His business card now reads “Donald Snider – Artist.”
During a 40-year career practising law at his Kingston Road office, Donald Snider affixed his signature to countless wills and real estate contracts. He retired in 2011 and has since turned his attention to signing his name on the corner of a different sort of surface. He is taking a second look at his first love – painting.
“I took art courses at Central Tech and Ontario College of Art from 1959 until I started law school in 1974,” he said. Those art courses included painting, drawing and sculpture.
“It was just a hobby, and then when I retired, after 40 years of doing nothing artistic, four years ago I went to an art class in Florida and got right back into it as though I’d never stopped. So I’ve been playing with it for four years after a 40-year absence.”
Working in his preferred mediums of acrylic and oil in his brightly-lit home studio, Snider paints mostly from photographs to create colourful landscapes reminiscent of the Group of Seven. He is also influenced by the work of local artist Doris McCarthy, whom he counted as a friend as well as a neighbour in their woodsy Scarborough Bluffs neighbourhood. His paintings range in size from 18 by 24 inches to as large as four feet by six feet. One particularly large piece was commissioned by the Rouge Valley Health Foundation.
“My studio is 10 by 18 so working on that big one, you could hardly move in the studio for it,” he said.
He recently held his first solo show and was buoyed by the warm reception.
“I don’t think, in his mind, he ever really thought it would be where it is today, which is in a very short period of time,” says his other first love, his wife, Yvonne. “The appreciation that’s been shown for his talent is quite a shock, I think, to him.”
The two met when Don was in Grade 11 and Yvonne in Grade 9 at Malvern Collegiate. They’ve been together for 56 years. According to Yvonne, Don’s love of art and the arts has always been there, right from the time they were in high school.
“When we became a couple, in my mind it was always a part of who he was,” she said. “As our lives evolved and changed and we had children and Don changed careers the artist side of him was suppressed. He didn’t have time.”
Before becoming a lawyer, Snider had been a merchant. He first worked at and later bought, in 1959 when he was only 21, a shoe store in the same Kingston Road location that would become his law office in 1979. The couple raised three children who have gifted them with eight grandchildren.
Family makes for popular subject matter in Snider’s pieces and those works, Yvonne says, are greatly appreciated.
“It brought back an awful lot to them as to what his talents really are,” she said.
She has been the subject of a few of his works. One, a picture of her walking their standard poodle Quiz, strikes a sentimental chord with her.
“When he painted the picture of me across the road with the dog, and I’m going to get emotional here, I didn’t know and I really cried. It was a really lovely gesture.”
The couple owns a home in Largo, Florida, on the Gulf coast. When they spend time there, Don loves to join the local art classes, but Yvonne points out it’s mostly for the social interaction.
“Even though he might go to the art classes down there just to keep in touch with the people, he still takes all his own subject matter,” she said.
Although the Gulf coast makes for a warm getaway from Toronto winters, and Snider does paint when they visit, he is not as inspired by the Florida landscape as he is by other destinations. This past summer the avid travelers went on a Scotch tasting holiday which resulted in a large painting of the Scottish Highlands.
Snider doesn’t yet have a website but anyone interested in viewing his artwork can email email@example.com to arrange an appointment. Visitors will most likely find him tucked away in his studio where, as he jokes, “Yvonne locks me in and I’m told to work.”
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