By Sue Tiffin
Published June 14 2018
Artist Harvey Walker is finally a full-time resident in the area where he has firmly planted roots and followed opportunities along the way to get here.
About 30 years ago Harvey and his wife Connie decided to take a tent and a van and two small kids and head north.
The couple living in Port Perry at the time ended up at a tent and trailer park in Minden.
“By the end of the week we had bought a trailer on a site and we knew we were coming back regularly from then on” he said.
In 2000 they bought a cottage in “a suburb of Carnarvon” and became what Harvey calls “part-time residents.” Together or individually they became involved in the folk society Places for People the art galleries the quilting group and helped to build the community while enjoying sites and events. More and more they were spending time in the area and only returning to Port Perry to cut the grass.
This past November the pair retired from Harvey’s cabinet business and Connie’s nursing position headed this way for good.
We put down roots before we were really on the street” said Harvey. “It made life easy in a lot of ways because there was no kind of shock in terms of ‘what do I do with the rest of my life?’ kind of thing. At no point did we feel like we were leaving anything behind. At one point we had to make a choice between one place or the other and it really wasn’t a hard decision.”
Harvey began pursuing painting years ago when he and Connie were first married. He had decided to get off the couch with a weekly outing and signed up for a recreational gym class. But then the class got cancelled.
“They said ‘do you want to sign up for another one? How about oil painting?’” said Harvey. “And I said ‘OK I’ll try that.’”
After the class a group of the students wanted to keep painting so they met at Harvey’s house on Tuesday nights encouraging each other by gathering and planning group shows together.
For Harvey it didn’t stop there. After he won the People’s Choice Award at Agnes Jamieson Gallery a few years ago he found a new opportunity through one of the perks of winning the award – his own gallery showing.
“There were people walking through asking ‘do you teach?’” he said. “That was a case where I didn’t say ‘I’m going to start a course in Minden.’ Someone said ‘will you?’ And I said ‘OK.’”
With the help of gallery curator Laurie Carmount Harvey began teaching classes in Minden something he still does today from his home studio.
“It wasn’t really a retirement plan” he said. “I’ve just been kind of open for opportunities and whenever it sounded good ‘sure I’ll do that.’”
Harvey’s classes have received good feedback and a steady stream of people.
“It’s not so much a structured class it’s more of an open studio with help” he said. “So if someone comes in and has an issue with mixing colours we can talk about it and if anyone else in the room wants to listen in they can. I’m not reciting a lesson plan it’s more impromptu.”
Harvey’s landscapes are realistic and represent his ability to analyze and his passion for creating.
“My goal is to try to capture some of my most emotional response to the landscape and have the viewer connect with that in some way” he said.
A fan of plein air painting he can be seen painting outside at any time of the year regardless of the weather – even if it’s according to him “-18 with a windchill of stupid.”
“People say ‘Don’t your paints freeze?’” he laughs. “I work with oil paints. They get gummy but usually my fingers freeze quicker than the paints do. When you can’t feel your fingers it’s time to quit. It’s usually a couple of hours in. I like to call plein air painting the extreme sport of painting. Everything you’re looking at is changing and you’re usually dealing with August heat or May bugs or January frozen feet one or the other. It makes you work differently versus kind of puttering along comfortably in a padded chair in a warm studio. It doesn’t always produce the best work but it’s great exercise. It’s like running sprints. You learn to work a little more efficiently a little faster and it pays off in the long run.”
Harvey said many of his students or people taking in his work on studio tours such as the Tour de Forest tell him “they used to.”
“That’s the first line I hear so many times” he said. “I used to do this I used to paint I used to sketch I used to do watercolours. What I keep trying to do is get them moving beyond that. What you used to do you can still do. Now that you’re retired put some time and effort into it and you can get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”
Harvey’s classes run on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. He’s available through his Facebook page by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 905-435-7785 to arrange a visit to his studio or to discuss an interest in classes.