The Great Bear story
I like bears. Probably my favourite animal, bears share a great symmetry with humans: omnivorous, cute, and capable of great feats and great havoc. In a way the bears of British Columbia remind me of myself: I like climbing trees and eating lots of salmon and berries.
In 2002 I was newly married and living in Japan where we spent over a year, and my wife was expecting our first child. As a homesick artist I felt the need to create something myself, so with limited time and resources I threw together a cardboard bear, which was really just a cartoonish robot teddy bear. It was going to be black and hot pink, because that's how I do. Unfortunately I had to abandon it, unfinished, in the midst of a cancer diagnosis that sent us back to BC. In the years following my cancer recovery, art often fell by the wayside as we struggled to get back on our feet.
Years passed, and in the summer of 2013 we renovated our bathroom (a seemingly random detail I know), but from the new cabinet packaging I was left with an abundance of large pieces of cardboard, some of which were an inch thick. I had never seen cardboard like that before, and I immediately knew I had to make something out of it- and as I assembled the pieces together, I realized that it had to be another robot-like bear, a bigger, better version of the one I had made and left unfinished in Japan.
I quickly began work without much of a plan but just a rough idea, and let it take shape with layers of cardboard, glue, and eventually a few rolls of duct tape, (including hot pink tape for its more tender areas, because that's how I do.) Once I was done I knew I had a pretty cool sculpture that I was happy to put my name on.
I showed it off a little here and there, but I also knew it wasn't quite a stand-alone artwork- I envisioned it out in nature, part of some larger story. Unfortunately, our vehicle at the time wasn't big enough to transport it, and options for even storing it at home were very limited. As my career as an architectural photographer kept me busy, plans to do anything else with the bear receded to the back of my mind, while the bear spent a year or so in our living room. Eventually my vision for the bear became more concrete as it remained undoable- I found a wooded location not far from our home where I pictured the bear in the moonlight. I knew the idea had potential, but not only was transportation an issue, I also wanted to modify the bear somewhat to make sure I got everything just right, and had no time to do so. Feeling cramped, we moved the cardboard bear out to our back patio, where it remained wrapped in a tarp for several years, occasionally needing rescue from the consequences of wind storms, slowly succumbing to the elements.
Then about a month ago, I heard about the fundraiser for the Great Bear Rainforest run by PacificWild.org, an Instagram Auction of 12x12" artwork. Having grown up on Vancouver Island, that rainforest area is probably my favourite place on the planet, and thus my motivation had finally arrived. I got to work repairing the partially-deteriorated robot bear, replacing feet & resizing its height as well to make for easier transport. I didn't have time to polish up most of it's roughened surface- I will have more work to do later perhaps- as my deadline was the last upcoming bright clear evening forecast before the usual rain returned. Most importantly I added the glowing eyes that the photoshoot needed. So within a week of learning about the auction I had the bear finished enough and was out shooting with my bear. I spent 3 hours posing and shooting the bear in the near darkness at a creek in the woods, crossing the stream a dozen times in water too deep for my boots and getting my feet soaked, stepping on slippery logs and carrying my bear and all my photo equipment, but I was in heaven. It was one of my favourite photo-shooting experiences I've ever had, and it turned out so well!
So for the auction I've ordered a special 12x12" ready-to-hang print on metal of a square crop of my best image of that evening. The starting price was $100 and the bids have already started! 50% of the final bid will go directly to Great Bear Education and Research Project, a really cool part of Pacific Wild that operates in partnership with Tides Canada Initiatives Society. The print has been ordered and hopefully will arrive November 18th! I will be sure to show it off as soon as I get it. The main auction week will be the second week of December, even though bidding can start as soon as the work is posted. You can follow the auction on Instagram at #wildauction2019.
After the auction, I will post other versions and photos from that night on website for print sales as well. I also see other photoshoots with my robot bear model in the future! Anyways, that's my story- thanks for reading!
See the images of my bear in progress at https://www.instagram.com/p/B43ceroBBNo/