Friday 1 December 2023

Member Profile Series - John Lover

Member Profile
with John Lover
Following his retirement, John revived a latent talent in sketching, encouraged by the excellent teaching skills of Barbara, his late artist wife, and with the benefit of excessive doodling during school-day lessons and some experience in engineering draftsmanship. He work mainly in watercolour, particularly enjoying plein air painting, and has fun in drawing and painting old buildings and gardens.
Born in Birkenhead, England, he is a graduate of Liverpool and a postgraduate of Manchester University. John began working life as a graduate trainee in the engineering industry, becoming a project manager. There followed a career in management consultancy, human resource management, and teaching in his native Britain, where he served for eleven years as a part-time panel member of ACAS, the national arbitration service.   
After arriving in Victoria in 1987, he immersed himself in a variety of volunteer activities with the Royal Museum, Dispute Resolution Centre, and Broadmead Lodge. Otherwise, he has always been an avid sportsman (though now mainly a TV sports fan) and have always enjoyed spending time with family.

John became a supporter of the Victoria Sketch Club after Barbara became a member in 1991, and was awarded Honorary Membership in recognition of his work for the organization (lots of lifting and carrying!).

John served on the Committee established to organize the celebration of the Club's centennial in 2009, writing a comprehensive history of the Club to mark the event entitled The Victoria Sketch Club, a Centennial Celebration, and later contributed biographies of former members to the VSC's monthly newsletter section known as History Corner.
Editor's Note:  This month's Member's Profile is the first of, I hope, many, and our resident historian John graciously allowed me to use his profile to kick off the series. After all John's hard work for the club, I think it it's a perfect choice!

Thank you for everything, John!
-- Val Lawton

Thursday 2 November 2023

Note from the VSC President

Note from VSC President
As the season shifts into autumn, we are now fully engaged in our indoor program. A lot of effort and time has gone into making this an interesting and valuable opportunity for our members, so please thank Bonnie and Terri often as they work hard to develop this program for us!
The Show Committee is now very active with planning for next year’s VSC Art Show to be held at Glenlyon Norfolk School. Please consider what role you can play in making this the best show ever.
It never ceases to amaze me as I look around on a Tuesday and see members engaging with one another - giving suggestions, encouraging one another and generally supporting your fellow artist. This is what our community of VSC is all about -- the people -- and the richness of experience, talents and ability, bringing out the best in each other. Carry on!  
Gillian Rhodes
VSC President   

Friday 29 September 2023

History Corner ~ September 2023 by John Lover

Louise Loveland was typical of the many art-trained ladies who immigrated here from Britain in their middle years, early in the twentieth century, and who were soon attracted to our Club to practice their talents.

She was born in 1869 in Sudbury, England, a picturesque town with artistic connections, being the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough and in a region which was a favourite painting venue of John Constable. We know little about Louise’s earlier life in England, but shortly after her arrival in Victoria, she joined the newly formed Island Arts Club in 1911, and was a regular contributor to its annual exhibitions until 1941, the year of her passing.

Louise was competent in the media of oils, watercolour, pastels, and black and white sketching.  As our illustrations suggest, her focus was on depictions of Victoria’s landmarks, such as the  Legislature buildings, and portraits of fellow Club members, such as Maude Lettice (pictured here).

She showed her work at the Art Association of Montreal Spring Exhibition in 1921 and at the BC Artists Annual Exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery from 1933 to 1940.

Louise died in Victoria in 1941.

Thursday 31 August 2023

History Corner August 2023 ~ by John Lover

One of the most interesting and unusual artists, fleetingly associated with our Club, was Major Robert Fletcher Leslie. He was born into an artistic family in Woolston, Hampshire, England in 1864. Both his father and his paternal grandfather were artists. Educated at Winchester College, he subsequently served as a civil engineer with the Great Western Railway. In 1885 he moved to India where he was employed by Indian Railways, and acquired the rank of major through his work in voluntary military affairs.

After returning to England, he emigrated to Canada in 1906 and took a post as a Government Inspector of Railways at Hazelton, BC., later becoming a partner in a firm of consulting engineers.

Although there is no record of previous interest or involvement with art, he nevertheless decided to become an art teacher, and set up a studio in Vancouver in 1925. Thus, it can only be assumed that he inherited artistic skills from his forebears and managed to nourish them during his years in railway construction.

This conjecture seems to be backed up by a picture dated 1922 (illustrated here) which was hung at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. It was painted from English Bay and gives a clear view of Bowen Island on a cloudy day. 

