Just last week, I had three visitors come to Happy Tails to bring me a gift! Danielle Nicole and her two sons dropped in to bring me three samples of a new line of natural tea that Hummingbird Homestead will soon be selling in several London stores… and my artwork is being used to brand their ‘White Noise’ tea!
Danielle’s husband, Albert Agar, and I met in the spring of 2014 while I was running for Mayor of London! Because a part of my campaign was to bring local manufacturing back to London, Albert wanted to learn more and soon we became good acquaintances. Albert and Danielle created Hummingbird Homestead and they make a variety of products that they sell in London and area stores, craft fairs and other markets.
Last summer, our paths crossed again, as my family was enjoying an afternoon in the Wortley Village, attending the Gathering on the Green crafters market. I learned that Albert had recently started making different kinds of tea and they were looking for art created by local artists to decorate their products. A short while later, I had emailed several images of my paintings to them and now my painting entitled ‘Greats of the Grass’ graces their new tea product!
White Noise will be hitting the markets in another month or so and Danielle was excited to tell me that they will be attaching Milkweed seed packets to the tea. Monarch Butterflies need Milkweed to survive, and since it’s a painting of a Monarch on the tea packaging, this is a great way to get people involved in helping these beautiful creatures, while also supporting a local family business!!
The story behind the artwork began about a decade ago…
Greats of the Grass
20” x 30”
Acrylic Paint on Canvas
Instructed by Jim Kogelheide
Painted by the Grade 7-8 class
at Victoria Public School
With the support of the OAC – Ontario Arts Council – I was able to bring one of my dreams to life. I had created an art program for students called ‘Art For Earth’. In 2008, I was teaching this program in three London elementary schools. Each month, I would visit one class in each of the three schools and we would learn about an environmental issue (the problems and the solutions) and then we would spend a few afternoons learning how to paint, while we created a painting based on that month’s subject.
This particular class was all about grasslands! We learned how important they are, how few are remaining due to farming and what people are doing to try to reintroduce this habitat back to our region.
I would work with 2 or 3 students at one time, for about an hour and we would get a small bit of the painting completed. The next hour saw me teaching another 2 or 3 students how to paint and after three afternoons our painting was finished.
One of the topics being discussed with the creation of this painting was ‘depth of field’. This is a term mostly associated with photography as depth of field is the area in the photograph that is to be in focus. In terms of painting, I wanted to show how artists can create the illusion of distance.
Things that are close to us have lots of rich and dark colours and we can easily see textures in whatever we are looking at – buildings, trees, etc. When that same item is a bit further away, we don’t see as much texture and the colours aren’t as bright. This is simply a natural phenomenon about distance.
If you look at this painting, you’ll notice that the grass in the foreground has many strong colours. The next section of grass has fewer colours and a bit of white was added to each colour used. The next section of grass has even fewer colours and, again, white was added to the paints to lighten them up. The last section of grass is the lightest and we used only one colour of paint in this area.
After this painting was completed, it hung in the students’ classroom until the end of the year. Then the painting went into an auction to raise money for the next year’s school programs. In most cases, it was the teacher of the class that created the painting, who ended up buying the painting. I believe that this painting is still hanging in the Victoria Public School.
Another part of this Art For Earth program is to give the students an opportunity to be creative in their own unique ways. To do this, I created a simple colour contest to give the students a chance to win a fun prize.
The colouring contest was designed to give the students an understanding about how our Earth is existing in outer space, spinning around in the vastness of the universe. By giving the students a chance to expand their awareness about how precious and unique our planet is, I am hopeful that they will realize that we are the only ones that can protect and heal our global environments.
The future of our world lies in our childrens’ hands and it is only by teaching and guiding them that they will learn to appreciate the miracle of life, so that they can become inspired to look for new ways to move forward through time. Our industrial world is struggling to survive as it grasps at the last reservoirs of fossil fuels. What will a post-industrial world look like and how will people be living their lives?
I can’t answer that question… but I do know that if we teach our children about our Earth’s struggles, in positive ways, that we will allow our children to grow their imaginations and grow their resolve to stand up to all the challenges that they will be facing.