Art of the skip

Ron Ford pays homage to his favourite sport by immortalizing curlers on canvas.

Ron Ford laughs when it’s suggested his life resembles that of former US president George W. Bush. Like Bush, for example, Ford worked for the government: his final position before retiring in 2012 was in the Ottawa office of the Ministry of Finance for the Ontario government. The real similarity, however, is their retirement pursuit: both have discovered the joy of spending hours in front of a canvas painting portraits. While Bush has focused his artistic attention on world leaders, Ford has largely chosen one of his passions for his subjects: curlers.

His inspiration came during last year’s Sochi Olympics. He wanted to capture the intensity of the two gold-medal-winning Canadian skips, Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs, driving from the hack. It was a subject close to his heart: he loves and participates in the sport. One of his curling portraits — he has painted a number of curlers, using photographs from the web — is now hanging at his local rink, the Cumberland Curling Club. He has also sold a few of them, including two to the parents of gold medallist Dawn McEwen (one of her and the other of her husband, Mike, who is also a curler).

It’s quite an achievement for someone who hadn’t even picked up a paintbrush until his retirement three years ago. With a demanding job and raising a family of four children, there was never the time nor the energy for outside hobbies. But that changed when he retired. “Suddenly [I had] a lot more free time on [my] hands,” says the affable 62-year-old. “I knew I wanted to be busy and active when I stopped working.”

After a friend suggested he take a painting class at the Ottawa School of Art, Ford discovered he was a natural; perhaps this was due to artistic genes in the family — his grandfather was a painter. He now spends several hours a day painting. He started with landscapes, but gravitated toward portraiture, which he finds more fulfilling. “The real joy for me is seeing a portrait come to life,” Ford says. He singles out a painting he did of his father from a Second World War photograph as one of his favourites. “As his likeness started coming through the canvas, I became very emotional. It was him, there in front of me.”

Ford sees a few parallels between his former day job as an auditor and his painting. “You have to take a detailed, patient and methodical approach to the work,” he says. He brings that same approach to the painting, but with a twist. “Being artistic is about creating and developing new ideas, to bring something new to the world. I get real joy from that.”

About the Author

John Shoesmith


John Shoesmith is a freelance writer in Toronto.

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