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Tony Grove: don’t miss the boat
By Bruce Mason, Gabriola Sounder
Monday, August 28 2006

Tony Grove
Photo by Bruce Mason

To virtually anyone else it would have appeared to be an old boat balanced on a pile of lumber. But to Tony Grove it was a profound image. And when ‘Sid Skiff’ was re-launched as a painting, and later, on a poster, the rest of us couldn’t get enough of it. It was, literally, love at first sight, and up for grabs.

You may have see one of the posters for his first-ever solo exhibition - “Messing about with Boats: A Tribute to Our West Coast Maritime Heritage” - but grab a second glance while you can. “Tony’s posters get snatched off bulletin boards as fast as we can post ‘em!” said Artworks Kathy Ramsey. “And if the poster is worth stealing, the show is worth seeing!”

The exhibition is a rare opportunity to acquire the unique early work of an artist who appears destined to re-focus our attention on a time-honoured tradition in an endearing and enduring style.

“I believe there will always be an irresistible true love for wooden boats,” says the shipwright by trade, who is also a gallery level furniture designer, a revered teacher and an important emerging artist, working from his shop “tucked amongst the trees on Gabriola Island.

“In the water wooden boats resonate a warm tone and a feel to the touch that can only be described as holistic medicine for the soul,” Grove added.

When the Sounder stopped in for a photo, the newest work in his growing fleet of paintings was propped up in the company of a Pea Pod - a 12 and a half foot lap strake, or clinker, double ended row boat - an exact replica, under construction and a wonderfully unique coffee table.

A client had left some arbutus and told him to do what he liked. Tony cut and assembled the difficult wood so it could also do what it liked, which is to move, and added some cherry. The result is something that folks are going to enjoy and talk about for a very long time.

Opening night of “Messing about with Boats,” is also an opportunity to chat with Grove, who was the driving force - providing the boat-building and cabinet making expertise - behind Canada’s only full-time wooden boat building school, the Silva Bay Shipyard School.

These skills are something that sets Tony apart. He knows every inch of his subjects, what they are made of, and how they are put together, in minute and difficult detail. And that’s a major reason for the popularity of his work. He obviously knows what he is painting about, every joint, every stroke, something that the viewer immediately senses.

Another dimension is: “A Tribute to Our West Coast Heritage.” “If you come across an old photo of BC’s working waterfront, you will often find a Pea Pod,” he points out. “Because of their speed and agility, the design was a west coast workhorse for many years, used to ferry product and people from ship to shore.”

The newest painting is a Turner, a 21-foot runabout, named for its talented and prolific builder, based in Vancouver in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Want more detail? “This particular boat has an East Hope engine that still works, one of the earliest engines in this region. It was commissioned by a family in Buccaneer Bay and later acquired by Mark Fortune, the son of the TV personality Bob Fortune. When Mark married his wife Abby, they discovered she was related to the original owners.”

At the exhibit you will also see, among other paintings: a Cat Boat, designed by Gabriola-based marine architect Ted Brewer, named for the forward-standing mast; Haven day sailors, still popular up and down our coast; a dory, common on the east coast; and a 16 ft. lifeboat, converted to a gaff-rigged sailboat by a couple who gave away all their possessions and lived under an army tent on its deck.

“They are still together,” Grove reported.

Of course, Sid Skiff - which started it all and now hangs in the living room of Golf Club president Andre Lemieux - will also be moored at the exhibition. “A Port Townsend boat-builder, Ray Speck, took lines from a boat he admired that had no documented history,” Tony explained. “It was owned by a man named Sid.”

Groves paintings have become the image of choice to promote boats in this part of the world, after relatively humble beginnings as poster boats for the Silva Bay Maritime Festival. They now show up on posters for everything from the Vancouver International Boat Show, to that city’s Wooden Boat Festival, last weekend, the Victoria Maritime Museum, Port Townsend and beyond.

He will have superb limited edition prints available. Don’t miss the boat; - “Messing about with Boats: A Tribute to Our West Coast Maritime Heritage,” at Artworks, opening Thursday evening, August 31st at 7 pm.

Courtesy of the Gabriola Sounder
 
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