Paul Morin – an artist who respects all cultures

July 24, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Said Paul Morin as an opener: “I started my career in Toronto in 1989. I illustrated my first children’s book, the Orphan Boy, and I won the Governor General’s Award.”

A heady beginning, to be sure.

From there, “I did [illustrated] a lot of [children’s] books, It took me around the world: I travelled a lot – Australia, Mexico, China to research the different cultures for the illustrations. By doing that, most of the communities I visited, I had the opportunity to share my travels.

“I also had a secondary career of promoting those books; the books gave me a platform for promoting cultural diversity.” 

In due course, “in 2007, I decided I would have a gallery. My first gallery was in Rockwood. I was painting landscapes, abstracts. I had that gallery and, then, a bigger gallery in Erin. 

“I had reached the point where, instead of painting landscapes, I could paint what I wanted.”

It was in 2012, Mr. Morin decided to have a gallery in the Alton Mill [Arts Centre].

“I spent two months renovating the space,” he told the Citizen. “It was overlooking the mill pond. I put in a hardwood floor, using vintage flooring; installed a backing system with lights. The Mill administration has an advertising system the artists pay into. I was with the Alton Mill for four years but I was looking around for other advertising spaces and I was taking space in Canadian Art magazine. For promoting myself that was an advertising medium that suited me: I was promoting myself and the Mill was promoting itself and the artists and I was getting clients from all over.”

When Mr. Morin felt it was time to shift to his own premises, he said, “I didn’t want to leave the area. There was the United Church [de-sanctified] and I was looking at the old town hall which was falling apart. It was basically a mess. 

“I came in to the town and made a offer, which wasn’t huge and there were a lot of issues before they could put it up for sale. So, I took a lease actually in 2016. I had $14,000. Whatever I could do myself, I did and, in 2018, I officially purchased the building from the town.”

In the course of extremely extensive work on the old building, as his website explains, Paul Morin learned “traditional stone, brick, plaster and glazed window restoration; he has spent three years renovating the building. The high ceilings and unique interior layout provide the perfect place to experience his art. It is also a wonderful acoustic ideal place for weddings [and other functions].”

He went on to say, “I lend the gallery also for weddings, I’ve expanded what the gallery is by doing these other things. Luckily, because of all my books, I had a career beyond.”

For other subjects of his life as an artistic adventurer, “Ten years ago, 2010, I’m a big junkie for ruins; I am fascinated by ancient culture. In China, I drew energy from that prehistory.

“Just wandering around; in Peru, I get up before sunrise and climb the mountain to see the sun rise. It makes for the best photography. Machu Picchu most people go later but that is the best light.”

Machu Picchu is the mysterious and largest of the Inca ruins, built in the mid-1500’s and located in the heart of the “Sacred Valley is most impressive.”

His travels there, “reunited me with a passion,” as he said, speaking of his return to landscape painting. “I was in a really neat groove; haven’t done that for a while – landscape painting to fill the gallery. 

“When Covid hit, I wanted to paint for myself and it took me back to Peru.” He explained his use of the down time Covid-19 enforced: “I took a block of 14 weeks direct inspiration from the experiences of being there, flowing out of me; then, I saw how I could use this opportunity.

“My friends there are by no means rich – they are poor people, musicians. 20 people play ancient music and they could never buy a lap top. I thought if I could put together a recording studio for them, by having them playing the music they’re already playing, they could have this source of income.

“I spent time editing a documentary to see what I could do with this idea. I do a lot of public engagements, talking about these cultures. I thought about using that. So, I did my first screening of this documentary and I put out the idea and raised some money for them.”

He has decided, “I’ll do another evening on how we can change these people’s lives, to buy the equipment for themselves.”

Also, “One of my friends down there is an amazing painter. My paintings range from $500 and up. My plan is that we both do a show, which I’m going to promote. With the digital files I have, I’ll make them museum quality prints of his work from digital images. My original paintings will also be a part of the show.

“I know I’m going to be able to turn that to $1,000 to $2,000 and the profit can go to building these musicians a mobile recording studio.” 

His enthusiasm for the project was sincere: “I’m using my past experience to generate enough interest; I want to make the publisher interested and I can see that I can do it.

“The nature of the Sacred Valley- there are too many [people] go down a road, without any idea of what’s possible.”

Admitting, “I usually dive into projects without necessarily a clear idea but then they blossom into something I might not have foreseen.”

He paused briefly to ruminate: “I’m involved in so many things; you can see that the Covid opportunity gave me the idea to just paint from the heart; technically, away from the depression and anxiety, I used that time in my studio painting, avoiding the anxiety.

“What will be the shape of art in the future? With a drop in income, there might not be big sales of original paintings and a lot of galleries won’t be opening but I think I’ll be okay. I have a wife and two grown kids, both in college, one for graphic design and the other is in film. What is that going to look like?

“Possibly because they see an inspiration that comes from your mind and heart rather than financial concerns, they’ll manage. 

“We teach by example: my kids see the hours, 60 or 70 hours a week I put into painting. I do exactly what my imagination leads me to do. Sometimes, I’m quiet, just thinking and letting it come.”

He did note, “Most of my books are available around the world. Every time one sells I get 47c but that adds up remarkably well.”

A strong self-promoter online, naturally, “I make sculptures and do installation physical art assembly, which I show on social media; I post on Facebook and I show very diverse things I did. 

“A corporation wanted me to create a lobby. I made this huge painting with windows in it. They wanted it so people weren’t looking at their phones. They came in and, all of a sudden, that there are five monitors is potentially interesting, then cut to all the different videos: one is just water movement, I took months shooting that video; it shows no light fabrication. 

“Also is ambient music on the iPad, with which clients can interact and which I produced using Edison.”

He elaborated, “The client had a grand piano, so, I created an alcove with Chinese 200-year-old art built into this wall and two monitors with perpetual changing imagines – 700 images but you don’t see it changing.

“I took 14 months to put this all together; some of it was rather beyond my capacity. I had to learn to do all this amazing amount of work.”

In the end, “It was exactly what the client wanted: nobody had ever seen anything like. It was totally inspirational – touch the iPad and you can interact.”

He said, “I did not want to have any barriers” and said, “I had done a big project with this – I tend to thrive on huge – that was a year and a half of work, additional to my painting.” 

Simply stated, “I just have to put down my work ethic and life style. All you have to do is create. 

“I have difficulties just getting through the ideas that I have- essentially. I’m always looking for a way to reinvent.” 

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