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.
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.