Leslie became a regular exhibitor with the BC Society of Fine Arts during the 1920s and contributed to the Vancouver Exhibition in 1925. His move to Victoria in 1926 naturally brought him into contact with the Island Arts and Crafts Society and he showed his work in the Society’s annual shows between 1925 and 1929.  His first showing with the IACS, to which he submitted eight paintings, reveals a competence in both oil and watercolour. In 1927 he received special mention from the Daily Colonist newspaper art critic for a painting, Grey Day in Uplands, shown in the IACS section of the Willows annual exhibition,

Leslie lived in Victoria until 1930, but his association with our Club proved to be a brief one as he returned to England where he spent his final years. He died there in 1942.
Editor's Note: We're pleased to announce that this is VSC's 50th
History Corner, written by our own historian, John Lover. If you're interested in reflecting further on our club's history, check out VSC's History webpage here, where you'll also find many of John's previously published 'History Corners'  in the Post-Archive section. 

Sunday 30 July 2023

History Corner ~ July 2023 by John Lover

Lillian Clarke Sweeney, artist and noted wood carver and sculptor, was associated with our Club for over half a century. One of the 56 Charter members who founded the Island Arts Club in 1909, she was later one of the stalwarts who bridged the transition of the Island Arts and Crafts Society to the Victoria Sketch Club in 1956. 

Born in Winnipeg in 1884, she became a resident of Victoria in 1904, where she married William Sweeney in 1912. Under her maiden name of Clarke her work had hung in the Club’s first Annual Exhibition in 1910, and she remained a faithful contributor until 1927. She exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the 1937 Vancouver Island Exhibition, and this versatile lady became a staff artist at the BC Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology in 1936.

Lillian showed her talent as an illustrator in co-operating with her sister, writer Frances Ebbs Canaran, in publishing “Tale of a Belgian Hare,” a 1914 book dedicated to the little children of Belgium deprived of their homes and heritage during the German invasion.   

In 1956, members the newly formed Sketch Club organized a party to honour Lillian Sweeney for “keeping the Club together by means of her charm and personality and generosity in allowing winter Monday meetings at her home and in providing tea and encouragement.” The following year she was elected Club president.

Sweeney was a particularly gifted oil painter (see oil-on-card illustration below). Representing the Victoria Sketch Club, she took the “best oil” in a 1958 competition with eleven other provincial art clubs. Two of her paintings were presented to the Government to hang in the Provincial Library.

She was not only a fine wood carver, but equally adept at sculpture, and was commended by the Smithsonian Institute on her work for the Museum, which included all manner of paintings and models, including dioramas of Indigenous life. She had a complete collection of British Columbia birds, and carved to meet orders from across the province.

On her death in 1961, the Museum paid her the following tribute: “During her years of service as an artist on the Museum staff, she produced many life-like models of fishes, mushroom, flowers, and prehistoric animals. Her images of native fishes have never been excelled, despite the advent of plastics and more modern techniques and her painting dioramas of native life will continue to be used in schools of the province for years to come.” 

Monday 3 July 2023

History Corner ~ June 2023 ~ by John Lover

 Lindley Crease was a member of a socially prominent family in Victoria which played a significant role in the founding and subsequent development of the Island Arts and Crafts Society.  

He was a “man of parts” and a distinguished citizen in his own right, and although it was Lady Sarah and her daughter Josephine who are best known for their contribution to the local art scene, Lindley did in fact display evidence of the family’s artistic gifts and showed his work in the Society’s annual exhibitions from 1913 to 1935.

Born in New Westminster, BC, in 1867, Lindley Crease followed in the footsteps of his father, Sir Henry, a Justice of the BC Supreme Court. Educated in England, he studied law and was called to the BC bar in 1890, and later founded his own law firm. He was actively involved in Church affairs and in Provincial politics and among other distinctions he was President of the Island branch of the League of Nations.

He was a devoted lover of the arts and is remembered for an impassioned speech before the Victoria Real Estate Board in 1935 in which he advocated the establishment of an art gallery for the City of Victoria to be considered without delay. He suggested that a permanent art gallery would not only foster and stimulate art but would have utilitarian value as an additional major tourist attraction and would give visitors a flattering impression of the city’s aesthetic sense. 

Crease’s artistic ability found expression in his hobby of mountaineering, drawn by his sense of natural and environmental values. He derived much enjoyment from attending the annual camps of the Alpine Club of Canada in the Canadian Rockies. He was a keen climber and scaled the likes of mount Arrowsmith and Mount Baker in Washington State. However, his main concern was finding vantage points to savor vistas of snow-clad peaks, icefields, and glaciers. This afforded him the chance to exercise his talents in sketching and painting. 

