Be an Art Lover

For Art Lovers

Southwestern Ontario’s beauty calls to many artists, who make this area their home and place of work. More than a dozen small galleries and working studios can be found in the area, including Ontario’s foremost juried art competition, show and sale of original representational art – Paint Ontario. Enjoy opportunities to browse and buy original art and photography from local artists, as well as the chance to meet and chat with them. What follows is the profile of one of the area’s local artists.

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The Legend of Red Dog – native artist Jeff George

by Judy Johnson

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Photo: Jeff “Red” George – J. Barry 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 the 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 always knew was his destiny.

Photo: Jeff "Red" George with original artwork - J. Baillie

Photo: Jeff “Red” George with original artwork – J. Baillie

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 within their relationship.

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.

Photo: Jeff "Red" George at the Kettle & Stony Point PowWow - J. Baillie

Photo: Jeff “Red” George at the Kettle & Stony Point PowWow – J. Baillie

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 his 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.

EXPLORE YOUR INNER ARTIST

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 and garden art. artby3.com, 519-243-3321.

Grand Bend Art Centre (Grand Bend): Offers scheduled and drop-in art workshops and events for all ages. gbartcentre.com, 519-238-1155.

Lake Life Studio (Camlachie): A working glass art studio, retail and workshop location. lakelifestudio.com, 519-328-2217.

Oakwood Resort (Grand Bend): Hosts group creative and art events with Amy Gelinas instructing. Check website for dates and details. oakwoodresort.ca, 519-238-2324

Pine Dale Motor Inn (Grand Bend): Hosts group paint nights run by local professional artist. Paint your own masterpiece and enjoy a cocktail. Check website for dates and details. pinedale.on.ca, 519-238-2231

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

White Squirrel Golf Club (St. Joseph): whitesquirrelgolfclub.com, 519-236-4030.

GALLERIES / WORKING STUDIOS

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Paint Ontario, Grand Bend – March 29 to April 30, 2019
  • Arts, Eats & Beats Studio Tour, Multiple Locations – May 4 & 5, 2019
  • Lambton Colour & Craft Festival, Grand Bend – October 12 & 13, 2019

See Festivals & Events for more events, dates, times and details.