Games calendar showcases region

There's a lot more than meets the eye when you first see Greg Gislason's Spirit of the Games mural at Prince George Airport.

So to make it easy for people to inspect and admire his artwork, the artist known as Grinch has broken his airbrushed masterpiece down into 12 sections, all conveniently displayed in a 2015 calendar.

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In a contest sponsored by the 2015 Canada Winter Games committee, Prince George and District Community Arts Council and Prince George Airport Authority, Gislason's mural design was selected as the $10,000 winner on June 16. For the next three months, he painted the 35-foot X 10-foot mural on 17 separate panels in a downtown warehouse and the mural is now mounted outside on the east-facing arrivals wall at the YXS airport terminal.

"The criteria for the contest was basically, paint a picture of the story of Northern B.C. in a mural and this is the best I could come up with," said Gislason. "I've got the Queen of the North [ferry] and Prince Rupert [Chatham] Sound but most everything is from P.G.

"I surf on the net to find good pictures and I know B.C. history well, social studies was my best subject in grade school. I have a really good imagination and good ideas and I just put them all together."

The January page shows a silhouetted snowmobiler popping a wheelie on top of the Welcome to Prince George sign, engraved on pine beetle-killed wood. February is when the city hosts the Canada Winter Games and Games mascot Nanguz provides a welcoming face to greet visitors while standing in front of world champion figure skater Patrick Chan cutting the glacial ice near Mount Robson. A curler releases a rock, while on the opposite side of the frame a helicopter fighting a forest fire rises from a lake after filling its bucket. A closer look reveals a hidden Sasquatch.

"I would have liked to have hidden more things in the mural, more animals," said Gislason.

Paralympic skiing, snowboarding and downhill skiing are part of March, the final day of the Games, juxtaposed with images of a migratory salmon, eagle and a killer whale. In April, a sled dog team pulling a fur-laden trapper arrives at the original Hudson's Bay store at Fort St. James, while a beaver watches a log cut into lumber by a large spinning blade.

The month of May illustrates the contrasts between past and present, with a beehive burner standing next to a mining truck while a logging truck negotiaties a mountain road. The transportation theme continues with a kayaker moving on a lake opposite to an ATV rider.

The heart of Prince George is the focus for June. Mr. P.G. and his barrel body and stick arms and legs holds up a gold rush medal while the BX Sternwheeler heads up the Fraser River, a panel that's continued in July. It shows the artist in thumbs-up position, oblivious to a large mosquito feeding on his shoulder while floating near the CN Rail bridge in an inflated raft as he acknowledges former B.C. governor James Douglas paddling by in a birch bark canoe he brought west from Quebec.

In December, Gislason illustrates the arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway steam engine to the city and how the train that brought new settlers to Prince George has been replaced by the modern-day people magnet that UNBC has become.

Gislason, 52, whose perpetual grin earned him his high school nickname Grinch, grew up in Vancouver and has lived in Prince George the past two years, where he paints houses and commercial properties. He also paints murals and Harley-Davidson motorcycles on the side. Self-taught as an airbrush artist, he took one course at BCIT but has no other formal training. He says is talent is God-given.

He's hoping he'll have more opportunities to replace some of the dull walls of downtown buildings in Prince George with bright colourful murals pleasing to the eye.

To help him finish the Spirit of the Games mural on time, he hired a friend from Vancouver, Paul Archer, and rounded up some volunteer help from local artists Shirley Babcock, Candice Cherminski, Andrew Mooney, Brian Styles, Dan Temple and Stacey Gallagher.

Rebecca Sinclair, his business partner, paid the printing/marketing costs for 2,000 calendars. The $15 calendar, as well as postcards, bumper stickers, posters and bookmarks which feature the mural, are on sale at Spruceland News, Allison's Embroidery, Hubbell Designer Goldsmiths, and Speedee Your Office Experts.

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