The final Thanksgiving tour for Moonfire Studio

Derek Kilbourn

Gabriola Sounder

Wednesday, October 9 2019

This coming Thanksgiving Weekend, will be the final time Paul Grignon and Moonfire Studio will be taking part in the Gabriola Arts Council’s Studio Tour.

Grignon, who moved to Gabriola in 1973, became a professional artist in 1982.

He and his wife Tsiporah Grignon opened Moonfire Studio in 1991, saying at the time, it was the only studio open on Gabriola, that wasn’t devoted to pottery.

Paul says, “an art show then was me, Rick Cranston, and then Carol Evans. That was an art show on Gabriola.”

Tsiporah says since the Studio Tour began in 1997, Moonfire has been a participant 16 or 17 times.

She said, “this is absolutely the final one.”

Paul’s primary work as an artist are images of Gabriola and the West Coast.

He says while many people do art on Gabriola, but not many people, “do art ‘of’ Gabriola.”

Drumbeg Point giclée 12 x 30 in. by Paul Grignon, Moonfire Studio

 

Due to his health, Paul had to retire from painting four years ago, and he is not able to do the computer drawings he used to create - at one time being the editorial cartoonist for the Sounder.

So the studio will not be featuring anything new - but Paul will be bringing out some of the pieces from his private collection.

“And we’ll put the really big ones outside. The really big ones.”

Asked why he is doing the tour one more time - Paul said what he wanted was to be on the Studio Map for one more year.

His most popular sales over the years have been giclée prints of his works.

Tsiporah used to represent Moonfire at the Farmers’ Market, but after Paul suggested it was time to retire from that, they thought it would be good to still be on the map which visitors use to find artists throughout the year.

To be on the map, an artist has to be on the tour - so Moonfire joined the tour for one last year.

So for them, this tour is about closure, one final time to open the doors, and put out works people have never seen before.

Tsiporah said the biggest impact they’ve had from the tour over the years wasn’t sales during the tour - but the works done well afterwards for people who had visited.

“Because of what Paul is offering with his artwork, if people want an original painting, and even the prints - they need to see it first. They come back a few years later. I remember one person coming back years after and commissioning a painting.

“The tour is about finding the artist, and what you want, before you dial down to what you want in your home.”

She said Paul’s pieces in particular require going home and finding a match between space on the wall, Paul’s work.

“Ninety per cent of them are horizontal images because he wants to capture a vista - so people have to figure out where to put them.”

Paul’s work - original paintings and prints - has been sold at showings in the Lower Mainland, Toronto, the UK, New York, and Carmel, California.

In the early 90s, they met an art agent from the US who by chance had seen a painting by Paul.

The agent had connections, and entered Paul into the New York Art Expo.

Paul said, “Can you imagine having 2,700 booth s of artists in a space the size of three football fields?”

Working with the agent, they had what Paul says were their most financially successful years - and that also was what got him into doing the giclée prints as well.

“It was a realization for us - we asked why anyone in New York would want a painting of Gabriola Island. They’d probably never heard of it.

“But the answer is because it’s beautiful.”

The most successful show he had was in Gallery on the Lake in Buckhorn, Ontario.

Paul said, “it’s a fantastic gallery in a tiny, tiny town.

“Gabriola’s bigger, but they’d have 50,000 people come to their festival every summer, so I’d send them paintings and they’d sold out before the festival started.

“They called, said they’d sold it all, and asked for more.

“I said what, you think I have another dozen in the closet?”

Paul doing the prints was another first for Gabriola.

Tsiporah said, “it really worked to reproduce the artwork that way. Because Paul works with strong colours, the prints of his paintings do look like originals.”

Paul said they had a show where all the pieces were prints, and then one original; and then another show where all the pieces were originals, and one was a print, and challenged people to find the odd-piece.

At first prints had to be done in the US, then Vancouver.

But then Paul was able to get the prints done with Nick Halpin with Eyes Wide Open Photography, a gallery on Blueback Crescent, just a hundred yards through the woods from Moonfire Studio on Coho Drive.

Paul said, “Nick does a fantastic job, he’s a perfectionist.”

Tsiporah through the ups and downs of Paul being a professional artist through the years, “I am very proud of Paul’s continued effort to work to support his family.

“He did any kind of work he got artistic - commercial job, he did quite a few murals.”

That included an entire summer of driving out to Uclulet where he did a number of murals - all of which are now gone, though some of the businesses have adopted the mural design into their logos. He also did a 230-foot long mural that covered 4,000 square feet on the side of Fletchers Warehouse in Nanaimo.

Paul Grignon painting a part of a 4200 square foot mural on Fletcher’s warehouse in 1986, celebrating 90 years in business in Nanaimo. Photo courtesy Paul Grignon

 

Tsiporah said, “people would ask how we would handle it. We were fortunate with our timing - we had our property paid off -we could work and build a bit at a time. But Paul made a living from his art and creativity. 

“I know it’s not what everyone could do - but there was no way that as a fan of his artwork, I couldn’t say for him to go get a different job. There were times, in the 80s especially, when we weren’t sure where next week’s groceries were coming from, and then someone would come along and buy a painting - we always felt grateful.

For a while, the Georgia Strait Alliance had a logo with hands holding a whale which Paul had designed.

Paul said, “those were my hands, I painted from a mirror.”

Tsiporah said, “what we’re seeing now in terms of his art - and we’re looking forward to showing it to new people - what I’m seeing is young people like our kids’ ages, who grew up knowing Paul’s art - are old enough to start their own collections, and they are buying prints. 

“And it’s lovely to see - we’ve known these kids for years, they are friends of our children.

“The Gallery Tour is a lot of work, but it is also enjoyable to see people come in and enjoy Paul’s work. And the gallery is beautiful, there’s a beautiful pond outside that [their son] Dan built before he moved to Vancouver 15 or so years ago.”

Moonfire Studio is located at 2525 Coho Drive on Gabriola’s south-east end. The web site is www.moonfirestudio.ca

To see a listing of all the artists on the 2019 tour, visit the Gabriola Arts Council web site