This week I received a letter from the Canadian Forces Artist Program (CFAP). I've applied to them as the official program to gain access as artist to Canadian Forces, world-wide. Every year for the last 8 years they have selected 8-12 Canadian artists to be deployed with the military. They go on exercises, spend time on bases all over Canada and have even gone to Afghanistan for weeks at a time. This program was restarted in June of 2001 to re-invigorate the War Artist program started during WWI by Lord Beaverbrook. These people are the real Canadian War Artists and I've had the opportunity to meet and chat with a few of them. They are painters, photographers, poets, filmographers and playwrights. Unlike me, they are all full time, professionals who don't focus on the military as subject. When they are accepted into the program they commit to provide a body of work based on their exposure to the military and Afghanistan. This work is centralized at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and some also goes on tour across Canada. Their work can be gritty, honest and un-muzzled. Unfortunately, I won't be joining their ranks.
Its a great program and even though I was a bit deflated by the rejection, some army buddies reminded me again about why I took this on (and more importantly, why THEY backed me). My project is focused on documenting soldiers for soldiers. My own ego aside, they are the ones who sponsored me to go to Afghanistan and they are the ones who will benefit from the paintings. Even now, my pieces are starting to find their way into messes and regimental museums. Insha'allah, by the end of the project (and my time on this little green globe), every mess in Canada will sport one of my pieces. So even though my paintings might not ever hang in a gallery in Ottawa, I'm ok with the company they'll keep.