As a tribute to the roots of the volunteers and artists that help to create and sustain The Old School House Arts Center (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach, an exhibition and sale of Sid and Jesi Barron’s work is underway until May 5.
The public is invited to meet Jesi Barron at an opening reception on April 11 at 7 p.m.
Sid Barron, dubbed “the poet of the mundane” by Robert Fulford, died in 2006 at age 88. During the Second World War, Barron worked in the short-lived Canadian comic book industry, producing strips for Educational Comics’ Canadian Heroes title. After the war he received art training for a short period in Detroit and later found work across Canada.
In 1959 he began working for The Victoria Times as an editorial cartoonist.
In 1961 he began a life-long association with the Toronto Star. He also found work with The Albertan in Calgary as well as with Maclean’s magazine.
Barron’s relatively mild yet satirically insightful topical cartoons of social mores and suburbia utilized a clear line and elegant, unexaggerated figures placed in extremely cluttered backgrounds full of sight gags and signs,.
The mix of styles was akin to the chaos of Wil Elder’s Mad cartoons crossed with the sophistication of a New Yorker gag. His two most distinctive trademarks were the sardonic banner-trailing biplane and a bored-looking, sign-toting Cheshire cat.
In 1975, Barron met Jesi, a fellow artist destined to share his life and the two beach combed and painted together.
When the National Archives, and then the Glenbow Museum, bought huge piles of his cartoon originals, the couple bought a Volkswagen van and hit the road.
They eventually wound up in Coombs, where for 10 years they held open house in their twin studios on an acreage off Old Coombs Road. During their time in District 69 they contributed to the success of TOSH.
Jesi said she and Sid spent a lot of time at TOSH and she has fond memories of here days living here.
“That was when we were trying to save the building,” she said and recalled back then the place was all in bits, not like the lovely gallery it is today.
“We used to be able smoke in there. We would have a cigarette and go upstairs and do life drawing,” she admitted.
The artist, who will be turning 78 at the end of May, said she is still an avid painter.
“I paint plein air. I go with a group in Victoria every Friday and paint in oil and watercolors.”
Jesi said most of her late husband’s cartoons can be found in the archives in Ottawa and she will be bringing some of Sids cartoons to the gallery.
She said Sid grew up in James Bay in Victoria along the waterfront and living in that neighborhood inspired his paintings.
“When Sid was little he used to see Emily Carr walking along the streets. He was young and didn’t know who she was then. His house on Dallas Road is still there. He was influenced by all the ships and loved painting old freighters. He also loved going to the beach to see what was washed up.”
Jesi said Sid died of old age but added, “he had a good run.”
She said there will be 25 paintings in the exhibit, 20 of them are Sids and include finely detailed portraits of cargo vessels, stylized scenes of freighters at anchor and sunny impressionist beach scenes.
Jesi will be on hand at an opening reception at TOSH in Qualicum Beach April 11 at 7 p.m.