A conversation with famous Canadian painter Robert Bateman was the inspiration behind a series of climate change paintings by a Chilliwack artist.
Mignonne (Meon) Shields was on Salt Spring Island back in 2017 when she stumbled upon Bateman’s book signing. Shields got the opportunity to chat with him for a half an hour about art and climate change.
“I said ‘I want to do paintings of something that really matters,’” she recalled. “He inspired me so much that I came home and I painted ‘Yesterday’ in four hours.”
‘Yesterday’ is one of three paintings in her climate change series. It shows a bird soaring over lush trees, green foliage and a fresh stream.
That first painting was followed by two stark pieces – ‘Today’ and ‘Tomorrow.’
‘Today’ is a scene of charred, black tree stumps. It reveals forest fires, clear cutting and old-growth forest cutting.
And then there’s the third and final painting.
“If we don’t smarten up, this is what’s going to happen,” she said pointing at ‘Tomorrow.’ “This father is taking his daughter fishing, but the rivers are running dry, the fish are dead, there’s no vegetation, the sun is just blasting like it was this summer.”
Paintings need to speak for themselves, Bateman said to her, and Shields he believes ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Today’ and ‘Tomorrow’ do just that.
The pieces have never been on display before, and ideally she wants to see them blown-up and installed in a public place, like on a billboard.
Even if that dream doesn’t happen, she still thinks people need to see her artwork, especially now in the wake of the 2021 B.C. wildfires.
Climate change is a “hot topic” and it’s going to get worse, Shields added.
“The climate’s doing enough damage without (people doing) more damage.”
She recalled Bateman speaking about his own artwork, saying that he paints nature and wildlife so people can appreciate it and therefore take care of it.
Shields is hoping to do the same with her paintings.
“I’m hoping they won’t flick their cigarettes out of the car, won’t leave garbage in their campsites, and pay attention when they say ‘Don’t light a campfire,’” Shields said. “I’m just hoping it’s an eye-opener.”
To contact Mignonne Shields about her climate change paintings, call 604-402-0013 (landline).