This is who I was half a lifetime ago. I do not accept responsibility for the pretentious media kit photoshoots and bond-villan hairstyles. The truth is, underneath that glaze of hair gel and $4 cologne, I was a nice guy who just loved to paint.
I’ve unarchived a series of art from over half a lifetime ago.
I haven’t seen some of these images in years. Luckily for me, I grew up with a group of young photographers who were kind enough to capture these pieces before they left my life forever. And a couple of pretentious looking media photos on the house.
Stumbling upon a box of photography slides of old paintings of mine was a delightful surprise. But finding a high resolution transparency scanner in Toronto is like finding a unicorn. Eventually, I did. Last one in the city actually. And that’s what’s prompted me to write about the person that I was when I painted them. Looking at these slides over a light table really brought me back to the person that I was. Underneath it all, I’m an artist. What a rewarding thought.
I hope that you like them
I’ve got somewhere over 30 paintings. I’m releasing them slowly. And I’m taking my time processing the quality to be at it’s highest level. How high a level?
* I’ll demonstrate by bench pressing my roommate from 20 years ago.
I’ve always loved art
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been compelled to capture images. I always carried my Moleskine and a pen when I rode the train. I drew little masterpieces between stops, then folded them up in the seats. Thousands of drawings.
But painting was a sacrament for me. It had a beginning, a process and a conclusion. There is just something really great about blending colours in my own apartment. Listening to the radio. Long before the internet got it’s hooks in me. When the only person I was responsible for was me (and my cat I suppose). Only a parent can truly understand and appreciate that. Before I started a family, I was in training to be a good person. Still at it.
Capturing a single moment
My art helped me to overcome my shyness. It gave me the confidence to not only ask some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met to pose. But it also helped me to acquire the most inspiring response an artist can ever hear: Yes.
I was impressionable
I devoured images and music back then. I dropped a fortune at my local video store (Younger readers may need more clarity – *your eyebrows scrunched when you read it). I probably put the owner’s kids through college. I just loved well-crafted stories and colourful characters. And I always wanted to bring my own to life. Painting was that outlet for me. It provided a great deal of satisfaction in my life.
*Deva and I broke up when I got engaged. I moved into a cat hair-free apartment with my fiancé. She went to Vancouver with a friend. I like to think she’s doing alright.
My friends. They inspired me to be creative and fearless. I never felt envy for any of their successes or ambitions. My own friendly network of lost dreamers. Each were connected to landlines and always had my back. They were at every art show. They came for the wine. But they were there.
The internet has gobbled most of them up. Not all, but many. Even the ones that I new before the internet even existed. I hope that those friendships are remembered in fondness. The way that I choose to remember them.
Of all the people who have come and gone in my life, my family has always been there. They never forced me to be anything but myself. That acceptance carried me through highs and lows. They are the foundation of my artistic life. And I love them for it.
At 23, I was an art student at OCAD working at The Queen Mother restaurant (*est. 1978). I was a good host and a terrible waiter who was given a chance to hang my first collection there. I even sold one! What a thrill.
Queen Street in Toronto back then was bustling with creativity and energy. I was living the life. Getting to know myself, and barely getting by.
My second show was called “Yes“. It was held at Fruition on College Street. An artistic community and vibrant social scene. I printed the invitations on clear plastic. I even sold a couple more too. How ’bout that?
I had just started a new job at this incredible company called Encore Encore (which later transitioned into The Hive). I had no idea how they would change my life. They bought a painting and it hangs to this day in their accounting department. I worked as Associate Creative Director there for 5 and a half years. I am so honoured that a small part of me remains there with the ones that I adore.
I was in a Good Place
I had met the girl of my dreams and my creativity was at an all time high. I was painting every single day. Late into the Morning on work nights. I probably smelled like paint. I didn’t care. I was so happy, I almost couldn’t take it. What an exceptional time in my life.
I entitled my art show Goddess and I dedicated it to my woman (who just so happens to be a stone cold fox). She has been my lucky charm ever since, and an adorable co-pilot through my transitions.
My art show ran for 2 weeks. The day I took it down, I gave a few paintings away and I got on a plane for Cuba with the girl I was going to marry one day. The perfect conclusion to a challenging project. I punctuated the chapters in my life. And I did it with passion.
At the beginning of my 20’s, I lived in a beautiful corner loft with 13 ft ceilings and colourful roommates. When you turned the lights off at night, you could clearly see the CN Tower and hear everything going on from Chinatown to Queen Street. Inspiration on tap. TTC Street car at my doorstep.
Together, we rocked that spot in legendary fashion. Large warehouse-style windows provided great light to paint with from West and South. Hard wood doubled as a dance floor. Lots of visitors. My share of the rent was $450 a month. I walked to work and Art School. For years, I lived on the Queen Mother’s Ping Gai Chicken.
When I bought my first Mac (1993) with part of my student loan, some non-believers called me nuts. Today, I have Apple Computers as a client (they called me, how ’bout that). I went with my gut back then. Ignoring distractions like “Reason” and “Logic”. *Mixed results.
My mid-20’s, I put on my big boy clothes to start at the very bottom of the advertising agency food chain. Long hours. Zero recognition. And I loved every minute of it.
I shared a 1200 sq. ft. top floor, low-rise loft with a roommate. My friend and neighbour “Bobby” built a custom kitchen for us. I slept elevated, 8′ ft up, under a 9′ ft. x 6′ ft. skylight. Thunderstorms where incredible. Lots of room to paint. Great light.
My late-20’s, I got my own place. My cat Deva, who had lived with me in both previous scenarios was along for the ride. Avenue Rd. and St. Clair Ave. was a chic, wealthy neighbourhood with a few affordable low-rise apartments. The street car ran past my window. Small shops. Pretty women. It was beautiful. And its where I eventually hypnotized my wife.
I would roll up to Fruition on a Friday night. Slim, but dashing and optimistic. And when the night was “over” for me. I would excuse myself from a crowded conversation and slither my way out the door with some takeout and into a cab. I relished in the independence and the pursuit of pleasure and fun. I was motivated and free.
I closed out my 20’s in a clean 2 bedroom apartment on the forth floor of the same building. That’s where I painted my last painting (releasing soon). My art studio became a graphic design studio. Marriage led to children a home and a life that seems a million km away from my 20’s (Metric. I’m Canadian).
To those who posed
All of my portraits are women. Each one is a person. I tried to do justice to their wonderful qualities and inner spirits. Wherever you are today ladies, Thank you.
What kind of person was I?
I like to think a good one. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some really wonderful influences. Artists and lovers of art. Hopefully, some of their better qualities rubbed off on me.
I was social. But I also thrived on my own. I travelled by myself and was pretty content making art in solitude (that’s not the same as “alone”). It made me a better artist.
My 20’s were a special time. I picked a few paths that have served me well. Others led me right into trouble. That’s life. My heart was at the helm for those course corrections. And my wife (Who I painted 10 years before we even met) came to me at the perfect time. To save me.
The truth is, words can’t sum it up. If you really want to know what my soul looked like back then, just look at my paintings. They are about as accurate as you can get. Let them explain on my behalf.
Thank you for your time
Original paintings by Adam Jarvis from his 20’s.
Each digitally reprocessed art print is
sized to fit IKEA Ribba frames.
I wanted the best large format retail point of sale printer to produce it.
I got what I wanted.