Artist at a watershed

Burton K. Janes
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Wanderlust leads to Bay Roberts and a new career

If you want to chat with Peter Jackson, you need to turn on to Water Street in Bay Roberts and drive east.

Go past the Klondyke Hotel, Royal Canadian Legion and MoorFrost, all on your right. Go past the Cable Building and St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, both on your left.

Stop shy of Madrock Café.

You’ll see a shed on your right, with “Watershed Studio” on the door.

If you miss that, you can’t miss the clothesline next door. Hanging from the line are bold block letters spelling the words “local paintings.”

Where did the name of the studio come from?

“Because it’s a shed on Water Street,” Jackson responds with a hearty laugh, then he turns more serious.

“Also, I love the word watershed, the building up of something special. I thought it was a perfect word to use for the building up of a career.”

Jackson has lived a frenetic life, but is hoping for a fresh start in Bay Roberts East.

“Is this the watershed moment of my life?” he muses.

His personal journey has followed a rather circuitous route.

The 44-year-old was born and raised in Dartmouth, N.S. Pursuing a childhood dream, he studied architecture in Halifax. Following graduation in 1993, he moved west to Vancouver.

“It was a really good career move to be in a city that’s growing so fast and with a lot of modern architecture,” he says.

He worked on highrise residential and commercial buildings, condos and public housing.

In 1999, he relocated to San Francisco, continuing his architectural work for five years.

“I was there during the Internet boom and bust,” he recalls. “Crazy,” is the word he uses to describe those days.

By 2005, he was back in Vancouver until an economic downturn cost him his job.

That’s when he began noticing the TV commercials promoting Newfoundland and Labrador as a tourist destination.

“I’d be working away on my condo. Everything would stop and I’d look at these pictures,” he says.

Though partial to Canada’s West Coast, he missed the people in the east. But he wasn’t interested in moving home.

“I wanted to do something new and different, but yet familiar,” he says.

Let’s continue the adventure, he told himself.

He decided to move to Newfoundland.

He arrived in St. John’s in September 2009.

While he thrived on city life, he pined for a change. His career was no longer as rewarding as he had hoped.

Inspired by the beauty around him, he decided to become a painter, having always had an affinity for drawing and sketching.

“But as an architect, I rarely picked up a pencil for fun,” he acknowledges.

He began taking art lessons from well-known Newfoundland artist Kathleen Knowling.

Soon, wanderlust — “I always have to be near the ocean” — got the better of Jackson again. Drawn to old houses, he began looking for such a place “out in the bay.”

First Carbonear, then Bay Roberts.

“I fell in love with it out here,” he says. “It’s beautiful.”

Jackson and his canine best friend Star — “a gift from the universe” — now live in a fixer-upper. It’s “a little gem,” he says, that hadn’t been lived in for 20 years. He also bought a shed from a neighbour and turned it into his art studio.

In July of this year, he “jumped in with both feet and threw the doors open, to see what would happen.”

He’s been pleasantly surprised. “Oh, my God, somebody’s buying my painting,” he exclaims to a friend. “It was great. It was wonderful. I was very flattered.”

“Left to my own devices, I would be drawn to very realistic portrayals of what I’m seeing,” he said of his work.

However, he feels locals don’t find “scenes of the heritage trail” appealing “because they see it every day and don’t see how unique it really is.”

Influenced by Knowling, Jackson has “been drawn to working with pen and ink, then adding watercolour later.”

He’ll add oil paint to his repertoire this winter.

“I like the fact I’m now doing something that’s a lot more creative (than architecture), and I’m getting to meet people and that’s really enjoyable,” he says.

He wants to be known as more than a come-from-away.

“It really feels like I’ve become part of the community.” he says.

Not surprisingly, colour means everything to Jackson.

“I love adding colour to the world. I love people (who) are colourful characters,” he says.

The Compass

Organizations: Klondyke Hotel, Royal Canadian Legion, Anglican Church The Compass

Geographic location: Bay Roberts East, Water Street, Vancouver Newfoundland and Labrador Dartmouth Halifax San Francisco Canada West Coast

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Recent comments

  • Doctor Doo-little
    December 05, 2010 - 23:19

    Wishing you and Star a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I am so glad you are doing well. Keep in touch.

  • Frank Blackwood
    October 20, 2010 - 20:46

    Peter, a great masterpiece of art. Frank Blackwood Newfoundland Writer

    • Bob Pembroke
      November 02, 2010 - 12:48

      ....great stuff, Peter...Congrats!!!