Artist celebrates listening with heart, pen and brush

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 20, 2011

Doug Driediger created a self-portrait every week for a year in 2007 while recovering from surgery for prostate cancer. From left: “To see a world in a grain of sand” – and something of himself in the swirl of milk; Doug as a dog who shares with his pet a deep love of naps – “I never imagined myself as a little, white, fluffy dog,” he writes, “but since Sneakers joined our family as a rescued pup . . . my view of dogs, and myself, has changed a lot”; Doug awaiting annual checkup – “Although I feel really good, a small, stubborn part of my brain worries” – and yes, he’s cancer-free now! Finally, the grateful artist at Cochrane Coffee Traders.
Art by Doug Driediger; photo, far right, by Warren Harbeck
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Cochrane coffee shops are becoming the destination of choice for connecting with some of the most inspiring people in all the world.

Just last month, for instance, Calgary artist Doug Driediger came all the way out to Cochrane Coffee Traders just to respond to my recent columns on heartfelt values – and to share with me some really exciting news.

Doug, 53, is partner and creative director at Metrographics Design and Advertising. Many of you who drove downtown on 12th Ave. SW till mid-2004 will recall his landmark – and often humourous – Mona Lisa sign that marked his location for 18 years prior to his company’s move to its current quarters at the old Currie Barracks.

I first met Doug four years ago this summer. Mary Anna and I had just returned from a holiday on Vancouver Island. One community we visited was Chemainus, famous for its 40-plus outdoor murals depicting that area’s proud First Nations and logging heritage.

Among the murals was an 8 ft. by 20 ft. composite of scenes celebrating the historic Chemainus Hospital. The painting, which dominates the front of what is now the Chemainus Medical Clinic, was the work of Doug Driediger. About Doug’s work the Chemainus Festival of Murals website says: “In bringing the characters of his mural to life, the people of Chemainus were as important to him as the paints on his palette.”

Upon our return to Cochrane, it was my privilege to introduce Doug at an evening’s exhibit of his Painting-a-Day series hosted by St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The series consists of 365 images of what he saw outside his window every day for the whole first year following surgery for prostate cancer.

We immediately connected and have been loyal coffee companions ever since.

That year he set out to do a second memorable series, this time “52 Self-Portraits in 2007” – one art interpretation of himself a week for a whole year. These allowed him to continue in his healing journey and to reflect on what were, for him, the really important issues of life. (Images accompanying this column are from that series.)

Just recently, he completed his third year-long series, “The 12,” a depiction of Jesus’ 12 apostles in modern, everyday working clothes and environments.

In all his art there’s a real sense of heart – a conviction that life is more than an individualistic obsession with making a buck. Doug loves to see the beautiful in what is often overlooked or considered ugly.

About his 52 self-portraits he says, “I’ve concluded my paintings are like amber: captured little ideas, frozen against rapidly fading memory, celebrating life but fearful of what’s coming next.”

One thing he’s not fearful of is the exciting news that brought him to my coffee table a few weeks ago. The Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) had just acquired his 52 Self-Portrait series through its Art Acquisition by Application program. The selection process was based on peer-jury adjudication. The AFA program encourages the development of a strong visual arts community in our province.

Congratulations, Doug. Well done!

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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