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  • Writer's pictureThomas Faires

Aspirations and Heroes

One of the thrills of my art life was meeting one of my heroes ever so briefly at the 2015 Royal Winter Fair. Robert Bateman was on a book signing tour, and his appearance timed perfectly with the end of my landscape painting demo at the Art Battle booth.

I was reticent, but with encouragement from Pat I waited in line. When it was finally my turn I was stupefied, to say the least. I’m sure I blurted out some sort of incoherent gibberish (I can’t remember anything), thankfully Pat took over. He signed my book, and even more thrillingly, he signed my acrylic paint box (which is now in safe storage of course).

What is it when it comes to our heroes? Why do our brains stop working when we meet a hero? Pat had a conversation with Paul McCartney once at Heathrow Airport, but all she remembers is saying, “Holy Fuck it’s Paul McCartney!”. I’m sure there is some psychological explanation, but I’m sure we all wish it wouldn’t happen.

Is hero worship a matter of aspiration or inspiration? Do I aspire to be like Robert Batman, or is he a source of inspiration? I have always loved his work, and I admire his commitment to the causes he holds dear. He has a strong work ethic and his technique is a demonstration of perfection. But perhaps more, he is a successful Canadian artist, and renowned worldwide.

Robert Bateman demonstrated to all artists in Canada that making money as an artist is not a sin. The age of the so-called “starving artist” is from an abhorrent social perception of a time long past. It is assigned to the struggling artists of history, and I think this concept has changed in Canada, at least I hope it has changed.

How does an artist measure success? Money? Fame? Admiration of peers? Each artists has their own gauge on their success. For me, I wish I could produce more because that is such a thrill for me, and for me having my art chosen by an institution is the extremely satisfying. When the Toronto Reference Library purchased two of my paintings out of the blue I was overjoyed and thrilled.

I am working on trying to sell more, little did I know that I actually have to market myself. That is a terrifying prospect for an introvert. I just have to change my personality. I sometimes gets hints in my art life that it actually exists as an extrovert. Perhaps a split personality?

Maybe heroes are there to help us respond to challenges in a way, we think, they would respond. To take the best that they are and try to live up to an ideal existing only in our heads. To follow their example and apply it to the best of our abilities.

I have so many heroes in the art. Far too many to list. I study their works. Read about their lives. Their successes, their failures. All that leaves an impression. It impacts my current works, my next painting, and even my emotional state. The cool thing is I keep finding more and more artists to admire.

In the end having heroes, I believe, makes us better. Better humans and better artists.

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