Southwestern Ontario’s beauty entices many artists to make this area their home, place of work and inspiration. More than a dozen small galleries and working studios are in the area. Enjoy the wealth of opportunities to browse and buy original photography, paintings, multi-media artwork and artisan crafts from local artists. Here are the profiles of a few of the area’s well-known artists and photographers.
Exploring the Lifelong Artistic Love Affair of Bayfield Artist Jim Taleski By Judy Johnson
Many people come to beautiful, historic Bayfield on the shores of Lake Huron to soak up the village’s atmosphere and discover Main Street Gallery and one of the area’s artistic treasures, Jim Taleski. Others travel from near and far to visit the gallery and its trove of fine art and discover the charms of Bayfield.
“Art has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember”, says Jim. This is one of the first things Jim shares about himself and the long-standing artistic framework that shaped his career and decades of personal and professional life.
Jim grew up in the countryside just north of London. At the bottom of a nearby hill, a forested area with two spring-fed ponds provided a home to fish, frogs and crayfish and a water source for pheasants and other birds, deer and foxes. As a child, the area offered a magical stomping ground for Jim, who spent many happy hours and days exploring that idyllic place. Jim identifies those early preteen years as having “a direct influence on my future career and subject matter as an artist.” Jim’s love of nature and wildlife, and hiking and sailing, took root in those experiences.
The Emerging Artist
Jim remembers racing home after school to watch the latest television episode of LEARN TO DRAW AND PAINT WITH JOHN GNAGY. “I loved that show – watching it on my parent’s little black and white television”, recalls Jim. Gnagy’s books and lessons remain popular today.
When Jim was 12 years old, artist Joyce Hughes became a neighbour. She set up a painting studio in her basement and gave art lessons to neighbourhood kids. Recognizing Jim’s natural talent for oil painting, Joyce remained a huge supporter for years and attended Jim’s first solo gallery show in London. Despite being only in his early twenties, the show received a rave review from the London Free Press art critic.
Jim also recalls his uncle Bill Winegarden, who “came up with cartoon ideas and had me draw them so he could caption and submit them for publication. Sadly, none were published, but it was great fun!”
Jim attended H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, which still today offers specialized programs for students while meeting Ontario diploma requirements. Jim studied under “several amazing art instructors” in the three-year art course. One of them was Hugh Mackenzie who announced while handing out marks for an art project, that when a student surpasses the teacher, the teacher must give that student 100% on their project. Jim smiles as he remembers, “only one person achieved that level of praise…no, it wasn’t me, it was artist extraordinaire Barry Richman, my classmate and buddy from Grand Bend!”
Changing Tack: Morphing Media & Styles
During the next 20 years, Jim had several successful gallery shows. He focused on abstract paintings and mixed-media constructions in his twenties and thirties. Gradually elements of realism were introduced into his abstract work, eventually transforming into full-blown realism.
Over the next decade, Jim’s medium of choice was watercolour, a challenging and exciting medium even for the most adept artist. Jim would often travel to art galleries and museums to view and become inspired by the talent and art of other artists. Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania is home to original paintings by Andrew and Jamie Wyeth and Philip Jamison and has held exhibits of Winslow Homer’s work. These visits included the art studio and home of an American friend and celebrated watercolour artist and author, Philip Jamison. Jim and Philip corresponded and remained friends for many years.
A few years ago, searching for another art challenge, Jim switched to acrylics on canvas. Today, his work runs the gamut of watercolour, semi-abstract expressionism and realism paintings. He has also handcrafted more than 40 folk art style sailboats in various sizes, using driftwood, sea glass and hand-made sails sewn by his wife Linda. Jim’s sailboats grace residences far and wide with whimsical charm.
Charting the Course
Jim continued painting and exhibiting fine art while working for 20 years as a senior graphic designer, art director and creative director for a national advertising agency and design studio.
For many years, his work was exhibited and sold at galleries in Toronto, London, Kitchener and Stratford, as well as at art festivals throughout Ontario. In 2006, Jim received the Curator’s Choice Award at Watson’s Legacy Show that celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Homer Watson Gallery in Kitchener.
As time went on, Jim’s love of meeting art fans brought on a shift from exhibitions at galleries to art festivals, including two decades with Toronto’s prestigious One of a Kind Show. Jim discovered “that meeting people in person at festivals and developing a rapport with my customers was very enjoyable and rewarding.”
Taking the Helm: Home Port - Bayfield
Jim and Linda have enjoyed sailing out of Bayfield Harbour since the 1970s. Sharing a love of sailing, they bought their first sailboat shortly after they married fifty years ago. Jim’s dad, aunt, uncle and cousins have all been boaters, “I guess water and boating are in our blood”, muses Jim.
