlife, which adds another level of conceptual contrast. In any case, whatever direction you choose to look at it, life or death, this painting is about contemplating time.
Fine art should always be in line with an intellectual pursuit that either stems from or brings about each given project. I’m a firm believer that art should always convey some form of social commentary. That is why I’m not a fan of purely decorative art.
A life story
Back in 2006, at the behest of my mother, I had interviewed my grandfather over the course of a few recording sessions. The stories of his life are very inspirational and helped me a great deal to push ahead in those late evenings where fatigue gnawed relentlessly at my artistic resolve. Hours of recording tell of his life as a kid growing up in Quebec city, then of his draft in the army onto the war in Europe and his later years as a family man. I hope to some day create a graphic novel out of those priceless recordings and to highlight his contribution to Canada’s historical heritage in the second world war.
A bit of history
Interesting fact, this was not the first painting of Jean-Charles Bédard. Following the end of the second world war, my grandfather was stationed on Wangerooge island as part of the allied occupation army. I believe that it was around that time that he had his portrait done by J. Menzel, a European artist in 1945.
I invite you to have a look at my Behance page to see a few more photos. You can find images of my other paintings on Behance and on Deviantart. As always, I invite you to have a look at www.ericzone.com and to visit my Facebook page. Don’t forget to click «Like». You can also find me on YouTube. Ericzone is on Instagram. Have you sent me a contact request on LinkedIn?
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