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Jack Lockhart's collection captures all that North Bay has to offer

'I'm very fortunate that I’ve sold them all over the world, but it doesn't happen overnight'

The North Bay Golf and Country Club will be celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2021. To commemorate that milestone, Jack Lockhart has been commissioned by the club to create a piece that celebrates 100 years of golfing history at the club. It’s not the first time Lockhart has been asked to capture an important moment using the skills he has been cultivating for nearly 60 years.

“My grandfather was an artist in Winnipeg,” says Lockhart. “I was visiting him and I came home with this little tray of watercolors. I had all kinds of colours in there, it only cost a couple of cents and I showed it to my grandfather and he says, ‘Why would you buy that?’ I said ‘Well, I thought it was a good deal, and he says you take that back downtown to the store and give it back to them and just come back with the three primary colors red, blue, and yellow and you are going to learn to mix paint’ and that was my only lesson. And it was a good lesson.”

While living in Fort Frances in 1950, a tornado tore through the Lockhart family yard and presented an opportunity for young Jack.

“The tornado knocked out all the trees in our yard. And so, the city workers came in and they cut the trees and cleaned everything up but they left the butts that were smooth as ice and clean and so I would start painting pictures on every one of them there. There were 16 of them and it was funny to watch people coming home from work and they walked by and they'd be down looking, seeing what I had done, and I always said that was my first exhibit.”

For Lockhart, what was a childhood hobby eventually turned into a legitimate business. He made a name for himself as one of the premier artists to call North Bay home and has regularly hosted shows at the Davedi Club and Pinewood Park (now known as Ramada by Wyndham).

“It's a product that has your name on the front of it and so it's advertising itself all the time,” Lockhart says of his paintings. “When you are in somebody's house or a gallery or business you look at the painting and you know whose it is. I'm very fortunate that I’ve sold them all over the world, but it doesn't happen overnight, it takes well over 50 years. I remember the first time we held an exhibit, I had 12 paintings and my wife Bea framed them up, put them on display, put them in the lower level of our old house, and invited some people. We sold out; all 12 paintings were bought.”

Lockhart says word of mouth and local media have been huge assets to get his name out. He says, “We've had such nice articles written and showcased and that that really helps.”

Living in northern Ontario has helped Lockhart continue to find an inspiration to put colour on a blank canvas.

“I've got a lot of landscapes,” he says. “Mainly because of the fact that we live in a beautiful part of the country and so I've been able to do a variety of landscapes both in oils or in watercolor or acrylics. The portraits are more personal in the sense that they mean an awful lot to somebody and so that's a whole kind of a different angle altogether.”

Graduating players of the North Bay Battalion have received their own portraits in an overage tradition that Lockhart started because he wanted to give them something, they could always take with them to remember their time spent playing at the OHL level in the Gateway City. At the end of every season, Lockhart is at centre ice and presents the paintings to the players during a pregame ceremony.

“I really like doing the Battalion players,” says Lockhart.

“(Goaltender) Jake Smith was the first one. Jake said, 'Right now I don't have a place, but my dad's hanging it in his office until I find a place. And then I’ll always remember big Riley Bruce, six-foot-eight big Riley skates up and I hand him the painting and he says, ‘That's awesome man.’ I mean that was his comment, so you know right away that it hits the spot when a 20-year-old says it's awesome.”

Aside from landscapes and personal portraits the other pieces Lockhart has added to his collection are his commissioned works. The 100th anniversary of the North Bay Golf and Country Club will be just the latest in a series of works that Lockhart has been asked to do for some big milestones around North Bay including Redpath, 100 years of Teaching Education in North Bay, the OPP’s 100th anniversary, 50 years of NORAD and more.

“It's nice because you're capturing a part of your city’s history and it is going to be there for a long time,” says Lockhart. He adds that when it comes to doing those pieces, a lot of the process involves research.

“When I've done something like that it probably takes 95 per cent of the time in research because you have to do so much research to figure out what I’m going to do. That old saying is a' picture is worth 1000 words,' well try to put 100 years of history into a picture without junking it all up. When I did the 100 years for the Trojans with West Ferris years ago it was really interesting because we did prints, and we sold prints. I remember selling one to one fellow who went to West Ferris in 1915. It was amazing and it was every single decade somebody had bought a painting that went there. So, I said ‘hey I did something right because they all recognize something within that painting. But it is a very tricky thing to do, it does take a lot of research.”

With all the pieces he has created and sold over the years, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find Lockhart's name in a home, or a gallery, or any building of any kind across the globe. His accolades include being inducted into the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame, an Honourary Doctorate of Education from Nipissing University, the Order of Merit from the Davedi Club, and last year his name was cemented in stone when he was awarded a spot on the Kiwanis Downtown North Bay Walk of Fame. Lockhart says it was made even more special when he saw who his plaque was going to be next to.

“Lynn Johnson the cartoonist is a very good personal friend, I’ve known her for years and the committee said they were going to put it right next to her Walk of Fame plaque,” says Lockhart. “So, if you go downtown and you see it, I'm sitting right there, and then she’s right next to mine which to me, is special.”