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Prolific painter moves to the Valley
Eric Waugh is one of Canada’s most prominent artists. With his unique style inspired heavily by the Group of Seven and Andy Warhol, he has sold over 40,000 paintings. Now he has moved to the Valley, where he plans to set up his studio and gallery.
When Waugh was in grade 3, a rolling exhibit of work by the Group of Seven pulled up to his elementary school. He describes it as the “first time that I saw something realistic but abstracted.” His fascination with this style continued into his adolescence. “I was very interested in art; I was this creative guy. I wanted to draw, I wanted to work with clay – whatever I could get my hands on,” he says.
At 19, he started working for a company where he designed stationery, accessories, children’s fashion, packaging, and displays. It was his brother, who was selling art in Vancouver, who suggested he get into painting. He had seen what was selling and knew that his brother could do better. “I created one painting, I literally had no money left in my bank account, like, twenty dollars. I got one little brush, three little tubes of paint, and one piece of art paper,” Waugh says. He brought the painting to a studio in Toronto called Progressive Editions, where the owner said he liked it but needed to see more. Waugh didn’t have the funds to make more, so the man let him put supplies on his tab at a nearby art store.
A few weeks later, Waugh provided 12 more paintings and didn’t hear back for a while; then one day he got a call saying his paintings had sold and he would need to paint more. This man guided Waugh in the direction the market was going, but Waugh was determined to keep his own style. “I didn’t go to galleries, I didn’t flip through magazines, I did not try to get inspiration from other artists. But I did want to get inspiration from things and objects and architecture,” he says.
In his first year he sold 600 paintings. The year after that, 1000; then 1200, and so on. He originally was doing all of this out of a 10-by-10-foot room in his apartment. This eventually evolved into a 4000-square-foot studio with assistants and staff to help things run smoothly.
Waugh calls his art Pop Fusion and has spent his career creating a style that is unique to him PHOTO Courtesy of Eric Waugh
In 2001, he was approached by an agent from Atlanta, Georgia, who wanted to know if he would be interested in painting live on stage. He did a first show for just 50 people and his pieces sold instantly. Fast-forward and he was painting for 50,000 people at the Atlanta jazz festival. His live stage resume is impressive and expansive: he has painted on stage with Donna Summer, the Doobie Brothers, the Gypsy Kings, the Pointer Sisters, Kool and the Gang, the Jacksons, Herbie Hancock, and more.
Also in 2001, Waugh set the Guinness World Record for The World’s Largest Painting on Canvas by one artist. He had been working on the 41,400-square-foot painting since 1995 as a fundraiser for World AIDS Day. There was some discussion as to whether the event would happen, as it was so close to the events of 9/11, but it was ultimately decided that people needed to see some good news, too.
After this project, Waugh fell into a bit of a rut. What eventually got him back in the game was painting on cruise ships and being surrounded by the fun energy there.
Creating art for charities has become a big part of Waugh’s practice. He tries to donate a piece to a charity each month and has donated over a million dollars’ worth of art to various causes throughout his career.
Waugh moved to Havelock in December of 2022, and says he’s “creating this whole new, different life here, with animals and my new fiancée and my new studio.” The place kind of fell into their laps: “We didn’t call an agent; we came to this barn, got out of the car, stood in the driveway, and it felt like we were home,” he says fondly.
He is working on a few projects right now. One is a series of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) that he says is “a collection of 2000 whimsical crazy cats; they’re not only pictures, but they’re 15-second animated shorts.” He is also converting his barn into a studio and gallery. Currently, folks can visit if they reach out to him, but there is work to do before he opens to the public full time. He hopes to eventually create an event space where he can welcome other artists.