Next spring the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 406 in Barry’s Bay will look very different to drivers entering the village thanks to a former art student at Madawaska Valley District High School (MVDHS). The weekend before Remembrance Day, artist Brookelyn Martin met with Branch 406 President Heather Poliquin in the Legion Hall to officially present the commemorative mural she had designed for the Legion. Above: Heather Poliquin (left) and Brookelyn Martin in front of the two panels
Martin’s concept shows a representation of Canadian service members against a background of land, sea and air, planes and ships embellished with poppies. The figures wear uniforms representing various campaigns, with the World War I in the centre foreground and more recent ones on both sides. The panels will be mounted with the sky above and the figures below.
MVDHS art teacher Jody Sernoskie and Poliquin had discussed the mural project two years ago when Martin was in Grade 12 but work didn’t really begin until the following academic year. Returning to MVDHS for a fifth year, Martin began to design and research the various elements for an 8 foot square mural. Starting in October 2019, she worked on it during every 75-minute art period for nearly three months. Teacher Jody Sernoskie estimates the mural on two full-size plywood sheets took 40 hours to produce.
Artist Brookelyn Martin in front of the land/sea panel of the mural
Martin admits she had not tackled an art project on this scale before and called on other MVDHS students for assistance. She credits collaborators Jolon Emond, Matthew Walker and Anika Remes-Gavin who helped her with sketching and work on specific sections of the painting. Martin usually works on pieces that are standard sketchbook size, often portraits. But for this project she relied on reference sheets and old photographs to help portray the uniforms and airplanes accurately. She tried to show the diversity in the Canadian military with varied skin tones and facial features. She included a female figure (far right) in peacekeeping uniform as her research revealed few Canadian service women in earlier campaigns.
The finished mural includes elements from a number of collaborators in addition to Martin and her fellow students who painted it. Legion Branch 406 provided the plywood panels, gesso and clear coat and will arrange to have the panels appropriately mounted ready for installation outside the building. MVDHS provided the acrylic paint and the space to work on the project.
These days Wilno resident Martin continues to use her creative talents as she studies Culinary Skills at Loyalist College in Belleville.
Poliquin says the Legion will keep the two panels on display for Remembrance Day, especially as many of their own displays were loaned to the library this year. Over the winter, they will take it down to finish the varnishing and build the underlying structure in readiness for the installation outdoors next spring.