I’ve always been able to draw.
That fact, coupled with early encouragement from my mother Dorothy Francis, helped develop my skills – she challenged me to put down on paper what I saw in front of me.
Despite winning or placing in any art competition I’d entered in my youth, and despite receiving an A+ for my detailed rendering of an oil refinery that I substituted for an assigned essay for a science project in Grade 7, I received average marks from high school Art Teachers. Teachers that, in my opinion, were over-influenced by the abstract movement of the era. I didn’t let their reaction to my art bother me though because the oil refinery drawing had given me a glimpse of how I might be able to get by in the world because by the age of fifteen I had already earned commissions on several illustrations for various projects. I also truly enjoyed attempting to bring things to life on paper or canvas, so I continued.
In senior high I became convinced that all I wanted to be was an artist/musician, (I had taken up playing drums) because art and music were all I cared about. Consequently, I was a couple of courses short of graduating. I did get to attend the Grad Party though – I played drums in the band.
Following high school I took a dead-end retail job for a couple of years before deciding, as so many others did in 1969, to tune in and drop out. For the next few years I was somehow able to eke out a living playing in various bands and producing acrylic or pencil commissions, mostly for friends and family. One of those friends also helped me produce a book of my drawings, which I sold door-to-door. Later on he paid for me to accompany him on a two-week trip to California in exchange for an acrylic portrait of his parents.
At age twenty-two I decided to attend the Applied Arts program at Capilano College in North Vancouver. While I did learn some new drawing skills, as well as how to properly present commercial artwork to potential clients, I couldn’t find out anything about Acrylic painting because the medium was too new and all of my teachers were using oils, which I found to be much too slow drying.
My impatient painting practices had steered me to acrylics so I continued my learning curve with the medium on my own. I had several galleries around Vancouver’s Lower Mainland showing my paintings and I continued to design logos, stationery, signage or anything else that people requested of me. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to design a logo and album cover for rocker, Randy Bachman as well as the promotional artwork for the Vancouver Whitecaps. The symbol that graces the roadway signs in the western United States indicating the location of garbage receptacles is also my design.
While living as an artist/musician was engaging and rewarding it wasn’t very fruitful financially and I was often required to subsidize my lifestyle by taking a few shifts driving taxi at rent time.
Purely by accident, or fate, or some other secret cosmic coincidence…
I was asked by an acquaintance to fill in – in an emergency situation that involved a couple of sick workers – to help get a newspaper out by deadline. It was only to be for a few days…
It turned out I was exceptionally good at what is now the lost art of newspaper Paste-up. Because of my speed and efficiency at newspaper production, and because of some management turmoil at the newspaper, within a couple of weeks I found myself accepting the job as Production Manager.
When I became bored with the monotony of newspaper Production and started moon-lighting my art services in my off-time, the astute owner of the newspaper offered me his newly created position of Art Director. I accepted and very much enjoyed being in control of all aspects of the newspaper’s design, providing ‘Spec Ads’ for the advertising department and creating and implementing the newspaper’s marketing initiatives in other media. We also agreed that I would bring any commercial free-lance jobs in-house. It worked well because that freed up time for my ‘Fine’ art at home.
When an opening for Advertising Director became available, I knew that that was where the serious money was to be made. I saw an opportunity to fulfill my life-long dream of becoming a full-time artist in a mortgage free house on a piece of waterfront – somewhere outside the city.
In 1981 my new partner, Janice, and I bought a lot at East Barriere Lake in BC’s southern interior and, three years later, we moved to our mortgage-free house in the country. I painted full-time for the next few years, exhibiting in galleries in Kamloops, Vancouver, Victoria, Chemainus, Calgary and Montreal.
Living the dream was fulfilling enough but provided a meagre hand-to-mouth living, so when my previous employer made an offer that I couldn’t refuse, I agreed to commute every second week to North Vancouver to act as Marketing Director for the newspaper. Again, this arrangement allowed me to pursue my painting in the weeks in between. After four years of commuting however, Janice and I decided that, if I was going to continue in the newspaper business, we might as well purchase our local paper. The paper covered the North Thompson Valley, mainly serving Barriere and Clearwater. We spent the next five years developing the business before selling it to a large newspaper chain. I managed to produce three or four paintings a year during this time.
The viewer looking at all of the paintings on this site will recognize three distinct bodies of my work.
The earlier work often displays some type of typography that was inherent in my work as an Art Director and advertising executive. Typography was a major component in just about any design required of me and I studied typography, advertising and design intensely.
At this point in my life I could no longer separate ‘Fine’ from ‘Commercial’ art. Both advertising and art require an emotional response to be effective and, in my eyes, commercial art had probably shaped our culture, like it or not, as much or more than fine art had in the past fifty years.
Due to the every day influences of living at East Barriere Lake my focus began to shift dramatically, as did my subject matter.
Having spent countless hours fishing and sight-seeing on local lakes, the fascination of light reflecting on the moving surfaces of water became the dominant theme of my work - it became kind of an obsession trying to figure out those ever-changing patterns – in a way I could translate to canvas.
Something about those water paintings worked because in 2001 I was featured as a ‘Master Painter of the World’ by International Artist Magazine.
My latest works pretty clearly reveal our move to Kamloops in 2004. I have been deliberately loosening up my style on the new landscapes because I’m more interested in atmosphere than I am in representation these days. I want to convey on to canvas my feelings for this incredibly diverse region. I also want to remind viewers of the magic inherent in any landscape – what we neglect to see as we go about our busy lives.
I’m aware that, in many cases, people tend to see the Kamloops area as a dried-up, brownish expanse of rocky hills – with a pulp mill. That was my first impression too. On closer inspection however I think most people would agree that Kamloops is a sunny semi-arid region where sage, pine, and cactus covered desert contrast starkly with converging rivers. It’s where the sometimes turquoise, sometimes emerald waters of the glacier fed North Thompson River merge with the clear waters of the South Thompson River; where wide-open skies might reveal several different weather systems at once – freezing rain spouts to the north, rainbows and dark clouds to the east and nothing but sunshine and warmth to the west; where wind-swept limestone cliffs throw sharp, deeply saturated shadows from outlandish, ghostly hoodoos; where Mount Peter and Mount Paul form the southern-most humps of the Monashee Mountains and where the northern-most tip of the Mojave Desert meets the unique and unusual Grasslands Provincial Park, right behind our house.
In my view, all art is subjective. Its relevance is subject to the interpretation of the viewer. The deeper the viewer’s emotional engagement, the better.