Play Makers: Painting ‘The Entire City’


John Boivin‘s passion for his art is easily observed as he speaks about his latest works over lunch at a Whitehorse café. His hands flutter in excitement, his eyes widening as he shares the inspiration behind his solo exhibit, The Entire City, which opens May 2 at the Yukon Artists @ Work (YAAW) Gallery.

It was two years ago, after picking up an art book featuring a painting of the same title by surrealist German painter Max Ernst, that Boivin was first inspired to paint his own “Entire City”.

But instead of a crumbling European city as the subject matter as depicted in Ernst’s piece, it is Whitehorse that Boivin has stroked onto canvas, climbing to the top of Mount McIntyre to what he describes simply as “a beautiful spot”.

“It’s an incredible view from up there,” explains Boivin. “You can literally see from Lake Laberge to Marsh Lake.”

Self-taught in both watercolour and more recently acrylic, Boivin has called the Yukon home since 2000 and says he has always loved art having started writing and drawing comics as a teenager in Ottawa.

Admittedly not coming into his own as an artist until he was an adult, the 48-year-old Boivin says he never lost his love for painting but, with his career and raising a family, time was not always there.

For the past three years, however, Boivin has been a member of YAAW painting regularly.

A visit to his Riverdale home is evidence of this as his artwork is scattered throughout the house: one hanging over the fireplace, another placed in front of the television.

A journalist by trade, Boivin says painting is the perfect escape from the fast-paced life of the newsroom.

“It gets you away from everything in the world,” he explains earnestly. “It’s good for your body, your soul, your heart and your mind.”

Listening to music, too, as Boivin says firing up his six-disc changer and hibernating to his basement, paint brush in hand, is total respite.

When asked if he would ever leave his job to take up painting full time, Boivin clasps his hands in prayer shouting, “Please God” as he looks to the sky.

“Without question,” smiles Boivin. “But I have a family and a mortgage so that’s not going to happen anytime soon … unless I win the lottery of course.”

In Boivin’s upcoming show, his fourth in the territory, the majority of the paintings being showcased are of the plein aires art form.

Plein aires is a French expression which means “in the open air” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

Typically an artist will find their subject and then spend just two or three hours painting it.

Boivin is quick to admit he is not a purest when it comes to the plein aires style.

“I totally reserve the right to tinker with my plein aires up until the point of sale,”explains Boivin. “I’ve even made some tweaks after paintings have gone to print.”

Boivin says he finds endless inspiration for his paintings, noting the Millennium Trail and the area behind his Riverdale home as his favourite spots for fuelling his hobby.

“Sometimes I will go on a walk and be so inspired that I will begin sketching immediately.”

Boivin describes his art as very real saying there is something special about catching something that’s not very special at all.

“Someone came up to me the other day and said they felt like they could just walk right into my paintings,” says Boivin. “For me that is the ultimate compliment.”

John Boivin’s solo exhibit, The Entire City, opens May 2 at the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery located at 38 Glacier Road.


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