Love Bounces Back
"During your life a lot of people loved and nurtured you and I think your art reflects the love that has surrounded you since you were born. And I think that this fact contributes a lot to the appeal of your work. Each piece reflects some aspect of being nurtured, being loved. It strikes a chord. The fact is, you are still surrounded by love. You couldn't produce the kind of work that you do without it. Your work just bounces the love back. I think that is the simple truth." -Dad
"A sense of play and adventure," says Peter Wyse, "a sense that anything is possible … these are the themes from life that I strive to incorporate into my work. In a subtle way, this is the moral responsibility of stewardship regarding our world. I figure there is enough darkness in the world, so I prefer my work to be hopeful and light." This hopefulness weaves its way through everything Peter does; especially infusing his work, where he has seen for himself what a difference it can make. He recalls, "I was at my Banff gallery and met a couple from New York who had rearranged their travel schedule to meet me. The wife gave me a big hug – she was bubbly, brimming with happiness. Her husband was a quiet man, "reserved" would be a polite description. They popped in and out of the gallery all afternoon. It was later in the day when I learned more about them. This was a year after 9/11. The man was a NYC fireman and he had lost most of his crew. He
hadn’t smiled until seeing my work. He and his wife both thanked me, and I am grateful for meeting them. Another reason why I choose light themes over dark with my work. There is power in art, the power to help heal, the power in aiding recovery. In others, and in yourself." Born in Kamloops, BC, Peter grew up in Lac Le Jeune, a lake area and Provincial Park outside of Kamloops. His Dad was a poet and his Mom was a model – "responsible Bohemians" as Peter calls them. At home, they had no television, no computer, nothing to distract from the natural beauty and excitement of endless forest trails and wildlife. When he was young, Peter worked at the lodge. It was a destination for eco-tourists that he describes as a mini-version of Jasper/banff (without the Rockies and tacky stores), mixed with the hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. "I made up ridiculous stories for the tourists," Peter jokes, "warning them to watch out for the northern alligators. I would make invented animal tracks and point them out to the park visitors. Tell them how lucky they were to be witness to the rare albino badger ... so, despite no TV, I was never bored. I also always had art supplies, and I drew and painted the forest."
From Playing to Passion
"My Grampa Buzz (R. E. Walker) was an amazing draftsman and artist," Peter recalls. "He was one of the original Mad Men. He presided over his own ad firm, sold it and retired to paint full time. I joined him in his studio as a child, as a university student and as an artist. He used to hang out with F. H. Varley at the media club in Vancouver. I suspect Varley benefitted from his generosity and shared his penchant for the spirits. My Grampa Buzz made being an artist look like a really cool gig!" But art was not the focus of Peter’s life. Growing up, he excelled in the sport of wrestling and had a dream to wrestle for the Canadian team.
He was recruited by Simon Fraser University and everything seemed fine, until a year out of high school he suffered a serious tar burn on his forearm while working on a highway repair crew. The years of surgery and recovery that followed meant Peter’s wrestling days were done. Refocusing his energy towards art, he moved to the University of British Columbia and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. "I can’t recall a specific moment where I wanted to become an artist," Peter says. "Back in university we had a lot of parties, and my friends always introduced me as "the artist." Shortly after finishing my degree, I had job offers to coach wrestling that I really stewed over and turned down. So, in my mid-20s, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I just didn’t know what I would be doing. Now it is a part of me. It’s how I live. It is how I can make sense of this world." At the age of 28, Peter had his first show at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, BC. "I look back at the show now as being cathartic ... taking all I had learned in university and spewing it out. It was a vomitus mass of trying to show how smart I’d become. I seemed to know a lot of stuff but I was not an expert on my own work. It has been 17 years since that first show."
