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Putting the family on canvas

Painting and text by John Pohl.

This is a painting of my grandchildren from a photo I took of them in 2020 (four then; two more were born last year). The youngest child is Mila, my son’s daughter, who came from Japan with his wife and their 13-month-old child to visit us before heading off to Alberta where Ardin was lining up contract work at an oil refinery.

The timing was bad; he arrived just as the Covid pandemic was shutting everything down, including maintenance work in the oil patch. Instead, he stayed with us in our suburban Montreal bungalow for six months (less a day or two) and found work locally.

This six-month stay (less a day or two) was a gift from heaven. My wife and I watched a child grow up before our eyes – and we didn’t have to feed it or change its diapers. It was a pure under-the-same-roof grandparent experience. Mila had three cousins in Quebec, two girls, 9 and 6, who live a block away, and a 9-year-old boy who lived with us and his mother, our daughter. (Another gift from heaven – he spent the first nearly 11 years of his life in our house.)

Covid confined us in many ways, but our “bubble” included Mila’s cousins, and the weather that summer was very conducive to backyard fun and dinners on the deck. Mila’s cousins just loved to play with her, and they could all get into her tiny plastic pool.

Newsha Hamidi, an artist friend who teaches at the Cummings Centre, gave a painting course this winter on abstract figuration, which appealed to me as I love figure drawing but am challenged when it comes to painting the figure. Newsha introduced us to the work of the Toronto artist Majid Eskandari, whose figure paintings leave the subject’s facial features undefined. The bodies of his subjects feel real, but he blurs his paintings with splashes of colour. This painting in Eskandari’s style was my class project.

I built up the painting in stages with acrylics on paper designed to accept oil paint. I was supposed to obscure the children’s faces from the start, but I didn’t, and it was hard to obscure them in the final session. So for the final coat, I switched to oil paint that would be easier to remove if I wanted to redo it.

I suspect my children would have liked their kids to be recognizable. Too bad, big kids; hire your own artist.

Did I mention there was a dog in the house too? Eight people in all, but that’s another story.

The painting is 18 by 24 inches.


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Jasmine Payette
Jasmine Payette
Apr 02, 2022

😃You're just a very lucky man John.

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