Visiting Cliff Turner at the Artists' Project
I've decided to share more stories from previous issues of the magazine, including some photos and behind-the-scenes stuff that didn't make it into the final draft. Visiting artists in their spaces is one of my favourite parts of CreatedHere, and sharing them is probably my next favourite! Let's start with Cliff Turner.
Studio visit with Cliff Turner
Words and photos by Marie-Hélène Morell
"The best piece of advice I ever got was from [fellow artist] Peter Salmon, he said “Just paint the picture, Cliff!"
I visited Cliff Turner at the Artist's Project on Water Street, a studio/workshop where he teaches oil painting classes and works on his own projects, a sort of home base for an artist with a lot on the go. The space is a good size, big enough for a group to paint together, full of natural light and with room for storage to boot. He served me tea and snacks from the snack table (meant for his students) as we sat down chatted about his work.
Cliff is an artistic soul, one who has pursued the call to create throughout his life. After some detours through business school, mathematics, working with insurance, he tried his hand at acting in Toronto. Finally, according to Cliff, he realized it was ok to be an artist. He then attended art school at the University of Toronto. His specialty was realism, and although professors tried to direct him to other methods, he would always came back to the detail work and has ever since.
Cliff Turner’s work stands out from the crowd. Big, colourful, intricately detailed oil paintings that look more real than real life. Once you've seen his stuff, you recognize it anytime you see it again.
Creativity was put on hold a few years ago when cancer reared its ugly head. While in the throes of treatment, Cliff found he simply couldn’t paint. “I couldn’t do anything. I would just pace in figure eights on the floor. I tried to cut shapes out of paper. I don’t know if it was the medication or what…” says Cliff. Slowly, as he regained his strength, the capacity and will to make art came back with it. Now back in full swing, Cliff teaches art in middle schools on a part-time basis, works out of the Artist's Project and even fits in acting when he can. Cliff’s mission with his oil painting workshops is to teach the “the technical application of paint to tell a story”. He provides all the same top-quality materials that he would use himself personally, from canvases and brushes to easels and chairs, to ensure that participants are best set up for success. He then walks them through the process of painting from a still life, step-by-detailed-step. Participants are frequently surprised at what they are able to accomplish given the right materials and instruction. According to Cliff, “the aquisition of real skill brings happiness and confidence to anyone."
As an artist, Cliff is always pushing himself to improve on his art. When asked what was his favourite piece he ever made, he answered, “I only really like the last piece I’ve done because I always think I’m getting better.” Given this, we have some incredible pieces by Cliff Turner to look forward to.
*This includes excerpts from article published in Issue #5 of CreatedHere magazine
Cliff’s work is available at Buckland Merrifield Gallery in Saint John, NB and at Gallery 78 in Fredericton.