Kotelo creates unique portraits of Canadian icons

Estevan artist and teacher Wade Kotelo can go from creating portraits of poet Alden Nowlan to Stompin’ Tom Connors in a few quick steps.

Kotelo created portraits of Nowlan, Connors, Bruno Gerussi’s Nick Adonidis character (from The Beachcombers) and Al Waxman’s Larry King character (from King of Kensington) and displayed them at Art Concepts for an opening of his work Friday night.  

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“I love Alden Nowlan, and I painted a couple of Alden Nowlans,” said Kotelo. “None of these guys are off the beaten path. They’re all highly regarded in their fields. But they all kind of slip away. They’re all dead…

“All of these touched me in some way growing up and as an adult… so they’re personal but they’re also very public, and so I think they’ll connect with a lot of people who are … in my age group.”

In going from Nowlan, a poet who died in 1983, to the popular television stars Gerussi and Waxman, Kotelo said they’re all artists in one broad sense.

“That affected me and kind of represented the best in Canadian ideals,” Kotelo said. “You learn a lot from Larry King, the man stuck in the middle, helping everybody out sometimes at his own expense as we learn through the life of his television program, Likewise with Nick Adonidis. These are small-town guys who did the best they could with what they had and still found ways to rise above.”

Nowlan was a model of Canadian resiliency, Kotelo said. He had a turbulent life growing up on Canada’s east coast with an unforgiving family and minor education.

“And you can’t get more Canadian than Stompin’ Tom,” Kotelo said. “He never performed a show outside of Canada and sent back all his Juno (Awards) in protest, and he’s got landmark things that are unforgettable.”

Kotelo enjoys creating portraits.

“You paint a portrait of somebody, it lifts them up,” he said. “It doesn’t matter it it’s you or me or a celebrity, it changes their status in a way and it just might be a feeling. Someone’s taken the time to change the way people look at you…

“I haven’t in the last month or two remember when somebody has talked about Bruno Gerussi or Nick Adonitis or the Beachcombers, so it’s all kind of sort of shared Canadian history.”

Kotelo said he can’t wipe the smile off his face when it comes to being able to have his own art show. There are different sizes and colours in his work, even with similar poses with the subject matter, and he doesn’t look at one to paint the other.

“It’s a neat look,” he said. “Right off the bat, despite the repetition, I think it’s an overwhelming bit of variety. There’s something unique and interesting happening.”

As a portrait painter, people have a ‘look’, he said. The picture that he worked on with Connors to create his art was from the mid to late 1960s.

“To me, this is an open ended set,” Kotelo said. “The idea of working on the fiercely Canadian, it already has me thinking about who can be represented with that notion of being Canadian first.” 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury


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