John Bellinger;
Naturally Inspired Cabbagetown Painter and Sculptor
 
“When you’re painting, whatever’s jammed into your head at the moment…just goes away.” So says charming, seventy-four year old Cabbagetown artist, John Bellinger.

A Toronto native, Bellinger like many others of his generation, enjoyed model-making and building things as a boy. He attributes much of his love for sculpting and painting to those early stimulating experiences. John left school at seventeen and began his journey into an ever-aspiring creative life. As a young man, he worked as an office clerk at Osgoode Hall and at the end of his working day, he would venture out to sketch the city buildings and wild bits of urban landscape he was fascinated by.

In 1951, John walked into the Offices of Liberty Magazine, one of Toronto’s prominent publications at that time and got a job as a layout artist, “ …Just like that... ”. He adds, “In those days, if you had a small portfolio, you could get a commercial art job and learn as you go.”  He also worked at Mayfair Magazine (founded in 1927), Toronto’s ‘high society’ magazine of the day, Farmers Magazine (founded in 1910) and then at Maclean Hunter where he Art-Directed several “Trade” magazines simultaneously, a position he maintained for thirty-five years. John worked with the likes of well-known illustrators such as Harold Town, Tom Hodgson and Oscar Cahen.

Mr. Bellinger, ever enthusiastic, enhanced his creative life by studying at night. He enrolled in classes in “still-life” and “life painting”; loving the experiences he had and the interesting people he met. John was moved by the sensuality of painting the body as “life painting” refers to painting from the unclothed model. John also quite the naturalist in sentiment spent much spare time at Leslie Spit and on The Island, doing his wilderness sketches on paper and canvas. He exclaims, “I just love nature! The sky is so important on The Spit, the colour is so exquisite out there.”

The Impressionists and Les Fauves, the “Wild Beasts” of French Art inspired John’s development as an artist. Fauvism was a very brief (1901-1906) but significant art movement, which exploded in Paris immediately after the Post Impressionist era of Modern Art. True to Les Fauve philosophy, John exclaims, … “Intense colour turns me on, it’s the key to it all!”

With the push in the “Trades” toward digital production and impersonal cubicle-creativity, John decided to retire early and now spends about three hours daily painting and sculpting. John and his wife Claire, a player of early recorder music, live across from Riverdale Park. “The Park is something special”, says John, “Dogs, people, events…it is a joy!” It is these cosmopolitan, yet somewhat pastoral views, which have inspired many of his paintings.

From the beginning of his career until now, John has celebrated his creativity by studying photography, drafting, portrait painting, clay work and bronze sculpture. He has produced art in many of these media or applications and makes his work available publicly by exhibiting regularly. John currently paints with CENTRAL CONNECTION in Withrow Park, and ARTISTS 25, both mixed-age painting groups. His sculpture, functional pieces such as tables and chairs are featured at Metalurge Gallery. You can see John’s paintings at Canvas Gallery and Hangman Gallery. His works have also been featured in The Cabbagetown Cultural Festival, Toronto ArtsWeek Exhibits, The Pear Tree on Parliament and at Here and Now Gallery.
 

“Afternoon in The Park” John Bellinger 2003

If you are a working artist and have an upcoming event, please send your info to <catherine.tammaro@gmail.com>