Artist Feature: Michael Pape

Take a Little Kindness

The earth is our home, it provides the things that we need to thrive – however, it only does this if we take care of it return. As climate change has been a hot button topic for years now (and rightfully so), this is not a sentiment that we are unfamiliar with. Something that we don’t always talk about, however, is that we are not earth’s only residents and we are not the only beings that are affected by our actions.

Although artist Michael Pape grew up in a home creating art from his earliest memories and which was always filled with animals and with a family who taught him to respect animals and to give them the generosity that we all deserve, this led him to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary as a young adult that first really drove this fact home for him. Nearly all of the animals at the sanctuary were there because of the careless actions of humans. The more time he spent with the animals, getting to know them and understand them, the more he really got to see the vulnerability and the fear with which they faced the world.

There is rarely one specific moment which launches anyone into their future, however, this experience, along with that childhood house filled with animals and love, certainly planted the seeds for the long and honest career he has made out of creating wildlife art that speaks to the emotion he feels with each creature he captures in paint or sketch.

Emotion, to Michael, is essential to all art. It is the emotion of a painting that speaks to the viewer and then creates meaning and value in their lives. To this end, he has travelled the world, meeting and getting to know every single animal that he has painted. Each animal has its own personality and essence, which cannot be learned from a photo. He has to meet the animal, learn who they are, in order to paint them with the right emotion, to change a “painting of a dog” into a “painting of your dog, with that story”. It’s this that weaves true meaning into each piece, engaging with people and hopefully starting conversations.

Wisdom From Above – African Lion

These conversations can come from Michael’s own ideas, or commissions. Many of his commissions come from individuals who see an existing work, connect with it and want something similar that deepens the meaning for themselves. For those who have disposable income, they already have “things” that are easy to collect; these paintings, however, are more about enriching their lives with a deeper meaning – something that speaks to them, usually on a personal level. Such as the client who commissioned a painting of a lion looking upwards towards the sky. This client had recently lost their mother, who identified strongly with lions. To them, this piece told a story of a continued connection and communication with their mother, even when she was gone.

For Michael’s own work, it is always sparked by an idea that feeds into his greater mission of using his own voice and talent to speak for the animals who cannot speak for themselves. As such, each piece has its own story to tell. Focusing on the nose of a polar bear, the story for “Winds of Change” is about our effects on the habitats of polar bears.

Winds of Change – Polar Bear

For polar bears, their noses are their greatest weapon, as it is how they hunt. A polar bear can smell a seal several kilometres away. Unfortunately, changes in wind patterns due to climate change is resulting in their natural navigation senses failing, thus crippling their ability to hunt and eat. This is one of the large factors in their starving, and it is part of the story that Michael hopes to share with this particular piece.

Into the Light – Polar Bear

A director on the board for registered charity Endangered Species Fund of Canada, sharing stories such as this and showing people the relatable side of animals is always a huge goal for Michael. If there is anything that he wants people to take away from his work, it’s kindness. Animals are being lost every day, often due to interactions with humans, and we have the power to change that. So, if there is one conversation that you can have from Michael’s work it is this: to be aware of the creatures that we share this earth with, and how our actions affect them as well as ourselves.

Compassion is one of the easiest things to give, and it can be given freely. It’s not a question of changing your whole life, but rather appraising your actions and thinking beyond them. As we get caught in the day to day, it’s easy to forget about the world beyond our own lives. Michael and his art simply ask you to take a few moments to remember, and to be kind.


Author: LivingSpaces

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