The Inspiration and the Exhilaration
A collection of toys in Peter’s studio makes it what he likes to think of as a playful place. A place to get messy and a place to create. He notes, "I have a miniature of the character Tintin that I bought in Paris, a boy and his dog seeking adventure. That doesn’t get old." The other side of his inspiration is the setting. "My family and I live in Clayburn Village, a little
hamlet outside of Vancouver which was home to a brick factory. We renovated the old Doc’s house built in 1912. It is solid brick – we call it the huff ‘n’ puff. We had no idea what we got ourselves into, but we created a cozy welcoming home. There is a real sense of community. We look out for one another. This sense of community and loyalty are themes in my work." When his son was young, Peter had a saying he liked to share: "Big always looks after little." He explains, "What this means is that if you are big in mind, in strength, in heart, you look out for little. Last week a Junco hit my studio window with an awful ‘thwack’. I opened the door and found this champ on the ground in rough shape. I wrapped him in a cloth and made a nest in a box by my heater. The Junco let me know he had recovered enough to give flight a try; his buddies were waiting and chirped encouragement. It was a wonderful moment and a reminder to never underestimate the little guy!" Peter’s typical workday might seem like chaos, but he is actually in control. He lays the day out as a surgeon would, with his tools clean and ready, and a list of what he intends to accomplish. "The list may be on the floor, or pinned to my dartboard, or hanging out with my collection of Mr. Potato Heads," he says, once more belying the fact that playful and controlled are two sides of the same coin for this artist. "I crank up the radio and you can hear a bit of everything except Rachmaninoff – I can’t stand Rachmaninoff. I even listen to Sports Talk radio on an AM station. I have two medium cups of coffee. I drink one, the other sits cooling on my desk. I never drink it, but it is always poured. It is part of my process. Basically,
the studio and day are set up for success. Prepping the surface with four coats of gesso, creating the image layout, applying a glaze of transparent yellow oxide mixed with burnt umber … and then I begin the process of cutting in the lines of the design and building the layers of paint. Working with darker tones first and gradually going lighter. When I am done the actual painting, I wait a day for drying and then wet polish. This allows the darker tones from the under painting to pop like freckles from the sun. I then apply two isolation clear coats of a gel medium. Dry. Then varnish." Peter thinks of himself as someone who collects moments, and these moments become the inspirations and characters of his paintings. For example, the hockey boy in a toque is based on his son at the age of three, and the figures wearing the parka with the polar bear are based on a rare West Coast snowstorm, when Peter was out with his son, and dog, Scout, playing in the snow. "At one point during our escapade, my five-year-old son declared, "I am Nanook of the North!" How he had the knowledge to reference Robert Flaherty's 1922 Arctic documentary remains a mystery. While I have not had the opportunity to visit the Arctic, for that brief moment I was there and a young boy was indeed Nanook of the North."
In the end, it is the blurred line between fantasy and reality, between creativity and hard work, between adventure and playfulness that finds its way into the artwork of Peter Wyse and brings us back to a simpler time. Perhaps it reminds us of our own youth, perhaps it sparks a sense of adventure, or perhaps it just makes us smile. Learn more about the work of Peter Wyse at www.peterwyse.com or contact him at 604.866.2952. The work of Peter Wyse is represented by the following galleries: Adele Campbell Gallery Whistler, BC www.adelecampbell.com 604.938.0887 White Rock Gallery White Rock, BC www.whiterockgallery.com 604.538.4452
left, The Party, acrylic on birch panel, 12" x 12" above, The Florist, acrylic on birch panel, 36" x 36"
previous spread, Always and Ever, acrylic on birch panel, 12" x 16" above, The Apprenticeship of Giuseppe The Cat, acrylic on birch panel, 12" x 16" right top, Camp Robbers and the Get-away Bear, acrylic on birch panel, 36" x 48" right bottom, Giovanni and the Cardinals, acrylic on birch panel, 24" x 36"
Wonder Dog, acrylic on birch panel, 24" x 24"
The Expedition, acrylic on birch panel, 10" x 10"
above, When You Listen, acrylic on birch panel, 12" x 12" right, I Saw A Cow In The Clouds, acrylic on birch panel, 24" x 24"
left, The Goalie, acrylic on birch panel, 16" x 16" above, Snowman Shooshing, acrylic on birch panel, 16" x 16"