The Birth of a Painting and the Coincidence

Today was the anniversary of my dear father’s birth (1910) and death (1996). I don’t know how he managed to enter and exit this existence on the same day, but I think there is something unique, even profound about it. And speaking of coincidences, I know that some of you believe in them and I want to tell you about one that happened to me today that is connected with my father.

The Ambush detail

When I was about 6 my father came home with a book of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales. It’s the only book my dad ever read to me and when he had time, I’d ask him for the same stories over and over again.

Going for a walk in Cabbagetown, Toronto.
Going for a walk with my dad in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

He wasn’t a perfect father and I certainly wasn’t a perfect daughter but we loved each other and I cherish those memories of being read to and still have that book in my collection.

Fast forward to February. There was a call for submissions to a community art show in Bear River called “Fairy Tales and Fables”.  At the time I was organizing a retrospective and sale of my watercolors and had set aside lots of experimental paintings to use in  collages.

Fairy Tales and Fables in Bear River. photo ©Larry Powell, 2014

As well this winter I was frightened by a couple of dogs one of  whom had (in my mind) a wolf-like appearance. But did he really? Or was I creating my own fairytale?

I also took this photograph during the January thaw and I loved the perspective of peering into the woods to see people on a path.

Walking down in Kniffen's Hollow, Bear River.
Walking down in Kniffen’s Hollow, Bear River.

I drew (pardon the pun) from all of these elements to form an idea for my submission to the art show.

I sketched and cut and pasted a mixed media collection that combined my dog experience with the Red Riding Hood tale.

In my version, the viewer of the painting watches the story from a very safe distance, and from the point of view of the predators, which is why I called it “The Ambush”. I had a nightmare as a child that there were 2 suns in the sky. It was terrifying because it presented a dystopia of an alien solar system. For this painting, I put several moons in the sky to ad a surreal feeling to the work.

Assembling the pieces.
Assembling the pieces.

Sometimes our fairytales are self-created. My father’s Canadian fairy tale was about the winter he spent living with his 2 German buddies in a log house they built on their homestead  in Alberta in 1931. That experience was so rich for him that he told this story and the details many, many times over until I felt like I had been there.

Horst Doehler, 21 years old and friends in northern Alberta, 1931
Horst Doehler, 21 years old and friends in northern Alberta, 1931

When I was thinking this morning about my father and his brief experience in Alberta, the telephone rang.

“Hi Flora. I was wondering if you had sold that painting from the fairytales show. It was my favorite and I’d like to buy it.”

The caller is originally from out west. And do you know what else? I had forgotten that Red Riding Hood is in my Brothers Grimm fairytale book.

Happy Birthday to the man who taught me how to swim, how to tell time and how to imagine a fairy tale.

The Ambush. ©Flora Doehler, 2014 Mixed Media on canvas 24" x 30"
The Ambush. ©Flora Doehler, 2014  SOLD
Mixed Media on canvas
24″ x 30″