Painting the Tiger

Back when I was young I spent a couple weeks in the summer at “Art in the Park.” It was a program at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. We would go to different parts of the park and paint what we saw. We also went to Kildonan Park, where I did a picture of the Chief Peguis statute.

My memory of that time is rather vague, but one incident does stick in my mind.

One day we were at the tiger enclosure in the Zoo. I strove mightily to do a realistic picture of the tiger. The teacher (coach?) came by and looked at what I’d done. I can remember exactly what he said, but it was to effect that I was too conventional.

After he had gone I decided, OK, I’ll show you unconventional. So I did a more abstract painting. I just did the orange stripes of the tiger. It wasn’t the realistic image I wanted, but more of an impression of a tiger. When I look back, it doesn’t seem so unconventional now. At the time, for me, it was.

When the teacher came back he was very impressed with it. At the end of the program, he selected that painting for the showing they did. I remember seeing it up on the wall at the Kildonan Park pavilion. That was the old pavilion, not the one they have now. I never got the painting back.


As I’ve struggled with my rewrite of The Crying Woman, my thoughts went back to that teacher’s advice. Am I too conventional in my approach? I do recognize that I often fall into a set pattern. I reuse the same phrases, words and structures.

If I really want my movie to stand out, I must find a way to break out of my conventional thinking. Over the last eight or nine months I have looked for a writing formula to help me move to longer and more substantial stories. That taught me more about how to write, but it also constrained my creativity.

I’m not sure how to shift mental gears just yet. Maybe, like the tiger, my work needs to be abstract and impressionistic. I use a similar approach when I created Line of Taxis and I feel that worked well.

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