The ‘Accidental’ Artist
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.
Trevor McKinven as Giovanni, from Italy, in They Came from Away.
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”.