Reflecting on Ontario’s beauty

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

After winning Best in Show at Paint Ontario several years ago, Josy Hilkes Britton used her cash prize to buy a canoe. Her ensuing paddling excursions resulted in Reflections, Britton’s second Paint Ontario Best in Show painting.
“That’s how I get inspired in the first place, canoeing,” Hilkes Britton said after winning the prize Friday night. “This year’s painting is what I see when I canoe down the Ausable River, where you see the full reflections of the trees and it makes the water look really deep.”
The complexity of the work requires a skilled artist, and a discerning eye.
“I like a painting to work from two distances,” she says. “From a distance, I want it to draw you in closer. Then, when you’re close, I think you shouldn’t be disappointed that you took the trouble to get close. In this painting, from a distance, you might think it’s upside down. Then, when you get closer, you see the leaf and it makes sense.”
The realism of the painting is pervasive in much of the work at Paint Ontario, a show that showcases representational work, in other words, paintings that illustrate real things.
“When you look at the artwork, you will know what the artist was trying to paint,” says founder Barry Richman. “That doesn’t mean the artist can’t push the boundaries toward abstraction. This isn’t by any means a competition of magic realism, of who can paint the most fur on the fox or feathers on the loon.”
Still, that type of work is welcome at the Lambton Heritage Museum hosted show. About 145 artists from across Ontario submitted 288 paintings, and 180 were juried into the exhibition. In its 14th year, Paint Ontario has sold more than 400 paintings over that time, resulting in more than $250,000 in sales for artists.
“We will bring in more than 2000 people to the museum in the shoulder season,” Richman says. “It’s a win-win for the artists and the community.”
Artists interested in entering work in the 2011 exhibition should contact Richman through