Artist debuts painting of “Noble” family history
Lunenburg, NS. July 26, 2016 – The historic military painting “The Camerons will Advance” will debut in the Member’s gallery of the Lunenburg Art Gallery this Tuesday, July 26th. The original 2′ x 4′ acrylic painting and 11″ x 17″ prints will be available for viewing and sale there for four weeks.
Media freelancer Mike Dobson doesn’t consider himself much of a fine artist. His training and experience working for 16 years in animation and illustration in Vancouver and Toronto has taught him to render his work as his supervisors and clients instructed, with little leeway for personal creativity. That changed when he met his Birthmother Susan in 2001 after a seven-year search. Not only did they bond incredibly well, but Mike also found out about his birth families dramatic history and began to experiment with different forms of art to express the change in his life.
Mike had grown up with adopted parents in Midland, Ontario. They were supportive and loving, but their odd, adopted son was nothing like them. When given a hockey stick, he pretended it was a musket. He spent countless hours in his youth playing with thousands of toy soldiers recreating historic battles. Napoleonic era British Highlanders would form “a thin red line” that would always defeat the French columns. He would re-create the trenches of the First World War and miniature Canadian soldiers would be mown down by German machine guns or blown apart by shells. He’d create sand-box battles set in the Second World War where the British 8th Army would fight Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Mike would also draw these combats in garish detail in the margins of his schoolbooks, but never thought he could have a career in art.
After high school, Dobson went to McMaster University to do a History degree with the idea of being a teacher. In the summers he worked at an historic site in Penetanguishene, Ontario where he dressed in the red coat of the British army of the 19th century and fired a musket several times a day for the entertainment of tourists. Dobson also took a year off University and travelled to Europe and among other historic sites walked the battlefield of Waterloo, of which he had read dozens of books in fascination.
Dobson enjoyed doing a history degree well enough, but his average marks didn’t give him the option of proceeding on to Teacher’s college. He started looking around for other options and soon was attending animation classes at the nearby Sheridan College. He finished his animation training at Capilano College in North Vancouver and worked for a number of years in animation pre-production for TV shows. He later attended Norman Jewison’s elite Canadian Film Centre and instructed at several colleges including Sheridan where he got his first start.
In 2001, Mike’s life changed when he met his Birth-Mother Susan Beavan, the first woman technician in Canadian TV history and Gemini award winning Director at TVOntario. She told him of his Grandfather Noble Sproule, a young Canadian who had joined the British army and became a commando fighting in the 8th Army against Rommel’s Afrika Korps. She told him of his Great Grandfather Joe Sproule, who had been a machine gunner in the Canadian army during the First World War on a personal mission to avenge the deaths of his older twin brothers killed in the trenches.
She told him too of the first ancestor that had come to Canada in the 1830’s, also called Noble Sproule, who was given a land grant for his years of service during the Napoleonic wars. This first Noble had survived many battles including one of the most pivotal in history, Waterloo. During the course of the three days of fighting there, his regiment the 79th Cameron Highlanders, lost 478 men out of 703. Through the day at Waterloo, Noble would have fired his Brown Bess musket many times to help hold the centre of the allied line against massive infantry and cavalry attacks while being almost constantly bombarded by French artillery.
“The Camerons will Advance” captures the moment at the end of the bloody day when the devastated Highland regiment joined the general advance down the embattled ridge to chase the French from the field, a chase that would end in Paris and Napoleon’s abdication. Year’s later, when Noble came to Canada with his family, he was given land in Penetanguishene, not 300 metres away from where his Great, great, great, great Grandson Mike would one day unknowingly wear a similar red coat and fire an identical Brown Bess musket.
Dobson will be using his art and media skills to tell the other great stories of his birth family as he next works to complete a graphic novel and short film telling the epic tale of his Grandfather’s battles and escapes through the Second World War. Eventually Dobson will write a novel with using his extensive research about the three Sproule brothers from Toronto who fought through the slaughterhouse battles of the First Great War, of which only one was to survive.
For more information or for an interview contact:
(Mike Dobson & Susan Beavan)
Lunenburg Art Gallery
79 – 81 Pelham Street at Duke (Duke St entrance)
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia