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Low profile, high bids, for artist

Local artist Clayton Anderson keeps a low profile on the Coast but his reputation is big with the prestigious Heffel Gallery of Vancouver.

Local artist Clayton Anderson keeps a low profile on the Coast but his reputation is big with the prestigious Heffel Gallery of Vancouver. The Heffel's on-line art auctions take place twice a year, and they include such notables as Emily Carr and William Kurelek along with rising stars like Anderson. Art enthusiasts from around the world study the catalogue and bid high. At May's auction, Anderson's acrylic on board painting Last Light on the Gander, listed at an estimated value of $4 to $6,000, sold for $17,250 - a personal record for the Gibsons artist. "Somebody really wanted that one," says Anderson.

The irony is that the Newfoundland river scene was painted entirely from photographs; he had not visited the location that he has brought to life so effectively. But then, Anderson's landscapes have that universal quality that evokes nostalgia for remembered places, remembered scenes. One of his latest, now on its way to Heffel's showroom, is called The Seed Tree. A light skiff of snow dapples the foreground, a lone tree fills one side of the picture, while in the distance, a ghostly glow appears to be northern lights over a crystal lake. The scene screams Yukon, but it's not. In fact, Anderson captured the view far up the Coast's B&K logging road after a rare snow had fallen. The lake is the Strait of Georgia, the ghostly lights are those of Nanaimo. It's a prize painting that will hang at the Heffel along with two others: one of Garden Bay Lake, inspired by family camping expeditions, and the other of Cape Mudge on Quadra Island. Other scenes are local, drawn from walks with the dog or weekends away: Gibsons' Bonniebrook, as seen when the wind whips the waves, or the beaches of Savary Island. "In the early morning, while camping, that's when I get up and see the light falling. That's where the ideas come from," he says.

One of his strengths is his ability to paint water.

"The impressionists were good at water," he says. "I look at it and think 'how would Monet do it?'" This admiration for the impressionists and for the wilderness paintings of the Group of Seven has found its way into his work. The artist likes his anonymity.

"It's a personal thing," he explains. "I don't like people to make a fuss." Consequently, he has not joined any professional associations or submitted work for any awards. "I'm just going to paint as best I can. What will happen, will happen." Anderson was born in 1964 in Vancouver and studied graphic design at the Alberta College of Art. He used his design and illustration skills in the advertising department of the award-winning magazine Western Living, while painting in his spare time. In 1991, he walked in the door of a little gallery in West Vancouver with his paintings in hand.

The owner took two on the spot, then sold them the very next day. Anderson's full time career was born. Heartened by this unheard-of speedy sale, he placed paintings in other galleries, including one in Calgary.

The Heffel was also a walk- in sale, the transaction completed after he had drummed up his courage to take on Vancouver's well-known gallery row on south Granville. Again, the paintings sold quickly and the association with the Heffel continued to grow. Anderson regards the two Heffel brothers, David and Robert, as astute businessmen in the world of e-commerce who have profited from their massive database of art. Anderson's appearance on their website gives him all the exposure he needs.

"I could always fall back on graphic design," he says. "But the last five years have been getting better. My goal is to support myself and my family from my art."

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