June 6, 2012 - 69th Anniversary of D-Day is a day to remember outstanding service to Canada

The heroism and bravery of Canadian and Allied troops on this day in 1944 led to the eventual freeing of France from the Germans. Less than a year later the Germans surrendered, the Japanese surrendered in August, and on Sept. 2, 1945, World War II ended.

On this day we remember the brave Canadian soldiers from World War II who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.

Every time the need arises, Canadian soldiers 'stand on guard' for Canadians and put their lives on the line to ensure our continued freedom. Whether it is World War I, the Afghanistan War, Iran, or other wars, they have held the peace, fought for us, and many have been injured or died.

Whatever your service has been, past or current, today we honour all of the men and women who serve or have served in a Canadian uniform. We will always remember.

Sergeant Martin Goudreault - We Will Never Forget


We All Remember

November 11.
We all remember. It was the day we all actually stayed silent for a moment in school, remembering the soldiers who fought for our country.
At the time, those soldiers were often not known to us and their faces not familiar. But we knew from our teachers and parents the incredible significance of honoring their service.
November 11: Remembrance Day. Veterans Day. Armistice Day.
Around the world it has different names, but the day is the same and the purpose also the same. The day is seen as the end of World War I, which ended on this day in 1918.
Today, it is as powerful as never before. We honor those who served Canada in World War I and other wars our country was involved in, and also we honor the soldiers whose faces are now familiar - those from the Afghanistan war. Our brothers, boyfriends, husbands, sons and fathers are among the faces who fought for our country and the Afghan people. Some of them have not come home, sacrificing themselves for the cause they believed in.
We remember them today - those serving currently and those who served in the past - and thank them all for their incredible service to Canada.
We pray for the continued safety of all soldiers serving in the Canadian military. May they take comfort in knowing how grateful we are for what they do.


Private Lane William Thomas Watkins - We Will Never Forget

Corporal Cole D. Bartsch - We Will Never Forget

Master Corporal Colin Stuart Francis Bason - We Will Never Forget

Captain Matthew Johnathan Dawe - We Will Never Forget

Corporal Jordan Anderson - We Will Never Forget

Captain Jefferson Clifford Francis - We Will Never Forget

Corporal Brendan Anthony Downey - We Will Never Forget

Master Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud - We Will Never Forget

Master Corporal Charles-Philippe Michaud


Today, as we celebrate our great country, it's a time to remember the brave men and women who serve us in the Armed Forces every day, those who served us in the past, and those who fought and died. We are able to celebrate this country and the freedom we have thanks to them. Happy Canada Day everyone!


New decals on Project Heroes' artists vehicles

The artists are thrilled about new decals they have on their vehicles that promote the project wherever they go. This is such an opportunity for others to see the Project Heroes™information and either talk to us about it, or seek out information on the website.


Shairl tells about one of the paintings in the commemorative series

Along with the portraits of the fallen soldiers and three 6' x 9' panoramic paintings that will honor the families of soldiers, the wounded, and serving soldiers and veterans, the Project Heroes™ exhibition will also include a series of 16 x 20" paintings. This series will include intimate scenes such as the one Shairl describes in this video, other scenes of camaraderie in the Afghanistan War, and still lifes that include items such as soldiers boots, berets and tack jackets.

Through the comprehensive collection of portraits and paintings, plus stories about the soldiers that families have shared for us to use in the exhibition, Project Heroes™ will tell the whole story about those who served and sacrificed in the Afghanistan War.


The Mouths of Babes

As we sat watching the Roar of the Rings curling finals today, a friend relayed this story from her four-year-old son…
Listening to a clip on the radio news about Afghanistan with his mother, he asked her, “Why are they still fighting over there?”
She tried to explain as best she could, but he interrupted and told her he knew what should be done to resolve the conflict.
“What I would do,” he said, “is I would sneak in there at night and steal all their clothes. Then they wouldn’t want to go and fight.”
Such a simple, yet somehow so profoundly logical solution coming from the mouth of a boy who believes the world would be a better place if only people wouldn’t fight with each other.
Since four-year-olds don’t run the world, and the Taliban still have their clothes, there will still be conflict in Afghanistan.
The best we can do is support our troops and pray for their safety while they work on our behalf.
Here’s to Canadian soldiers at home, in Afghanistan and in other countries world-wide. We appreciate you and thank you for all you do.
And thanks to all the four-year-olds who should be thinking of snowmen and toys and chocolate. Knowing that they also think of world peace means they will become sensitive, caring adults who will make a difference in tomorrow’s world.


