For me the act of painting is a pleasant puzzle. I relish the challenge of manipulating the visual information. My attempts are to create something that rings the artistic bell inside me. I remake or transform topics through my aesthetic insight. Only after I have had my way with the elements of a painting, am I ready to offer it out to others. It is my desire to form a link with you. This connection is conditioned by your personal perspective and appreciation. I value your responses on my work.
The recipe for my approach to painting has taken many ingredients.
My time at the Ontario College of Art, added to by the encouragement of Mathew Kousal from whom I first took painting lessons as a teenager, was the broth of my technical knowledge. The addition of much reading on painting in books and magazines added to the base.
My small town and Mennonite background, riddled with practicality and rural interest, must be considered as a starting point for a singular career in which I took the unusual step of not only making my pictures but also presenting them to the public in my own gallery.
Since my wife and I have no children, we have travelled to the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Europe a great deal since our marriage in 1966. That opportunity to visit where, what and when we wanted lead me to artistic influences from across North America, Europe, the U.K. and Ireland many times. We have visited South America, Africa, the South Pacific and New Zealand. We have also had a chance to see Iceland. The spice of the many people that I have met has seasoned my attitude and observation.
A great dollop of good fortune with opportunities that presented themselves along the way has aided my chances to stay afloat in a business that chews up so many people. Into this dish we must also add the strong support that I have experienced from the public, not only here in Waterloo Region but also from many distant places.
The zest of a naturally enquiring mind has lead me to paint a great variety of subjects including many commissioned pieces that have taken me into new and exciting territory.
The flavouring of this dish is infused with the idea that I am not much different than most people and that if an approach to a visual subject charms me, it will also have magic for others.
I was raised as a progressive Mennonite, but my appreciation for the horses which drew the mild wagons of my father’s dairy somehow drew me back to the traditiona Mennonite ways. For over forty years I have specialized in paintings of the more conservative Mennonite communions. The horse powered groups are by far the most interesting. They represent to me a historic view of what used to be in Ontario but still exists in this little piece of Waterloo region.
I would be happy to tell people that it has been easy to make contact with many of the individuals in these conservative groups, however that is not the case. Because of their wish to be left along and their reluctance to be photographer, it has required a good deal of time to build even a small bridge of trust. Perhaps because over the years I have demonstrated my desire to show these people through my Mennonite paintings, as they are rather than as funny cartoon characters, I have been able to gain access to their farms, and in some cases, even their hearts.
I have always found it the best policy when out taking photographs to simply ask permission of these potential subjects. I am on occasion still not given the nod of approval. It is important to realize that people from any group are individuals, not a monolithic block. I think that much of the public sees the Mennonites/Amish as severe and humorless. Indeed some are. But there are many who are funny and outgoing and in my experience, wise. It’s not surprising that people are more relaxed at home, on their farms, in familiar surroundings. I value the friendship that I have built up over the many years with many of these folks.