Q&A with Local Artist Arthur Vickers

Arthur Vickers, local artist and journeyman carpenter, shares his idea of perfect happiness, his most treasured possession, and his real-life heroes.

By Athena McKenzie | Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet

In creating his art, Arthur Vickers is inspired by the stories in his heart. “The stories I feel I need to impart and leave with this world — however the world chooses to see them — that is my purpose as a creative soul,” he says.

His gallery is in the Cowichan Bay Shipyard, in one of the oldest buildings on the Coast. A trained journeyman carpenter, Vickers had originally designed a longhouse to house his works (he designed and built his brother Roy Henry Vickers’s gallery in Tofino), but after walking into the shipyard, he knew it was where he and his wife Jessica were meant to be.

“It’s like stepping back in time,” he says. “I spent my childhood in buildings like this one, alongside my grandfather, and there is just something so special about them.”

He wants the works displayed within the space to touch the hearts of those who spend the time to discover their meanings.

“I do hide things that some may find, but — as with all things in life — [they are] yours to discover and yours to bring to your own stories and pass down for generations. Much like this old building has been here for generations.”

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is creating in my studio. Entering my familiar place and space; seeing my bentwood boxes; honouring the sentinels of the forest, who now have a new purpose in life: they are recording history for future generations; we are telling stories together.

What is your greatest fear?
To not be able to create, to lose the senses I hold so dear. When you instinctively know how to hold your brush, your carving tools, your pencil that you sketch with. They are second nature for me — an extension of my being. While I never take for granted that I can pick up any of my “tools,” I have so much that I still want to create and impart as I witness our world. I do, at times, think what it must be like to not do as you have always done — to not be able to fulfill your purpose.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My wife Jessica, she holds me together no matter the storm and always promises we will find the safe harbour together.

Which living person do you most admire?
My wife Jessica. She is kind and loving and always tries to find the good, even in unpleasant situations. She always tries to find solutions that are best for everyone involved. She builds bridges and does not like to see them burnt.

What is your most treasured possession?
One of my carving tools. It was a gift from the great carver Simon Charlie many, many years ago. He was a kind man, a generous man and a gentle soul, and I think of him when I touch that carving knife — the works he created with it — as my hand rests where his hand has been.

What do you most value in your friends?
That they accept me for all and who I am … they are very special people that I cherish.

On what occasion do you lie?
When the truth would hurt someone.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? Why?
My grandfather. He is, for me, an historical figure. He was kind and patient, and he always believed everyone was your friend; some you just wanted to get to know better. He taught me so much, and I am always reminded of him as I walk through this life.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Those that give unconditionally. They give us all the gift of hope, and hope brings us thoughts of a better future.

What is your current state of mind?
I am grateful and content. I am serving my purpose and I am at peace with life’s journey. To quote, Max Ehrmann’s poem,  Desiderata, “ ….be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its shame, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
I don’t consider any virtue to be overrated. There are many virtues depending on your belief and how you walk through this world. They are all important, they are a foundation for mankind, perhaps now more than ever we need the compassion of the virtuous. 

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Single-minded determination. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Sinister ways and knowingly acting with deception. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My children. My love for them as they are now parents with children of their own and the gift of grandchildren is the gift of gold; the world is a better place when you hold your grandchild. 

Which talent would you most like to have? 
To play music. I marvel at the ability to touch the heart with sound.  

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? 
Myself again. As I reflect on all the moments and memories I have in this life — from the village of Kitkatla where we were young children playing in a tiny remote island village with pet seals and making believe that the kelp was our fishing nets to now, at age 73, working on pieces of art that capture stories that will last into eternity.

I realize now, more than ever, this world is so precious and like our coastal waters, you can travel them over and over again and each time they are new, each time they offer moments not felt or witnessed before. Each time you find new and precious moments that are different than your last adventure; there is so much to see, hear and feel. I could live this life a thousand times and each time would be a precious gift.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Our boat. She is a retired commercial boat built in 1963, she embodies endurance and perseverance. At her helm she brings my life’s history to me. As we voyage in these very special waters of our coast, she is an enduring reminder of the preciousness of our history and coast and how life was and is.  Heather Isle was built in Vancouver by Matsamoto who was a Japanese boat builder of great reputation and we are honoured to be her current stewards. 

Learn more about Arthur Vickers at http://www.arthurvickers.com