Here at Cottage Life, we realize how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses. To do our part, we’ll be highlighting the stories of different businesses in cottage country. This week, we spoke with painter Wynne Parkin who works out of Lac-Mégantic, Que.
How did you start painting?
When I was five years old, I would draw and draw and draw. And I knew at that age I wanted to be an artist—well, everybody wants to be an artist at that age. But lo and behold, I’m an artist.
In my younger days, I tried everything under the sun as a job, but I always knew that, when I was ready, I would come back to art because it was my true calling. I tried graphic design when I lived in Ontario, at Conestoga College, but then my father passed away. After that, I moved to Montreal and took graphic design at Dawson College for a while, but it was too controlled. I never did get a degree. I just did a little bit of courses here and there. Then I ended up going to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which had a Canadian art colony there. But a lot of it has been self-taught.
What are the subjects of your paintings?
I live in Lac-Mégantic, Que. right now. I have a house on the lake and my husband has a cottage, and I raised my kids here. There’s a lot of wildlife and I became fascinated with moose, fascinated with nature. So that’s where my love of animals and painting animals comes from. I would say my favourite animals to paint are moose and deer.
How would you describe your painting style?
My style developed over the years from being very Robert Bateman representational to a more abstract, stylized painting, almost like Norval Morrisseau, the Indigenous Canadian artist who has a fabulous graphic style.
Certainly, the Group of Seven has had an influence, especially Lawren Harris. But through years of development, my style has kind of turned into a woodland representation of Canadiana.
Where is your work featured?
Even though I live in Quebec, most of my sales have been in Muskoka’s cottage country. I’m in the Eclipse Art Gallery at Deerhurst Resort, the Oxtongue Craft Cabin and Gallery, which is in Dwight just close to Algonquin Park, and also in Marten Arts Gallery, in Bayfield, Ontario.
I also had the opportunity to paint former NDP leader Jack Layton’s portrait, which he bought for his office on Parliament Hill. And I had two paintings hanging in the House of Parliament. One of a moose playing hockey with a hockey jersey that said Canada 150.
How has the pandemic affected you?
As an artist, I’m sort of a hermit, so I’m used to being alone in nature and working for myself and doing what I do on my own where I live. So, I was not affected a great deal, except through the winters. I couldn’t travel.
But I just counted my blessings and created art. I found that—as many companies found—a lot of people during the pandemic focused on home renovations, focused on their environment. So, I had probably my best year ever with people buying art just out of the blue and contacting me for commissions. Because of the pandemic, people’s focus was on their home and their environment. Instead of looking out, they were looking in.
What pieces are you working on now?
Ravensburger Puzzle Company, a few years back, contacted me to turn one of my paintings into a puzzle for a Canadiana series. They used one of my funky moose paintings, so I have a 1,000-piece puzzle by Ravensburger that has been out for quite a few years, and they’ve renewed my contract.
I might do some more puzzles in the future, but right now there’s another company in British Columbia, the Winn Devon Company, which is a publisher that does limited edition prints, and they’ve contacted me to print some of my paintings. Other than that, I’m just going to paint my funky, cool animals.
How can people buy your artwork?
The galleries have a limited variety of my work, but probably the best way would be to contact me by email through my website. I have a lot of work that I don’t put up on my website, because, like most artists, we’re not the best at selling and doing all that technical stuff. Instead, I’m busy painting and staring at the trees.
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