The preliminary sketch, created in 1980 while listening to the passionate presentation of "the orator".
So many experiences are the children of happenstance. In 1980, I was in a standing room only lecture hall, listening to a speaker promoting the essence and richness and power of Canada. He was passionate; gesticulating, punching the air with fingers and fist and extended hands, reaching out to his audience from one side of the hall to the other, never forgetting to look at each one of us. I was fascinated. I grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down a few lines - hoping that one day I could take this quick sketch and turn it into a full fledged painting which would fully describe what I had felt on that day in 1980 - a day when the idea of “Canada expressed” had touched me deeply. Little did I know. . .
The man was Jean Chrétien. At that time, he was Minister Responsible for Constitutional Negotiations and his fiery speeches were legendary. The sketch I had rendered of him orating passionately, lay dormant in a file folder for 24 years.
In 2004 I was commissioned to create an official portrait of the now Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada. This portrait was for his Alma Mater the Collège de Trois-Rivières.
But as long as I would be spending time with him in the studio creating the commissioned portrait , I figured I should dig up the old sketch and see what I could do with it also. It's not every day I have a Prime Minister of a country "popping in" for a pose. I searched and found the old sketch.
My wife Marie was asked to engage him in conversation while I shot picture after picture after picture of him. It wasn't long before he became as animated as he had been in 1980. How that man loves Canada! He was fascinating to watch as he quickly, yet calmly, responding to each question - addressing each point with eloquence and serious thought. The whole process was magic. I wanted mood and mood is what I got. The final portrait hung in our dining room for 5 years. It eventually was purchased by friends of the Prime Minister as a gift to him for his 75th birthday.
The following images are some of the 330 shots I took that afternoon. They pretty well depict the type of poses used in the final painting. What added enormously to the excitement was that I had to do no posing whatsoever. Everything was a natural reaction and animation. Such is the honesty of the man - completely candid and real.
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."