By Cassie Tulecki
Todd Manuel’s collection, currently on display at the Homer Watson House and Gallery, is called Objects of My Affections. It has exquisite colour and depth, and focuses on everyday items in an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming.
As you look at each piece of art you think about the subjects in the paintings and really appreciate the simplicity of them. Manuel is able to take something so ordinary and simple, such as a breakfast scene with a bagel, and make it beautiful.
His paintings speak to the viewers and make them look at life in a different perspective. Taking time to see the beauty right in front of you can be an eye-opening experience. It makes you appreciate your surroundings and be thankful for the simple pleasures in life.
“From as far as I can remember I have been interested in art,” Manuel said.
He grew up in a small town in Newfoundland and had limited access to resources that would help him improve his art skills. There were no art classes he could take at his school, but he did have pencils and crayons which he took full advantage of.
He used these to work on his drawing skills; he would copy cartoons that were on TV or from comic books. “My exercise books for school were often colourfully decorated with a mish-mash of cartoons, symbols, shapes, words and rock band logos,” Manuel said.
He would win school and magazine art contests and would receive small prizes for his efforts. “Seeing my name in print was my biggest thrill for winning either first, second or third place in a contest.”
Manuel never really had anyone to teach him how to expand his painting skills until he went to college, where, at the age of 20, he spent two years learning how to mix paints and worked on his drawing skills. However, his paintings and styles that would be seen later in life were not developed at this point.
“Paint, paint, paint, that’s how I learned.”
Manuel said to this day he still learns something new with every painting he creates.
“I consider myself to be mostly self-taught and a lifelong learner.”
His inspiration comes from looking at art. He is a fan of the Group of Seven, Mary Pratt and Roy Lichtenstein.
“Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to speak with Mary Pratt when I was in my mid-20s and she gave me some wonderful advice about the business of creating art.”
That experience was a turning point in Manuel’s life; he no longer painted for others. He created art for himself and no one else. If others enjoyed his work it was a bonus but he didn’t mind when people didn’t like it. This is something all aspiring artists should live by.
“It’s important for an artist to feel secure about the work they produce and simply resign yourself to the fact that you cannot please everyone. Not everyone is going to like your art.”
Manuel has been active trying to get his artwork into art exhibitions over the last five years. He has been involved in group shows up until recently. Manuel won the Homer Watson Legacy Award and was approached by the Homer Watson Gallery to have his own show in 2015. This award is presented to an individual whose artwork celebrates the legacy of Homer Watson’s creative spirit by stimulating in others the appreciation, enjoyment and practice of the visual arts.
“It’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun too. I love what I do and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for my artwork.”