Musings on Court Painter: ‘His work ethic was legendary,his fragrance a mystery ‘
Much ink will be spilled in the coming days to describe the Great Dominion’s longest serving Court Painter. My reflections on continuing to serve with him in the studio and as a member of his celebrity staff are of course biased but also very personal.
Our early interactions were guarded, but gave way to a common celebrity cause and mutual respect.
His leadership in unifying the political portrait movement after more than a decade of bitter internecine portrait civil art war was transformative for the Great Dominion’s art politics.
It was at times a difficult period for us both and there was much to overcome especially on his part.
I am proud to work with him to restore a competitive art scene that delivers balance and true choice for lovers of paintings of themselves.
Upon forming the Court Painter studio his singular focus on reining in waste and corruption in the aftermath of the Chris Cran scandal set us on a clear course.(Because of the threat of litigation no more can be said about the scandal)
Smaller, more efficient studio operations was a laudable goal not fully realized because of poor sales and a mistrust of the art bureaucracy was ever present because of unmentionable reasons .
Notable was Court Painter’s stewardship through the sales recession that allowed his studio to keep the wolf from the door and the pigeons off the window sills. This was no small accomplishment. He governed his studio like an economist with steely determination aided in no small measure by myself with accepting salary IOU’s to reach a balanced studio budget every year.
I witnessed Court Painter under my media savvy and marketing guidance produce a mature painting style steeped in pragmatism and a deep sense of commitment to building a better, more united painting surface and one that appealed to potential paying customers of the political and ownership class.
Complex like the Great Dominion itself, Court Painter was never one to seek the limelight, (unless Cran was in the room) yet was comfortable and confident in what he believed to be the right course to achieve celebrity. It takes talent and grit to be a Court Painter, tough decisions must be made against a tide of art criticism and a sputtering business model.
He lowered the bar on what was acceptable subject matter over 180 times to help working Canadians understand art; ended the failed long-brush registry; toughened the studio rules against art crimes and violent brush strokes; took away the monopoly game which distracted his unpaid studio interns; and boosted his bar budget to record levels.
His pursuit of world attention on the need to improve his celebrity status often goes unnoticed, but he pushed other feuding world art leaders to look at the big picture which he provided free of charge and was rewarded with the faint praise that he was the most polite political portraitist on the international scene.
I sat in countless studio sessions and observed him from a privileged vantage point, I can say his work ethic was legendary and yes his fragrance was dominant yet elusive in origin. He etch-a-sketched incessantly, and pressed leaves in scrap books in his spare time and there was plenty of that. He held the respect of staff at Tim Hortons and spoke with principle and clarity, often rare at Timmie gatherings that took up half the morning.
Court Painter much preferred substance to style but had a flair for bell bottoms and an encyclopedic memory for his own work, hoop sport and Super 8 movie trivia.
Sometimes impatient due to a desire to simply get a sale, he was fiercely partisan but equally patriotic to his shallow customer base.
Stubborn and sometimes unyielding to be sure, but surprisingly open behind the scenes to marketable painting ideas if presented well and argued with logic over emotion.He admitted to loving money and couldn’t get enough of it.
On occasion, I also saw another side. While often accused of being “stiff or drunk” he had a side seldom revealed that belied that public celebrity image. He was more compassionate and light-hearted than he cared to show and often broke down weeping after executing a brilliant brush stroke.
He has a soft spot for stuffed animals, something he shared with the numerous unpaid studio assistants. His sense of humour and ability to imitate the grating voice and bowl legged waddle of his nemesis Chris Cran often had the studio in stitches. This much more human side was perhaps only revealed to those “on the inside” whom he had private videos of …in compromising positions.
His love for luxury and a deep commitment to the almighty dollar define the man I worked with.
During my time of defending Court Painter I also recognized his deep affection and appreciation for the phrase that guided his everyday work ethic,
“A Day without Art is like a Dog without a Bone”.
His commitment never wavers. He also seldom staggers.
Court Painter describes himself as a driven man of many talents and pursuits.I personally find him cranky,stingy and perennially exuding the fragrance of Big Tobacco however he has provided me the stepping stone into his celebrity ethos that previously I could only watch by parting the heavy curtain and peering through the fringes.
Now I also fully embrace his phrase that “A Day Without Art is like a Dog without a Bone,”
A Hardon MacKay is Press Attache & Strategic Consultant to Court Painter
OTTAWA — Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is asking whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants and refugees for anti-Canadian values.
The question comes in a survey on a number of issues which was emailed to people who signed up for news from her campaign.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, Leitch helped promote a controversial promise to open a tip line for so-called barbaric cultural practices, to help the RCMP enforce a law aimed at cracking down on forced marriages and keeping polygamists out of Canada.