The couple eventually moved from London to Bayfield – to what they realized was truly their home port. Artist-in-residence took on a new, very literal meaning!
About 12 years ago, they purchased an empty, one-hundred-year-old building on Bayfield’s main street that became the home of Main Street Gallery, Jim and Linda’s love child. This couple has always worked as a team, a true collaboration of talents and effort. This is very evident when you visit the gallery. They share a love of exhibiting and promoting the work of 35 award-winning artists and artisans – painters, potters, photographers, wood turners and craftspeople, sculptors, jewellers, textile, metal and ceramic artists. Covid-19 shutdowns of 2020 and 2021 produced challenges but also a silver lining – more Canadians discovered and bought local art. Main Street Gallery’s artists have used this time to produce exciting new works.
Among Jim’s fondest memories are sailing with Linda from Bayfield to Tobermory and then up to the North Channel in Georgian Bay for summer vacations. “We lived on the boat for several weeks at a time. Now, most of our sailing takes place in the evening, after my painting and Linda’s textile and macramé work is done – and when the gallery closes. We call our current sailboat ‘Evening Star’, as we are often on Lake Huron as the sun sets.”
When the Lake is too rough for sailing, the couple walks the beach looking for sea glass and driftwood for their many projects.
Today Jim’s paintings, whether abstract or realist, often celebrate water.
Navigating the World
When travelling Jim and Linda visit galleries and artist studios in Canada and the U.S.A. “I think over the years we’ve visited almost every gallery from Maine down to Key West and across the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California”, Jim estimates. Along the way, they have collected friends in the form of artists and gallery owners.
Relationships formed with collectors from all over the world means Jim’s paintings are found not only in Canadian provinces but in almost every state in the U.S.A. and throughout Europe, including the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands and farther away in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
Jim shares: “Our enthusiasm and passion for all forms of artistic endeavours have never waned. Our love of art is probably stronger today than it was way back in the old Beal Art days decades ago.”
Handy websites: facebook.com/MainStreetGalleryBayfield/
BEHIND THE LENS OF PHOTOGRAPHER JANETTE BAILLIE
by Judy Johnson
Janette Baillie’s landscape photographs celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature. Her desire is to engage the viewer in the interior life of her photographs.
“I would be very pleased if they saw what I saw – at a moment in time and hope they can step back with me into that moment to see the light, that scene. I want to share the mood and what compelled me to click the shutter at that particular moment….what drew me to take that particular photo.”
Janette Baillie grew up in the Owen Sound area, home to artists like Tom Thomson who showcased Canadian landscapes – quickly capturing familiar scenes with oil paint and brushes on location. Thomson’s colourful, strong paintings and those of the founding members of the Group of Seven influenced Janette’s artistic inclination. Artistic creation is a family affair: Janette’s mother painted, quilted and expressed her creativity in a number of ways; Janette’s brother sketches.
Although Janette used her Instamatic camera on family trips, it wasn’t until she got her first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera about a decade ago that she came into her own as an artist/photographer who paints with pixels. Today her trusty Sony digital camera is her workhorse with its ability to capture many more photographic opportunities through its technical capabilities like long exposure and shallow depth of field and to operate in extreme low light conditions. The camera’s capabilities bring new creative dimensions to post-editing work.
Sharing a common passion with her husband Glen led to a new appreciation of a wide range of art genres. From their excursions to galleries and museums, to vacations savouring art from vibrant artist colonies in Mexico and masterpieces in the Louvre, Janette’s exposure to classic and contemporary works, whether by local or internationally-famous artists, broadened her artist viewpoint and expanded her creative boundaries.
Although childhood friends and family labelled Janette as “the photographer”, it was not until 2011 that Janette began to accept that label for herself. In July 2011, Janette’s photo of two ladies walking out into the lake at Sauble Beach was the Editor's Pick for the Globe & Mail’s photo contest of Togetherness. “They were about the same older age, wore the same bathing suits and straw hats. It was a pivotal moment for me. People I had known over the years contacted me and remarked that they didn’t know I was a photographer.” That was the beginning of Janette thinking of herself as a photographer - not a photo-taker - and the rest is history.
If a lifetime of taking photographs is experience, then the next step in the photographer’s development is apprenticeship. Janette honed her photographic skills and artist’s eye through workshops with Canadian photographers whose work she admired, among them André Gallant and Freeman Patterson, both award-winning photographers and authors. She also credits her continuing association with the Port Franks & Area Camera Club, including volunteering on their Executive, for her continued growth and learning from this “collaborative, great group of people”.
Janette’s experience at Sunset Arts Gallery (sunsetarts.info), a co-operative retail gallery in Grand Bend, is also a source of artistic inspiration for her – “it’s a privilege to have my work hanging there with all of these folks' works – everybody is so talented in so many different ways”.
