This article must be written in English, because somehow, I believe Roland can read it. My friend Jean, also Roland Roycraft life’s partner, just told me Roland passed on today June 21st (in Michigan, USA), at 1h30pm. So I woke up in the morning few hours later in Shanghai, with that news to start off my day. Roland was 93 years old, so we knew he was on a count down. Even then, to hear about the loss of a great water color master like him, further more my mentor and adoptive granpa, it really hurts. My sincere condolences goes to his kids, Janette, Phil and Lois, to his grandkid Evan, Jean of course who took good care of him and looked after him to make sure his late days on earth would be as agreable as possible. Jean, you are an Angel.
I have met Roland back in 2002. I was a young non-professional artist who was striken by the freshness and beauty of Roycraft’s paintings that I knew back then from his books Water Color Color & Light and Fill Your Water Color with Nature’s Light. Since then, several book has been published by other artists using the same kind of wording, but none I reckon equals the mastery of Roland’s artwork. At first, I have encounter the artist. I did not know what to expect from a workshop with him. I must say I was mesmerized the first day I saw him pouring color and the second day I saw him filling blank spaces with a Kolinsky number 6, those spaces left by removed masking fluid. Everything about him, about his art, was attracting my core artist soul. I felt like I had found my artist soul mate. I could not explain it, and further down the road neither can I. But one thing for sure, our relationship has evolved through the years and I could get to know the man, behind the artist. He was that kind of person really straight forward, able to say to somebody right off the blue: ‘this is a very ugly shirt that you are wearing’ and he would do it with a grim then saying something else to make that person laugh about it. In a workshop, the only compliment that students could get from him was ‘it’s okay’ while his face looked not too convinced about it (that happened to me several times). He was living his art in a special dimension, like a man ahead of his time, that could also make him talk about colors just like if they were people, talking also about energy and flow. Perhaps that’s why he called his workshop : Painting in a new Dimension. It was not only about the fact he could make a painting at 80% without a brush, what he called the Indirect Painting Technique. It was more about a philosophy with water, a whole approach to water color and at the end, to acrylic also. He was talking about his creative process, holding no secret at all. He was very generous in that way. He told me once that teaching painting is not everything, it’s more about telling stories to people. I believe his stories were great. The one about his own granpa, ‘the snowshoe man’ so called after a painting that he did inspired by him, how traditionnal medecine had been bad treating his wife’s cancer. He was so reluctant to tradionnal medecine, prefering holistic approach way much better.
There are several good moments I have spent with him, also with him and Jean, and with their respective families. I became a friend’s family, somehow because I was the ‘french-Canadian-that-comes-from-afar’ and I can hear Roland saying ‘she has a little something different’. He was amazed how I have picked up quickly on his technique and he asked me if there was any link between my reiki healing (that I did on him few times) and my ability to learn. I remember he liked to play arm wrestling with me, because I am a kayaker. At first, he was beating me after some good resistance, but then, as he got older, we swap roles. It was always with laughing that we were doing this game. I remember so much of his energy while he was painting, there was an aura around him I would say. I will cherish for ever every moment I have spent with him, most of them I won’t share publically and these were the most precious, you know when a mentor is speaking to his mentoree. I could get this feeling of being somebody really special. I have given myself a mission, after encountering Roland Roycraft. I have share this with him before at his house, in a summer holiday: my mission is to to pursue what he has discover at the end of his career, and share it with even more people in many ways. I became a prodessional artist in 2004 and I am now leaving from my passion in China. Every time I teach a workshop, every time I paint, Roland you are with me. And you know it. I told you before, you can come and visit me at any time. I am not scare of those things. It was such a privilege to be next to you in 2006, at Crystal Lake Art Center. I wanted to be your assistant, you have asked me to be the teacher, because you could not stand up anymore. On that day, you have gave me a new power: the power to influence people learning about their own creativity.
Roland, you were a tough guy to have as a mentor. But I was ready for it and I am so grateful to have passed your tests, because it gave me even more confidence in my capacity to be an artist, to be a teacher, to be autonom, authentic and to have a strong creative mind.
Here are some quote I remember from Roland Roycraft, that I will always remember:
-After 70 years of painting with water color, I keep learning something new every day I paint.
-When an accident happens, GOD is at work.
-Nobody does it for you, you have to think and made it all.
-Brake up the space unequally, that’s what composition is all about.
-Stop doing, start listening.
-Each painting has its own personnality. Don’t fight against it.
And of course, there is this 12 Keys of Success sheet that he gave to his students from 2002 to 2005 that I won’t share here, because these are under his copyrights. They keep inspiring me to become a better artist, a better creativity booster to other people, every day.
Roland Roycraft, you are not here anymore. Thank you for leaving beautiful, stunning, meaningful artwork beyond. Your clients are gaining some value from your loss, that is a matter of fact. I and your past students are holding on what you have delegate, your books, yor DVD’s, your paintings, your teaching. May you be at peace with yourself and the one the you used to call GOD, from now on.