Giving back and not giving up 

Artist Eric Waugh energizes Dennehy Foundation fundraiser with live painting performance to music of Fabulous George and the Zodiacs

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By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Rock ’n’ Roll concert

Who: Eric Waugh and Fabulous George and the Zodiacs

When: Friday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Buffalo Bills

Tickets: $25 at the door (cash only)

A friend of the Dennehys mailed in a letter in response to artist Eric Waugh’s call for outstanding citizens who contribute greatly to the community.

Kerry and Ginny Dennehy turned the tragedy of the death of their son Kelty into a life-long commitment to cracking the code of silence surrounding depression.

The two Whistler parents founded the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, an organization that raises both funds and awareness to help youth combat depression.

In addition to education and diagnostic programs, the foundation also contributed $1 million to the construction of a new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Building in Vancouver and $500,000 to fund the work of psychiatrist Dr. Allan, B.C. Leadership Chair in Depression at UBC, who studies the causes and treatments of severe psychiatric disorders, particularly mood disorders.

The Denneys’ story stood out from other letters Waugh received and instead of only presenting the Dennehys with the intended painting honouring their service, Waugh is now flying from his Montreal home to Whistler to lend his performance art talents to the 5 th annual Drive Fore Life Golf Tournament Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

Waugh will be painting at the Rock ’N’ Roll concert fundraiser featuring Fabulous George & the Zodiacs Friday, Sept. 29 at Buffalo Bill’s. The painting will then be auctioned the following night at the Drive Fore Life Gala Dinner at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Besides, he reasons, it gives him an excuse to see the Dennehy home in person, so that he can return to his Montreal studio to create the perfect artwork inspired by their spirit, so that each time they see the painting, they in turn can remember what bright lights they’ve become in the shadows of depression.

“It’s always nice to get recognized, a little pat on the back to say you are doing a good job — one of those pay it forward things,” Waugh says from his Montreal studio.

“The whole idea behind the award was to create artwork for a person, so they can put it in their home to brighten their lives. I was just blown away with the Dennehy story. They’ve done so much in such a short amount of time. I didn’t plan this contest to help out this person, just to recognize them, but when I found out about the golf tournament, my mind started spinning and I asked how I could help her out.”

Waugh is another bright light for many, lending his paintbrush to countless charities, primarily catering to children. His works have raised more than half a million dollars for Starlight Children’s Foundation and Camp Heartland, alone an organization lending support to children inflicted or affected by AIDS.

Not only is Waugh’s artwork sought out by buyers around the globe, but audiences come to see him work as well. In addition to his studio collection, Waugh paints live to music, letting the music guide his brush, which infuses an energy and vitality into his colourful, bold and graphic works.

Waugh first began his live art practice three years ago, after art agent Jim Carter invited Waugh to paint live to a jazz band.

“He had been working with another artist, but the artist passed away of a heart attack,” Waugh recounted. “It was after one of his performances, but (Jim) didn’t tell me that at the time.”

From the small dive of Mama Maies Louisiana Kitchen in Atlanta, Waugh took his talent to larger stages, which included the likes of Tony Bennett, Nelly Furtado, the Doobie Brothers, countless orchestras and ensembles. Waugh’s most recent performance art was a five by nine foot painting with the Rochester Philharmonic Choir, done within an hour and with more than 40,000 people looking on. The painting also illustrated all 60-plus musicians.

Months of planning went into the work before the blank canvas was approached.

With Fabulous George and the Zodiacs boasting a five-person band, Waugh looks forward to creating a more spontaneous piece of art.

Performance art is only half of Waugh’s creative expression. The Guinness Book of World Records holder for the Largest Painting on Canvas also creates artwork in the privacy of his studio, where he has the time to implement greater detail into his works.

“When painting live, I am not putting everything I would do in a studio,” he said. “It is a totally different look. But there is still the same feel when you look at it. You can’t put as much texture into the piece, but on the plus side there is a lot of energy behind the painting because I am going to the beat and tempo of the music… I found (performance art) made my studio paintings more colourful. Usually when I paint live, I put a lot of colour in it. I am trying to project what I am doing to the back row, so I make it a little bolder and more colourful. I think that came over into the studio work as well.”

In addition to the fundraiser, Waugh will also show his work over the weekend, with a wine and cheese artist reception celebrating the fundraising exhibit on Saturday, Sept. 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Whistler Village Art Gallery at the Hilton. His works will be displayed throughout the weekend.

Preview Waugh’s works at www.ericwaughlive.com.

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