Peter Salmon (1942 - 2020)


Peter Salmon was born in 1942 in South Wales to parents who were both very good athletes and were shocked when he told them he wanted to make art. Peter graduated from the Newport College of Art in 1963 with a National Degree in Design specializing in painting. Studies at Leeds College of Art and Leeds University resulted in an Art Teaching Degree in 1965 and he took a position teaching art in Bedwellty Grammar school, South Wales.

Saint John, New Brunswick became the artist’s home in 1966 where he taught for three years and was married. He transferred to teaching at Holland College in PEI. However, Saint John beckoned and he returned in 1973 where he continued to teach art at the high school level until his retirement in 2000.

He exhibited early on in his career, having work in various galleries including an exhibition at the Canadian National Exhibition in the early 1970’s but shortly after decided not to continue exhibiting. He continued to paint, teach, illustrate and draw political caricatures and cartoons.

His interest in Theatre Design resulted in the artist’s involvement with community theatre in greater Saint John, designing the sets and painting large scale backdrops including the one for the first play performed in the newly renovated Imperial Theatre.

Peter painted exclusively in oils since the mid 1980’s and began exhibiting again in the early 1990’s. Several of his paintings were selected as part of a year long touring exhibition of Germany. His most recent exhibition was a 2014 Retrospective at the Saint John Arts Centre. He undertook many private and corporate commissions, including for Saint John Energy as well as for the LNG facility at Canaport, and his work may be found in the collection of the University of New Brunswick and important private and corporate collections in North America and Europe.

Very sadly, Peter passed away on March 18, 2020. His artistic legacy remains in his masterful artworks but his intelligence, dry humour, vision and friendship will be sorely missed by all who had the very good fortune of knowing him.


"Snow on the Whirligig"

The first real snowfall came in mid-December of 2018, very gently, and by the afternoon the sky had turned blue, the sun shone, and it was very still. The entrance to my studio in West Quaco, including the whirligig, was covered in delicate snow as I took pictures. A slight whiff of a breeze and the snow was gone, - but I had the photo. Incidentally, this was my last painting, and is the longest time I have stopped since 1985.

"Waiting for the Snow"

On a cold January day, grey and overcast, my wife and I were driving near Upham. The accumulated snow from the past month had all been washed away by a thaw and heavy rain, followed by days of freezing that left the landscape flattened and bleak. As we drove over a bridge and round a bend, we were suddenly confronted with this: gleaming bright yellows and oranges, harsh metallic angles and curves of snow ploughs, and the lined-up trucks that push them. After many photo's I painted this picture.

I regard myself a realist painter, which, to me, means that what I paint must look "real". However, my objective is to make a painting and not just a photographic chunk of nature. I change the composition, colours, textures, leave things out, put things in to achieve this.

"The Tree Harvester"

There was clear-cutting beside the road to Sussex during the spring a few years ago, and as we drove past, I could see these huge, silent, battered and scarred tree-cutting machines. I tracked through the trees and took photos. The sun was brilliant and created dark dramatic shadows on the decimated trees; but what really caught my eye was the huge tires with the worn treads and huge chains covered with drying mud with the detritus of the forest floor sticking in the mud.

Before I start a painting, I design the abstract composition, to know what size and shape the picture will be. The stretcher is made, and the canvas is stretched and primed. When all is dry, I block in the darks and lights. This is the first of five or six phases of the painting, the last of which takes the most time and uses the smallest brushes.

All these paintings presented me with technical problems that I had never encountered before, in the ellipses, and the many planes of the tires and wheels. I had to resort to two- and three-point perspective and even then, got it wrong. Also, the character of the rope and the texture of the bait-bags, the delicacy of the snow, all of which was great fun to do.

Peter Salmon, February 2020