April 3, 2017
One day back in 2014 as I was painting in my studio I was startled by a loud thump emanating from my gallery window. At first I wondered whether someone had thrown a rock or perhaps even a potato against my window so I hurried to see if I might catch sight of the culprit. To my shock and surprise, I found myself face-to face with a rather discombobulated Peregrine falcon. I have to say that I was nearly as stunned as he was. Yes, I can tell the difference between the males and females of the species. I knew that birds often collide with windows mistaken for skies that were not and I also knew that Peregrine falcons stoop for their prey at at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour. Had my disoriented avian friend fallen victim to his own chase or was he a messenger, a herald of what was to come?
Of course, during the moments of that incident I really didn’t think that deeply about it in quite the way I am in this moment. Yet, I have found that life is funny that way. In 2014, the renovations of my studio and gallery had only recently been completed and I was enjoying a dream come true.
Painting in the studio a la Vermeer’s The Art of Painting and struggling with a traditional kidney shaped palette. 2013.
As dreams go painting in a beautiful studio is one thing. Running a gallery was quite another, especially given my location. It didn’t work out as I’d hooped yet I have no regrets about having given it a try. Between my opening of Rapid Water studio – Gallery I got to paint with some really cool guys – Eric Manella who along with his wife Alana Benham own and operate Atelier de Bresoles in Montreal’s Old Port section, Steven Rosati a great Canadian portrait painter and one of Eric’s students, Eduardo Simões Fernandes. No doubt we shall soon have another paint date.
As wonderful as that was I started to feel restless. I had commissions for portraits and other paintings. Sometime in the spring and summer of 2016 I started to think about what possible projects my assistant Jason Vallieres and I might possibly get into to segue down an alternate path. Jason’s parents had recently moved to London, Ontario and his father left him a treasure trove of wood working tools. At first we thought about making easels that we could sell. We looked at making Studio easels and pochade boxes but that was something we weren’t ready to get into right away. Sometime in the late fall we were talking and I said we ought to do something, that something being the designing and tweaking of a finely crafted wooden palette that was comfortable to use, well balanced and tastefully yet functionally shaped. I had previously seen and thought about purchasing a palette from one of the boutique palette makers. They all had the idea of producing ergonomic palettes. I looked at at the pictures on the various websites, even tried one on for size, yet I came away with the audacious thought that I could improve on the design – build a better mousetrap as the adage goes.
All through November and December of last year Jason and I work on our project. I drew all kinds of variations and styles, some larger, some smaller and others of a medium size. I tweaked the curves while Jason scaled them up as patterns on foam core sheets. Sometimes I would say we ought to maybe trim this down, only to find the idea I’d thought was good wasn’t so great. So Jason would reattach pieces to the foam cores boards. The one concept we grabbed hold of and held fast to was that all of the palettes designs needed to start with a direct line relationship from the crook of the elbow to the thumb-hole. The measurement of that line was maintained as an average for all of the variations we produced and was the point of balance for every one of those designs.
Next, we set about cutting our templates out of mdf sheets and from there produced a number of different sizes and shapes fashion from 1/4 inch Baltic birch. Our first thought was to finish the palettes with a mixture of tung oil and Orangine. That was a four-day process and while they looked okay, we decided we wanted to try a different finishing approach. Rather than deciding to immediately moving in that direction with all of the palette designs we opted to focus our efforts on the model which would ultimately be our introductory flagship model instead.
Before we arrived at the palette we now are selling we shopped for different possible stain colors, sta rting with looking at more traditional neutral mid-value browns. While shopping for those a grey stain caught my eye although I wasn’t entirely convinced that grey was the way to go. Back in the shop I suggested grey might work fine if the stain would produce a mid value grey color while maintaining the beauty of the wood grain. All this while I had been toying with and literally dreaming up different names that had a cultural sound, something that might hearken to our Indigenous backgrounds. I actually did dream of one logo which would have had the palette be a dream-catcher and given the name ‘Dream-scaper or Dream-sketcher. Happily, as soon as I saw the birth of the first grey stained palette it struck me like that herald who struck my window in 2013. The light bulb in my brain clicked on and I announced to Jason that the name of our palette had struck me like a bolt from the sky and thus the Peregrine Palette was born. Now you tell me was this coincidence or synchronicity? I choose the latter and it is my deepest hope that you will choose to paint with a Peregrine. When you do I am certain you will enjoy it for a lifetime of painting with our very best to you.
Niawen kowa/Thank you very much
Kakwirakeron Ross Montour/ Jason Vallieres.