The most popular images in Janette’s portfolio are her sunset photographs, especially the ones taken at Grand Bend. In every season and in all types of weather, with moods created from indigo to sunny displayed in all the colours of the spectrum, Janette is inspired to jump in the car and head to the beach to capture the essence of the scene.
Janette’s innate modesty prevents her from any self-promotion; it’s apparent her temperament is to give more than she gets. In using her talents to capture the area’s incredible beauty and encouraging visitors and residents alike to recognize and appreciate the surrounding splendor, she is also helping local businesses to thrive.
Janette and husband Glen are extensively involved in the community. At times their particular interests and involvement differ and at other times they converge, as they did with the establishment of the Grand Bend & Area Studio Tour 10 years ago. The annual studio tour highlights local artists along the shoreline while also supporting and engaging local restaurants and accommodations. She is an organizing committee member of the Grand Bend & Area Holiday Home Tour, Board Member for the Grand Bend Community Foundation and member of its Grants Committee. Her photographic work is used extensively in the area’s activity’s guide – It Starts At The Beach. She is one of Summer Sunset Sounds photographers, a concert series initiated six years ago and still organized and implemented by Glen.
Her latest endeavour was sparked when she created her website, forcing the curation of which photos to include and which to put aside. Wanting to share her photos with people, she published her first book Grand Bend – Through the Lens. It showcases the diversity of waterscapes and landscapes throughout the seasons and the wide range of Janette’s photographic talents and interests.
Janette Baillie muses she “would have loved to have been a painter. I admire painters’ inspirations – because they are all about the light. Maybe someday”.
Reality Check, Ms. Baillie! You already are a painter – your tools are not brushes, oils and easel but camera, lenses and tripod. You paint with pixels and invite us into your world through them.
Artist Josy Britton Showcases Grand Bend’s Rare Natural Beauty
By Emily Baillie
Lake Huron’s shoreline communities are brimming with talented artists who find inspiration in its extraordinary outdoor splendour. A thriving, four-season artists’ community lives and paints here, creating award-winning art that depicts the resplendent shores of Lake Huron, precious Oak Savanna forests and peaceful Ausable River ecosystems.
One of those artists is Josy Britton, a renowned landscape painter who has been inspired by the area’s unique forests her entire life. “Growing up, I spent summer vacations camping in the Pinery Provincial Park with my family. It was there that I first fell in love with trees. I am constantly energized by the miracles I see in nature. That’s what I share with others in my art.”
Josy’s paintings showcase the area’s quiet natural beauty, while inspiring others to appreciate their own natural surroundings. She paints in watercolours, oil and encaustics (textured hot wax paintings) in her home studio located near the Pinery Park. Her popular works feature stunning water lilies, majestic oak and maple trees, tranquil water reflections, fascinating leaf formations and more.
Solo Morning Canoe Paddles
Josy often starts her day by paddling her canoe along the Old Ausable Channel. She feels a strong pull to immerse herself in the magical Oak Savanna ecosystem. With a careful eye, she observes the evolution of the natural seasons from her canoe. “Nature is so interconnected and in harmony. No matter what season it is, it always looks perfect to me.”
Josy has used her talent to paint nature and forest scenes in Ontario and other destinations, such as Vancouver Island, Algonquin Park and the California woodlands. Her art is revered in her home community and showcased in dozens of art shows across Ontario and beyond. In 2019, she won the Best New Exhibitor prize at the ArtExpo show in New York City. Josy is known for her impressive large format paintings which can measure up to 84 x 48 inches. Each carefully crafted piece can take Josy up to six months to complete.
As a longtime Grand Bend resident, Josy welcomes visitors and encourages people to explore the town’s vibrant arts and cultural scene. Josy recommends taking in a production at the Huron County Playhouse, viewing dozens of local artists’ works in the annual Grand Bend Area Studio Tour held in May, visiting the Paint Ontario Art Competition Exhibition & Sale at the Lambton Heritage Museum and stepping into the lovely gallery on River Road, Grand Bend. She, of course, also recommends experiencing forests at their finest inside the Pinery Provincial Park.
The Carolinian majestic forests, after all, might just inspire you too.
To view Josy’s art and arrange a viewing, visit her website at josybritton.com.
The Legend of Red Dog - Native Artist Jeff George by Judy Johnson
A conversation with Red Dog, a red-bearded, soft-spoken, reflective man is not unlike getting to know one of his paintings - there are many layers to discover. We chatted while he relaxed on the sofa with his two rescue dogs surrounded by colourful images and symbols in paintings finished and in progress.
Red Dog, known also as Jeff George and Minemagabu, his spiritual name meaning “the one that walks in the light of the creator”, lives and works out of his home studio in Port Franks. Storyteller with brush and paint, Jeff comes from Kettle Point's Anishinabek First Nation.
