When the three collaborators (Darrell Baschak, Robert Thibault and I) met with our liaison from the Resort Village of Manitou Beach office, who said that we had unanimous support from the Centennial Planning Committee, the room lit up with our shared excitement.
Robert (Bob) was particularly excited. He had been working for years as a heavy-duty mechanic and welder but always had an artistic side that he continued to nurture. I was very impressed with his exquisite attention to detail. He was totally uncompromising when it came to the finer points of high-end welding and fabrication. I watched him work for hours, patiently grinding and fitting pieces of metal together to form, for example, the decorative legs of a finely crafted wrought iron table. He was also an expert blacksmith, with plans in place to install a foundry in his well-appointed shop. The 'Manitou Reflections Project' would be a fabulous triumph for a person like him, with all of the skills needed to help bring it to a timely fruition!
Darrell also expressed his enthusiasm in those early days. He is a well-connected journeyman carpenter as well as an accomplished easel painter. He had never tackled an artistic project of this magnitude before this, but had the confidence in his abilities to agree that yes, he would join the trio.
My portfolio was, by this time, bursting with large, ambitious mural projects that had been commissioned all across Canada. I viewed the logistical challenges with a practiced eye, having tackled many projects of considerably greater magnitude in my career as a mural-painter and designer.
After some vigorous debate, the location of our project was decided upon. We would house the artwork at the 'Uhman Centennial Park', just east of relics at Manitou Beach. Shown above are the three collaborators and our RVMB liaison (Myself, Darrell, Chris Moffat and Bob Thibault) standing on the very spot, overlooking beautiful Manitou Lake.
There was something very special and unique about the 'Manitou Reflections' project that promised to eclipse the artistic statements made by my previous mural projects. That is... this project would be strictly a work of 'high art', that would be conceptualized by the trio and really, there were no limitations to the potential of the design. To me, this was an intoxicating idea. When I sat down to render my early conceptual drawings, I knew in my heart that this design was going to be a culmination of forty years of design experience. The intimate details that would flow out of the idea would not be scrutinized by a committee. Rather, they would flow organically and in cadence with my own design sensibilities. Put another way, I was free of encumbrance and any limitations that might have been inflicted on the process by an over-stepping committee. Sometimes, though I am loathe to admit it, this occurs with a commissioned mural that is overseen (supervised even) by an over-zealous committee. I always do my best to embed my personal stamp on everything I design and paint, but alas, there have been times when it is most expedient to follow the lead of the patron(s) in some of the design decisions that are inserted into a mural. In this case however, this was not happening. I was not tethered by any outside influences or restrictions.
It was decided early on to use steel in the design.
We were looking for a permanent material that would be an artistic beacon 'in perpetuity' at our beloved Manitou Beach. At first, we contemplated cold rolled steel that would be coated in a nickel bath to simulate stainless steel. After all, the project referred to 'reflections'. After realizing the excessive cost and time involved in this process, we made the quantum leap to create the artwork using bona-fide stainless steel. Bob was very enthusiastic about this decision, because it meant that he could take a lot of pride in the fact that here was a project that would have virtually a permanent life-span. Even if the surface is scratched, there is no chance of rust with stainless steel! Also, this material would be impervious to the salty atmosphere emanating out of the mineral-laden waters of Little Manitou Lake. After all, the artwork would be parked only feet away from the edge of the lake.
About the Artist:
To read more, please visit me at www.mrgaudet.com