Lois Ann Dort

Canso local paints local landscapes in unique style

November 15, 2017  •   Guysborough Journal  •  News

CANSO — In a two-storey, century old house in Canso you’ll find worlds of colour and an unassuming man holding a paint brush creating it all. Wayne J. Avery grew up in that house, watched his father dabble in art, and now lives in the same house; he’s the man with the paint brush.

In a small room on the top floor, Avery has set up his work room; easel, paints, and bit of household overspill. It’s cozy and a wall full of his paintings sets the backdrop for the perfect portrait of an artist at work.

Avery is a self-taught painter who describes his style as ‘amateur impressionist’ although most who have seen his art would call it anything but amateur. He works mainly in oils and says he’s learned a lot through trial and error, “A lot of test paintings went in the fireplace and I have lots of good critics around the house; they don’t hold back.”

Avery typically paints landscapes. His colours flow together seamlessly and his brush work creates an effect that immediately reminds one of Van Gogh, who is among those Avery lists as his artistic influences along with the Group of Seven and his own father who, “dabbled now and then…He liked to draw cartoons of people.”

Before retirement Avery’s workaday life involved doing maintenance for the local housing authority. Leading up to his retirement, he focused on developing his painting, something he had always done to some degree throughout his life. “I never really got into it a lot until just before I retired. I wanted to work something out, a style of my own, for when I retired; and that’s what I did.”

He first showed his work at the Canso library’s gallery space. It takes some pluck to show one’s work outside of the safe sphere of friends and family and Avery says he was comfortable making the move because, “Every time somebody bought one (painting) it boosted my confidence.”

Painting in midmorning to afternoon is best, says Avery. His work, he says is, “Basically like most other painters; it’s a building process. A layering of colour and form. Apart from that I just keep working, building on it.”

He works from pictures of the landscapes and often visits the same location multiple times to get a sense of it in different weather, from different angles and perspectives. He starts with a loose outline sketch. “I find the less fine detail I put in, as far as the drawing goes, the more freedom I have to play around with it and that’s what I like to do,” he says.

Avery typically paints canvases 24 by 30 inches but has worked on a larger scale; 2 feet by 3 feet, depending on the picture. As for time to complete a piece, he can’t put a time frame on that; it depends on the size and detail of the piece.

He does work on commissioned pieces but Avery’s not painting to pay the bills, it’s a hobby that he doesn’t want to turn into a job. He says, “As far as making money, I sell enough to replenish my painting stock. I’m happy with that. It keeps me out of trouble in my old age.”

Avery usually paints while listening to music. A collection of CDs are piled up next to the easel. “I’m an old hippy,” he laughs, when describing his usual selection of tunes which include Dylan, Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Kristofferson and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

While music puts him in the right mood to paint, he says he’s also inspired by other artists including Ahmoo (Allen) Angeconeb, a world renowned Ojiibway artist who passed away this year. Angeconeb once worked at the fish plant in Canso with Avery and they were friends who exchanged paintings. On Avery’s workroom door hangs a fish apron on which Angeconeb painted two loons in the Woodlands style.

The local environment is also an inspiration for Avery. “Anywhere in the county there is a lot of really nice views. It’s not boring, it’s always changing,” he says.

Avery’s retirement plan seems to be working. His work is easily identifiable in numerous homes around the Canso area. He says he’s heard lots of people say that they used to paint, then other commitments got in the way but he encourages those would-be painters to pick up a brush, “It’s never to late to start all over again. Just be persistent. Come back to it when you are ready.”

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