July 1972, the newspaper periodical Electrical Business was the first printing job I set up the colour and register for as an apprentice at age 17. Looking back, I am very thankful to my first employer Bob Chittick who was the original owner of Web Offset Publications, Don Mills, Ontario. Mr. Chittick’s accountant, Leo Boucher got some of us boys from our neighbourhood jobs at the newspaper printing plant where his boss Mr. Chittick paid his employees fair wages, excellent benefits, and treated everyone like we were his family with dignity and respect. As an apprentice I earned $5 an hour. Mr. Chittick brought in graphic arts instructors from George Brown College to help with our apprenticeship training and he would often send his pressman away on field trips to pulp and paper plants to experience firsthand how newsprint was produced. After completing my 4 years apprenticeship program I earned a certificate that recognized me as a Graphics Arts Craftsman by the Ontario Government. I became (MIC) man in charge of my own press crew doing shifts, printing newspapers and maintaining and repairing the presses. In the summer of 1979, I took some time off from printing to try my hand with a sign making business and did some art shows on the weekends throughout Ontario inside shopping malls. It didn’t work out so well financially, so I took over my brother Jim’s trucking job he was leaving and drove a 5-ton truck doing deliveries downtown Toronto between printing jobs. My brother Jim, a trucker moved on to bigger dreams with his life driving the big semi-trailer trucks all over North America and Canada. I didn’t do so well as a trucker either, hitting parked cars on sharp turns and one time hitting a bump on the MacDonald Cartier Freeway, dumping creosote oil for miles on to the highway. One day, on my lunch break I answered an ad in the Toronto Sun, where they were looking for newspaper pressmen in Edmonton. I called from a phone booth and was hired over the phone, "how soon do you need me out there in Edmonton" I asked and they answered, "2 weeks ago!" So, I loaded up my 1979 Ford pick-up truck with everything I owned and drove out to Alberta to a job that was waiting for me at the Edmonton Sun. At first some in my family, friends didn’t think I was serious about a move out west but my Irish grandfather Howard Pentland knew I was serious and encouraged me to, "Go west young man", and said Edmonton is the best City in the country to live in." My Grandfather immigrated from poverty in Ireland to Canada alone as a young man and made a life for himself and his family as designer of needle and stitching. While making a life for myself in Edmonton, my former employer Bob Chittick would call me from Toronto from time to time to ask how my family and I were managing in Edmonton and one time he called to offer me a job to work as a head pressman for the North Hill News in Calgary. One of his former employees was now managing his own plant, printing the Globe and Mail, satellite edition on a Goss Community press. Bob Chittick's employees never considered unionizing as Bob always paid his staff fair, competitive wages just as good as any union shop in Toronto. One year there was a miscalculated shortage supply of newsprint because the pulp and paper producers went over it's Canadian allowable quota of tree harvesting. We could not print most of our regular monthly and weekly newspaper editions but had enough paper stored away to print the Toronto Sun daily and Sunday Sun on the night shift. He never laid any of us off during that slowdown, but instead kept us working, painting, cleaning up the pressroom and maintaining the presses while paying us full wages and benefits. The following year when a new pulp and paper quota was set by the Canadian Government, we worked 3 shifts around the clock, seven days a week. During that slowdown in work, I remember Mr. Chittick allowing his staff extended lunch breaks, to play euchre competitions with nickel and dime pots. On Friday nights it was poker night at Web Offset's accountant Leo's house where we drank his beers and wagered our pay cheques sometimes losing all our week's pay. One Christmas party the owner of Web Offset Publications Bob, knowing my interests in painting, gave me a coffee table book titled "Between Friends." A commemorative account of US and Canadian border relations in pictures. From this book I painted my first Alberta foothills scene in oils in 1979, and titled it "Land is of matter, and not of blood."
I started expressing my creative self as a kid with a box of crayons on my parents' basement walls and inside the pages of my grandfather's leather-bound encyclopedia collection. So my parents began to supply me with a steady stream of paper and pencils to draw with to help expand my creativity. In secondary school, I studied commercial art and printing, and took extra courses to learn photography and produce short video features. In my twenties, I learned to fly, earning a private pilot's license, and moved to Edmonton from Toronto. In my 40s, I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island 3 times and once to the Rose Spit on Haida Gwaii Island. I continued a career as a graphic arts craftsman operating mostly Goss high-speed newspaper printing presses, first for the Edmonton and Toronto Suns, and finally with the Edmonton Journal. I volunteered at Walterdale Community Theatre, painting sets, and doing public relations. Today I continue to paint and share the stories of my art with my family, my friends and my community.
This is my painting titled 'Trouble maker, the coming storm' I started to paint this next to NDP, Premier Rachel Notley's office, outside on the Alberta Legislature grounds in the fall of 2017. It shows a homeless man, wearing a multi-coloured robe, living under a tree in the Edmonton river valley. Completed the summer of 2019 next to the United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney's office. The multi-coloured robe resembles the robe worn by Joseph in the bible, and the colours to me represent all races and cultures around the world. Art in the eyes of the beholder, today I think of those orbs, and the snowfall I painted in 2019, might represent today's COVID19, and the economic collapse that followed. Who says that art is not intuitive, just saying...
1979, Land is of matter, not of blood
2019, Trouble Maker, the coming storm
42 years, Graphic Arts Craftsman, Newspapers
Wear red as we go marching, Rome is burning
"When I first looked at it, it reminded me of Notre Dame Cathedral burning. It also reminds me of some of Van Gogh's paintings. If we are burning now, like Notre Dame, we will rise better and stronger." - Marg McCuaig-Boyd
Art Show & Tell
Outdoor Art Show & Tell in the streets and public squares of Edmonton
If you see me painting, be prepared to join me and help me paint.