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How long does it take to paint a landscape? For this 75-year-old artist, over half his life

Artist Frank Lapointe says that for him, painting has always been easier than talking — and taking his time is an important element of his work.

Artist Frank Lapointe says that for him, painting has always been easier than talking

Artist Frank Lapointe says that for him, painting has always been easier than talking. 2:26

It's been more than 60 years since he first started, and Frank Lapointe is still searching for his best painting.

At 75, the artist feels a bit like time has started to close in. Lapointe has been a fixture in Newfoundland and Labrador's vibrant visual arts community for decades. And he says he feels the pressure to find that best piece in a way that he hasn't in the past — but that still hasn't changed his slow, deliberate art style.

"I tell people I do a watercolour in three or four hours, but actually it's 40 years," he says from his home in Trinity East, on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula. "Wherever I go I take a sketch pad [and] watercolours set, and if I see something that moves me I will do a sketch; I will write in notations concerning the weather or how I feel," he explains. "Two, three, 10 years later, I will come across that sketch and I'll say, 'Oh yeah, now I remember.'"

Compared to many other painters, Lapointe uses a slow process, often letting years pass before the inspiration to paint strikes. But that distance has a point: it means Lapointe isn't locked into a photorealistic representation of the mountains or oceans in front of him. By the time he returns to his sketchpad, all he has is his imagination and his memory. "You look at a painting of mine, and you look at the subject that initiated that idea, and there's no similarity whatsoever. To copy a photograph into a painting, to me is a waste of time. It shows your manual dexterity and your ability to manipulate paint, but it's not creating anything new."

75-year-old Frank Lapointe has been painting in watercolour for the past 40 years. Some of his works were on exhibition this month in Trinity, as part of the Bonavista Biennale. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Throughout his life, Lapointe has been an architect, a curator, a filmmaker and an instructor in parts of Newfoundland and Ontario. Having returned to his old home in Trinity Bay, where his passion for art started, he says he's looking to do his best work yet. "From a very young age, I had that pull. I was fascinated by houses and buildings, and how they were constructed. And I was fascinated by imagery," he says. From his first foray into art — as a toddler, apparently, making a mural out of his kitchen — his fascination grew and grew. In Grade 6, he received a set of gouache colours from his teacher, and in Grade 11, he challenged the public examination to get a credit in an art course.

He then went to art college, did some teaching, curated at the Memorial University Art Gallery and ultimately quit to become an artist full-time. That was more than 40 years ago. He's also dabbled in filmmaking, creating an project that was purchased by the National Film Board. "I've gone through periods when I paint a lot and then I do architecture work...and I've done sculpture. But right now I'm on a roll for watercolour painting."

So how can he keep things interesting after four decades of work? "I always maintain that my best painting is the one next, [that] I'm going to do tomorrow or later today or next week. That's my best painting. My best hasn't been done yet."

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.

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