Our next Artist You Need To Know is Ross Beard (1953 – 2019).
Beard began landscape painting at the age of twelve and later developed his unique style while completing his post-secondary education at Sheridan and Niagara College. He began painting full time in 1976.
Beard’s paintings are often surrealistic landscapes evoking a mysterious serenity bathed in cool blues with warm crimsons, and light captured in a manner that is both ephemeral and eerie. He has been described as a master of twilight skies.
In 1988-89 Ross produced three outstanding murals for Welland’s Festival Of Arts (some of the strongest and most loved work in that project. Sadly, only one of these remains on East Main Street in downtown Welland. The travails of the recent removal of his Towpath Mural can be explored here).
Ross Beard’s paintings blend sentimentality, mystery, nostalgia and romance all within the framework of historical sites that will be very familiar to residents of Welland. His paintings – often his favorite subjects of the Welland Canal, Wainfleet, and Lake Erie – can be found in numerous private collections, as a testament to their beauty and charm.
The gallery below is focused upon Beard’s murals – the one that remains and the two that have been lost – in the city of Welland.
Beard’s works, though drawn from his community, are often empty of people, or they appear as simple dark shapes: in this sense, they invite you in, but also offer quiet moments of contemplation. A community helps to define itself – and envision itself – through the images that people within that space make that reflect their lives and experience. A testament to Beard’s work is that his images of Welland, or Dain City, often strike a chord of truth with those who grew up within, or live in, those sites now. There is a melding of actual sites with a sense of light and ephemeral memories that i creates a sense of warmth and nostalgia in Beard’s many scenes.
Much more of Ross Beard’s work can be seen here, as his widow often shares and reposts images of Ross Beard’s work, helping to keep his art and legacy alive. It’s also worth noting that his impact can be further seen in how Welland artist and activist James Takeo recently produced a Welland Bell Box Mural – located at Division Street near Hellems Avenue – in commemoration of Beard’s art and legacy (specifically to memorize Beard’s mural from the Festival of Arts in Welland titled The Pond – New Year’s Day. We’ve included an image of that lost mural in one of the galleries here).
At the time of this post being shared (March, 2023) there is an exhibition on view at Mahtay Café & Lounge (241 St. Paul Street) in downtown St. Catharines: Ross Beard | A Legacy of Light and the Local is a selection of over a dozen of the artist’s works. You can read a bit about that exhibition here.