Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meet Mr Chris Opperman

All week I have been posting about my thoughts on gratitude. Each day I have focused on one thing that I am thankful for. Well, back in September something happened that exemplifies so many of the things that I am thankful for, it's a beautiful and poignant example of what makes me thankful, and it began with a letter I got over the Internet. When I opened the email I gave it a quick scan, and I was immobilized with the surprise of seeing dear, familiar images, but in a wholly new context.

I really was stunned. Someone had painted my children, my nephew, my hen, and I was awestruck by the gentle and heartwarming way he painted these favorite subjects.
I still feel amazed by the paintings. I gazed at them... a lot of questions were forming in my mind, but a lot of time passed before I could stop looking at the art and read the accompanying letter.

This image of Max and his cousin Nick is very dear to me. The part I recognized was from the day we celebrated Maria's derpday... Max and Nick were sitting together at the edge of the pond, gently letting fish swim in to their hands. They were so quiet and patient. Max held Nick to keep him from dropping in. I think even without the photograph to remind me, I could never forget how special their cooperative and kind activity was and how lucky I felt to witness it. And now here it was in someone else's hands and he too saw the unique scene... he honored their play and wonder.

By now I was teary.
I read the letter.
"Hello Natalie
...I stumbled upon your blog while looking for images of chickens, and immediately liked the type of photos you take. I made a few paintings of some of the images, which I attached along with a picture of me (under very hot lighting). I hope you are not cross with me for using your photos without permission. I figured that perhaps you might like photos of the paintings, and an apology.

Without being too forward, I would like to know if it would be okay if I use some of your photos in the future...of course I will first email you before I use an image. There is an atmosphere in your photos that creates a aaahh moment...don’t know how else to describe it, English is not my native language. If a picture paints a thousand words, these photos tells volumes. I’m a very nostalgic person and really miss my childhood....the best years of my life...only I did not realize it then. I love painting people with character...old people etc. and my favourite...children of course. They act so natural and paintings of children stirs memories of ones own childhood...perhaps a way of reliving one’s childhood and no care in the world...your only concerns..playing, eating, sleeping and a lot more playing.

I hope you have a most blessed day

Kind Regards,
Chris Opperman"

Now I was really teary, and I remember I ran to wake Geoff and drag him to the computer.

His paintings take me to the moment, to the place and emotions I felt when I clicked the button on my camera. I can enjoy my own thoughts and feelings about events and moments that stir me, but it is amazing to have someone far, far away, a stranger, take these images and process them and still capture the essence of what I was seeing and living. Does that make sense? I am moved not just by his painting skills, but by the connection we have made, though we have never met... he can paint the elusive, intangible elements that I remember and feel from these scenes.

"My name is Chris Opperman and I live in the most beautiful country in the world...South Africa of course. In 1989 I had a freak accident where I fell and broke my neck. Since then I’ve been paralyzed from the neck down. I became a student with Amfpa in 2002...that is the Association of Mouth- and Footpainters.

I am currently working on my website where people can view/buy my work, or request a painting on order. For the time being, I still have a Myspace account, where some of my paintings are featured. Unfortunately, it is not quite up to date, as I still have to add the paintings of the past two years. I think I will be doing that today, while I am at it. If you visit MySpace, you will be able to see some of my work under Pics. The Association of Mouth- and Footpainters in South Africa has its own website Association of Mouth and Foot Painters. You can look under Artists, and then under students, where you will find me in the third row from the top with my bandanna."

Today, every day, I am thankful for opportunities created by computers and the Internet for people to find each other and become friends, exchange ideas, offer support and knowledge, share art. I am thankful for art, and I am thankful for friends new and old, near and far. And I am thankful for the feeling of awe and respect that some people can stir in me... Thank you Chris. You are talented and inspiring. I am glad you reached out to us and you are welcome to share your beautiful work with Chickenblog any time.


Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

Wow, how nice it is to receive that type of email regarding your blog. Much more welcomed than the spam 'increase your stats' emails that tend to come around. Chris did an outstanding job of capturing the essence of the children in his paintings. Gorgeous!

Tonia said...

Oh, Natalie!!!!!
This post brought tears to my eyes! It makes my heart sing. I am thankful to you for sharing your ups and downs, travels and family life on your blog. I am thankful to Chris for sharing his talent and capturing the essence of your photos. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!!!!

Julie said...

....(momentarily wordless)

What a remarkable, wonderful story. Absolutely gorgeous paintings! (not at all surprised that your photos inspired him.)I'm so happy for you to have had this experience. Must feel amazing!

mtnchild said...

I am speechless!! I am super, duper impressed by this man ... The photo at the pond, the one of Maria and Betty ...

I am speechless ...


Laura Jane said...

Wow! What a talent!

He's right about your photos, and I'm thrilled to see them rendered in paint.

Isn't the Internet an amazing thing?

Give thanks indeed, hon.

nikkipolani said...

Wow. Just wow.

Marilee said...

Wow! What an amazing gift Chris has. My dad was a quad for most of his life, and I can't even begin to conceive how much time and effort goes into Chris's paintings. I followed your link to the Associations website and was thrilled to see their items for sale. I've ordered Christmas wrap paper, and will visit back often to support this fantastic program. Thanks for sharing your life, I look forward to your posts everyday. Being a city girl, you've helped me look at chickens as a pet in a whole new way! Take care, Marilee

Jessie said...

what an incredible story - something that only happens in movies. he's an amazing artist who is right that your photos are wonderful. such a great gift for you and for him. thanks for sharing.

whalechaser said...

The internet at its' finest! This has warmed my heart and gladdened me in a way nothing else could have.
thank you so very much for sharing.

Jennifer said...

Wonderful and wonderous -- every time I think I have a handle on what this medium is all about, someone new comes along to shake it up and make it even better....

Mary Smith said...

Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this!! How flattering for you and what a wonderful gift to receive!!

Jo James said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Tracy said...

BIG WOW...what a beautiful story, Natalie...and how well he has captured likeness of the children. A truly gifted man with paint! I'm so glad you shared this with us. Oh, and wishing you & yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! :o) ((HUGS))