a few words
P. John Burden - Artist
Painter - Printmaker - Illustrator
RR3  Hunter River, PEI, Canada, C0A 1N0

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When I first started this web site I tried to intersperse a few words about myself on various pages of the web site. Didn’t work.
Thereby had to resort to the boring trick of putting a disordered heap of writing in this page, called:

A FEW (too many) WORDS

Back in the Dark Ages, I was classically trained at City & Guilds, London, U.K.
In Printmaking - especially copper plate Line Engraving - (also stone carving, gun engraving, historical building renovation, and all sorts of other interestingly archaic skills) by Henry Wilkinson (Exceeding thanks to Wilkie who believes an engraver can do anything.
He can . . .

In Painting (all media) by Rodney Burns & Robin Guthrie.
I was fortunate to win various awards and rare Certificate of Exceptional Merit (last, I ,believe, from City & Guilds before streamlining to modern degrees/diplomas.)

When in London I was a founder member of York Street Artists.
Represented by York Street Gallery & Jordan Gallery in London, & Pampanini's Gallery
in Warwick (Mostly engravings.)
One man, & group shows (including the famous show in a pup tent - with Crispin Thomas - on Pen-y-bont Common, Powys, Wales)
Exhibited regularly at Royal Academy, Painters & Etchers etc. Drawings, paintings, prints, & etc.

Then something happened  ? ? ? .  .  .


As have many artists, I’ve had all sorts of ways of making a living.
Those that  have allowed me artistic freedom & growth, have been:

Designer Goldsmith/Working with precious metals. (Took part in a  few two person  precious metal metal shows & art group  shows in  Canada until mid eighties.)
  • Illustrator & Commercial Artist (not for commerce)
  • Artist designer of Church Windows (real traditional stained glass - not coloured glass often referred to as stained glass.)
  • Furniture maker/antique restorer
  • Commercial theatre
  • Architectural model maker
  • Display and interpretative centre design
  • Illustration/design for institutions & government
  • Book illustrator/designer for children, nature, historical books and magazines
  • Identity/publicity for institutions, co-ops, & ethically sound business
  • Graphics, Cartoons, Museum displays. Stuff for CD’s, web sites, and films.

And then, just a few years back - 1999 -  back into fine art scene (thanks Kier). Mostly acrylics and watercolours.

  • In 1999-200 in group shows at Kier Gallery & Arts Guild PEI.
  • Two-person show with Kier Kenny, at Kier Gallery, July-August, 2000
  • Two-person show with Kier Kenny, at Kier Gallery, August, 2001
  • Two-person show with Kier Kenny, at Kier Gallery, July, 2002
  • In show of Contemporary Canadian Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts, curated by Adele Greenberg.
  • Show of international art in Japan & beyond, curated by Sabine Neusch
  • In Eptek Centre, 2003 was awarded best of show - premiers award.
  • One person Show in The Landing, Tyne Valley, PEI, 2003
  • Took part in all three yearly healing/art shows curated by Trisha Clarkin including Lift, The Healing Continues  2003,Confederation Centre, PEI.
  • About Town, Nov. 2003, Details Past & Present.
  • Three person show, Equinox, in Spring 2003, along with Trudy Callbeck and Michelle Ridgway)
  • Last four years, thanks to Henry Purdy, exhibited at the  International Wine and Art Show
  • Reality Check #4, one person show in Mermaid Gallery, June 2004.
  • The Edge, exchange show between PEI and Maine, 2004-2005
  • Eye Contact, one person show in Mermaid Gallery, July 2005
  • participated in The Memory Show, Peake Street Gallery - 2006
  • participated in Out of Purgatory show, Peake Street Gallery - 2006
  • participated in A.P.E Show at A.T.C., 2006
  • Two-person show with Kier Kenny, Kier Gallery, "Not on our time" July  2006.
  • participated in Puzzle show, Peake Street Gallery - 2006
  • participated in Out of Purgatory2  show, Peake Street Gallery - 2007
  • participated in November Show,  Details Past  and Present - 2007
  • Three-person show with Kier Kenny and Jim West, Kier Gallery, "3/3" July  2007.

Also further participation in group shows in 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 in:

  • Details Past  and Present
  • Ellen's Creek (Artworks) Gallery
  • Eptek Centre
  • Kier Gallery
  • Galleryin the Guild/artZone
  • Westcountry Gallery
  • Mermaid Gallery
  • Peake Street Gallery
  • Studio Gallery in Victoria

  • and others


It’s difficult to say why I paint - haven’t the vaguest notion. But following are a few things I have written on this matter - for what they’re worth:

     In painting my job is to be to peel away the never ending layers that describe us. Like the archaeologist, I use hard won skills. But what I uncover has been there waiting - forever.     
I’ve been sharpening my skills by drawing, printmaking, painting, or designing just about every day for the past forty years, or more.

