My Hubby and I were walking past our favorite retail art gallery when I happened to glance through its open door. Inside was a man with long grey hair sitting on a stool in front of a sketch easel, brush in hand, underpainting his canvas. A real artist!
I grabbed my Hubby’s arm and steered him into the gallery.
From the moment I crossed the threshold, I was drawn to a painting on the far wall. It was of an ivy covered old stone bridge crossing a meandering river overlain with the richness of emerald coloured leaves of the nearby trees. I felt its magic.
“There are definitely leprechauns lurking somewhere in that brush over there!” I walk toward the picture. “I can sense it. Their just itching to peep out from behind that tree trunk over there,” I said wagging my finger at the sapling in question. “It’s just such a place.”
“It is,” responded the mellow voice behind me.
I spun around. There was Murray Phillips, a recognized Canadian wilderness artist, who reminded me of Santa Clause with his large bushy white beard and the kindest of blue eyes. Serenity and gentleness radiated from him. He was grinning from ear to ear.
“I love it,” I said and smiled at him. In that instant, I knew I had just met someone special, a kindred spirit as ‘Anne of Green Gables’ would say.
Hubby and I remained at the gallery much longer than we intended. We explored the richness and diversity of Murray’s artwork. It was exciting, it was inspiring! I let my imagination go, feeling his paintings. Hmm, who says there weren’t hobbits, dryads or seelie fairies lurking in any of them?
Murray sees himself as a storyteller. He calls it “having a conversation with my canvas”. When he hikes through nature looking for a scene to paint, he is also thinking about the story he wants to tell. But he only gets to tell half of it. When someone comes along and responds to the piece, like I did, they get to pick up the thread and write the conclusion.
We couldn’t have picked a better afternoon to visit. It was the day before the opening of the gallery’s ‘Tale of Ireland’ show, featuring three Canadian artists. “There was so much opportunity for talking and for just having a good time together.”
We noticed that Murray’s artwork has taken on an added dimension since his first wife of 46 years passed away a few years ago. “It gave me a new appreciation for the struggle people go through with grief,” he said. “There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of her. But the things we held to as important remain.”
The stories in his paintings now include an extra layer of emotion, not there before. His most recent paintings are from his honeymoon spent in the north-west coast of Ireland, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There is renewed energy and an ethereal joy in them.
“Art is a form of language,” he told us. “People often tell me, ‘I cannot find the words; I don’t know what to say. Can you help us?’ I suggest to them that they consider using art as a means of expressing their feelings. It’s just a different form of communication.”
Yes, indeed it is. And whenever I look at Murray’s painting hanging on my wall, I will have one more story to tell, “It reminds me of the time I met a most extraordinary artist named Murray Phillips…”
P.S. For the curious minded: Murray Phillips Art website and About page. I refrained from adding any photos of his paintings to this post in case of copyright issues. I also found that the online photos just don’t do justice to the spirit and vibrancy that exude in his original works.