One way or another Burlington resident Ken Davy has been involved in creative work all his life. His one man art show will run to the end of July at the James Street Bookseller and Art Gallery on James Street next door to the TH&B underpass. Ken learned painting from his father—a millwright at the James Street Cotton Mill. The elder Davy focused mainly on landscapes—“It was the time when the Group of Seven was in its heyday,” Ken recalls. Ken also produced landscapes but in more recent years began to focus on the houses and buildings in Hamilton’s north end where Ken was raised. Ken was surprised when his daughter Denise, a former Spectator reporter organized the show for him as a Christmas present. ”Denise had always been bugging me to get my art out,” Ken said adding that he was pleased to see the interest in his work. More than 24 paintings have been sold. “I never thought about making any money with this stuff,” he said. Now 88, Ken had put his painting on hiatus in recent years, but is thinking of resuming his favourite hobby.
Being creative was always part of Ken’s makeup. Influenced by his father’s mentorship, Ken took a fine arts course at the Art Students League in New York shortly after he got out of the navy at the end of World War II. “But I saw that everybody there was starving,” Ken said laughing. He returned to Hamilton where he apprenticed in a print shop, and a small ad agency. Eventually he ended up at Stelco where for many years he headed up a burgeoning creative operation that expanded to produce print advertising; and ahead of its time—an in-house TV station. It was commercial art, but Ken had to approve artwork presented by ad agencies. Eventually he set up an in-house art department where he could be more hands-on with the creative process. The entire operation was spun off as a stand-alone ad agency. The TV operation became Avenue studios. With the decline in Stelco fortunes came the demise of the creative department but by that time Ken had retired.
In documenting the buildings in north Hamilton Ken either sketches the properties or takes photos from which he paints. “I guess that’s cheating a bit,” said Ken, but his conscience was smoothed over when he read that Michelangelo used a camera obscura—a primitive form of overhead projector, to project his sketches onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and then dispatched young painters to do a lot of the work under his supervision.