Salt Spring artist partial to ‘happy accidents’

July 15, 2014

Salt Spring Island has a lot of everything that a lot of us find appealing in life. I have said it before and I will say it again that when I settle down again and quit my gypsy ways, I think it will be in another country.

Why? Because I have probably lived in the best place in Canada by living on Salt Spring Island for a decade and a half. For a gypsy, though, even living in the best place in a country is not enough after awhile (the gossip starts to get to you among other things) so I would like to move on to another best place in another country, I think.

But, yes, Salt Spring Island has a lot of everything and this includes many, many, many visual artists of all kinds and talents.

Here is one among many profiles I wrote about artists while living on Salt Spring:

Gulf Islands Driftwood
December 8, 1999
Salt Spring artist partial to ‘happy accidents’
by Tanya Lester

Lorne Shantz knows his place.

Since 1991, the place he has chosen to document with his brush and watercolours is Salt Spring Island, working anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours a day in his studio at his condominium on Lower Ganges Road.

The result is more than 100 paintings in which his strong definition makes the watercolour look a little like oil painting.

The scenes — a woden bridge in Duck Creek Park, Fulford-Ganges Valley as viewed from Mount Maxwell, boats around the island, horses in Ruckle Park — are familiar with a realistic depiction marked with obvious talent.

“I’ve always dabbled in painting since high school,” Shantz said recently about his work over tea at Sweet Arts Cafe where some of his work is on display. “Usually I see different things that appeal to me. It might be the colours or the light; a play of light and dark that intrigues me. Each one of them, I think, is part of me.”

When Shantz sees something that catches his eye, he often has his photographer wife, Colleen, take a picture. Then, he goes back to his studio with the photo and sometimes a quick sketch of the scene or subject.

Boating is Shantz’ other passion and Ganges harbour was one of the family’s regular ports of call for years before they took up residency here.

Aptly enough, watercolours of boats have become one of his specialties.

Other boat enthusiasts began to see Shantz’ artistic talent and many have commissioned him to do paintings of their sailboats.

This fall, Shantz donated a painting as the first-place raffle prize at the local sailing club to support the Terry Fox Run for cancer research.

It generated three painting sales for him, proving that giving is connected with receiving.

Shantz’ work is also a bargain. “I don’t ask a fortune for them (the watercolours) because I like them to keep moving,” he said. “I price them within people’s reach.”

His paintings have moved into homes right across Canada, the United States and even as far away as Ireland and Venezuela, but his first sale was a beach scene bought by Salt Springers Jim and Carol Helset.

Shantz began selling his paintings to support the costly “habit” of painting: purchasing paints, canvases and other art supplies.

One time, he sold a painting of a man’s boat to the owner who lives in Washington state. A while later, Shantz got a letter from the man. When he opened it, money fell out with a note saying that he was paying Shantz more for the painting because it was giving the boat owner such pleasure to look at it.

“It’s easy to say follow your heart,” said Shantz when asked about doing what one wants in life. “Lots of times that’s not economically possible. I’m so happy to be doing the things I want to do now.”

The “denouement” in Shantz’ story is one that provides hope for many of us.

Despite his interest in art as a young man, Shantz went to work in the automobile service industry after high school. It was one of those things. He got married, started a family and bought a house in Port Moody where he had grown up after moving there from Winnipeg at the age of 11.

Thirty-eight years in the service industry where he worked as foreman for a Cadillac dealership was not easy. He was responsible for 28 employees and had to “satisfy everyone”, including the staff and manufacturer, while keeping the warranty account down.

“It was a very stressful job, especially the last 20 years,” said Shantz. “I wasn’t sorry to see it behind me.”

Not that retirement has been perfect. Of the seven children in his blended family, two died as young men.

It was in retirement, though, that Shantz met someone who recognized his talent, got him some paper and paints; and encouraged him.

He usually paints early in the morning and enjoys visitors, who are interested in his work, dropping in for coffee.

Shantz said one Oregon couple bought five of his paintings from two different Salt Spring galleries. They phoned him because they wanted to meet the man whose work had intrigued them.

“I love the feel of watercolours,” Shantz said. “I like the way they flow together and I like the happy accidents.”…

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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the title and author name at


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