Perhaps it was the dark clouds overhead threatening rain on Tuesday (October 23), after some two weeks when only the temperatures had fallen in Vancouver.
For whatever reason, a homeless friend and I both agreed that the watercolour painting he had found in an alley by a Dumpster, somewhere in his wanderings through the Fairview and Kitsilano neighbourhoods, depicted a sailboat at sea in a rainstorm.
There was certainly no question that the roughly 17″ x 22″ painting on heavy watercolour paper was dramatic.
Against a ragged and glimmering background wash of blues and blacks (with touches of pastel umber and mauve), to serve as both sea and sky, a sloop stood, sketched sparingly in dry brush strokes of dark blue and black pen-and-ink lines, fine as etching.
This watercolour, pastel and ink was the bravura work of late West Vancouver artist Colin Hempsall, who turned to fine art in his late 50s, following both a successful career in graphic design and his belated discovery of a passion for sailing.
After Hempsall successfully sailed solo from West Vancouver to Hawaii, Samoa, and Tongo and then all the way back home again, he took up a second successful career, at the age of 59, as a fine artist.
Unlike most artwork discarded in Vancouver back alleys, we don’t have to play guessing games about this painting. Not only is it signed in Hempsall’s neat hand lettering but it bears an additional note, also in the artist’s hand and besides, it was tossed out with with a veritable certificate of authenticity.
A trashed painting that can speak for itself for a change
The back of the painting bears a handwritten note to someone apparently named “Tonnae”:
This is a study for a larger painting I did a few years ago. Watercolour/pastel/ink. With thanks–Colin -97.
Not only that but inside of the large envelope that the painting was found discarded in, there was a letter-size document stating:
Painted by Colin Hempsall (1919-2012), a well-known watercolourist and sailor who resided in West Vancouver. Colin was a student of one of the Group of Seven artists and devoted much of his time to painting for which he was well known. He was a wonderful, generous human being. Colin also did his own matting and framing. He painted this in 1997 based on his experiencing and enjoying the Aurora Borialis (Northern Lights) during solo sailing to Tahiti and back in about 1988.
There it is in black and white, This is not a painting of a rainstorm after all. It is a painting of a magnetic storm.
So I was only half right. That’s not bad for an art critic.