We left Wednesday night and made it as far as Watertown, NY – a solid 6 hour drive. Thankfully, Chris had already made reservations at a hotel there, because my sing along with the radio had long since turned into whining about how I could not possibly sit in the car any longer. After six or seven hours of sleep, allowing me an extra hour in the hotel to make sure I had time to wake up and shower without feeling too rushed, and grabbing breakfast (because that would have turned into a whine-fest all by itself), we headed off to the U.S-Canadian border.
I’ve had the opportunity to do plenty of international traveling in the past, but I had never been to Canada, and I had never crossed an international border by car. I had no idea what to expect, and Chris thoroughly freaked me out with countless tales of getting stopped, questioned, and searched when trying to cross the border in the past. This time, it turns out, the questions were few and the crossing was uneventful (he usually drives a suspicious looking van and used to have a ponytail – the combination was made for questioning, I think!)
Once in Canada, at the recommendation of our host, we took a very scenic drive along the St. Lawrence on Canadian high way 2 – rather than staying on the major road. It was incredibly beautiful, and well worth the little bit of extra time. The drive took us along the water, through quaint, very European-looking towns, past unbelievable mansions nestled on their own little islands, through parks and wooded areas. I know I’m repeating myself, but it was incredibly beautiful.
The man we were visiting lives in Ingleside, Canada, and it took us another few hours of driving that morning to make it to his house.
We arrived at his modest, but adorable home in the early afternoon, and were immediately ushered into a large garage/former studio. I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with premiere airbrush artist Guy Frechette. He had been airbrushing impressive, custom works of art onto vehicles – particularly vans – for over thirty years, and painting on canvas for even longer. My fiance, Chris, had hired him years ago to paint a custom wrap-around on a late 1970′s van that he had bought, but because of on-going health issues as a result of the airbrushing process, Guy had been forced into retirement, and at the strict advice of his doctor could no longer airbrush vehicles in the same manner he had been doing for so many years. While they were making arrangements for Chris to pick up the van (initially, the unfinished artwork was to be painted over in the van’s original black), they somehow both hatched a plan that involved me finishing the artwork on the van. This trip was to be my first lesson in airbrushing vehicles.
Guy showed me his original workspace and his own custom painted van – done years ago – that sat proudly in his driveway. It was clear that he regretted the news from his doctor – and rightfully so, he was incredibly talented – but he was also excited to continue his artistic career in other mediums. If there is anything I know about creatives it’s that they always find a way to create, even when the odds seem stacked against them. In the case of Guy, he planned, and had already begun, to return to his original passion – oil on canvas. You see, long before he had gained such an impressive level of notoriety for his vehicle work, Guy was a successful painter.
When we walked into his home, I had the opportunity to see a lot of his work. Paintings adorned nearly every wall, and he even showed me his indoor workspace. We spent hours talking about his technique, all of the things he had learned over thirty years of airbrushing vehicles, tips and tricks for the snags I would probably run into, what tools to use, what paint to buy, and his vision for the project he had started but was unable to finish for reasons beyond his control. As a fellow artist, I can’t imagine how it must feel to be forced to leave something half way finished – I hate having paintings and other pieces hanging around my studio in half-process. I tried to put myself in his shoes and wonder what I would feel if my doctor told me I could no longer paint at the risk of my health. It’s inconceivable to me.
We only spent the afternoon with Guy, though I learned a lot in those few hours! We will definitely make our way back to Canada sometime in the near future – hopefully with a finished van – and I’m excited to try my hand at this new project. I love exploring new mediums, and although this isn’t one that I ever thought I would be getting into, I’m in no way opposed. I have experience using an airbrush, though limited, but have never done vehicle painting before – I will definitely blog about the process and there will be plenty of pictures along the way! In the meantime, here’s is my new (giant!) canvas: