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Pet picture with a purpose

When artist Bill Stock picks up a paintbrush these days, it's with a purpose.

When artist Bill Stock picks up a paintbrush these days, it's with a purpose. For the past five months, in between his regular daily work of equipment rentals and construction cleaning, the painter and photographer, who calls himself Billy Art, has been working on a three by four commissioned panel that depicts animals, lots of them - 96 in total. Many of the animals are local pets: cats, dogs, a monkey, farm animals such as cows, horses and a Black Angus that lives on Garden Bay Road. In the background, are many Coast wild animals: deer, coyote, bear and even a sasquatch. In the foreground of the vividly-coloured painting are depictions of two dogs, since passed on, that once belonged to Dr. Smalley, a vet who practises in Stock's former neighbourhood of Pender Harbour. It was Smalley who commissioned this work, hung the mural in his clinic waiting room and hosted an unveiling Sept. 25 that drew a massive turnout of people and pets. "This is way past anything I've ever painted before," said Stock. "And I've never had so many people looking at my work. I was embarrassed."

Some days he worked for 12 or 15 hours on a section of the detailed panel. Not bad for an entirely self-taught artist who took up the brush only in 2000. "For the 15 years before I was a drug addict," he says frankly. "It was a great step to do art. I kicked the addiction and went straight to painting. It's been my saviour."

Sale of any reproduction of the painting will go towards a project that Stock is initiating. The Animal Lovers Fostering Association (ALFA) is a group to keep people and pets together, he explains, and an idea that has emerged from his own troubled background. ALFA will raise funds to supply medical help and food to pets for those pet owners who cannot afford it. "When people are poor, it doesn't mean their pet loves them any the less," says Stock. "I want to encourage people to keep their pets in their own homes." As a child, he was raised in an abusive foster home. In his later career, he worked in the movie industry and bartended for 20 years. "Although I was hooked to the ears on drugs," he remembers, "I seemed to manage to keep on an uphill attitude. I think if I had been given a creative outlet at a young age, I would have lived a far different life. I'm lucky to have found it now." Stock will now return to another commissioned work depicting a nightclub full of dancing horses. He also hopes to add to Dr. Smalley's work by painting two side panels, a farm and a lake.

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