His drawing ability is demonstrated in two early sketches of the Island’s Maltby Lake (shown here) though to have been done in the 1892-93 period. Apart from being an avid sketcher he was also, as illustrated, a competent landscape artist. 

Lindley Crease, K, C., widely respected for his integrity, kindness, and social consciousness, died at the Victoria family home, Pentrelew, in 1940 at the age of seventy-two.

Sunday 11 June 2023

History Corner ~ May 2023 ~ by John Lover

 In 1930, Emily Carr, buoyed by critical acclaim on a national scale that had come her way at last --­­­although still somewhat “a prophet in her own land” -- consented to undertake a rare public speaking event sponsored by the Women’s Canadian Club in Victoria. This event featured a solo show at Crystal Garden, depicting fifty of her renditions of West Coast indigenous totems and village scenes, and designed to add power to her argument on the need to appreciate “modern art.”  

Carr had good reason to be encouraged by the interest generated, demonstrated by the high attendance which constituted a record in the annals of the Club. It also gave her a platform to articulate her cause, and in the opinion of one newspaper art critic she did so “in her searchingly clever, humorous, and analytical talk.”

A constant theme was the importance of the creative rather than the merely photographic in art. She suggested that no matter how ugly or crude results seemed to be, it still had merit if it tried to express some real spiritual truth.

Carr went on to decry the Old-World form of expression with its sentimental ditties and canvases as being unsuited for the expression of New World ideas. “Even the cows do not look the same,” she maintained, recalling having told an English artist that a fence in one of his pictures would not keep out a Canadian cow. “And if this country produces a different cow spirit, is it not reasonable that it should produce a different art also?“ The fact that some critics that Canada was not a paintable country was an admission of the need for a new mode of expression.

She issued a plea for creative art, even if not liked, not to be ridiculed. Carr used the example of indigenous art to illustrate this danger. She often heard it said that indigenous carvings were grotesque and hideous. However, these artists used distortion to strengthen their expression, their interpretation of the spirit of the thing. To them everything possessed a spirit of its own. The totem pole was the foundation of indigenous art, and their emblems were usually animals, artistically exaggerated to give a sense of true character; and there was great respect for them, due to the belief that these creatures symbolized the spirit of ancestors and were thus endowed with spiritual powers. 

“The plea I am making is that you should show greater tolerance in your attitude toward creative art. See if it has sincerity before you condemn it,” urged Carr. She admitted that the immediate effect of creative art was often irritating. However, it was more entertaining and stimulating to be unpleasantly affected than to feel nothing at all.         

Artists had the advantage over the camera in that they could call attention to things which they wanted to emphasize and ignore the others. Unless a picture represented something of the artist, it could not live. In painting a mountain, it was not enough to make it photographically exact. One must interpret something of its effect, its impenetrability, as well as its form. To achieve this effect, the artist must resort to a measure of distortion, which was often mistaken for caricature.  But this exaggeration raised the subject out of the ordinary into the sphere of the spiritual. This property of distortion accounted for the living, and vital qualities possessed in the works of the Old Masters. It was not a question of the artist’s inability to draw.  

Carr touched on the effect of the right distribution of line and colour in guiding the eye hither and thither. Of the use of the third dimension in opening up the atmosphere of a picture and giving a feeling that the objects in it were surrounded by air and space. Even feelings, sounds and silences might be intimated if the artist’s vision had imagination. 

It was Emily Carr’s firm conviction that “today we have almost lost the ability to respond to pictures emotionally, and modern art endeavors to bring back this ability to our consciousness again.”

Saturday 29 April 2023

History corner ~ April 2023 by John Lover

In a review of the IASC Annual Exhibition of 1925, the Victoria Times art critic made this note of one of the first-time exhibitors: “Mrs. Drummond’s studies of wild animals are arresting. This artist is already well known for the method of her work as well as for the work itself, as she made long journeys into the wilds by dogsled, in order to study the wild animals in their native haunts.”

Nora Georgina Drummond, born in Bath, Somerset in 1862, was an artist and illustrator, whose work typically featured dogs and country pursuits, such as hunting, in Britain and Ireland and later in Canada. She was a member of an impressive family of artists, growing up surrounded by art. Her father was a former Master of the Bath School of Art and Design and an art tutor of the Royal Family, and two of her uncles were painters of some distinction and influenced her choice of subject matter.

