The ‘Ac­ci­den­tal’ Artist

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

Af­ter grow­ing up on a dairy farm in North Hat­ley, and af­ter not tak­ing art or drama cour­ses in high school, and af­ter study­ing sciences at col­lege and univer­sity, Trevor McKin­ven is now keep­ing

very busy paint­ing on com­mis­sion and tour­ing his one-man play, They Came from Away.

When it comes to his artwork, Mr. McKin­ven is self-taught and best known for his por­trait work, in­clud­ing car­i­ca­tures, of both peo­ple and prize farm an­i­mals. “I started paint­ing cows on the farm when I was about four or five, other things too, but cows have al­ways been some kind of a muse for me. When I got a lit­tle older I was asked to paint cows on some farm signs,” ex­plained Trevor in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal.

Trevor’s ‘big break’ came when he was only eigh­teen and was asked to paint a fa­mous cow for the Royal Win­ter Fair, in Toronto. “The paint­ing was auc­tioned off for a very good price so I thought: there’s some­thing to this,” he said. That in­ter­est in paint­ing was so­lid­i­fied when Trevor went to live in Europe af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa. “I started sketch­ing the old cathe­drals, the moun­tains. When I moved to Italy I was in­spired by the artwork there and tried to paint some ‘clas­sic’ stuff. I was work­ing in a hos­tel at the time and peo­ple saw my work and wanted to buy it. I thought: re­ally? There re­ally is some­thing to this!”

Af­ter re­turn­ing to Canada, Trevor was soon asked to do an art show in North Hat­ley, and he has been paint­ing ever since. “Since then the cow theme has al­ways come in and out of my artwork, mostly Jersey cows. I’ve moved into Hol­steins lately, re­luc­tantly,” added the artist who is of­ten com­mis­sioned to paint the favourite prize-win­ning bovines of Town­ships farm­ers.

Mr. McKin­ven wrote They Came from Away, a play about the day that New­found­lan­ders found them­selves host to over six thou­sand stranded air pas­sen­gers fol­low­ing the 911 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, orig­i­nally for his own amuse­ment back in 2004. Since then, the play seemed to take on a life of its own and he has per­formed it in sev­eral lo­ca­tions in On­tario, Que­bec and the Mar­itimes.

“I didn’t take drama when I was at Galt, but in my last year I was asked by Mr. Gonyer to au­di­tion for the school play,” said Trevor who got the part and then a whole lot more by way of in­struc­tion, Mr. Gonyer’s spe­cialty, dur­ing the play’s re­hearsals. He was even asked to be in the fol­low­ing year’s Galt Drama pro­duc­tion of The St­ing, one that fea­tured past stu­dents and teach­ers.

In his own play, Trevor plays sev­eral char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing a New­found­lan­der named Johnny Fever, Gio­vanni from Italy, a menopausal south­ern belle, and a fire­man from New York City. “Some­times I bring other peo­ple into the play, like this Ja­maican guy,” said Trevor whose ac­cents are very funny and re­al­is­tic. Each play is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and the ac­tor “goes off script all the time.” “When I’m play­ing Gio­vanni, I ac­tu­ally have peo­ple in the au­di­ence try­ing to help me find my English words.”

When asked what makes his in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar play still rel­e­vant to­day, he an­swered: “Peo­ple still feel so at­tached to that day. It was our gen­er­a­tion’s JFK; such a shock to our col­lec­tive sys­tem. And peo­ple learn a lot about the his­tory of Gan­der in the play and about im­por­tant facts that have come out since, like that thou­sands died af­ter the at­tack from breath­ing the dust, and that 343 fire­men died dur­ing the res­cue op­er­a­tion.”

Just back from tour­ing the play in Cape Bre­ton, Trevor has not yet per­formed They Came from Away in New­found­land it­self. “I’ve met a few New­found­lan­ders who have told me to ‘get my arse in gear and bring the play to New­found­land’, but I’m a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sive and I’ll be work­ing on my ac­cent some more.”

Although he now lives in Mon­treal, where paint­ing com­mis­sions for por­trait work are more plen­ti­ful, Trevor is back and forth to the fam­ily farm in North Hat­ley and reg­u­larly takes part in ma­jor and mi­nor events in the re­gion, even putting on his play to raise funds for dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions. “Liv­ing in Mon­treal helps keep the brush go­ing. I re­cently painted a por­trait of an eigh­teen mem­ber fam­ily from In­dia. But I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the East­ern Town­ships and I want to stay in­volved in the Town­ships.”

Trevor will be on hand to draw his fa­mous car­i­ca­tures this Satur­day at the Pot­ton Mul­ti­cul­tural Fes­ti­val and in a few weeks at the Ayer’s Cliff Fair. He will be per­form­ing his play in early Septem­ber at the ANAF Hut, in Len­noxville, and at the Salle Alec et Ger­ard Pel­letier, in Sut­ton.

Photo cour­tesy

Trevor McKin­ven as Gio­vanni, from Italy, in They Came from Away.

Pho­tos Vic­to­ria Vanier

Peo­ple were wait­ing in line to get a car­i­ca­ture of them­selves drawn by Trevor McKin­ven on Canada Day, in Hat­ley.

A por­trait of “Jersey Girl”.

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