Posts Tagged “Jesus”


A few years ago I had a friend that killed himself.  In this life, we have choices.  We can chose one career or another, we can chose to travel or stay at home, we can chose to love or we can chose not to love.  Love is a choice, suicide is a choice–both are a commitment, both are an act, both are the same and yet polar opposites.

When I got the phone call that my friend killed himself, I had the brush to canvas on the above painting.  This was many years ago.  I put aside the painting and finished it a few days later.

Many questions remained unanswered.  Why did he do this?  Was it something that I did or didn’t do?

And of course there was the emotional side to it.  Remembering all the times that we had together, the funny things that he would say and do, and how loving he seemed to be.  Why did he do this?

Of course, people had all sorts of answers about this and would try to help by saying all sorts of things like, “he had a mental illness” or “he was into drugs”; both of which were true, but this was my friend and I loved him.  Why did he do this?

Fast forward 2 years.  A friend comes by my house and comments on this painting.  I keep a database of all my paintings and wrote a note about this at the time: “Painting this when I heard about N–my friend that took his own life in Jan of 2007.  My friend G says that this painting is both calm and angry at the same time.  I did finished the angry part about a month after starting the painting in jan”

Fast forward about 3 years from then.  I am married and just finished a year of art school, studying northwest coast art.  Amy and I are back in Topley and it’s a drizzly spring morning.  There’s a train on the tracks near our house, stalled out.  Nothing unusual because they usually do that on the bypass there–near the signal light in the above painting.

This, however, was not to be a normal spring morning.  The first responder’s call out alarm goes off (I volunteer as a first responder)…

At the time we were just told where the incident was with no details.  When we got there, the engineer told us that someone stepped in front of his train.  Sharp pang in your gut.  You make a decision.  Do you want to see this?  Do you go on?

My partner and I go and find the body.

There wasn’t much blood.  Aside from a compound fracture in the right leg, there was not much gore.  Elderly patient, no identification other than a ring and a jacket.  From how he was built, it looked like he was a worker for most of his life, probably at one of the mills or mines.  From what we could tell and what we were told, this was a suicide.

It didn’t effect me as much as my friend.  I didn’t recognize this man on the tracks in the exact location depicted in the scene above.

Even after I found out that this man was the husband of the woman who commented on my painting above, I don’t think that I shed a single tear.  I was too worn out from shedding all those tears over my friend and I knew it wasn’t going to bring anyone back.

I knew then that I needed to talk to someone.

Five years after losing my friend, and many many hours and days wondering why, I finally asked a friend, who was a closer friend to N, what they did and how they coped.  They told me that they saw many counselors and even had a nervous breakdown before they saw a psychologist.

This was what I had to do.

So, I finally talked with someone about how I felt and they finally gave me an answer that I could accept, after all these years of “why?”  They said that he did what he did not because of me or anyone, and not even because they didn’t have the will to live; but because they had the will to die.

It was not because I offended him and he was getting back at me, it was because he simply had the will to die.

Love and suicide are very similar in many ways, but mainly so because both are an act of will that has far reaching consequences beyond the direct participants.  It is written in the Bible:

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.  He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.”

Psalm 68:19,20

And unto God, the Lord, belong the issues from death… God is love… “Chose you this day who you will serve…” I would consider the above painting one of my most prophetic to date and yet at first glance it does not seem to testify of Jesus and yet it so does…

‎”Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”

Song of Solomon 8:6

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In the Bible, Jesus speaks of the heart and says “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45, NLT)  Or another translation “Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (The Message)

Simply put, you just can’t fake who you are.  This will come out in your words and actions; no matter how much you repress, trivialize, spiritualize, legalize or lie.  The you in you will always shine through.

This maxim is true for all walks of life, from business to relationships.  The compass needle always points north.

I often find myself trying to not speak about certain things and trying not to touch on certain subjects.  The reasons for this often vary, but it is usually just to avoid embarrassment.  When I speak/paint about those who matter to me, I always try to keep the “damage” down to a minimum, because you never really know how people are going to react.  Sometimes this is justified and sometimes, it is completely irrational.  It’s just that when “representing” people, it can sometimes bring out the best in others and sometimes the opposite.

Some people ask why I paint landscapes so often.  After all, they know that I can do portraitures and I’m not so bad at northern style westcoast art, either, if I do say so myself 🙂  So, why do I paint landscapes so often?  Personally, no matter what people say about seeing naked women or faces and whatnot in my landscapes, I think that it has to do with my love of geology.

But painting from what is on my heart is the ultimate reason why I paint.  So, whether it is a landscape or a portraiture, my best paintings are always the ones that I put my heart into.

“The same is true for anything, including ditch digging”  someone once remarked to me.  It’s true, a ditch dug with passion and skill is better than a ditch dug without.  *But* very seldom does anyone walk by a ditch and say, “that’s some fine ditchwork you done there, man!  It really moved me.”

I said it before and I’ll say it again, good artwork reflects upon who we are; great artwork reflects upon who God is.  Art is always a reflection upon something.  Reflection always comes from the heart and from the abundance of the heart. 

So, to all those reflective people out there, I encourage you to work with passion from your heart!

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Todd Stephens working on paddle design commision

Todd Stephens working on paddle design commision

I did something today that I have been meaning to do for a while now, I visited Todd Stephens in his carving studio, Wilp Simgan (House of the Sacred Tree).  Todd is a very amiable person, who likes to brag that he has never been in a fight.  I dropped in on his studio this afternoon in order to catch up on things and work on my alder spoon for class.  Todd and I talked from any number of things from aliens to religion to business and we went our separate ways at closing time with more of an understanding of each other and our backgrounds.  Todd and I have very similar backgrounds, we both are from Prince Rupert, we both went to PRSS, we both know little about the family on our father’s side.

I know that my father is Ojibway from the Sagamok reserve near Massey, Ontario, I know that his mother’s name was/is Mary, I know that he was taken into custody by child services at infancy, I know that he had severe hypothermia at the time, I know that he was raised in the foster care program, but I know very little else.  Neglect seems to be a common theme among aboriginal people that I know, such as in my dad’s case.   And according to a 2003 Canadian Incidence Study put out by the Canadian government, neglect is the most common form of child abuse among first nations [1].  And although, I try to keep the subject matter of this blog art-related and on a positive note, I feel that I have to say something about this.  As a christian, I believe that God looks after those who have no fathers, the widows and the orphans.  And for exactly the reason that God values what man rejects, I went with a notion that God is among the first nations people, myself included, in a way that is unique and strong.  And I have seen him do great things on my behalf even in these past few months.  And as the book of Romans says, in the Bible, God works all things to the good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

God has blessed me with a purpose, and I believe that God is the source of my aspirations and inspiration.

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