Take a moment to think back in time. When you were a child, life was simple. You came home from school and headed out to play ““ maybe it was a game of hopscotch on your driveway or ball hockey on your street. For artist, Mark Jeffrey, ice hockey on a nearby pond and raking leaves at his Oakville home were treasured moments.

Wanting to share special memories, Jeffrey, a long-time Oakville resident, took up painting to capture childhood scenes in contemporary art.

“You know everyone's life shapes them ““ who they become and what they do. I have a lot of happy childhood memories playing hockey and skating with friends,” says Jeffrey from his Georgian Bay cottage near sandy Woodland Beach. “I'm very drawn to those types of things and they're fleeting ““ that's something that I like to hold onto, like rural lifestyle.”

Aware that urban sprawl has taken over nearby ponds where he once played, Jeffrey's art often reflects this theme as he paints houses encroaching on rural areas. “I'm not a huge fan of urban sprawl, we have to keep our economy going, but I find it hard to watch them plow over farmland to put up houses,” comments the 49-year-old.

Colourful and vibrant, his work has a childlike innocence to it, almost crayon-like, so it's not surprising that Mark is attracted to children's art. “I find there's purity to it. I've seen some really great work, mostly abstract that I”˜m very drawn to and I've incorporated that into my painting.”

Inspiration also comes from Jeffrey's hero, Group of Seven artist Tom Thomson's landscape scenes, but the Oakville born artist also looks up to great Impressionists like Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse. “I'm not really drawn to hyperrealism because I like to see personality in art, to see part of the artist in a painting ““ I love to get the impression of what they see,” he reveals.

Jeffrey, a self-taught artist, began painting about 20 years ago after a brief illness. “It woke me up and I don't know if I wanted to leave something behind, but I just started painting and after that it snowballed,” explains Jeffrey whose oil paintings range from five-inches by seven-inches to 30-inches by 40-inches.

Wanting to discover his style, the artist set out on his own. “When I started, I didn't really know what I was doing ““ not all of my paintings were productive. But as time passed ““ I finally learned what I wanted to do and how to do it,” says Jeffrey who recently had a solo showing, In the Moment at Mississauga's Rumi Galleries. Forty paintings on exhibit included: “Sunset Skate”, “By the Light of the Moon” and “Warkworth Pond”, reflecting the magic in life coming from winter walks or skating by moonlight; everyday activities Jeffrey fears are lost with the fast pace of city life.

At first, the artist was reluctant to sell his work, but it caught the interest of the Rumi family when they saw his art in a self-published book, A Lonely Boy, a collection compiled for family and friends. “The Rumis liked it and they kind of worked on me,” says Jeffrey, who has been represented by the gallery for three years.

“My work is a real mix. Art has no rules or boundaries ““ it's a personal thing. When I paint I don't have any preconceived notions because I like to paint these moments, so I don't put down colour with a clear-set plan in mind. I just let them happen.”

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