In the summer of 2001, I took an excellent workshop with Ojibway painter David Beaucage Johnson. David is an exceptional painter with a gift for sharing his stories through his art. He is also a very lovely man. I believe him to be the inspiration that pushed me toward painting seriously. It took me a little while, but, I felt like there was a chance that maybe I could learn to paint and actually say something. For the first time I saw art as a way of connecting with Spirit.
Landscape and art are able to communicate so much more than simply a pretty scene. David took us to the teaching rocks near Peterborough. He shared with us the stories told by the images carved and chiseled into the granite by his ancestors. The moon was full that night and there seemed to be so much power emanating from the place. It is an experience I will never forget.
Earlier that same day, I had finished a piece that was influenced heavily by David’s techniques and stories. I had never used an airbrush before, and I wanted to try and paint northern lights over a misty lake. The results were far different from what I imagined, but, perhaps more profound. The lights in the sky were more like the spirit canoes on the teaching rocks than the aurora.
Spirit Canoes, Michelle Basic Hendry, 10×14, 2001
In the years since, I have refined my technique, but one thing is never far from my mind; I do not ever want to lose the Spirit that drives me to paint in the first place.