The Autograph Sessions
Geneviève (Gene) Garand has been practicing the arts since she was old enough to hold a pencil and took her first oil painting lesson at 7 years old where she grew up, in Grand-Mère (Québec, Canada). At 12 she quit taking lessons, believing there were better things to do as a teen. However, she still kept some acrylic tubes and painted for pleasure.
In 2003 Gene had a life changing trip; she went to Comoros Islands to work for 4 months. She went to Grande Comore (Ngazidja) with the intention of sharing her knowledge but in the end Gene learned more, met people with kind hearts, and had a wonderful life experience. These jewels that are the Comoros Islands and the grace she received from the people is broadly represented within her work and techniques. “I continued to deepen and to apply in the inspiration of each of the adventures that life brought me. With this trip, I felt the need to paint,” she said. Back home, she did a collection that focused on this part of Africa and took additional courses in order to improve her style and paintings.
While being inspired by many subjects throughout her travels, Gene is also inspired by music. Gene has developed her style to include the use of many techniques and mediums and, as a kind of refuge; she uses pure colors to express herself. Her choice of colors and pronounced contours present a variation to meanings and elements expressed in each of her works; giving objects her individualized perception. “I especially like painting portraits where I can fuse the unique expressions of each person into my paintings”, Gene explained.
Each year for Gene’s parents’ anniversary she would give them a painting. After several years of painting parents, grandparents, a family portrait, and so on she decided to paint them a portrait of George Jones and Tammy Wynette singing on the Grand Ole Opry stage. They were pleased with the painting, so she did Johnny Cash and June Carter... and drew more artists for them in pastels. Gene pointed out that since her parents enjoy singing (parties, bars, and animate karaoke) they now have a very well decorated music room.
In 2009, Willie Nelson did a show in Montreal and friend of Gene’s suggested that she bring her painting of Willie to the concert to see if Willie Nelson would autograph the piece and he did. This gave her inspiration to go to these concerts and have her works autographed by the stars themselves, so Gene began traveling for autographs: Ottawa for George Jones; Orillia for Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson; Boston for Loretta Lynn; and Kanata for Dwight Yoakam. “These portraits have become my own personal ‘Wall of Fame.’ I painted the great ones; my best ones. Some that I like a lot are still missing. Maybe I will catch them one day, somewhere,” says Gene. Her want for obtaining these signatures is sort of an approval by the artist of her work.
As Gene tells it, “Some say that I am crazy and that I could do better or do something else; but, I do not care, for I truly love what I am doing with these portraits.” And for many of these excellent legends of country music that we have had and who have left their impact on country music, Gene has painted them on the different scenes on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
When asked why she chose those Country Music stars and if she would do a collection of current hit makers she replied, “The music is true and sincere. I do not believe that my collection would have the same value and meaning if I had painted the more modern artist and those which the younger generation want to hear on the radio and which fans will emulate themselves after with a specific style of clothing (usually sexy). There is a huge difference between the music and the music business. My deep love of country music is not only for the beat but for its words. It’s these words and interpretations that allow a true fan like me to feel the music coursing through our veins.”
Friday, April 2009 10 – Place des Arts, Montreal (Qc)
It was my 29th birthday and I finished working in Montreal at half past twelve. I left my car there and took the Metro to go downtown with the painting under my arm. I spend the afternoon shopping. As my father and mother’s birthday are only few days after mine, my sister and I decided to buy them tickets too. A couple of friends of my parents came and joined us. We all went out to eat and put the painting right in sight. I gave everyone a red bandana I bought earlier that afternoon.
Arrived at the Place des Arts, I patiently waited his arrival outside. The weather was very cold.
At first, there were a few people waiting. However over time, people decided to leave and there were only two of us left (well, 3 since my mother has the kindness and patience to wait with me while my father and his friends were warm inside). I showed the painting in the direction of the bus because it was forbidden to approach. Even a curtain was hung in the bus window so we could not see Willie coming down.
When Willie finally got off (accompanied by several security guards) I held the painting up in the air, I stood and sang, "If You Got The Money Honey..." The guards then instructed me to leave, haha.
Willie gave us an awesome concert with his incredible guitar solos from his authentic holed guitar. We were in the eighth row ... and it was very hard to miss us with our red bandanas on! At one point during the concert, Willie pointed his finger at me, laughed, and started singing 'If You Got The Money'. I enjoyed that very much!
At the very end, on the encore, I headed to the scene where he autographed my painting, splashing the paint pen. The spot on the W is his. It was by far the best birthday I could have ever dreamed of. Thank you Willie!
Willie is the icon of country music; I could totally let myself free in a colorful range and contrast the blue of the American flag with the warm colors which paint the legend. Indian traits are convenient to his unique portrait that was truly a pleasure to paint.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 – National Art Center, Ottawa (On)
I took my day off work to go to the show. After the fun we had at Willie Nelson’s concert, we left all to Ottawa (that is, my parents, their friends and me). We already had a surprise at the arrival ... Nancy Jones, the legend’s wife was at the merchandise stand.
Delighted when she saw the painting, she headed straight to the dressing room for her husband and came back with the signature on my painting. We took pictures.
The concert was great: The violinists give heart joy, duets (including Take me and Golden ring) with Brittany Allen, a beautiful young woman with an incredible voice who also performs a song from Rodney Crowell, I could not leave you if I try.