Jeff’s life experiences have had a profound influence on him; a journey of overcoming obstacles and recovering from an abusive childhood and loss of father and half-brother at an early age. A process of replacing harmful behavior with self-acceptance and embracing his inner artist - a path he intuitively knew was his destiny.
An art therapy program became a personal rebirth, providing opportunity for healing through self-expression on canvas. Through the studio's large picture windows, the view of Carolinian forest is an invitation to walk the woods and marvel at nature’s colourful splendor. The studio's interior view echoes that invitation. Brightly-coloured paintings call to the viewer to first enjoy at a distance, then to look more closely to find the diversity of spirit animal imagery within, then to reflect and ultimately feel their impact.
Jeff paints in the Woodland Style, recognized by its vibrant colours and abstract figures that represent spiritual and mystical objects, people and creatures. It's a style created and made famous by Norval Morriseau, who won the Order of Canada for his achievement. Within Jeff's work are the visual echoes of Morriseau's and Jean Mark Jacobson's artistic influences. Vibrant colour, two-dimensional images and sharp, distinct lines create animal and bird symbols that tell of Ojibway legends, Jeff's own personal growth, and events that impacted him.
One of Jeff's latest works is a large, rectangular acrylic on canvas, displaying an eagle feather embedded with symbols of strength, respect and caring. It's a gift for his partner, a visual depiction of vows renewed. Like the universal native stories, there are lessons within the paintings. The Eagle flies high, carrying prayers and messages to the Creator. The Bear offers protection and symbolizes courage. The graceful, patient Heron stands in the midst of a treed lake, reminding people of a key Ojibway belief to protect and steward Mother Earth, the source of all life.
A self-described bad student with a lack of focus, school hours were spent doodling and drawing. Jeff's Grade 4 teacher gave him coloured pencils and encouraged him to create a large classroom mural. By the time Jeff was in Grade 7, people visited the school to admire his chalkboard cartoons. Having others value his artwork became a source of quiet, modest pride for Jeff, who is thankful teachers encouraged his artistic talent.
Jeff, Red Dog, Minemagabu, is living his name and destiny – emerging from a world of darkness into light, healing and helping others heal through interpreting the oral stories of his people through paintings full of details to be examined.
Art By 3: 7710 Clayton St., Port Franks, artby3.com, 519-243-3321.
Barry Richman, 30 Albert St., Grand Bend, 519-238-6213.
Bill Nieuwland, theartistbill.com, 519-238-6447.
David Hudgel Woodturnings & Design, davidhudgelwoodturninganddesign.weebly.com, 519-982-3399
D. Culbard Fine Arts Studio, 30 Ontario St. S., Grand Bend, dculbardfineart.com, 519-238-0021.
Janette Baillie Photography, janettebailliephotography.com, 519-238-1742.
Josy Britton, By Appointment, josybritton.com.
Judy M. Roth, 22 Keith Cres., Bayfield, @theJMRcollections, 519-565-1369.
Main Street Gallery, 4 Main St. N., Bayfield, facebook.com/mainstreetgallerybayfield, 519-565-2048.
Marten Arts Gallery, 17A Main St. N., Bayfield, martenarts.ca, 519-565-2222.
Patina Studios, 12B Main St. N., Bayfield, patinastudios.ca, 519-955-6517.
Sunset Arts, 63 River Rd., Grand Bend, sunsetarts.info, 519-238-6914.
Treehaus Canada Studio, Grand Bend, treehauscanada.ca.
The following locations offer drop-in and scheduled art classes for all ages and skill levels. Check websites for details, dates and times.
Art By 3 Studio (Port Franks): Variety of one-day art workshops, including encaustic hot wax, photo encaustic, glass jewellery, stained glass drip, fused glass and garden art. artby3.com, 519-243-3321.
Grand Bend Art Centre (Grand Bend): Offers scheduled and drop-in art classes, seminars and workshops for all ages including summer camps for kids. gbartcentre.com, 519-238-1155.
Treehaus Canada Studio (Grand Bend): A working glass art studio that offers fused glass workshops to everyone 10-years and up. treehauscanada.ca, 226-678-5118
The following locations host group creative and art events. Check websites for details, dates and times.
- Oakwood Resort (Grand Bend), oakwoodresort.ca, 519-238-2324.
- Pinedale Motor Inn (Grand Bend), pinedale.on.ca, 519-238-2231.
- White Squirrel Golf Club (St. Joseph), whitesquirrelgolfclub.com, 519-236-4030.
- Paint Ontario, Grand Bend – September 2-25, 2022
- Arts, Eats & Beats Studio Tour, Multiple Locations – May 14 & 15, 2022
- Lambton Colour & Craft Festival, Grand Bend – October 15 & 16, 2022
See Festivals & Events for more events, dates, times and details.