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Retirees paint portrait of the artist as a sprung man

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Cathy Dobson

When better to discover a new talent than in retirement?

Two local men featured in this year’s Gifts of the Season show at Gallery in the Grove didn’t start painting in earnest until they left the workforce.

Bob Coates, 82, of Blue Point, and Irvin Hawkes, 76, of Bright’s Grove, were chosen to provide the 2D wall art at this year’s show, and for both men it’s their first gallery exhibition.

They have since discovered something in common.

Neither pursued painting until retirement, and each took classes from local painter Kathy Rath, when they really got motivated.

“I’ve always liked art but I never painted. Golfing was my hobby,” said Hawkes, who worked as an instrument technologist until retiring 13 years ago.

When he and his wife began spending part of the winter in Florida he took some watercolour classes, then joined a painters’ association in Fort Myers.

Back home, Hawkes took Rath’s classes and felt encouraged. Confirmation came when he sold his first painting.

“I thought, somebody likes my work and I kept going,” he said.

Two years ago, he started submitting works to juried shows, which have been chosen for “best watercolour” and “people’s choice” awards.

“I paint for myself and I paint what I like,” Hawkes said.  “When I find other people like what I paint, it makes me want to paint more.”

He bases many of his canvases on photos taken on travels throughout Ontario and Europe, largely landscapes and some portraits.

Landscapes are also Coates’ specialty. He and his wife moved to Blue Point shortly after he retired in 2002 as a London transit driver.

Coates was hired early in his career by a Toronto advertising firm, where he hoped to use his sketching talents.  But the agency didn’t recognize him as an artist and put him to work in other departments.

“I stayed up painting all night anyway,” Coates said. Later, he moved to London and lost interest in art.  “I walked away from it for 17 years,” he said.

Then, in retirement, he took classes with Rath and Petrolia artist Ariel Lyons.

“I just felt the urge and wanted to get back to it,” he said. Coates has a studio in his greenhouse where he’s surrounded by plants, music and natural light.

He works in acrylics and does mostly landscapes, birds and butterflies.

Coates contributed 22 paintings to Gifts of the Season and Hawkes 42.

Other featured artisans include Tammy Ward (pottery), Jacinthe Carswell (drawings), April Kranczynski (fused glass), Kathy King (jewelry), Steve Morris (wood turning), Betty McCready (transformed treasures), and Neil Werden (birdhouses).

Gifts of the Season is a fundraiser for the community-based gallery that helps support art programs in schools and art scholarships. The artists contribute 25% of each sale to the gallery.


WHAT: Gifts of the Season cash and carry sale of local art work

WHEN: Runs until Saturday, Dec. 7.  Mon- Thurs: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Fridays. Sat and Sun: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

WHERE: Gallery in the Grove, 2618 Hamilton Rd., Bright’s Grove, at Wildwood Park.

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