What can I say about the Possum ... He gives everything he can and much more!
Thank you George!
I listened to the DVD Live in Nashville throughout my realization. I wanted to bring his old colored dress style and included an album cover, while keeping the sober George Jones (forgetting No Show Jones). This is a great major man in country music.
Saturday, August 21, 2010 – Casino Rama, Orillia (On)
That was a hard one! As every concert, I arrived early to see the buses, facilities and everything, to find THE right person to help me. The buses were in the garage, everything is installed because there was another performance the day before, no merchandise stands, nothing!
I inquired for the meet & greet and learned that I had to have to put thousands and thousands dollars in slot machines to participate. My savings are all invested in the journey, concert ticket and including my affordable room at $60 a night.
We passed miraculously through the Casino and the hotel hall with my painting, knowing that I wasn’t allowed to bring a bag that big with me. My friend nodded to everyone as a greeting and approval. I had a lot of stress but was so happy.
Kris is friendly, talks about his late friend, the famous Johnny Cash and, performed his greatest hits which made more than one famous: Help Me Make It Through The Night, Bobby McGee, For The Good Times, etc... - Alone with his guitar, in privacy.
At the encore I headed the stage to show Kris his portrait. Everybody saw the brilliance of surprise on the big screen and heard the shock he had, between the sumptuous lyrics of Why Me Lord.
I am honored. Thank you Kris!
Sunday, November 29, 2009 – Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls (On)
I had to take another day off. It is very nice these companies which you can accumulate overtime hours in bank.
Eight (8) hours driving to learn that The Coal Miner’s Daughter is hospitalized. I'm desperate. Her sisters, Crystal Gayle and Peggy Sue ensure the concert ... but they are not Loretta. I met Mr. Darrell Beatty, Crystal Gayle’s manager and gave him my painting with a picture of me at nine (9) years old in front of Loretta’s Ranch and a letter offering her the choice to keep my painting as a gift or send it back to me autographed. All my coordinates are in this letter. After several emails to Mr. Beatty, I'm still waiting for confirmation that she really received it. I only wish Loretta had received it and appreciate it. Good recovery Honky Tonk Angel!
The Christmas concert is very good and included the most successful songs that Crystal and Loretta recorded. I had seen Crystal in Opryland. She is graceful and her voice sounds perfectly into the arena. To counteract my disappointment, they include me in the meet and greets at the end of the concert. Photo with Crystal (her hair is beautiful). The temperature turns awful; it took me 11 hours driving back home.
Sunday August 29, 2010 – Indian Ranch, Webster
My second chance! Going to visit Boston on Saturday, I arrive early on Sunday to visit the site a bit. The campground is divided by streets named after country legends such as Conway Twitty or Patty Loveless Avenue.
The concert is outside, near the beach. Few seats, in private, Loretta sang us her bests. Between two (2) songs she brought back his musicians to order or greeted her fans. She was beautiful. Not to mention the Lynns, Peggy and Patsy who wonderfully opened the stage.
She travelled from the bus to the stage in a golf cart, followed by fans. I was there, proudly brandishing my autographed painting.
Yes! I easily got her autograph. Thank you Loretta!
I took the opportunity to ask about the destiny of my first painting. It should be in the Fan & doll museum, on her ranch in Hurricane Mills.
On the first painting, she was younger at his ranch. On this one, I painted her older with the house of her childhood in background: The Coal Miner’s Daughter house.
Friday March 30, 2012 – The Egg, Albany (NY)
That was a hard day. I did one round trip to Albany. I planned to arrive few hours before the show to do photos in the city and find a nice restaurant.
When I went through customs, I had been put aside. Customs did not believe that I was going to a concert in Albany. I showed them the painting, my ticket and a postcard with all the paintings that I had had with autographs. I also gave them my website address. They thought I was a drug seller who was going to meet friends. It is clear that leaving the building site at noon to drive to Albany; I was not at my best. I had a beautiful blouse and my makeup in a bag: Blouse which became a small stack after customs had searched my car. Also, they had torn the postcard I wanted to give to Shelby.
They put me in a room for personal search (I had to remove only my shoes and my hoodie) by two men. I guess they had a good time searching me. I only wish there was a female officer in the room with me for respect.
I had to fill out some statements; I was interviewed by two (2) different men and swore that the car I was driving was mine.
I had quit smoking for a week and I told myself, when I will be in the New York state, I will light a cigarette. I swallowed it. I drove until I was out of gas because I was afraid to stop, thinking a police officer is further expecting a plated Lancer X in X time.
In Albany, I was able to relax a little bit. I went to the ATM to withdraw some money and I found a snack annexed to a bar. People who were there and the bartender had never seen a Quebecer in their lives. I became a specimen on which they gambled to know where I came from.
About me, what I had never seen in my life was the Belgian beer at $ 2.
Those beers were tasty and the concert was excellent. I love intimate acoustic concerts. Shelby has a beautiful voice. After singing with all the greats, she told me it is disappointing that she never had a hit of her own. I was thrilled when she signed my painting and they were stunned to see that I was driving back and forth for the concert.
There was even a status on Shelby’ Facebook page the next day saying that a fan from Montreal came to the concert in Albany with a painting she had signed by Shelby! Thank you Shelby!
Shelby style changes quite often. I wish I chose the good pic. I painted her with a guitar in background in the stroke of the moment, the colors feeling.