Off the grid and on the canvas

The canvas is soft, soothing and calm. The almost pastel-coloured beauty of Peter DiGesu’s landscape paintings is like looking through a gridded window that brightens the room.

His process is slow, deliberate and tranquil – the opposite representation of a man who’s rumoured to have lived life at the loudest level.

His landscapes are self-contained; he makes use of drawn grids to paint his pieces.

“He’s very unusual – the only artist I have that would be qualified as what they call a ‘dry-brush painter,’” says Victoria Page, owner of Page and Strange Gallery on Granville Street in downtown Halifax.

Page describes his process as one of the most “frustrating” techniques. Dry-brush painters put their brushes into the paint, rub nearly all of it off, and touch the canvas with the brush.

The piece is built-up very slowly and reveals soft, thin layers, but it gives the canvas a distinguishable, no-texture look.

DiGesu is perhaps more fascinating than his famous artworks, which are sold across North America and in Europe.

Known for his dry-brush technique, DiGesu is equally known for being hard to contact. The painter has no email, no Facebook page, no Twitter account, hand-types his résumés and has never brought in digital copies of his work for galleries to see.

He’s old school in an era of newness.

“He’s pretty much off the grid. He’s one of those artists that when he came to me, he didn’t have anything in digital form,” says Page.

Originally from the American Mid-West, he came to Nova Scotia from San Francisco with a Buddhist community.

He often goes on long retreats, which have become a reoccurring theme in his art. He has a set of work called “The Green Trailer” because he had painted them in a green trailer on one of those retreats.

Nothing too serious, but DiGesu’s had a couple misadventures.

“He’s been in trouble with the law, he was a boxer. His stories – wow – could fill books. Really, really interesting. I think he sort of finds this a nice, little peaceful place when he makes his work,” Page says.

She says DiGesu is never veiled about these wild stories and great adventures, but also enjoys his solitude.

When one gazes upon his works, there’s a stark contrast between the fast-paced, fun-loving artist and the hues of serenity smeared unto high-end canvases that currently hang on the exposed bricks of this downtown gallery.