Many of you may know that I had the pleasure of working with my uncle Artist Peter Etril Snyder for a few years before his death in 2017. It was an incredibly creative time that I will always cherish.
It is impossible for me to list all the ways my life was influenced by Pete. From early childhood he was fascinating to me and during my teenage years I began to truly appreciate how talented he was as an artist and how entrepreneurial he was by nature. I benefited from spending time with him and my Aunt Marilyn in more ways than I even realize. Several trips to England where we met up with them sparked my interest in the decorative arts and no doubt contributed to my decision to pursue design as a career.
Pete was extremely supportive when I decided to open my design studio. He mentored me and always made me think outside the box, encouraging me to stretch myself, expand my ideas and dream. Pete and I collaborated on a post for my blog in 2013. It was a lot of fun to work together and got us thinking about the future possibilities. You can read that post here.
During this time we were emailing often. A few opportunities presented themselves for possibly using his work in my design projects and this led to discussions about future collaborations. By 2015 he began cc’ing me on emails on his art business dealings. This opened up a new level of mentoring. His willingness to include me in correspondence gave invaluable insights into how he communicated with people and how he ran things.
I should also interject here that my uncle Doug ( brother of Pete and twin of my father ) played a huge role in Pete’s business. Uncle Doug ran the gallery for over 30 years. I can’t tell you how often Pete mentioned to me the importance of the role Doug played. This quote sums it up beautifully and leaves no doubt as to how Pete felt…
“My brother Doug and I worked together for over 30 years. Anyone who dealt with the gallery knows that Doug was the man who ran the day-to-day operations of the place. His steadfast support of my work made it possible for me to focus my attention on painting and not on the very important job of running the gallery. His attention to the customers and to the staff always left me feeling confident that everyone was looked after properly. It is impossible for me to exaggerate the positive effect that Doug’s quiet competent work had on my career. Everyone should have such a brother.”
That quote was from an interview Pete gave around the time he closed the Gallery in 2009.
I believe that this positive and longstanding working relationship with his brother played a very important role in Pete fostering a working relationship with me. This excerpt refers to his thoughts on the matter:
“We have a singular relationship which I value dearly. Very few people are fortunate enough to work with a family member and here I am with a second round of a special family relationship..”
Emailing back and forth with Pete became a very important part of my life… whether we were discussing business or family, going down memory lane or brainstorming about a new idea… it all filled my heart and fuelled my creativity.
We had talked about a host of possibilities for the future. I knew he was thinking about how things would go on once he was gone. He copied me on an email sent to a colleague in the publishing field where he was suggesting he wanted to introduce me to her the next time they met:
“With no kids, I am looking for a safe and interested pair of hands to take over”
My interest in developing my design website and managing my own SM branding intrigued him and in 2016 when his website became out of date and needed redesigning he asked me to step in and manage that creative process. He wanted people to have a place to come learn about his career, look at his paintings and read what he had written about each piece. I think we achieved that goal very nicely indeed! You can click through to explore the Gallery Website.
Also around this time I began thinking about using Pete’s images on fabric for development into the decorative market. This really intrigued him and there were many emails batting around concepts between us. After some trial and error I settled on a UK company to do the printing. I approached Gresham House Furniture about doing a custom chair using the printed fabric. I also began printing images for custom pillows.
Pete not only supported these explorations into new products he encouraged it. In one email he said
“It is a joy to do stuff with you. I enjoy your energy and ambition and agree with your taste which is clearly paramount.”
Our discussions about fabric design had us both smitten…
To Pete Sept 7/2016 ( FG is a short form of Pete’s lifelong nick name for me… Funny Girl:)
“This fabric development opens up a new way of considering composition as well. Slightly more faded borders …
not using the entire canvas but bleeding out towards the edges gives me interesting options for centring for pillow tops or creating repeats that have those bleeded colours between ? I don’t know if that makes sense?
which garnered this response back:
“That makes total exciting sense!
followed later that day by:
“My thoughts are several. Doing a layout in black and white and then laying several backgrounds with accents might be the way to go.
Leave it with me. This wants more thought. This will be great fun! P”
Over the next few months I would get many emails relating to our new joint venture… His health during this time was declining as it had been for awhile. I know from his correspondence that collaborations over email became highly enjoyable as they provided creative outlet from a relaxed and quiet environment.
”It is impossible to convey how much I enjoy our chats. I hope that I can generate some thoughts and challenges to you. I am always happy to act as a sounding board for you. Since I go out very little now my life has shifted to online. P”
Developments in the fabric arena as well as other concepts we had been discussing led Pete to approach me with an idea. He wanted to transfer the ownership of his copyright to me. I was staggered by the possibilities and also by the responsibility. Pete had spent over 50 years painting. His work had received international success, it crossed decades, continents and captured vividly and beautifully all that ensnared his heart over the course of his life. History will recognize him as a prominent Canadian Painter. Being responsible for how that body of work would be seen and represented in the future both captivated and petrified me… but then I remembered where he started from and the risks he took to pursue his passion. How he wanted his work to bring enjoyment. How he took pleasure in connecting with people and most of all… how even though he achieved great success he never lost sight of those who contributed whether as an employee, peer, friend or customer.
This is what he wanted.
I was the safe and interested pair of hands he had chosen to intrust his catalogue and I was honoured to take on the responsibility.
In late October of 2016 the transfer was completed and I became owner of the copyright to his complete portfolio. We continued to discuss ideas for development of the Art Licensing aspect of his work. He encouraged me to pursue leads in many arenas both innovative and traditional such as prints:
I have been thinking about finding a name or term for new reproductions. Once I’m dead… Perhaps”estate approved” or something….”heritage something”?
Should the word ” Family” come into the picture?
Emails like that were so hard… I honestly couldn’t imagine life without him and even now a year and a half after his passing… I still can’t believe he is gone. I feel his creative energy all around me and his words echo through my mind…
”I will be watching with interest to see how you guys get on. I feel so fortunate that you are interested in my work. I Love you. Pete
“Honey, I believe that I have had an influence on you and I feel so heart warmed by that. I also feel good about my impact on Spencer but remember influence is not a one way street. I am so proud of you and your spirit. Both you and Spencer are outstanding and satisfying your ambition… We are fortunate to have each other. P”
Pete says in his autobiography Picture Maker:
“The dictionary defines beauty as those qualities giving pleasure to the mind or the senses. For me, that is what painting is all about.”
So, I will end with this…
Dear Pete, I miss you so very much. Your influence on my life is incalculable and I promise… I will do everything we talked about… I will never stop dreaming and your work will continue inspiring for many generations to come. Thank you for bringing your completely unique beauty to the world. xoxo Funny Girl
July 4/2017 sent to the organizer of an upcoming tribute in his honour at Waterloo Regional Museum. Although Pete could not attend due to his failing health the event was wonderful with many friends speaking about Pete and his contributions to the community as well as his impact in the Art world. Little did we know he would leave us only a few weeks later.
“My niece, Cynthia has taken over my library of images. My hope is that my work and it’s further application does not die with me.” Peter Etril Snyder