Notice these landscape paintings on billboards? So did we
The paintings are appearing on unsold Pattison Outdoor Advertising billboards
Has a painting of a natural landscape on a billboard caught your eye recently?
There are two scenes cropping up next to busy roads and on bus shelters across Canada. One is a view of an ocean from inside a cave. The other is a moose crossing a river surrounded by trees.
Neither have a lick of advertising copy on them, perhaps leaving passersby curious as to where they came from.
Herman Bekkering is the national creative director of Pattison Outdoor Advertising. At 58 years old, he's been in the advertising industry for about 40 years and has been an artist even longer.
His paintings have appeared on unsold billboards across Canada since December after he anonymously submitted them as visually interesting content in-between paid advertising campaigns.
"We just wanted to do something decent, just something more friendly to the environment, something that would appeal to people's senses without saying 'hey, buy me,'" Bekkering explained.
The coronavirus pandemic has meant more space than usual for his work, as few companies are advertising.
"We didn't do it with COVID in mind obviously, but boy, it sure seems to be the appropriate thing to have up there right now. Some of them seem to be moving people, and that's a nice feeling for me."
The inspiration behind the artwork
The water landscape was inspired by a trip to California one winter, said Bekkering.
"There were these caves, when you went down when the tide was out, you could walk into the caves and look out at the ocean," he explained. "The image just stuck with me."
If you look closely — Bekkering said you'll notice faces in the rocks that are looking out toward the water.
The second piece of art came together spontaneously. Bekkering said he used to have an easel set up in his office, and for months, colleagues would come by and ask what he was working on.
He wasn't quite sure what the answer to that question was, until someone suggested adding a moose to the landscape. "So I put a moose in, and boom, it was more than just a painting. It was a painting of a moose," said Bekkering, chuckling.
Having worked on billboards since 1992, Bekkering is no stranger to seeing his designs on a large scale. But this is the first time his paintings have been blown up 16-feet tall. He's yet to see one in his home city of Winnipeg.
"I'm looking forward to actually seeing one of those paintings one day. But I haven't driven past one yet," he said.
Billboard ads decreasing
Although Bekkering's art campaign had nothing to do with COVID-19, could it be a reason why people are noticing them?
The outdoor advertising industry has been "severely impacted" by the virus, according to Dan Borg, the Ontario regional sales manager for Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
In southwestern Ontario, he said roughly 20 per cent of clients have cancelled advertising contracts, 30 per cent have deferred them and about 50 per cent of clients have reduced their advertising because of the pandemic.
"Fortunately, a lot of the larger advertisers have stayed the course. And that probably makes sense, because they can afford to. It's the smaller businesses that are spending $2,000 to $3,000 a year that had to cancel," said Borg.
Pattison said it's lowered rates and has absorbed some of the cost for messages of hope and support for frontline workers. It's also left some ads up longer for long-term clients, said Borg.