by Celeste de Muelenaere
In a small white tent with heavy lighting amidst thousands of other constructions just like it, there is a man. He is of average height, his head is completely free of any hair and he looks far younger than one might expect of someone who graduated in 1987.
His black and white striped top brings to mind the wardrobe of old French street performers. His denim jacket that casually covers some of the stripes further elaborates a sense of style last popular in the 1990s .
The Cuban style straw hat that covers his exposed head is the last item to round off what can only be described as, what one might expect an artist to wear. As he takes a seat Wednesday, pen and paper in hand, he asks “What would you like?”
This is James Gain, a caricature artist at the Royal Winter Fair. With his glasses resting on the tip of his nose, Gain, a professional caricaturist since 1987 promises a drawing in five minutes or less.
Gain has been coming to the Royal Winter Fair to sketch humorous and upbeat portraits of passersby for the last 3 years, but has actively been a professional artist for over 30 years.
“Art is all I do for a living. I started with realistic portraiture and did that for 5 years at Ontario Place,” Gain says. But he gave it up for caricature as he found it more enjoyable due to its less formal structure.
After graduating form the Ontario College of Art in 1987, Gain spent a year in Florence, Italy as a street artist acquiring some “classical training,” a basis crucial to any artist, Gain says.
As he sketches the second half of a caricature featuring a couple, Gain explains, between strokes, that there are two kinds of schools of caricature.
“There is the Cool school and the Kind school.” The Cool school kind of caricatures are the ones where the artist is completely merciless when drawing his subject, being almost cruel in his depiction, a method usually reserved for political figures and those in the public eye, Gain says.
It is easy to see which school Gain belongs to, that of the kind school, as he finishes his drawing of the couple and holds it up for them to admire his work.
Caricature is not the only art form that Gain excels in. He recently finished his second mural for the Town of Uxbridge, Ontario. The painting of a farmer, plow and a horse is visible to everyone entering Uxbridge, Gain proudly says.
Gain’s other efforts include oil and acrylic portraits, landscapes and abstract pieces that can be seen found on his website. He also does caricature party bookings and portrait commissions.
With all his artistic experience it is no wonder that Gain is able to deliver a caricature within minutes. Watching him is truly amazing and when asked how he managed to learn to draw so quickly and flawlessly, Gain simply replies “I’m still learning. That is the nature of art.”