Seen Through the Eyes of Humour

Canadian Dew, watercolour, 21.5” x 14.25.”

The Link, Summer 2018
| by Josie Newman |

Dwayne James’ philosophy of painting is simple. “Paint what you want to see rather than what you are actually seeing,” says the Lakefield-based watercolour painter and woodworker.

That philosophy has worked well for Dwayne, who began painting as a career just nine years ago when he was laid off from his office job at IBM and opted to be a stay-at-home dad to his newly-born twin sons. He now paints prolifically from his home studio and sells his wilderness and nature paintings, both online and at local art shows. His woodworking consists of making custom frames from reclaimed wood for his and other artists’ paintings. He also teaches an art course at the Art School of Peterborough.

…response to his whimsical paintings has been phenomenal.

Originally from Cochrane in northern Ontario, nature and wilderness scenes are at the forefront of Dwayne’s “inner eye.” He is a veteran canoeist who has spent weeks at a time paddling through the wilderness.

His newfound career was not born in a void, though. While adjusting to working from home with two small children, he wrote about his experiences along the way and has published two e-books of humour, Gingers & Wry – the collected observations of a stay- at-home dad with twin boys and a teenaged daughter, all of them redheads, and Amuzings – a collection of over 1,100 lighthearted quips, puns, one-liners and zingers.

The Twins, watercolour 22” x 30.”

“I like to use humour to cope with life, although I absolutely love working from home. I love waking up in the morning and working on what inspires me. I like the process of allowing everything to happen at its own pace. It is a great environment for creativity,” Dwayne confides.
He has recently begun what he describes as “whimsical” paintings which are people or objects inside glass jars set against a background. The first of these, entitled Canadian Mason, depicts renowned Canadian paddler Bill Mason paddling a canoe. The whole scene is placed inside a mason jar which is sitting on a dock with a lake in the background. Another one, called Viking Spirits (shown here), displays a Viking ship inside a bottle set against the background of a stony beach, as if the bottle had drifted ashore.

Dwayne says the response to his whimsical paintings has been phenomenal. “I think it’s because these paintings are unique, whereas those of nature and the wilderness have a lot more competition. There are a lot of nature painters out there.”

Dwayne’s idea of putting a scene inside a bottle sprang from his love of glass and his observation that many painters like to paint mason jars. To complete these paintings, Dwayne first has to either create a model small enough to place inside a bottle and then take pictures of it so he can paint it to scale. Or take a picture of the object and, using Photoshop, place it inside a bottle so he can then paint it to scale.

As a newcomer to the Canadian art scene, Dwayne’s colourful work could be described as having great depth and clarity!

Josie Newman, a previous full-time journalist who now works freelance, is a lifelong writer and lover of the arts. She lives in Oshawa, in an older house surrounded by antiques, plants and cats.

Dwayne James’ artwork is available in print form at the Art School of Peterborough, Kawartha Local and Lang Pioneer Village. His originals can be viewed at Hendows Fine Food, Peterborough as well as his home studio in Lakefield. Visits to his home studio are by appointment only. Visit Dwayne’s website to view more of his work and contact him at

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