Those with a vested interest in their own craft, business or pursuit of happiness want to make sure their investments ““ whether it's time or money ““ turn some sort of profit. Local Burlington artist, family man and businessman, Jason Bouwman's “impression” of history appears on the Royal Canadian Mint's new Commemorative $20 Silver Coin.

“I could always colour in between the lines better than the other kids at school I suppose,” says Bouwman, owner of Compass Creative, “but I did go to college for technical illustration. I always had a natural talent.”

Oftentimes you'll find him with a camera in-hand, on a trip or at home. “I'm always snapping photos and putting photo books together. I am very much a visual communicator. I move through the world always aware of what light can do, the way light hits objects. I've always got my eyes wide open.

Bouwman also paints en Plein Air (out of doors), which takes you from the studio to work directly from nature (think of Claude Monet, the Group of Seven, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and the Barbizon Painters). A typical session is two to two-and-a-half hours. “I expect myself to be done a painting by that time,” says Bouwman.  “It's very immediate, bold and direct, but it trains you to see what's really there.”

Some people might find that immediacy too stressful, but Bouwman says it forces him to capture the essence of something. “I don't need to paint every leaf on a tree, but what is the essence of that tree: is it the shape, colour, how dense or how sparse. It's really taught me to capture the essence of things rather than be bogged down by the minute details.” Bouwman credits this skill to how he functions in other areas of life, focusing on the big picture and being a strategic thinker. “I'm always working in big, bold strokes.”

You can find his work on display, and for sale, at the Burlington Cultural Centre.

Bouwman also has a creative interest in architecture, sculpture and movies. “I'm interested in storytelling in general,” he explains, which is fitting since his marketing agency, Creative Compass, is about branding and telling a company's story.

Compass' tagline is “Let's get real”. “We all hate being sold to, lied to. [Marketing] is a real business function. There' a fine line between getting out and promoting yourself and manipulating people or exploiting their fears and emotions just to sell them something, so we've challenged ourselves but we've also moved to challenge our customers to get real.” Bouwman says potential clients sometimes ask if they can be made to look professional. “The first question we ask is, “˜are you professional?' If you're not, then that's what I want to help you solve, and let's put some creativity towards solving that first before I go and craft a message that could be misrepresenting.” Once that's achieved, Bouwman and his crew will craft a brand message that's as appropriate and as reflective to the truth as they can.

One of the company's unique clients includes the Royal Canadian Mint; Bouwman has produced several coins for the Mint all the way back to 2008. His most recent work can be seen on the face of the $20 Commemorative Silver Coin. “It's been a great relationship and cool design challenge using a different medium, how to tell a story on a coin face,” he explains. Without relying on colour, Bouwman says the design becomes very much about the form and the concept. “I'm always looking for a twist, a hook or a story,” he adds.

The coin features a child out on the water and as he stops paddling to dip his hand in, he touches the past ““ reflected in the water is an early native voyageur in a traditional birch-bark canoe (which also appeared on the early silver dollar of 1935). To Bouwman, the illustration shows the child “being aware of the story of the place he's in.” And it definitely seems that Bouwman enjoys where he is.