As you walk around the downtown core in Newmarket, you may have crossed paths with a man with an easel, painting the world in front of him.
It is an activity Jianming Chen has done since before he moved to Newmarket in 2020. Almost every day, the artist is painting the sights of the town as a way to see more of the world.
“I feel I’m learning,” Chen said. “Even though I don’t know how to promote it. It’s not about good or bad. It’s about learning to see.”
The arts are something Chen said he has pursued for some time, enjoying drawing from a young age. After his family immigrated to Canada from China, he attended the Ottawa School of Art and then the animation course at Sheridan College. From there, he became an animator for several years working at different studios, credited in a few shows like The Backyardigans and Franny’s Feet.
But after getting married and having kids, Chen said he became focused on raising his kids at home while the family relied on his wife’s more stable IT job.
Still seeking to do art, he said he started painting from his backyard while he was living in King City in 2017.
“I keep on painting. I have to show I love it,” he said.
The family found Newmarket appealing and decided to make the move, Chen said. Painting across the town has earned Chen a social media following, with more than 1,000 followers on Instagram and more than 4,000 friends on Facebook, where he posts his artwork.
"Your colours are exceptional," one commenter said on a recent post of his. "Brings back memories of a carefree childhood."
“He’s a very nice gentleman, and his work is amazing,” another local commenter said on Facebook.
“People always give me compliments,” Chen said. “I feel really grateful for that.”
Chen has sold some of his art through the interest it garners on Facebook or on the street. But he does not attend any art shows and said he wants to keep the pursuit more recreational.
“When I go to art shows or something, it becomes a different feel,” he said. “I post on Facebook or Instagram, just keep it as a record of my journey. And some people, they like it and buy it.”
The artist does not have any specific plans when it comes to the future of his craft.
“The reason I’m doing it is because I think I get benefit from it,” he said, adding it has led to conversations with people. “I learn to see other things.”
After several years doing this art, he said the support he gets from others has helped him carry on.
“Thank you for the support,” he said to his fans. “We are human beings. Doing this thing, we are not always strong enough. People cheer you up.”
You can find his Instagram at @jmcthegroupof1 and his Facebook at facebook.com/jm.chen/.