Joe Smith

Joe Smith

Coffee with … Joe Smith

Local artist uses his work to conjure memories

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

As opposed to making statements, Joe Smith paints moments in time.

His paintings that depict landscapes, landmarks and random scenes tend to conjure memories. The Lorne Hotel, for instance — the Comox pub that burned to the ground in 2011 — was where some patrons had their first drink. Another subject — the Native Sons Hall in Courtenay — was where others patrons attended dances in their teen years, or met their spouse.

Other subjects are historical in nature. A converted yacht named Marabell, grounded near Campbell River, had been a mine sweeper during the Second World War.

Then there’s the ‘Drug Boat’ which had been anchored in Comox Harbour.

The ship had come from the Orient and was forced into harbour during a storm. The Coast Guard discovered drugs aboard the vessel but couldn’t arrest the crew because they were seeking safe harbour. But the boat was eventually confiscated and sold at auction.

“It’s part of your life — it’s like breathing,” Smith said of being a professional artist. “It’s all-consuming.”

The Union Bay artist has participated in various juried shows, including the Originals Only art show in Comox, of which he is a founding member.

A board member of the BC Arts Council, Smith believes in giving back to the community. He has involved himself with the Comox Valley Community Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce, and was a national president of the Association of Canadian Clubs — which started in Hamilton in the late-1800s.

“At one time there were 110 Canadian clubs across the country. There was one here in the Valley.”

Smith and his wife Carol, who have three children, lived in Oakville, Ont. before moving to the Island in 2002. He recalls how they were taken aback by the scenery while visiting on a fall day. He and Carol knew they had found their new home.

“I was driving from Victoria and stopped at that lookout on the Malahat,” he said. “I was thinking ‘This is so spectacular, what the heck are we living between Hamilton and Toronto for?’”

Before moving west, Smith had a career in the newspaper industry. He began as a staff artist at the Montreal Gazette — which Benjamin Franklin started in the 18th century — became creative director at the national office of Southam Newspapers in Toronto, and then moved into public relations at the Hamilton Spectator, where he represented the paper at numerous events. One year, he co-chaired the Canadian Country Music Awards.

“I know nothing about country music…That was a lot of fun.”

Along with painting, Smith writes a monthly column for The Record.

“It keeps me involved with the newspaper industry.”