In the summer of 1998 Canadian artist Christian Cardell Corbet received word from Margaret Atwood's personal secretary that he was granted authorization from the legendary Canadian writer to create her portrait. This decision came after a lengthy process of written communications, and then with the offering of reproductions of Corbet's previous portrait work. Due to Atwood's schedule, the writer would not be able to sit for Corbet but instead offered Corbet an original photographic portrait from which she wished to be depicted. Before any initial sketches were even thought about, Corbet set forth to do extensive research on Atwood's career.
Initial sketches for the portrait commenced in the Autumn of 1998. Drawings, mono prints, collages and paintings were created in a variety of compositions in order to get a proper feel for the subject's true inner character. It was not until February of 1999 that Corbet finally hit upon the exacting composition that he was looking for and work begun on the initial design of the painting. At first, however, Corbet had only created the lower canvas which cropped Atwood's hair. After some deliberation, a second canvas was added to the top to complete Corbet's design.
The colour that would be used was already set in Corbet's mind - he would employ black acrylic paint on white canvas. Corbet made this decision after understanding that most of the public identify with Atwood in print form - black ink on white paper. The checkered background represents the pages of an open book. The depiction of Atwood's hair as a ball of flames represents the source from which her energy comes.
Corbet's biggest fight was finding the appropriate means for which to represent Atwood's true identity of creativeness. Soon Corbet learned that Atwood's mind is like a cocoon, from the depths of which a thing of utter beauty and wonderment is created - the butterfly! For several months Corbet sought out sources for which he could acquire relaxed butterflies and was pleased to learn that he could acquire folded butterflies from Peru. Corbet then found himself undertaking a minor course in entimology and learning about the appropriate way for which to relax these beautiful creatures. Once the relaxation of all eleven insects was complete, there came the task of composing each butterfly onto the canvas. After two weeks of deliberation Corbet finally completed the portrait, signed it and held a private unveiling in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The portrait was also exhibited at the Second Annual Exhibition of the Canadian Portrait Academy and was the recipient of the "People's Choice Award" and "Honourable Mention" award.
It was only hours before the unveiling that Corbet finally came upon the final title for the portrait. Corbet did not want to make the title ordinary, but wanted it to be as different as the subject herself. After a short period of deliberation the executive director of the Canadian Portrait Academy inquired as to the name of the butterfly in the lower right hand corner. Corbet responded by saying that it is called, "Papillion - Idea Idea." And so was formed the name of the now well known portrait, "Margaret Atwood - Idea Idea."
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Note: Painting copyright Christian Cardell Corbet and/or his assigns. No part of the painting may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the copyright owner. Text is copyright the Canadian Portrait Academy. No part of the text may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the Canadian Portrait Academy.