The dog days of an artist's sabbatical

(Edmonton) Each day Harold Pearse dates a page and, for two to 20 minutes, he draws.

Ever since his son gave him a sketchbook in 1987, Pearse, who is an art instructor in elementary education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, has been drawing daily.

"The nature of the imagery is thematic, reflecting personal interest,” says the artist, who focused on the Canadian Mountie during his first decade of drawing. He says he was drawn to Mounties after first reading about them and seeing postcards as a boy growing up on Vancouver Island. “I remember seeing them marching in a local parade and thinking one day I might become one,” says the artist, teacher and researcher.

“After I focused on Canadian Mountie, I focused on drawing my dog or cat. I then combined dogs with Mounties, until the dog seemed to take over my work,” says Pearse.

In 1999, during a sabbatical from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Pearse drew a picture of his dog every day for one year. These drawings became 366 small paintings for the series my year as a dog. Pearse’s drawings and paintings, occasionally displayed in the education art wing, have become a common conversation theme among education art students and others around campus.

Today, Pearse has amassed 70 books representing more than 20 years of daily drawing. "Each day, each page, is a discreet small image that can stand on its own merits and each filled book is an object that contains sequential serialized images," says Pearse. "What continues to give this project its impetus is that each small page, drawing and book is a part of a larger concept, which is to draw every day.” His research, in part, includes the educational implications of daily drawing and journal keeping.

“Daily drawing keeps the drawing muscles—eye, hand and brain—fit. For an adult or adolescent, the routine and discipline of daily drawing relaxes the mind. With devotion and persistence, increased skill and fluency in drawing can develop,” says Pearse. For a child, daily drawing can be a kind of game imbued with the fun that comes with spontaneous expression and the satisfaction that comes with completing a task within or in spite of certain parameters.”

A practicing artist in drawing and painting, Pearse’s work is represented by the Front Gallery in Edmonton and in March of 2011, his work was featured in the four-gallery exhibition at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. Titled Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada from 1965 to 1980, this exhibition will show in Edmonton this summer at the Art Gallery of Alberta.