Heart of Portland: A lifetime of art

By: Tyler Tripp, Staff Writer

George Anderson has created thousands of paintings in his lifetime that have been displayed all over the world, and at the age of 88, he has no intention of stopping.

“I have thousands of paintings hanging up all over the place, but life is a series of stepping stones from one to another, so I spend a lot of time thinking about where I am going from here. I don’t want this to be the end result, because I’m not satisfied with that. It can’t be over yet,” said Anderson.

Anderson, a native of Canada, has always been interested in graphics and design, and once owned a successful advertising agency in Montreal, Quebec, where he lived for most of his life. He decided to leave his home at the age of fifty when his country was overrun by political turmoil.

“My wife and I lived there with our children for fifty years, with a beautiful home in the mountains. We were doing very well, and everything was very good,” said Anderson. “One morning I woke up and there were tanks and helicopters in my backyard.”

On November 19, 1967, Québécoise Nationalist and Quebec’s 23rd Premier, Rene Levesque, founded the Movement Souveraineté-Association and the Parti Québécois in a declaration of Quebec’s independence from the rest of Canada.

“All of a sudden, politics changed, and the French-speaking people decided that they wanted to get rid of the English. That was a bit of a shock. I had all these kids
and a nice business, and all of a sudden it was over,” said Anderson, “so we decided to leave and head to Toronto, 300 miles away.”
“[My wife] Jean didn’t care much for Toronto,” said Anderson, so he decided to sell his advertising company. He and his family eventually settled in Exeter, New Hampshire. It was in Exeter that Anderson’s life changed forever.

“One day, my wife, Jean, looked at me and said, ‘George, why don’t you just become an artist like you’ve always wanted to be? I said “Yes”’, which was a terrible mistake because I didn’t know how to paint,” Anderson said with a big laugh.

For the next ten years, Anderson began to truly practice his craft in the hills of Exeter, New Hampshire.

“We bought a farm and I built a big studio with skylights everywhere, and I painted there for ten years. I painted there every single day, 8 hours a day or more, and never once sold a painting. Ten years,” Anderson paused, “Not a great feeling.”

In the 1980’s, Anderson moved to Rockport, Massachusetts, built an art gallery, and began to sell his art for the first time. “People were finally buying my art,” Anderson, “my art had finally begun to become a business.”

He shifted his focus to paintings containing a subject matter close to his heart: the ocean.

“Yes, the ocean, but more specifically it’s where the land meets the water. That’s where the fishermen are,” said Anderson.

Anderson scanned the room for a moment, then pointed at a large picture hanging in the corner and said, “That one might be the last one in existence from that period in Rockport.”

Anderson went on to explain,” the town built this music hall right on the ocean two doors from my gallery. [It was] beautiful, really. [Musicians] came from all over the world to play in this building, and through this window you see boats and people swimming in the water with boats sailing by. It was very nice, so I started doing a lot of fisherman playing musical instruments. Look at his hands in rubber gloves playing the cello!”

Years later, Anderson and his wife decided that they wanted to be closer to their children and grandchildren, who live in Portland. Anderson purchased and renovated his current studio by the cobblestone street on the corner of Fore and Silver in Portland’s Old Port. Anderson also has a home in the same district.
“I live on the ocean because I love it. I just like the water. I love the ocean. I love the things you do on the ocean… the swimming and the fishing, and the fishermen. I have done fishermen for, I don’t know, forty years. It is an interesting profession,” said Anderson.

Approaching 90 years of age, Anderson still has a hopefulness about him; he has an excitement about what lies next in his adventure.

“After a while you become accustomed to living with the fact that every
day is a different day. Every day is a different canvas. Every day you start a different way. It is getting used to what you are doing and enjoying it if you can.”

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