Oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings dot Maureen and Peter Brown’s sitting room walls.
Each depicts a moment in time — a hot, sunny day in Mexico, the orange leaves of fall on Gabriola Island and the proud Union Jacks strung out in celebration of this year’s Royal Jubilee on Irish storefronts. Wherever the Browns travel, their paint brushes go too.
Art has always been a part of Maureen’s life. Her father, Charles Shipman, fought with the British Army during the Second World War. In France, he was captured by the German Army. Shipman escaped with two other soldiers by jumping into a ditch while the Nazis were marching them through the countryside.
Later, when Shipman worked for the British intelligence corps, he was injured from an explosion while riding his motorcycle in Belgium near the end of the war.
“For years after he would keep getting glass coming out of his head,” Maureen recalled, noting they were remnants from the incident.
Although Shipman never spoke of the war, he painted and drew military subjects. His interest in the military’s history silently came to life through oil.
“It is an escape in a way,” Maureen said of painting.
While raising four children, painting was Maureen’s time for herself.
“I just have to do it. I just have to paint,” she said.
Peter started dabbling with watercolours after retiring from his 25-year career as a mechanical engineer at Woodfibre.
“It was the first time I started painting since elementary school,” he said.
Today, the two can often be found in their bright studio, an addition Peter built onto their Garibaldi Highlands house. Painting has opened their passports to a new way of exploring the world. They’ve visited Tuscany, Spain, France and Mexico, all on art excursions.
“You meet all these other artists,” Peter added.
They’ve photographed and painted numerous landscapes, many which end up on their home’s walls. For three weeks, they studied art at a converted church in the French town of Montaigut-le-Blanc. At night they would wander down to the village for supper. The small community, situated on the rugged foothills of the Massif Central, was pieced together with thick stone walls and surrounded by fields. It was warm and welcoming, a place that was difficult to leave, the couple agreed.
“We had various excursions and good instructors,” Peter said.
Next year, their painting exploration will take them closer to home. The Federation of Canadian Artists is hosting spring courses in Whistler. The lineup of instructors includes renowned painters such as award-winning California watercolourist Michael Reardon.
Even though it’s just up the road, the event will be interesting, the Browns said. Such trips teach one different ways to look at things, they noted.
“We don’t sort of like to lay on beaches,” Maureen said.
Recently, here’s been a new addition to the Browns’ art vacations. Their daughter Phillippa joined them on a painting workshop on Gabriola Island.
“It was fun,” Maureen said. “It was her escape from her family.”
Peter’s and Maureen’s work is on display in the locally inspired show presented by the Squamish Valley Artists Society “Home for the Holidays.” The work will be exhibited at the Library Foyer Gallery until Dec. 3.