For the Morning Star
Woodland creatures perch in trees, a swan floats down a gentle stream, and colourful coral pokes out of a turquoise sea. These are just a few of the bucolic scenes brightening up an otherwise drab space, thanks to artist Peter Doré.
“I just go with it, and I try to keep it like nature itself: things aren’t posing for humans, each tree is just doing its own thing, being a tree,” said Doré. “And the same thing with the islands, I don’t plan where the islands are going to go, and I didn’t even know I could paint a coral reef.”
Doré spent weeks painting the concrete enclosure around the dumpster at the People Place, as a way of brightening up the space while at the same time providing a deterrent to vandalization from graffiti.
People Place manager Elaine Collison contacted the artist after seeing some of the art work he had created for the Upper Room Mission.
“We were looking for some ideas to solve or at least lessen the problems we were experiencing with tagging at the People Place, and in particular on our dumpster enclosure,” said Collison. “His work is impressive and he agreed to do a painting on the outside areas of this enclosure.”
Doré, 30, grew up in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, a small town in the Laurentians. Always interested in art, he left his home town to move to Montréal to further his studies at college.
“Montréal is amazing, but it wasn’t what I wanted — it wasn’t really art, it was a lot of conformity,” he said.
Doré then began something of a nomad’s life, travelling in his van across Canada. He has made his home in Vernon for more than a year and finds living in his van gives him both freedom and independence.
“I like the open-mindedness of B.C. — it was kind of progressive at the time, but now it’s kind of gone backwards,” said the artist, who has made many friends among Vernon’s street community. “People can tell I’m not involved in drugs and homelessness. I’m not doing anything bad, but I have a mistrust of society, so this is what I need, to live in my van. My van is my sanctuary and without it, I’d be on the streets.
“I like the sense of community in Vernon — there are people constantly helping you out, even amongst the homeless themselves, everyone is watching out for each other; it’s kind of like a family.”
Doré receives no social assistance and, while friends have encouraged him to go on welfare, he prefers to work.
“I’ve got no other choice but to work, and it keeps me focused. The mission gives me three meals a day, I need a bit of gas money, and I smoke a bit of weed at night for medication,” he said.
It was at the URM that Doré started to make a name for himself, with a large-scale drawing he did featuring downtown Vernon that included well-known landmarks such as the Vernon Towne Cinema, along with 150 individuals — all real people — from business owners to Doré’s friends among the street population.
For Doré, his mural at the People Place has been something of a departure from his usual style, but one that he welcomed with enthusiasm.
“I never do colour or landscapes, so this is completely new and I just threw myself into it,” he said. “I had lots of people watching me work, all the people who hang out there, and I gained a lot of respect and they told me, ‘you’re an inspiration,’ and it really feels like I’m showing them the way, by just focusing on your passion and by going one step at a time.”