Portraits of Honour is an epic 40 foot long, 10 foot high oil painting. The stretched canvas depicts the faces of all 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) soldiers, sailors and aircrew who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
Painted by Dave Sopha in his studio in Cambridge, Ontario the piece is the artist’s way of saying thank-you to the CAF for their peacekeeping efforts and their ultimate sacrifices.
“It’s my passion, and I will keep painting and working on portraits of CAF members as long as this old body holds out,” said Sopha from his studio in Cambridge.
At the top centre of the painting is a single white dove, watching over the fallen. The faces of the soldiers are surrounded by poppies and poppy red petals. After ten-thousand hours of work on the painting Sopha continues to paint petals. His goal to paint one petal for every Canadian who has fallen since World War I.
Sopha also painted one nine-foot faux granite monument at each end of the painting. On them, the names of the fallen have been painted in such a way they appear to be carved into the stone. On the top of each column a marble angel holds a bouquet of poppies and watches over the veterans.
“My goal is to make sure all Canadians come together to remember, honour and celebrate the CAF. I would like to tour out west again with Portraits of Honour. There are a couple of bases I haven’t taken the painting to. We are always working on funding options including grants for the arts. I keep promising my wife I will go back to my real work someday, but not yet. I love what I am doing,” explained Sopha.
Eventually Sopha would like to see a Canadian museum dedicated to peacekeeping and everything that work entails. His dream is to see his painting permanently housed there. Until then he will tour when funds permit and continue to work on setting up achieving charitable status to support his work.
Sopha brings community organizations, and children into his studio. He visits schools as often as possible to teach the children about peace. When financially possible he attends events across the country with either the actual painting or a replica of the Portraits of Honour. The cost for ensuring the actual painting for one weekend travel is $2500-$3500.
“After meeting most of the families of the fallen, and accepting numerous request for the painting to come back to a city or travel to a new city we’re thinking we have to get back out there on tour. No matter what I’m always busy. I’m painting a portrait of a recently fallen soldier for his family right now,” said Sopha.
Sopha has been professionally airbrushing for 40 years. He discovered his artistic talent following a car accident in 1970 that left him with a broken back. The Portraits of Honour mural is Sopha’s first experimentation in the medium of oil paint.
Across Canada Sopha has been awarded over a dozen times for his extensive support of military members and veterans. In Ottawa he accepted the Queens Diamond Jubilee Metal. In Charlottetown Prince Edward Island he received The Minister of Veteran Affairs Commendation. He was awarded a Citizen of the year for 2003 in Cambridge, Ontario. Calgary Mayor Nenshi named him an honorary Calgarian. Sopha has been a proud member of both the Preston Kinsmen for the past 30 years, and the Preston Legion branch 126 for 13 years.
For more information on Portraits of Honour please visit www.portraitsofhonour.ca
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