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Grand Bank native Jason Hillier has a hidden talent he has kept mostly to himself … so far

Jason Hillier says pride for his hometown of Grand Bank is part of the reason he recently painted this scene of the town’s historic waterfront.
Jason Hillier says pride for his hometown of Grand Bank is part of the reason he recently painted this scene of the town’s historic waterfront. - Contributed

The secret artist

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

For Jason Hillier, painting is therapeutic. 

Putting brush to canvas in the space he has set aside at his St. John’s home to create his art is calming and relaxing. 

Sure, sometimes there are frustrations if something doesn’t look quite right, but he doesn’t get bent out of shape over it. He fixes it and keeps going. 

Hillier, 47, has been painting for about 30 years, and estimates he's completed some 40 or 50 pieces. Self taught, with no formal training in recent years, they’ve grown more elaborate. He’s always learning.

Thinking back, he figures his interest in art began with drawing in art classes as a Cub Scout growing up in Grand Bank. 

“It’s all started way, way back and, you know, it’s always been an interest of mine,” he says.

“You’ve got to draw before you paint anyway, that’s my perspective. To be a fairly good painter, I think you’ve got to have the fundamentals and the background in drawing because, I mean, you’ve got to draw it out first anyway before you paint it.”

A Newfoundland seascape was his first. 

“For me, it’s whatever strikes me. I could do a portrait, I could do landscape. I just did a set of drums,” he says. 

That one was actually a request from someone whose husband plays the instrument, he explained.

“If I think I can do it, then I’ll kind of tackle it … I’ve done commission work in the past, time permitting, because I mean I work full time,” he says.

His job for the past 20 years has been as a civil engineering instructor at College of the North Atlantic.

There is some crossover between the two worlds.

“When I’m teaching in class, if I got to explain something, I’ll use visuals.

“If I’m discussing something about piping underground, I’ll draw three dimensions on the board. It just comes natural, instead of spending time getting pictures and stuff like that.” 

Hillier was encouraged to post some of his work online. He’s been tickled with the response. People have wondered why he’s kept his talent hidden. 

Painting, however, has always come first for Hillier, who says he’s modest when it comes to his art. He paints because he likes it.

“It’s a personal thing for me, yeah, in most cases,” he says.

Of those he’s posted online, a beautiful painting of several schooners tied up at the wharf in his hometown – the way the waterfront looked in its heyday – was met with enthusiastic response. 

“I wanted to do that for quite some time." 

Hillier says the connection that routinely brought him back to Grand Bank is starting to fade, much like many of the town’s old, historic buildings. His parents and most of his family have left.

Still, his affection for the town is unwavering. 

“Anybody asks me where I’m from, I don’t be long saying Grand Bank,” he acknowledges. “It’s always a pride thing.”

Hillier is not exactly sure if he wants to take the next step with his artwork, but he’s mulling it over.

People have told him he should approach some galleries. 

“I guess to get some recognition, it wouldn’t go astray,” he says. 

WEBLINK: Check out more of Jason Hillier’s art on his personal Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/jason.hillier.923.

paul.herridge@southerngazette.ca

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