Artist ditches fast life for alpine settings

Artworx Gallery features Bill Townsend and Allan Dunfield this month

Allan Dunfield

Allan Dunfield


An art show in Qualicum Beach that kicks off on Friday has brought renowned Canadian painter William Townsend out of retirement to partner with celebrated landscape artist Allan Dunfield.

“This is a special thing we are doing,” said Townsend. “When Allen was asked to do a show, he didn’t have anybody who complemented his work. So they talked me into doing some new paintings.”

Second Time Around is being exhibited at the Artworx Gallery in Qualicum Beach from May 10 to 31, with an opening night reception Friday, May 10 from 7-10 p.m.

Townsend quit an executive job in publishing at the age of 41 to give full attention to his art career. His oil paintings were starting to sell well at galleries so he knew it was time, he said. Plus, he added, he was no good as a businessman.  He began to do more travelling and would hike to remote locations with some painting boards stuffed into his overnight backpack.

“I have to paint in the high alpine and I have to walk on little three-foot-wide ledges, 1,000 feet above a lake. I mean that’s what I like,” he said.

He would often sketch what he saw with felt pens and then fill them in later with acrylic and oil paints.

Townsend’s landscape paintings were well received around the country and sold around the world. His work was featured prominently in many corporate collections and he appeared on a CBC television special, where 12 artists were selected for a Canada Day documentary.

Townsend decided to retire from painting in 2005 because at 65 he was getting a little too old to do the hikes he loved, he said, and for income tax reasons. But he kept photographs of his hikes and has vivid memories of places he’s visited. He painted a series of new paintings at the Artworx Gallery for this show.

Dunfield quit his career as a chef and moved to the Island 12 years ago in order to concentrate on his painting full time. He has been painting since he was a kid and in 1969 was accepted into New York City’s School of Visual Arts, where he studied for two years.

He feels compelled to paint every day, and Dunfield said painting for him is an escape. It’s a chance to make everything in the world beautiful and create nice places for people to go.

“My canvas is my rabbit hole,” he said.

Dunfield painted with watercolours for about 20 years until he decided to switch to his current medium of choice, acrylic. He said he wasn’t getting the bold and strong results he was looking for with watercolours. His work has now become Goring’s most popular at the Gallery.

Dunfield also paints landscapes, but instead of hiking to remote locations, he spends time on beaches and in nature. He endeavours to create a mood and capture an atmosphere with his paintings, and likes to leave room for the viewer to get involved, he said.

“It’s like the landscape has a personality and you want to tap into that but it can be difficult,” he said.

People will see paintings by Dunfield showing remote locations in the exhibition however, as he has created some of his paintings using Townsend’s hiking photographs as reference. The two have become friends and after looking at Townsend’s photographs and hearing stories about certain destinations, Dunfield researched the areas and created his own pieces.

Artworx Gallery owner Marlow Goring said Townsend and Dunfield have formed a great relationship, where Townsend acts as a mentor and Dunfield, the student.

“It’s wonderful to see,” he said, adding Townsend is a great teacher and Dunfield a top student.

This is the second show the two artists have had together. The last was in 2006 at Goring’s Frameworks Gallery and had over 200 people attend.

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