Artist Biography

Peter Gutmanis cannot remember a time when he could not draw and paint. Born shortly after his parents arrived from Latvia, he attributes his talent to his father, who put his art training to practical use in Canada as a skilled woodcarver and fine draftsman. Encouraged by his father, Peter drew constantly, modelled in clay, and painted.

As the first child of Displaced Persons, Peter was encouraged to be resourceful, to put his deft hands and analytic eye to practical use. Orthopaedic surgery seemed a perfect fit; the creative and technical demands satisfied him intellectually and artistically. Hired by the university anatomy department to draw cross sections of the human body for his fellow medical students, he soon realized a quick sketch was just as valuable for patients, allowing them to visualize surgical outcomes and options. And modelling casts came naturally.

To cope with the stress of brutally long days, Peter began painting late in the evenings. Watercolour proved the perfect medium. Like surgery, the margin of error was slim. With watercolour, the light comes from the paper. Without careful planning, it is easy to paint out that light, impossible to put it back in.

As the son of immigrants who’d fled a war-torn country, Peter embodied the link between a past forever gone and a future unknown. His paintings reflect his concern with capturing that moment when time and space intersect, to make time visible by painting the light.

Peter has exhibited his paintings in small galleries in Ontario, Quebec, and most recently  in British Columbia where he currently lives. Private and public collections of his work exist throughout North America.

Artist Technique & Process

Peter rarely travels without his camera, ever ready to capture those ephemeral moments when the light reveals the extraordinary in the ordinary. After sketching the composition, he props the photo near his stretched paper, anchoring himself in that moment of vision, and begins washing in layer after layer of colour. Since watercolour is translucent, these successive washes create a texture that no single pigment can.

The paint, as it bleeds, becomes subtle mists, smoke, and shadows. Bold contrasts, silhouettes, and the dramatic play of light require paint squeezed directly from the tube. Because watercolour can convey movement in several layers, it can simultaneously capture the surface eddy, the deeper broken figure of a fish, the reflections and refractions of both.

Sometimes the shadow of a thing, across various surfaces, shore and water, is more intriguing than the object casting the shadow. Living by the Pacific seashore provides endless opportunities to paint that interaction between light and water, that ever-moving line between things and their shadows.