War vet painting mystery solved

An artistic mystery comes to a close (The Week - March 22)

After a lot of digging, a team of curious veterans discovered the combo of images that created this moving painting below, by none other than a Sooke artist.

Last month, Monday reported on an artistic mystery when a moving print was dropped off at a Legion hall up Island. Now, four months after the start of the search, the team of curious veterans has found its answer as to the history of the print, and it was much closer than suspected.

Sooke artist Steve Robertson was commissioned by Mark Norman, executive director of the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation, to do the print for the foundation in 2005. The painting was based on three unique photographs that Norman came across when trying to come up with ideas for a painting to use as a fund raiser.  After finding the artist, he initiated the commission with corporate financial support.

“The veteran was attending a parade in Ottawa that was honouring the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy, the little red maple leaf signifies those veterans. As you can see we changed a few aspects for the painting but the medals and hat badge (RCASC) are the same,” says Norman via email. “The little girl was with her mother attending a memorial service in Ottawa to honour all police officers lost in the line of duty. Her father was a RCMP office who was killed. The background we used was a cemetery located in Holland.”

The print itself was rolled into a tube and left at the doors of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76 in Qualicum Beach last November. Staff were shocked by the image and hung the early Christmas present as a memorial, but hoped to find more answers about its origins and the story behind it. Legion member John Dyson worked with veterans associations, curators and art historians across Canada and in Europe trying to track down the print with only the hint of “Robertson” scrawled in the corner. The answer came four months later when Royal Canadian Navy veteran David McCracken of Ottawa linked his sources and ultimately discovered Norman’s commission.

“There are always a few limitations when you are working with a composite, and sometimes the concept works but the images don’t mesh, so we took some time planning and it was quite a collaborative effort,” says artist Robertson, who has worked almost exclusively in watercolour for the last 25 years. “Part of what makes the image so universal is that we can see all the stones, and of course how each one has its own powerful story, but this is the one that means something to the veteran we are looking at.”

Those interested can actually purchase Robertson’s fundraising image for themselves at canadianfallenheroes.com. For more information about the artist’s work, visit members.shaw.ca/stevesart. M

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