Artist Scott Waters paints a picture of a soldier’s life

Former Canadian Forces Artist Program volunteer Scott Waters depicts two members of 2RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) sleeping in their light armoured vehicle during training at CFB Gagetown in 2006.

Former Canadian Forces Artist Program volunteer Scott Waters depicts two members of 2RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) sleeping in their light armoured vehicle during training at CFB Gagetown in 2006.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Toronto-based artist Scott Waters’ military experience has framed much of his work.

He served with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry between 1989 and 1992, and was stationed at Work Point. He and his platoon mates were preparing for war, hoping to be deployed to Kuwait for The Gulf War.

His insights into the reality of being a soldier is what led him to be accepted into the Canadian Forces Artists Program. A reality that doesn’t always match with the public’s perception. Much of a soldier’s work is waiting for action, leading Waters to paint a more human aspect of them.

In 2006, he travelled to CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick to get images of soldiers training to deploy to Afghanistan. From that embedded opportunity he created a series of paintings showing soldiers in everyday situations. 

This point of view is a detour from many other artists who depict soldiers in hardship moments. Waters’ wanted to paint the truth of a soldier’s journey – the boredom from waiting, the humour found in anticipation, the solemn nod to a lost comrade. 

Sleeping in the LAV (Light-Armoured Vehicle) is among those. It depicts two Second Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment personnel resting in their vehicle during Exercise Royal Archer II in the lead-up to their deployment to Afghanistan.

“One of the issues I was interested in painting is how military service sometimes leads to death because that’s the nature of the job,” said Waters. “So, in this painting I have presented a rather quotidian [commonplace] image of two guys napping. But there is also the intended spectre of deployment in a war zone, and that pose of them sleeping can also draw a strong parallel to death.”

He paints on sheets of plywood using bold colours to divide the background from the subject. His medium is acrylic and oil, and he incorporates the knots and grain of the wood into his artwork. 

The 49-year-old says his art is an attempt to record the interactions of soldiers and how the military, and specifically the infantry, operate as a social unit, both in isolation from and relation to civil society. 

His experience at Gagetown left him wanting more.

In 2011, he reapplied to the CF Artist Program and was again accepted. This time he was able to deploy with his former unit on Operation Attention between Kabul and Mazar-i-Shariff over four weeks.

Soldiers he met on his rotation in Afghanistan told him he should realistically portray moments of boredom – the unglamorous nature of a theatre of war.

The outcome from this ­direction led to Coda (Lt Orde), an average, everyday moment captured at Camp Dubs near Kabul. It shows an act of remembrance by Lt Orde for his friend and platoon-mate Master Corporal Byron Greff, the last Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. Embroidered on the back of his ball cap is RIP Greff,

“Greff can be seen as a marker of the Afghanistan mission’s draw down, but I was also interested in the laconic way in which Greff is remembered,” says Waters. “Nothing fancy, just functional, but a daily reminder of the loss.”

These days, Waters has moved the focus of his artwork away from the military. He seldom paints soldiers, but says his experiences in the military and with the CF Artist Program are always in his mind when he’s painting.

About Scott Waters:

Scott Waters was born in Preston, England. In 1979, Waters’ family emigrated from northern England and settled in Trail, B.C. He joined the military out of high school.

After leaving the military he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of Victoria, and a Masters of Fine Arts from York University.

Waters’ solo exhibition venues include The Vernon Public Art Gallery, Rodman Hall, The Art Gallery of South Western Manitoba, The Canadian War Museum, The Military Museums, YYZ Artist’s Outlet, and The Glenhyrst Gallery.

Writing credits include the illustrated military memoir, The Hero Book (Conundrum Press) and the anthology, Embedded on the Homefront (Heritage House).

He has received multiple grants from The Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council and The Canada Council for the Arts. In 2012, he was awarded The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

For more information about Waters and his work visit his website

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