Cindy tells about her panoramic painting that honors the families of soldiers.

Each of the Project Heroes artists has done a 6' x 9' panoramic painting to accompany the portraits of the fallen soldiers, and the commemorative series of scenes from Afghanistan and still life images. Susan Abma's panoramic painting honours wounded soldiers, Shairl Honey's painting honours serving soldiers and veterans, and Cindy Revell's painting, discussed in this video, honours families of soldiers.

We will release videos about the Project Heroes™panoramic paintings, the commemorative paintings, and the portraits, on the blog, Facebook and Twitter to share as much as we can about this important and special project as we work on completing it for exhibition.


Impersonating a soldier? No way!

This is a repeat of of an old post, but it demonstrates an issue that soldiers have to deal with on a day to day basis. I will never be a soldier - painting portraits is a worthy occupation but doesn't require bravery or brute strength.

I'm an imposter! I'll start off with an apology for having the gear on completely wrong. And, I'll apologize for what might appear to be an impersonation of a soldier.
What this photo actually is, is me attempting to find out if I could actually carry even the lightest gear that a soldier routinely carries.
Well, I found out. I sure can't!
I've read about the weight of military gear, but it never sunk in until today. I was fortunate enough to visit Lancaster Park - the military base in Edmonton - with a soldier giving me a guided tour.
When I left, I literally had almost everything but the pants and shirt Pat was wearing, although I did get other pants and shirts in the collection I took with me. He actually changed his boots and cap so I could take the ones he was wearing.
This warmed my heart to the very core. The reason he shared his gear for a couple of days was to allow us to photograph and paint some of the items for Project Heroes.
The first item he handed me was a helmet. For all intents and purposes it looked like a hard hat, but with camouflage on it. Well I've picked up many hard hats before so I had a mental expectation of the weight. Wrong. I almost dropped the helmet. The next thing I picked up was his 'flack jacket' (I've also heard it called a tack jacket). I'm guessing it weighed about 20+ pounds - like a large bag of potatoes. I can't even begin to guess the weight of the backpack, but I was assured that it was "light" compared to when the soldiers actually have it packed for use.
As I dressed in the heavy gear to take this photo (and I didn't even wear the helmet), it struck me hard that our soldiers have to endure so much in their duties, and the weight of their gear is only scratching the surface of the amount of sacrifice they make for all Canadians.
I'm compassionate, and my heart breaks for every fallen soldier, but brave I am not. I would never be able to stand in a soldier's shoes, so I'm incredibly thankful that they do what they do. I guess I technically did stand in his boots, but I couldn't even stand up straight! I estimated that I was carrying more than half my weight - don't ask and I won't tell.
Cindy, Shairl and I are all very thankful for the support that we are getting for Project Heroes and for the participation of the families who allow us to paint their soldiers and share them with Canadians. Thanks also to Pat for the military gear that I was able to borrow temporarily. 
- Susan Abma


Process for Portrait of Andrew Eykelenboom

Corporal Andrew James Eykelenboom
Initial Drawing in Oil, 14 x 18

This was my initial drawing of Corporal Andrew James Eykelenboom. Andrew's mother, Maureen, gave us the copyright to this photo to paint from when I met with her in Comox, B.C. It was wonderful to get to know Andrew through his mother's stories and photos of his life. We both liked liked this photo the best; it displays his wonderful smile; his love of fun, family and friends.

I started with a quick free-hand drawing done in yellow ochre paint
directly onto a high quality, acrylic primed and stretched canvas. Once this drawing was checked, measured, and was satisfactory, I started painting the portrait in many layers, using Walnut Alkyd Medium to 'wet in' the painting each time I started another layer.