Drummond was already an established artist in England when. together with her husband, Daniel Davies, she emigrated to Canada shortly before the turn of the century.  Initially they lived in Banff, Alberta, where she worked as a private tutor in painting and illustrations, adding Canadian wild animals to her repertoire.  One of her pupils was Peter Whyte, who later set up the foundation for the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. He recalled her as an eccentric woman who lived with eleven dogs and hordes of cats, but also as an excellent teacher. In the 1920s Drummond also taught at the Banff Public School.  

She became best known for the illustrations she produced for Raphael Tuck, a British publishing company with interests in the US and Canada, which produced an extensive range of art postcards.

Drummond subsequently moved to British Columbia, where she also enjoyed landscape painting. She joined the Island Arts and Crafts Society, exhibiting in its annual exhibitions from 1925 to 1932 and at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1933. Allegedly she was rather unfairly referred to by a waspish fellow artist Emily Carr as “the old tabby who paints cats and dogs.”  

She died in 1949 at Goldstream, Vancouver Island. Her works are in the collections of the New York Public Library, the Whyte Museum and the University of Victoria.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

History Corner ~ March 2023 by John Lover

 In 1925, Lindley Crease, in a talk to the Island Arts and Crafts Society after a holiday in England, made a fascinating reference to a local artist, John Collins. Crease noted that when Collins’ pictures were displayed here – he had contributed to the IACS Annual Show in 1912 – they were given little notice.  Yet in an exhibition at Wembley, England, pictures he asked $15 for in Victoria now fetched one hundred pounds sterling.

Crease was referring to Charles John Collings, born in Chudleigh, Devon, England, a largely self-taught artist, and frustrated architect. After exhibiting with the Royal Academy in 1893, and achieving some recognition, a restless Collings, at the age of 62, moved to Canada with his family in 1910. They settled on the remote Seymour Arm of Shuswap Lake, from where Collings found lasting inspiration for his artwork.

Satisfied with his pioneer life and solitude in the mountains he remained uninfluenced by the artistic trends of the day and developed his own unique perception of the vastness and intensity of the BC landscape. An ardent climber, he hiked the Rockies and the Selkirks and continued to travel through Western Canada until his death at 83. 

He chose to sketch en plein air and finish his work in his studio, adopting the technique of using paper soaked in water and then mixing colours directly on the wet paper. Apparently, after painting a watercolour he would leave it between two panes of glass while the painting was still wet. After a period, he would remove the painting and dry it. The result of this process has been described as “a magical merging and defocusing of colours and shapes.”  

Critics have found it hard to pinpoint his unique painting style. Because its coherence and consistency reflected traits of the traditional English watercolour tradition, one likened it to J.M.W Turner, but another saw influence of Japanese painting, a persuasive suggestion given that Collings was a keen collector of oriental art and crafts. 

Given his isolation, it seems remarkable that he had attracted the interest of an English art dealer, Luscombe Carroll, who thought a visit to this “Recluse in the Rockies” justified the long and arduous journey to the wilderness of Shuswap. Beginning in 1912 Carroll featured Collings in a series of London exhibitions, entitled “The Canadian Rockies” which received critical acclaim. This success ensured that Collings would leave the management of his sales in such capable hands, and consequently he sought little contact with the BC art community, apart from occasional exhibitions in Vancouver. He also exhibited in Montreal, Chicago, and New York, where he achieved some popularity, but his paintings were sold almost exclusively in England, and, as Lindley Crease’s remarks in 1925 would suggest. he remained almost unknown in BC for most of his life.

Given his preferred lifestyle it was fitting that Collings should die at his home on Seymour Arm, Shuswap Lake, in 1931.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

That's a Wrap!

The 114th Victoria Sketch Club Annual Show and Sale has concluded with great fan fair and delight.  The most successful in our long history, over 1,250 folks visited and a record 67 pieces are heading to new homes.

Thank you to everyone who was able to drop by and say hello.  All of you have our deepest gratitude.

watercolour by Vicky Turner

Thursday 9 March 2023

History Corner ~ February 2023 by John Lover

 Shortly after the publication of our History Book in 2008, Bill Vallevand, who had done a wonderful job in formatting this work, received a welcome call from a friend who had just read the book. This friend reported that his ancestors were great friends of the artist Thomas Fripp and that he had inherited several Fripp paintings which he’d gladly loan for our Centennial exhibition at Maltwood.

