Jim Reed

Artist & Teacher


well-known artist throughout the area, Jim Reed identifies strongly with Elora where his pursuit of art was reinvigorated in the mid-’70s at the studio of Corbett Gray on Mill Street West. This studio has now become a legend. It was centrally located, accessible and had an excellent and experienced mentor. Mentoring, Jim says, is the oldest form of teaching, and Corbett Gray, master painter, was a resource to all.

The studio attracted a group of talented artists, among them Jim Reed, George Todd, Terry Golletz, Rosalinda Baumgartner, Murray Code, Gerry Bosch, Karin Bach, Judy Fredricks, Ken Hewitt. “Corbett’s was Paris of the ‘20s,” Jim says with nostalgia. Nothing has quite replaced it. Slowly he gained confidence in the supportive community of artists. He tells of Sunday morning outdoor painting sessions with a model in the park. One day a troop of Boy Scouts came through! Ah well! Jim came to painting from a background of teaching. Teaching experiences ranged from teaching adults at Jofriet Studio in Guelph, Willow Road Senior Public School, and for most of his 32 years, at the elementary school in Hillsburgh. In the K-7 school as a librarian/technology and design teacher, he brought in an innovative pilot programme. Many students preferred to create rather than have recess!

After several years painting at Corbett’s studio, Jim sought an international art school in Nice, France, where living in art became a reality. Students from many cultures brought their talents to the school, which was fascinating in itself. Most enriching, however, were the opportunities to visit galleries and museums offering retrospective shows of individual masters. Here Jim could see for himself the development, the slow clearing of the inner eye, the journey to synthesis. Synthesis, the fusing together of experience and knowledge, Jim acknowledges to be the highest use of the brain – but it takes many years to achieve!

In searching for his own path, Jim remembers the advice of an architect – look to what is current. How are paintings conceived? For Jim, they incubate in the mind, and their execution should be honest and spontaneous. The challenge is in achieving a balance and stopping there. What you take out is important, and the brush strokes should have immediacy and relevance. Jim Reed says he rarely spends more than three hours on a painting.

More than most artists, Jim Reed seems aware of the viewer. “The picture must allow the person to connect- everything is about connection! It could be the colour, the line of an arm, a lively section at the bottom of a painting that draws the viewer in- anything! Then it’s a conversation, not a confrontation.”

Jim’s innovative use of recycled doors and windows as frames has led to many works of interesting shapes, with unusual impact. For a long while he worked in oils, but now he moves freely from one media to another, frequently on the same canvas. Recently he discovered historical house paints, which have 40 percent more pigment. “You can look right into the colour, and it changes dramatically with the light.” This inner movement allows viewers to bring themselves into the picture, to make a connection.

For three years Jim Reed had his dream studio at Jackie Maidlow’s on Mill Street West. The shop had long been an antique store. Its gracious space, with large oriental rug and the light from the balcony over the Grand River was ideal and Jackie was a wonderful support. A beautiful, fresh portrait might stand in the window, beckoning one to explore. International clientele visited because of the former antique business and the studio’s proximity to the Elora Mill. The diversity and quality of tourists who passed through Elora was a revelation.

One of his strong influences from that time was Jim’s friendship with David Earle, a major figure in modern dance, who lived on Mill Street. Jim was receptive to David’s directness, to his ability to truly see and to respond, and to Earle’s permeating philosophy that we must let people be who they are.

Jim comments on the benefits of a group exhibition like INSIGHTS for an artist. Here, he says, you push the boundaries, but you find you are really not so far out when you measure your work against others. This encourages you to be bold, to explore. A painting is controlled freedom – you set the borders and fly within them. It is keeping things that speak and throwing everything else aside.

What you take out is important, and the brush strokes should have immediacy and relevance.

A person who sees beauty in the old, the unconventional, in the patina of Venetian plaster, or the irreplaceable integrity of a bridge, Jim’s aesthetic does not fit well with the commercial ethos and disposable tendencies of our economies. He has preserved a more real, holistic vision, relating to the potential of the individual, demanding commitment and a connected approach to development of every kind.

by Beverley Cairns, Spring 2005

UPDATE – 2005

Jim Reed’s paintings can be seen at the Barber Gallery, Guelph, and Karger Gallery and Gallery ‘79, Elora.