Biography

Me in Florence 1 Cropped

It is hard for me to believe I’ve been painting more than half my life now. What happened to the days when people used to say “you have only painted that long”. Well, it seems like yesterday in so many ways. Until I go to write my biography. 

I started painting in 1990, having never picked up a brush or shown an interest in art up until that time. I am often asked what got me started. My simple answer is, Glen Loates. I went to high school with Glen’s niece. I used to hear about all the cool things he got to do and the people he got to meet. Those memories always stayed with me. Then, in 1990, I found myself sitting at a kitchen table looking at a Glen Loate’s place mat, thinking to myself, “I wonder if I could draw that”. I got out a sheet of paper, picked up a regular ole hb pencil and put my first lines to paper. Little did I know that a few quiet moments sitting at the table would be so life altering, but that was where is all started.  

In 1991 fate stepped in. One day while picking up my mail at the post office I noticed a flyer on the floor. In it was an advertisement for a week long art course taught by Glen Loates. I remember thinking how strange it was to find that flyer, one that wasn’t even meant for me. Someone had accidentally dropped it while retrieving their mail, coincidence… maybe, but I feel it was more. Well, I called, got what I believe was the last seat and soon I was in my first art class, watching and learning from the artist that had inspired me to paint to begin with. I didn’t paint in watercolour, as Glen did, but what an experience.

In 1993 I secured my first gallery. I walked into a gallery in Bracebridge, Ontario called “Scott’s of Muskoka”, owned and operated by Gil Scott, with 2 or 3 originals, no appointment, biography or anything. Just walked in cold. This is something artists are always told not to do, but I didn’t have any training so I didn’t know it wasn’t proper protocol so in I went, paintings under arm. Whatever his reason, Gil decided to accept me as one of his artists. He must have sensed my dedication to art, but regardless of his reasons, it certainly helped to launch my art career. Another very important person in my life of art.

Over the next 4 years I continued to paint, and started doing art shows.  Christmas 1997 marks another turning point for me, a chance meeting with arguably, the most important influence to my career as an artist, well known artist, Edwin Matthews.  I was showing at a local Christmas art and  craft show in Peterborough Ontario, where I had moved several years before. 

Edwin and his wife Barbara, were the original owners of Gallery on the Lake and Buckhorn Publishing,  They  were at the show doing some Christmas shopping when they came stopped at my art booth. Edwin had been looking for a sporting dog artist and there I was with about 6 dog paintings in my booth. Fate had stepped in again. Soon I was represented by his gallery and publishing company. Edwin taught me so much about how the art business runs. 

Thanks to Edwin and his experience, many doors started to open for me, including his introduction of me to the staff of WPBS TV, a PBS station located in Watertown New York. Buckhorn Publishing donated art to their live TV auction fundraiser each year. Part of the process in donating this art was having his artists create a 15 second spot talking about the prints they were donating. This is how simple my TV career started. 

Another unexpected turn in my life. When the PBS staff realized that I was donating work and liked to talk, they invited me down to their station to help with one of their pledge drives. I thought “why not”, great experience, learn about TV and help them raise some funds. I was the man in front of the Canadian and American flag stating that if you, the public, pledged a certain amount to their station you would receive one of my limited edition prints as a thank you. It went over so well that I was asked to be the artist co-host and later act as artist host for their yearly live 4 day auction with viewer potential of upwards of  2 million people. I had a lot of fun doing these auctions and therefore continued to be involved until the auctions were cancelled a few years ago. 

 This TV experience also led me to host an art and travel show called Journeys of An Artist. This was a 13 part nationally released TV show where I traveled with a guest artist to the places they went to gather the reference material for their paintings.

 It was a great experience! Not only did I get to spend time with and learn from some great artists, including Guy Cohleach, Michael Dumas, and Steve Hanks, but I got to see some fantastic places and have some great adventures. I also believe we created a very worthwhile show for viewers of all sorts, whether they were artists themselves, strictly had a love of art, or just like to travel. 

My career with the government had at the time limited my ability to continue filming, but I’d love to do more of that type of work in the future. Certainly made me look at art and travel with a new set of eyes, in fact our theme was “travel the world through the eyes of an artist”. 

 One person I was planning to do one of the shows on was Apollo 12 Moonwalker, astronaut Alan Bean. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with him at his home and studio in Houston Texas. It was quite an honour hearing his stories first hand, helping design a composition for a painting using his Apollo models. My favourite memory  was having lunch together. We went to his favourite restaurant and had his favourite food, spaghetti with rose sauce. Something I didn’t know. He was the first artist to take spaghetti into space. He had one package framed on this wall at home. I have to say, one of the most memorable days in my life".

During this time period, I purchased an art and framing gallery and published art prints myself and others while beginning to teach art. Eight years later I sold the gallery to concentrate on my own art as well as teaching. I now teach art several times per week out of my studio, as well as teaching courses for Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park. I love helping people along their artistic journey, whether for business or pleasure.

My personal journey in art continues to surprise and intrigue me everyday. I never imagined making it a way of life, now I can’t imagine it any other way. 

I always tell people “I’m not sure where life will lead me. I’m just along for the ride. I plan in broad brushstrokes.”

GENE CANNING's ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Who’s Who in Canada

Who’s Who of Executives

Cambridge Who’s Who

Who’s Who in America

Host of the Nationally released TV show Journey’s of an Artist

Original painting part of Canada’s permanent art collection, once hanging at Rideau Hall, now at another official residence

Collector plate series with NC Cameron and Sons Ltd

Artwork on permanent display in Algonquin Park’s Visitor Centre

1 man show at Algonquin Park’s Visitor Centre

Owner of two successful art galleries

Featured artist at the Algonquin Art Centre

Host of the former WPBS live TV art auction 

Peterborough Pathway of Fame

Peterborough this Week Gold Winner for Favourite Local Artist