I had the great privilege of being asked to collaborate on the latest issue of "NorthWord: A Literary Journal of Canada's North" as the cover artist, with guest editor Russell Thomas. The theme was surprise! As I first considered the theme and how I would visually portray this with paint, I thought about all the elements of surprise. Surprises can be wonderful or horrific - you usually love them or hate them.
Personally, I am not the biggest fan of surprises. Although, one of the best birthday's was when I turned 19 and I had three surprise parties thrown for me amongst various groups of my University friends. Those were good surprises, making me feel loved, special and valued. But, with more frequency, we experience surprises that are not nearly so pleasant - things that bring stress and panic and new deadlines. Ultimately, it all boils down to the unexpected. Most of us fear the unexpected. We don't like change. We like our lives rather predictable. We thrive in routine but things can get stagnant in a hurry.
I approached the painting with a sense of expectancy rather than fear. I began with the image of the jack-in-the-box because we often approach surprise the way we do this downright creepy toy. We start churning that handle, bracing ourselves for the inevitable surprise. We know it's coming - at some point - but we cringe, not knowing exactly when it will come or what sort of freaky looking thing will pop out and nearly give us a heart attack! I decided to let go of the fear that comes with all that anticipation and imagined what that would look like instead... what if the surprise surprised us? What if I not only expected the surprises but I had hope and faith that they would be something wonderful (even if not at first sight)? What if all the unexpected things in our lives could be beautiful - leading us to growth and change and freedom from fear? Would I dare to invite surprise in my life?
These thoughts resulted in the cover artwork as well as a poem that I was delighted to discover had also been selected for publishing in the issue. I just picked up my copy today and am looking forward to reading it cover to cover. I know I will be surprised with all the different writings and angles used when approaching this theme!
Pick up a free copy of NorthWord around town (I picked up mine as I headed out the front doors at MacDonald Island) and join us for our "Surprise Party" on February 26th!