I recently had the good fortune to be asked to paint three major portraits of former Chief Justices for the Saskatchewan Law Courts. The first portrait was of Chief Justice John Klebuc, who held the position from 2006-2013. I began the portrait by meeting with him and making some drawings while my partner, Zach, took several photos. During this meeting at the Regina Courthouse, I had the opportunity to chat with him, learning what aspects of his role as Chief Justice were of special importance to him. He indicated that his work in the development of the digital case management system (ecourt), was a major contribution, so we decided that we should include a computer in the portrait to indicate the modern update, as well as the conventional books, referencing continuity with tradition. I was very impressed by how involved he had been, and continues to be, with advocating for the disenfranchised who make up so much of the court’s business. Because of this, and also because of the great teamwork and obvious liking and trust I observed between him, his former assistant, and his wife, who were all present at this first meeting, I chose to depict him with a warm, compassionate and approachable expression. Back in the studio, I continued to develop the painting relying on the drawing and photo references, and then had one more live sitting with him in my studio. As I worked toward completing the portrait, I decided to add an autumn scene in the background to indicate the retirement phase of life he was entering, and rich blue curtains to set off his blue eyes, with a small wheat sheaf pattern in gold.
The other two portraits were really challenging but interesting commissions, as both judges were long deceased. William F.A. Turgeon was Chief Justice from 1938-1941 and William Melville Martin held the position after Turgeon in 1941 until 1961. Zach was recruited to research information and photo references about the judges from the Saskatchewan Archives. Some extra images and notes on colour from descendants were also very helpful. It was a great challenge to create three quarter length colour portraits just from high contrast black and white head shots, but I am very pleased with the outcome of both paintings.
These images show the progression of the portrait of Chief Justice William F.A. Turgeon.