Painting your passion

WWII veteran Bob Armstrong sits diligently in a busy art studio at Parkwood Institute. A light from a nearby window cascades on what was once a blank canvas – now filled with life and colour.

At 91, the accomplished artist has not lost his touch.

“When painting a portrait of an animal, you have to get the eyes just right,” says Bob. “It’s the eyes that tell the story.”

Bob Armstrong painting

Bob, a resident in the Veterans Care Program at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute, makes an almost daily trip to the studio where he and other residents participate in the Veterans Arts Program.  The program provides a place for residents to create beautiful works of art and fun projects while enjoying the company of art instructors and other veterans. Projects are adapted to the needs of each participant.

While no artistic experience is necessary, Bob has plenty. His paintings have recently been shown in galleries across London, with several sold over the years.

“We didn’t have to do much teaching when he decided to join the program less than a year ago” says art instructor Kim Smith. “He just knew exactly what to do – we simply provided him with a nice spot to create.”

First art kit purchased by wife, Betty

Bob’s own story with art began when he was just 18 years old. After being injured in a serious work accident, Bob’s soon-to-be wife, Betty, purchased his first art kit as a way to keep him busy while he recovered.  An electrician by trade, he still remembers when he sold his first painting in 1979.

“It was a weight off my shoulders. It’s not an easy way to make a living – it was a great feeling.”  

His passion for painting and art would stretch over 65 years.  With no formal art training, Bob credits Betty, and their 70 years of marriage, for helping to spark a hidden talent and provide support every step of the way.

Proceeds donated to Palliative Care Unit at St. Joseph’s

All the proceeds from Bob’s paintings are donated to the Palliative Care Unit at St. Joseph’s, where his wife spent her last days before passing away in 2017.  He is thankful for the care that she and his family received.

With more than 400 paintings in his repertoire, Bob is still keeping busy.

“The staff at Parkwood Institute have done so much for me. It’s such a blessing to still be able to do things with my mind and hands,” says Bob. “Some people think that, at my age, I must be out to lunch, but so many of us are not. We are still enjoying life.”

As an artist herself, Kim says, “I can only hope that when I turn 90, I am still doing the things I love.”

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