In Memory of Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell passed away in the spring of 2014.  He was already mature in age the first time that we met.  This was during the 1990’s at his Jack Campbell Gallery at Westminster Quay where we first compared articles that the, now defunct, New Westminster NewsLeader had printed regarding our respective businesses.  Jack was New Westminster’s most famous watercolour artist and we became fast friends.

Jack Campbell in the doorway of his Saturna Island Studio

I used to sit and chat with him in his gallery for periods of time between appointments.  One Halloween day, we walked together from the quay to The Westminster Club to have lunch.  Several cars honked and waved in appreciation of our Halloween headgear as we strolled down Columbia Street.  I was sporting a fake bloody knife through my head and was greatly outclassed by Jack who was wearing one of his stunning paper sculpture masks.

The Fraser River scene, titled The Carole J, depicted in his brochure, above top, wasn’t originally a gyclee print but was rather one of Jack’s 3-D paper sculptures.  I used this pic in the advertising that I ran for him in my publication, The Coffee Chronicles.  The swimming nude, titled Dream Stream below it was one of Jack’s many nude portraits.  It’s unusual in its flowing forms as Jack often painted with straight lines.

Jack told me that he and his wife Carol had once gone to a Vancouver restaurant where one of his mature male friends was dancing, in the nude, and striking various poses.  Not many people could pull that off.

Jack also once showed me a photograph of a waterfall mural that he painted for someone living in one of the town homes that overlook the Fraser River.  It graced a wall beside a hot tub as if cascading into it and, during the day, the light of the water shimmering off of the river outside would reflect through the window and dance on the water of the mural.  It was a brilliant dynamic concept.

Friendship Garden, above, was the first painting that Jack painted for me.  This is the name of the Japanese garden, adjacent to New Westminster’s city hall, which was given to the city by sister city, Moriguchi, Japan.  My beloved Cynthia and I, on wheelchair excursions from the hospital, used to feed the birds beside the above pond when she was dying of cancer.   Jack told me that he considered it to be a spiritual painting, because he considered me to be a spiritual man.  It graced the front cover of his brochure, for a period, before it was reduced to a more subordinate position in his brochure below.

While the web page is still up, the painting also graces Jack’s online bio page.  Evidently he thought a lot of the piece.

Another story that Jack told me took place when he shared a large room with  many other artist painters at an advertising agency.  He was working away when the most amazing insect landed on his drafting table.  It bore an impressive array of colorful stripes, dots, and other patterns.  Then it flew away. He told one of his colleagues about it who informed him that it was just one of their coworkers in the room who had a habit of capturing insects, painting them, and setting them free.

The second painting that Jack painted for me was Friendship Gardens II which also contains memories of Cynthia and I.

My third Jack Campbell painting is Sunshine Flowersong, (below) one of his Flower People series.  I selected it because of its fluid flowing lines; unusual, as mentioned above, for Jack.

My fourth Jack Campbell painting is Bear Totem in Queens Park (below).

He painted it from a photo that I took laying almost prone in the grass to find the proper angle so that the tree limbs looked like they formed the totem’s arms.

The Original Bear Totem Photo

A dramatic variation on this totem painting resides in the collection of former New Westminster City Counselor, and British Columbia MLA, Chuck Puckmayr.

Jack was very generous in donating his work for community fund-raising auctions.  Consequently his work graces the homes of many of the Who’s Who of New Westminster.

Jack moved away from his New Westminster fame to become Saturna Island’s most famous artist.

Three of the above paintings, excluding the nude, were once featured in the window of the Community Police Department, (the former Cobblestone Art Gallery) for a New Westminster Art Festival.

I was surprised to find a Jack Campbell Christmas card, identical to the one above, framed, mounted and up for bid the Westminster Club’s exclusive upscale silent auction.  Consequently I’ve held on to the card and other pieces of Jack’s ephemera including a 1997 calendar, a post card exhibition notice, and the greeting card below:

The above opened-up greeting card features the image of a large mural titled Facets of Saturna that Jack created for the general store on the island.  The general store facility also housed a high quality Mexican Tapas restaurant in the evenings.  Below the horses to the right, in the above image, see a depiction of Saturna Island’s famous annual lamb roast.  One year Jack and I helped wire up the lamb crucifixes the night before the event at the community Rec Center.  Afterward, over the communal dinner of the delicious lamb internal bits I recall that one gentleman was vigorously encouraging me to join the Saturna Volunteer Fire Department but I thought that my response time, via highway and ferry from Burnaby, might be a little slow.

One of Jack’s creations sat above the mantle of his Saturna Island home.  It was a unique representation of a large circular pierced Native spirit wheel, a beaver I think, cut from foam core and painted to look like wood.  Evidently it had been suspended from the ceiling at a New Westminster event and, when it spun, the light would send the shadows whirling around the walls of the room.  This, along with a piece titled Spirit Dance, were among my favorite of his works of art.

Once Jack asked me what I thought that he should call his particular “Pieces of Light” style of painting.  When I suggested something like “Prismatic Reflection” he looked at me like I was crazy and said. “It’s all bullshit anyway.”  We laughed.

One of the things that I admired most about Jack was his plain good-natured grace.  There are many people who agree with T.V.’s Dr. House character that “Everybody Lies”.  Not Jack.  He never lied.  Moreover, no matter how delicate the situation Jack could effortlessly, invariably, speak the truth with utter gracious diplomacy.  The best that I can say for myself is that I try not to lie, and while I believe that I succeed most of the time, Jack made it look easy.  He was an fine example of how all human beings should be.

Vicki, my other half, first met Jack at an exhibition by the Arts Council of New Westminster.  She was very impressed by his big friendly hug.  Her favorite Jack Campbell artwork featured the skyline of Granville Island.

After Jack moved to Saturna Island I visited, and house/cat sat for him, a couple of times.  Unfortunately after Vicki and I merged our lives together we found out that she was too terribly allergic to their cats for us to visit Jack and Carol again.

The sunset view from the ferry leaving Saturna Island the last time that we saw Jack.

Farewell Jack.  So happy to still have pieces of you in our life.


4 comments

  1. I much enjoyed your recollections of your friendship with Jack Campbell and the sharing of his de-light-ful art.

  2. A lovely introduction for me to the life and art of a very special individual. Thank you for posting and sharing this. His work is beautiful and inspiring and I’m so glad to hear you have some of it to brighten your days!

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