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Windspeaker: What one quality do you most value in a friend?
Aaron Paquette: A tough one right off the bat! All the good answers are honesty, loyalty, that kind of thing, but if someone’s your friend, hopefully they already have that in spades. I think I’d have to say the ability to sit with you in silence, neither one feeling forced to break the awkward moment because the moment isn’t awkward at all! It’s just you and an old friend sitting there. Well, now that I put it that way it sounds kind of boring...
W: What is it that really makes you mad?
A.P.: People throwing their trash out the window of their car. Who do they think is going to clean it up anyway? Me? They’re probably right, but that’s a little presumptuous on their part, don’t you think? Seriously, though, it really bothers me. It speaks of a complete absence of gratitude for the earth we live on and share. I can’t really blame anyone, because who do you blame? In the end everyone does the best they can with what they’ve got at the moment. If you don’t have gratitude, it’s because no one gave that gift to you, or if they did you didn’t understand it. I guess it’s why we have a whole lifetime to learn it.
W: When are you at your happiest?
A.P.: I should probably say that it’s when I’m painting, but really it’s when I’m with my family. There’s just something special about being able to tell old stories and love them every time, and to be able to take tragedy and turn it into laughter. Even though your family can make you go crazy sometimes, getting through it is healing and it’s when I learn the most.
W: What one word best describes you when you are at your worst?
W: What one person do you most admire and why?
A.P.: Myself. My humility. Ha ha, just kidding. It’s got to be my mom, for giving it her best every day of our lives. They don’t give awards for that, but they sure as heck should.
W: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do?
A.P.: Getting to the point where I knew what it really meant to let go. Once I finally reached that, actually letting go was the easy part.
W: What is your greatest accomplishment?
A.P.: Being a father. I don’t just mean “making a baby”. Any fool can do that. I mean actually sticking around, being a part of my kids lives. Being clean, strong, and patient - all the things I needed and all kids need from their dads. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from perfect, but for my children I try to be a better man every day.
W: What one goal remains out of reach?
A.P.: Are any goals really out of reach? We walk from moment to moment, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but eventually we get to where we were going, even if it means finding out that what we thought we really wanted wasn’t all that important after all! We can achieve anything but what’s really cool is learning what we should be trying to achieve.
W: If you couldn’t do what you’re doing today, what would you be doing?
A.P.: Something else! What I mean is, in the end I’ve found it doesn’t really matter as long as you love it. I’ve been in deep pits shoveling fish guts and found the fun in it. I’ve cleaned up messes, served drinks, stocked shelves in the middle of the night, shaped gold, cut glass, planted trees and so on – and even though every job I’ve had was hard, it was losing myself in the work that took the work out of it, you know? There’s something fascinating in everything we do, we just have to find it.
W: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A.P.: Be quiet. Speak up. My dad always taught me to just be quiet and listen. Let someone say everything they need to say. And then still be quiet! The other person may have more to share if you give them a chance.
It’s the only way you’ll ever know what’s important to them. My mom always taught me to speak up, to stand up for myself. Not to shout or get angry, but to just be firm, speak plainly, simply and then see what happens.
W: Did you take it?
W: How do you hope to be remembered?
A.P.: Well, if anyone remembers me at all, I hope it’s because I made their life happier. The sad thing is I know I’ve hurt people along the way – so when I’m gone, they might hold on to those pains I’ve caused and it will make them unhappy.
If I could track them all down and make it right, I would, but I can’t. So what do you do?
I guess try to be a force for good in this world, so good that it spreads out and touches the lives of the people you might have wronged and that it makes things a little brighter for them - and everyone else. They may never know that the happiness spread out from your good actions, and they never have to! All that matters is you did good in your life. Enough good that it passed beyond yourself. So I hope to be remembered not for myself, but for the happiness I added to this world. That would be mighty fine.
Aaron Paquette, 34, is a deep-thinking Edmonton artist who avoids “angst” in his paintings, preferring to portray crow tricksters wearing bone breastplates and top hats, and beautiful, earthy women with gold light glowing around their heads.
“I’m not trying to make them look like saints,” he explains. “I’m expressing my awe and respect for the sacred beings they are.”
He began his artistic career as a stained glass artisan and gold smith, the influence reflected in his trademark bold, black outlines around his subjects and meticulous attention to small details.
Aaron is currently showing a new body of work at Edmonton’s Bearclaw Gallery.
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