Remembering Peter Davis

By Carol Bauer

On December 21, 2019, the arts community lost a dear friend, colleague and talented artist. Peter Davis passed away peacefully at home, at the age of 82, after a long decline. He is survived by Jane Mackenzie, his partner of 49 years, his daughter Kim Davis, and many nieces and nephews. Peter had a rare talent as an artist, and he leaves a legacy of beautiful paintings in homes and offices across the country and around the world.

Peter was the first designer of the Quinte Arts Council’s publication Umbrella, retiring in 2012 after 20 years. I first met him when I started working at the QAC in the mid-1990s, and within a week I knew we would be lifelong friends. He was always incredibly warm and welcoming, even during his last months of declining health and mobility.

He was a born teacher and loved to share his knowledge and passion for the arts. When young or emerging artists would drop into the QAC asking for advice and guidance, he’d happily sit down with them to look at their work, share his experiences, and answer their questions about art and the business of being a painter.

Peter was also a lifelong learner. Throughout his career, he studied and experimented with different forms of visual art including non-objective, still life, figure painting, landscapes and portraits. Colour and light were always the primary considerations in his work. He saw shapes as forms on which to “hang the colour,” and then he worked to intensify or modify the colour to create the desired effect, taking the viewer far beyond the obvious.

His grandfather was an accomplished painter and sculptor, so Peter grew up in a house full of paint and clay and knew early on this would be his profession. After high school in Toronto, he went to England where he studied at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting in London. He returned to Toronto where he worked as a painter, illustrator, photographer and graphic artist for magazines such as Maclean’s, Financial Post, Quest and Homemaker’s. In 1988 he left the commercial art world to dedicate more time to painting. Eventually he and Jane purchased a beautiful property on the Bay of Quinte, where they built a home and studio.

Donna Davies, who worked with Peter at the QAC in the 1990s and has been a friend since, shared:

“Peter was the creative force behind the look and feel of the QAC Umbrella for many years. I loved watching him work as he meticulously pieced the pages together with wax adhesive, a cutting tool and headlamp. His ‘hands on’ approach (back then he didn’t rely on computers) highlighted his raw talent for design. His use of masterful techniques could easily elevate a page layout by shifting strips of copy, adding more white space, crafting a hand-written headline or drawing a simple graphic on the spot. As Peter saw it, each page was its own work of art.”

Peter’s last series of paintings were of the 1000 Islands, where he and Jane spent many years sailing. He saw such beauty there and spent months in his studio, meticulously putting to canvas what his eyes and heart saw: the scenic beauty of the islands and the ever-changing light dancing across the river. He will be greatly missed.

A show of Peter’s artwork  was scheduled to run for the month of April at the QAC Gallery, but has been postponed until the COVID-19 crisis has passed.