The Steel Spirit is a platform for artwork submissions by Military, First Responder and Hospital Practitioners. They are always looking for new and emerging artists with and without experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, please visit: www.thesteelspirit.ca
Visitors to Peacekeepers Park in Angus, Ontario, are likely to see Don Ward’s art–haunting portraits of the fallen affixed to weather resistant plaques lining the four wall. The 63-year-old artist, a retired Master Corporal, says he wanted to add faces to the list of names etched in the granite monument at the entrance of the park.
“Having their faces and information makes a person whole again and brings them back into the light.”
So far, he has memorialized 284 fallen peacekeepers on canvass, service members involved in some of Canada’s 56 UN and combat missions from the 1950s to present day, a project he calls Bringing Their Faces Into the Light.
“I have focused my artwork on remembering their courage and sacrifice, as I am afraid that it will be lost to future generations. We, as a society, can never forget this, for if we do, their sacrifice was for nothing. So that is why I am doing my part
to make sure future generations never forget.”
Ward is the son of a Second World War veteran, a career he also followed, serving with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, The 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s), and The Royal Canadian Dragoons from 1975 to 1992.
His service, and that of his father, brings an intimate understanding of the bonds that tie a unit together, through the shared experience of war and service to country.
“Many of the people who I knew during my deployments are still my greatest friends to this day.”
Art is his way of illustrating the value of military service. He fully engulfed himself in drawing and painting after he retired, but age 10 is when he recognized his talent. He won an art contest at The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto.
His watercolour paintings begin with a name – a fallen member, faceless until he finds a photograph. It is the emotion he is eager to capture as he dabs brush to paint to canvas propped on his kitchen table in Port McNicoll, Ontario.
“It’s not always easy to do and it’s not always a home run, but the payoff comes when a relative of a fallen soldier comes up and congratulates you for your work, and this has happened to me more than once. This is incredibly rewarding.”
In spring 2022, there are plans to add painting to another four walls already at Peacekeepers Park, created in 2017 by Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping. He is also one of the many military and first responder artists featured in the Steel Spirit art gallery in Barrie, Ontario.