by Ron Brown

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They say it is better to give than to receive. Recently I experienced the privilege of giving a present which turned out to be more precious than I had dreamed. I had set out to commission a special painting for my husband as a surprise Christmas gift. I could not have suspected that the finished piece of art would turn out to be the last painting by one of Stouffville’s best-loved artists.

Every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, there is a terrific studio tour in Whitchurch-Stouffville. This year, my husband and I managed to visit several of the stops to see a great variety of works of art. Our first stop this year was at the studio of Ron Brown. Ron actually helped create the local studio tour in 1999. His work is remarkable for brilliant use of colour and perspective that makes you want to pause and keep looking more deeply into the scene. I particularly love his streetscapes.

That afternoon my husband mentioned that someday he’d like to have a painting of Windermere, the old Philpott cottage built on Big Rideau Lake in 1939 by a family friend. (The cottage is showing its age and may need to be rebuilt if it is going to provide safe shelter for the next generation.) That was the moment I had the inspiration to go back to Ron Brown the following week and ask him if he would try to create a painting of Windermere based on some family photos of this much-loved cottage.

Over the coming weeks, Ron asked me to come by his studio a few times to see if he was accurately capturing the picturesque lakeside setting.

Ron Brown with an early version of the Windermere painting
November 8, 2012

The photo here was taken on a visit when he was first sketching out the piece. As we were organizing those visits, he did mention something about medical appointments but he never let on that he was seriously unwell.  His priority during those interactions was focused on making sure that I was happy with how he had depicted the essence of Windermere and its environment.  I vividly remember my last visit to the studio when the work of art was almost complete. I expressed to him repeatedly how delighted I was and how I could hardly wait to present this great surprise to my husband on Christmas morning.

Imagine my shock about a week later when I received a call from another Stouffville artist who told me the very sad news that Ron had passed away on November 30. I was told that one of Ron’s final requests was to make sure I received the canvas and had it framed in time for Christmas. I was stunned. I thought the painting would be my gift to my husband. Instead, our whole family received a priceless gift. We have the inestimable privilege of enjoying a beautiful work of art that turned out to be Ron Brown’s final painting.

French artist, Henri Matisse, is credited with commenting that “Creativity takes courage”. It must have required a great deal of courage for Ron Brown to keep creating in the face of the illness that threatened his life. I am so deeply moved that Ron agreed to craft this piece for us. I hope that he understood my profound gratitude.

by Ron Brown

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Discussion - 9 Comments
  1. QueenEsther

    Jan 09, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    “Creativity takes courage” perhaps may not say it all for me. This is a priceless gift interwoven with passion, determination, commitment, selfless service, love, and dedication. How best can I say it than to say that this is a great man born with sincere desire to satisfy the need of others through his works of art.


  2. Steve

    Jan 11, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    Thank you for sharing this story about our dear friend Ron. It really is beautifully written and a true depiction of his passion.


  3. Suzan St Maur

    Jan 11, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. I didn’t know him, but know and adore his daughter who is my cousin’s partner. I’m sure I express the sentiments of our whole family when I say we so admire Ron’s superb talent and deeply regret his passing. RIP.


  4. Allison

    Jan 11, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    A lovely post Jane, I have linked it to the Studio Tour Facebook and Twitter. Thank you so much!


  5. courtney simpson

    Jan 11, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    What an incredibly BEAUTIFUL story and tribute to such an amazingly talented Gentleman. May his final work of art become one of your Family’s treasured heirlooms..You are so Blessed to have received such a gift.


  6. Susan Pahl

    Jan 12, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    Hi Jane, I am deeply touched by your story. Ron Brown was my godfather and you may remember my daughter Danielle Pahl from Willowgrove days. Danielle was friends with your daughter Lydia. Ron was an amazing man, kind, gentle, funny and a very gifted artist. I am so glad he was able to capture a piece of your family history and maybe even a piece of himself for all to enjoy. Thanks for sharing. Susan


    • Jane

      Jan 13, 2013  at 4:53 PM

      Hi Susan – Thanks for re-connecting. We really feel blessed to have this connection with Ron – the more I learn about him, the more I realize what an extraordinary person he was. Hope your family is well! – Jane


  7. Marie Messina

    Jan 14, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    Hi Jane, thank you for sharing this amazing story with all of us. I am a member of the Stouffville Studio Tour and Ron Brown was my friend. My husband and I were in Ron’s studio a couple of weeks before his passing and saw the painting on his easel. He was busy working but stopped and we sat down and had a little visit and a chat with him and his wife. He was a very good man with an amazing sense of humor and a great artist. I will miss him very much. Enjoy your painting, you are so very lucky to have it.


  8. Michael Oye

    Jan 16, 2013  at 4:53 PM

    hello Jane,

    A very warm and heart felt message. I just happen to be one of two of Ron’s stepsons and I will share with you that within the 10 years I have known him, I feel very fortunate to have had such a great a person not only in my life but more importantly, my Mother’s life. He filled a such a huge void in her life that brought her such joy and love. With his paintings of landscapes throughout Canada and the eastern seaboard they set out on countless journeys together and on many occasions Ron would paint while Mom would go for a walk or sit by his side and witness the creation of a beautiful masterpiece. Yes, we all are going to miss him very much. Thank you for sharing . And yes I love his streetscapes too since I have one hung up in my living room. : )


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