Chapel Head is one of Michael Kilburn’s paintings currently on exhibition at the Peter Lewis Gallery in St. John’s. — Submitted photo
It’s perhaps natural that the president of a cosmetics company might retire as an artist.
Michael Kilburn took up painting as a hobby while he was still president of Sally Hansen nail care, and when he retired four years ago, he took it up full-time.
Dividing his time these days between Ontario, Newfoundland and Florida, he’s not often without his sketchbook or camera, ready to capture inspiration that might lead him to his next painting.
It’s in this province that he’s the most inspired, he says.
“Here you get so many things. You get the rugged trees — those little, short trees that, despite what’s been thrown at them, find a way of surviving — and the rocks and the water and the architecture. It’s just so interesting.”
Kilburn and his wife, whose roots are in Newfoundland, have a house in Trinity Bay, where he also has a studio. They spend a lot of their time travelling the island, and Kilburn finds himself drawn to landscapes.
He’s presenting his latest work in “One Man Show,” an exhibition at the Peter Lewis Gallery in St. John’s.
Long Cove, Keels, Bay de Verde, Tilting, Twillingate — Kilburn has painted them all with the romance of autumn colours, playing with light and temperature.
Notable is “Fog in Skerwink,” in which he has delicately executed, in oil, cliffs emerging through a translucent drizzle. In “Chapel Head,” Kilburn has successfully juxtaposed the heat of a sunny day with the visible coolness of a rock face in the shade.
The larger pieces were done in studio, Kilburn explains, while the smaller canvases were at least started outside on location. The plein-air pieces are distinguishable, painted in a style which suggests the urgency that local weather might often require.
The majority of his pieces include water.
“There’s something about the light here. Maybe it’s the way the sun hits the water, but the water is so steel blue; it’s got that real dark blue,” he says. “When you see it in Florida it tends to be the light turquoise, greeny blue, where this is really intense, dark steel. Gorgeous colours.”
Kilburn plans to cover the west coast of the island next summer in search of inspiration.
From “One Man Show,” he hopes viewers will be both entertained and nostalgic.
“Hopefully they get a bit of a cross-section of the different areas, and maybe they’ll remember seeing the town. It’s surprising how many people who are local actually travel around here. I think a lot of them will recognize scenes.”
“One Man Show” runs at the gallery until Friday.