A Tribute to a Lost Friend - Paul Clark

"Paul Clark (1944-2014)", oil on linen, 24" x 20"

We are bound by the certain horizon
Our vision ends with the sea
But you saw another dimension
of what it means to be free.
Something in your spirit
Demanded all you could give
To find the outer limits
Of what it is to live.
There are risks at the edge of experience
- It can be as hard to live as to die -
But the end comes creeping as surely
For those too frightened to try.

You, who loved with all your heart
The joy you shared at home,
Gave so much in friendship, yet
Needed to be alone -
Alone with your saints and your demons
Navigating the world of your dreams
Searching the stars and the scripture
For glimpses of heavenly schemes
At the close, as at the beginning
Darkness was upon the face of the deep
God’s spirit moved upon the face of the waters
That took you to your sleep
And that Spirit caught you up
And surely helped you fly
Beyond our limited vision,
Hemmed in, as we are, by the sky.

by David Goatley

I am frequently asked to paint posthumous portraits - a process which can be emotionally taxing for me as well as the loved ones who are commissioning the portrait. In the case of Paul Clark, the painting was part of my own grieving process as Paul was a very close personal friend - we often called each other "brother" - and was a gift to his widow.

Paul was an adventurer who held world records for solo sailing and kayaking. In summer of 2014, to celebrate his upcoming 70th birthday, Paul decided to row solo, in a 16-foot row boat he'd built himself, from Prince Rupert (near Alaska) to Vancouver Island.

Sadly, Paul was lost to a storm, his boat found overturned off the Washington coast. The Canadian and American coast guard as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were unstinting in their efforts to find Paul and in their kindness to Adrianna and the family during the search.

I scoured my computer for images of my friend - many lost during a computer crash two years ago. I found a lovely image I'd taken on my cell phone of Paul sitting across from me at his kitchen table. Using this image and my memory I created the portrait seen here with the sea he loved added as a background. The painting was gifted to Adrianne and the family.

I have also shared a poem I wrote about Paul.

Paul, you will always be here because you are in our hearts.

 

Adendum: below is part of a lovely message received from Adriann -

"Paul's portrait stands surrounded by the c.d. collection of classical music and library books that he loved so much!
Friends who have come to view him... stop... and stare... and then tears, lots of them.
Everyone cannot believe what you have done.
In a sense, Paul has come back... everyone feels it.
What a gift you have given me and all of us.
To say that I love it, doesn't quite sound right.
Can portraits live?"

— Adriann