Jack Turpin
Jack Turpin, SFCA


(posted on 3 Aug 2007)

Journeys in a journal Langley artist Jack Turpin never goes anywhere without his trusty sketchbook

Visitors to Fort Langley last week may well have spotted artist Jack Turpin, seated on a stool, sketching each and every building along Glover Road. The drawings will be used to create a series of paintings which will be displayed at a yet-to-be-determined date.

By Brenda Anderson
Times Reporter
Aug 03 2007

Fort Langley #2

Perched atop a stool on the sidewalk along Glover Road in Fort Langley, Jack Turpin works quickly, scribbling into a small book the outlines of buildings on the village’s main street, along with just the barest amount of detail contained within the shapes.

Beginning with the historic cemetery and then working his way north across the railroad tracks to the bridge, before heading back up the other side to the Fort Gallery, directly across from his starting point, the Langley artist is in the process of recording each structure on both sides of Glover Road. And he’s doing it all on a single piece of paper in a 3” by 5” journal.

He isn’t working in miniatures.

And despite the fact some of the painter’s work has taken on a somewhat mystical feel of late, there’s no magic at work here.

The book’s single page folds out, accordion style, into one long piece, made up of 30 panels.

Turpin has blocked it out to accommodate drawings of one whole side of the street on each side of the paper.

Outlining in black pen, adding spots of colour for later reference,Turpin’s technique, “blind drawing” has him gazing more at his subject than at his paper.

For this project, the artist wasn’t on the street for long, managing to get what he needed in just a few hours’ work over as many days.

“I just sit there on my stool and hope I don’t get in anyone’s way. I try to make my large self inconspicuous,” he said. Not exactly an easy task for a man who stands well over six feet tall.

“I don’t give myself too much time, otherwise I get bogged down in detail.

“Then I go home and develop it,” he said.

To begin, the buildings are simple outlines, pedestrians remain cartoon-like characters and the cars lining the street look like toys. But even when building in value, tone and texture, the artist’s goal is not to paint portraits of the businesses or buildings — only his interpretation of them.

In anticipation of his next step, Turpin has already prepped a number of canvases of consistent height and varying lengths. Next, he will begin to pick out parts of the sketch and decide which image will lend itself to a particular canvas.

But for the retired Brookswood Secondary art teacher, the simple process of drawing is a reward in itself.

“I was one of those kids who doodled in class,” he recalled.

And as a teacher, he never discouraged it, likely to the dismay of other faculty members, he added, with a grin.

Turpin has been journaling for about 10 years, stepping up his efforts over the past five to create some momentum and help ensure he would remain active when his teaching days were through — “Because I knew art would be a major part of my retirement.”

His travels have helped to inspire him, including a recent visit to Rye, England, where he jotted many of the city’s historic streets into his journals and later translated some of them into dreamlike watercolour images, with jagged-roofed buildings resembling castles, in misty purples, yellows and blues.

Recently, Turpin said, another Langley artist and friend, Darren Perkins, with whom he paints on a regular basis, observed that the paintings seemed to be a merging of Turpin’s big, impressionistic landscapes and the imaginative, creative aspects of his world travels.

“They’re drawn from both the reality of my travels and my imagination. They’re quick, loose, impressionistic,” said Turpin.

“My journals fueled that.”

Turpin’s journals are more than just a series of drawings. Mixed among the images are lines of text, magazine clippings pasted onto the pages and whole pieces cut out of pages or cut into small paper flaps, merging separate images into a single work of art.

“I never go anywhere without scissors and a glue stick,” said the artist.

And his artist’s eye finds subjects everywhere.

“The idea of not having anything to draw never occurs to me.”

For anyone interested in trying their own hand at journaling, Turpin has plenty of advice:

Don’t be afraid to use your imagination and powers of observation, be open and follow your muse;

Don’t place unreal expectations on yourself;

Hang around creative people because that opens doors to creativity;

Avoid using pencil — it’s messy and the urge to erase is too great;

“The important thing,” he said, “is to keep doing it, to keep it fresh, not let it get stale.”

Fort Langley #3
For information, call the Birthplace of B.C. Gallery at 604-882-1191.