Love Bounces Back

Arabella - - ARTIST TO COLLECT - writ­ten by Brett An­ning­son

"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 at­ter­ or con­tact him at 604.866.2952. The work of Peter Wyse is rep­re­sented by the fol­low­ing gal­leries: Adele Camp­bell Gallery Whistler, BC­ele­camp­ 604.938.0887 White Rock Gallery White Rock, BC www.white­rock­ 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"

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