Thomas William Fripp was indeed a notable member of our Club and had cast a long shadow over the BC art scene in the early part of the twentieth century. He was born in London, England, in 1864 into a family of artists steeped in the romanticismof the British watercolour tradition. His grandfather, Nicholas Pocock, had founded the Royal Watercolour Society.  Fripp studied at St. John's Wood Art School, continued his art studies in Italy and then attended the Royal Academy School in London from 1883 to 1890 under the guidance of his father.  

He immigrated to British Columbia in 1893 and pursued life as a homesteader until 1904, when he moved to Vancouver to return to watercolour painting on a permanent basis. Initially, unable to make a living from art and as a keen photographer, he took work at local photographic studios to put food on the family table. 

However, his passion for art undaunted and concerned at the lack of a focal point for artists in the region, he founded, along with others, including John Kyle and Emily Carr, the BC Society of Fine Arts, and served as its first president. By this time, he was arguably the leading painter in BC, and as his work was popular, he was one of the first artists able to make a living from the sales of his pictures. He routinely exhibited with the BCSFA for the rest of his working life. Additionally, Fripp served on the executive of the BC Art League, created to fund an art school in Vancouver, a goal that would be reached in 1925. 

Fripp was one of the first European artists to make a permanent home here, becoming fascinated with the formidable scale of the rugged Canadian terrain and spending many summers with sketchbook and camera in the mountain passes and on the glaciers. Although he is rated as a traditionalist in the field of landscape art, he did make some minor attempt to adjust his style to do justice to his new surroundings but fell well short of the innovative approaches later achieved by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. 

In fact, it’s true to say that over his thirty-year career his style remained basically unchanged, as he adhered faithfully to his earlier academic training.  By the 1920s, modernism in art, in the form of post-impressionism, was making inroads, and to his credit, Fripp, in his role as a leader in the cultural life of BC and a promoter of art, was scrupulously fair in allowing modernism, like any other art movement, to take root.        

He was able to re-connect with Kyle, Carr and other British trained artists following the formation of the Island Arts and Crafts Society in 1909 and was a regular exhibitor at its annual shows between 1912 and 1930. In 1927 one of his works was purchased by Randolph Bruce, Lieutenant-Governor of BC.

As an artist, Fripp is best remembered for his impeccably realistic watercolors depicting the Rockies and landscapes of the Pacific coast, but he also painted in oils and produced portraits. His work is held in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Fripp remained active in the local arts scene until his death in Vancouver in 1931. To recognize his championship of BC art, funds were raised to commission a bronze bust of him, which now rests in the permanent collection of Vancouver Art Gallery.

Saturday 4 February 2023

History Corner ~ January 2023 by John Lover

This month’s subject brings us up to relatively recent times, although our Club’s longest serving active member, Christine Gollner, is the only one of our present number to remember him personally. Certainly, as an established administrator and educator in the world of art, and a reputable practising artist, John Climer seems to have been well respected for his stature in our Club.

John Eldon Climer was born in 1924 in Syracuse, New York. After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force (1943-1946), he studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, receiving his Associate Diploma in 1950. 

From 1951 to 1957, he worked in several communities in Ontario as an advisor for community art recreation programs, and later, based in Ottawa from 1958 to 1963, as an organizer and producer of the Lakeside Festival of the Arts in that city.

Climer’s next move was to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he served as curator and director of the distinguished Mendel Art Gallery from 1963 to 1979. During this time, he also spent a year teaching art at the University of Saskatchewan and curating the Canadian Government Pavilion in Montreal for Expo 67. In his role as curator at the Mendel Art Gallery, Climer became well acquainted with the Saskatchewan arts community, working with, and mentoring, local artists.

A gifted artist in his own right, he exhibited his work across Canada in both group and solo shows, and he is represented in the collections of the Government of Saskatchewan 
and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. He worked in a variety of media, including oil, watercolour, and etching, and with a variety of subjects including landscapes and still life.

As Climer expressed his philosophy: “My subject, I would like to think, is the medium, and how it may be exploited with reference to what my statement might be.”

Moving on again, this time to British Columbia, he became well-known for his art instruction courses during the 1980s. In the winter months his routine was to encourage his students to continue with their painting here while he enjoyed the warmer climes down south. Students’ work would be critiqued on his return. As Delphine Large, one of his many successful proteges later recalled, “He had remarkable perception in noting the art student’s direction.”

During his association with our Club in these years, members were clearly able to benefit from his influence and his presence as an advisor and exemplar of the practice and theory of art. Christine remembers that he attended many of the summer outings and contributed to annual shows with many of his small paintings.     

Sadly, this period proved to be relatively short-lived, as John Climer died in 1994 while wintering in Yuma, Arizona.