The Bhagavad-Gita says:
“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only . . .
Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.
Be even-tempered in success and failure . . .”
Well, for me, I guess it’s all downhill from there.
But after long discussions with the dogs and crows, it became apparent that artists possibly paint because they cannot say this thing in words.
Like many artists, I always try to push further into the unknown each time I work. Being a cowardly sort, I eventually run back to safe centre, albeit already relishing the thought of the next sortie.
Hard won technique? I value it. It is a vehicle to further the adventure - like a well oiled bicycle. However, I know the danger of becoming fully absorbed in the bicycle/technique.
A near fatal mistake.

When I'm not painting a nagging presence always enquires:
"When are you going to start?"
When I am painting (or w.h.y. - different tools/media - same thing) I have yet to be asked when am I going to stop.
There is a multitude of paintings still clamouring to be done.
I think just about all my work is about relationships.
Relationships with one’s beleaguered self or perhaps a god.
Between persons.
And with the larger social, and natural environment.

A popular misquote of psychiatrist, philosopher, and poet R.D. Laing, goes like:
“ I am the experience of your experience of my experience of you  . . . ” and so on.
I should add an accurate quote from R.D. Laing:
Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough."


My niece-in-law Ashley Jean asked some pretty pertinent questions. Herewith the
Ashley Questionnaire - P. John Burden’s responses to a student’s questions

Q.  How do you decide what to create?
A. Something is always trying to come through. Even when I sometimes start in a very premeditated way, other images and ideas will push to the forefront. My head is full of memories of this and that, some from years ago, waiting to be used -a mental scrapbook.

Q. Why do you use surrealism as your art form?
A. Surrealism, is alabel. I just do my best, with complete honesty.
But, to try to address that question in the spirit it is asked I would say:
    I think we humans have repressed many ways of seeing. Ways which now often only emerge when we have less control - when we dream.

Q. How do you describe what art is? Where is the line?
A. I think anyone who is continually striving to improve, be it changing a car tire or painting Rembrandt’s Night Watch, is doing art. I do not believe complacency, fashion, or the endorsement of contemporary academics, has much to do with art.

Q. Any advice to people who do not understand contemporary art?
A. There’s a lot of good stuff and a lot of nonsense out there. Each person has to believe in their  own reasoning. (See previous question ”Where is the Line?”) Personally, I have no time for the artist who blindfolded, stabs at rats in a box (I like rats.)
    I remember attending a gallery showing where the artist displayed her baby’s used diapers, nicely framed and hung on the wall. The critics and experts all stood looking thoughtful before these oddities. None dared to say what any sensible person would say.
    My advice would be to read Hans Christien Andersen's “The Emperors New Suit of Clothes” (Don’t think that’s the correct name - quite.)

Q. Who, if anyone, inspired you to become an artist?
A. Just me. I didn’t intentionally become an artist. I always was. But the influence of my master, Henry Wilkinson, becomes more powerful as I grow older. (My work looks nothing like his.)

Q, When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
A. See previous question/answer.

Q. Did you always know that art was your talent, or did it gradually grow into what it is today?
A. Just worked hard, on a daily basis, to perfect whatever skills I may have. When I first “abandoned” the fine arts scene in London I found greater freedom as an Illustrator and Commercial Artist (but not for big time commerce). These can be rigourous disciplines.
    Now I am older, and hopefully more mellow, I hope I can handle the ofttimes limitations and tomfoolery of the fine arts scene. (Been there - done that - too restrictive.)

Q. Did you aspire to have a different career, or was art your dream?
A. I know this may be a little controversial, but I do not think of my work as a career. (I work over 100 hours per week but do not believe in the work ethic) I feel that Artists have no choice - they have to do it

Q How did you develop your own original style?
A. I believe you must allow images to express themselves upon the paper - or whatever. One just tries the hardest to be true to them.
I believe that Van Gogh was not trying to develop any style. He was just painting as well as he could.

Q. What do you think the biggest misconception about art is?
A. In addition to all the preceding, I would say that expertise, in the appreciation of art, is of limited value. There may well be a place for experts, but the history of art has often proved them wrong.

I have pictures and pieces collected in many countries. And boring people do not like my work.    Peace ~ John