The walnut oil medium helps blend the oil colors, and since it dries overnight it means I can work on it every day.

To see Andrew's completed portrait, click here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.303749239653647.88109.301646666530571&type=3

- Shairl


2981 Royal Canadian Army Cadets Visit Project Heroes™ Studio

The cadets were moved by the portraits in the Project Heroes™  studio in the LCol. Philip L. Debney Armoury.

The 2981 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps visited us at the Philip Debney Armoury studio last night. It was so nice to get to know these special young people. They listened to the story of Project Heroes™ and the amazing heroes we are honouring through the project and they took time to view all the portraits and the other project artwork. Thank you 2981! We were so happy to host you. More photos can be viewed on our Facebook page in the photos folder. Cadets can feel free to tag themselves in the photos if they wish.


Hype TV films Project Heroes™ at Philip Debney Armoury

Dixon Christie, far right, visited our Philip Debney Armoury studio to shoot a video about Project Heroes. Left, Artist Susan Abma. Centre, Artist Shairl Honey.

Artist Cindy Revell with Dixon Christie in front of one of the panoramic paintings that will accompany the fallen soldiers' portraits. This three-panel panoramic painted by Revell commemorates the families of soldiers, another three-panel panoramic painting by Susan Abma will commemorate wounded soldiers, and a third three-panel panoramic painting by Shairl Honey will commemorate serving soldiers and veterans.

Dixon Christie, Producer at Hype TV, came to the Project Heroes™ studio at the Philip Debney Armoury yesterday to film a segment about the artists as part of his Paratroopers series (visit http://www.paratroopers.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=238&Itemid=15 to see some of the video footage of that series.
Once the video about Project Heroes™ is complete, it will air periodically on Shaw Cable throughout the summer. Plus, it will be posted on the Project Heroes™ website and Facebook page.
It is exciting to be filmed and shown in conjunction with another project that also honours members of the Canadian military.


The Project Moves Along

A project like this takes time, energy and money to put together and none of these things are in great supply. Each of us has other work to take care of, illustration, commissions, and an online magazine, nevertheless it's something we think is important and it's moving forward. Before the trip to Saskatchewan we each worked on 2 sample paintings that would be shown to the families of the soldiers to help them understand what we were doing.


First Nations Bravery

Andrew Greenaway and Joice Lakow with the Project Heroes™ display

The Project Heroes™ display at City Hall was a great opportunity to connect with the public. We met Andrew Greenaway and his friend Joice Lakow who shared a story about his grandfather Jeff, a WWII war veteran who was the only survivor from his section, all of whom were killed behind enemy lines. Alone with just his own determination and First Nations skills, Jeff hiked out of the bush through enemy territory where he eventually located the allied troops.

Details about this courageous man are limited, if you know of any information about him or a comprehensive list of all First Nations veterans let us know. We'd love to pass this on to Andrew and help fill in the blanks.

Project Heroes™ honours not only the Canadian soldiers who died in the Afghanistan war but through three 6x9 foot paintings we are also paying tribute to sacrifices of the families, the wounded and all veterans from past wars. Thanks to our First Nations veterans for their contribution.


Cpl. Zachery McCormack's Parents View His Portrait

Robin (left) and Armande McCormack, are the parents of Corporal Zachery McCormack, KIA Dec. 30, 2009.
Below, Robin and Armande with Susan Abma, the artist who painted Zachery's portrait for Project Heroes.

Robin and Armande McCormack shared many stories and photos of Zachery with Susan. The main reference photo Susan used was of Zachery holding a puppy that he had rescued in Afghanistan. Afghanistan children were swinging the dog by its neck (dogs are not highly regarded there), and Zachery ended up trading a chocolate bar and other small items for the dog, which he and his comrades looked after in their tent. He called it Napoleon and shared his food with it for a month until it was back on its feet. Susan was drawn to that photo because of the utter happiness in Zach's eyes and also because it was completely in tune with what his parents had said about Zach's gentle, caring nature, and that he was always helping others. Zachery's portrait will be posted on the Project Heroes™ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/projectheroes) very soon.