A biography of Gerrit Verstraete

Artist statement: “In the Footsteps of Masters” 

“Since graduating from art college in 1968, I have been actively involved in the community as artist, mentor and teacher. But I keep my creative roots grounded in real people in real time. From Monday morning “coffee shop people” sketches to en plein air drawing in Cathedral Forest on Vancouver Island and Pacific Rim National Reserve, to studio life drawing with fellow artists, to disciplined works of classical and abstract art in my private studio, from teaching homeschoolers to draw, to doing summer sessions in the arts with children at a local youth centre, to one-on-one career counseling in the arts, and the encouragement of artists young and old, as well as continued research into the wonders of creativity, especially silverpoint drawing, and writing extensively about my discoveries, I remain nevertheless a people person, committed to helping others in their journey of art and  life.” 

In the Footsteps of Masters is the personal long term artistic goal of Gerrit Verstraete. That is, to be able to master the traditions, techniques and disciplines of the masters. By diligently walking in their creative footsteps he aims for a vision of creating footsteps of his own so that others may be encouraged one day to walk in them and thus preserve and advocate the valuable traditions of yesterday in order to create great art of today and tomorrow.  

Gerrit V.L.Verstraete AOCA, BFA, was born in 1945. He has been a professional artist for over 40 years. He began his fine art studies as a child in the Netherlands, his country of birth. At age five, he was introduced to formal art lessons by renowned Dutch artist, Stien Eelsingh ( 1903-1964 ), who was also co-founder of the arts group Het Palet at the Hopmanshuis in the medieval city of Zwolle. In 1958, the Verstraete family moved to Canada. After completing highschool in 1964, he enrolled at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto. Special mentors who influenced his work were: Canadian drawing masters Eric Freifeld, John Newman, Tom La Pierre, Richard Nevitt, Fred Hagen, John Alfsen and David Owen Campbell, and Renaissance drawing master, Michelangelo. He graduated with honours in 1968, and is an Associate of the Ontario College of Art & Design (AOCA). The journey, however, took an unusual course for the young artist. In 1968, he founded and owned a commercial design studio that soon grew into a nationally accredited advertising agency. For 15 years, his creativity appeared in print, on billboard, radio, television, in corporate design and “business theatre”. His work included many creative projects especially in the world of performing arts with some of Canada’s leading dance and theatre companies, including the National Ballet of Canada, National Arts Centre, Hamilton Philharmonic, Harbourfront Gallery, etc., as well as independent productions such as HAIR, Inuit Sculpture in Canada, and numerous “off Broadway” productions. Married and with a growing family that would soon count six children, he continued to attend evening drawing sessions at the college to keep his fine art skills sharp and work fresh. In 1993, he moved his family to Gabriola Island, British Columbia. There he built a large family home including a spacious studio. Today he spends full time drawing in his Masterpeace Fine Art Studio. Gerrit Verstraete is the founder of the non-profit, educational Drawing Society of Canada. In 2001, he completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree  ( BFA ) from the British Columbia Open University. He is also a consulting member of the European Academy of Arts & Culture in the Netherlands. In 2003, the Drawing Society of Canada, under Gerrit Verstraete’s leadership, launched a Canadian-first, namely the online Gallery of Canadian Drawing masters and later the Gallery of Canadian Figurative Masters.  In 2005, he launched the Canadian Academy of Drawing featuring an online classical figurative drawing course based on the renowned “Drawing Course” by Charles Bargue, first published in Paris in 1860, and a favourite of the French and English Academies. In 2010, he went “back to school” at age 65 to complete a Master of Arts in Communication and Technology degree at the University of Alberta. As of 2012, he is pursuing further graduate studies in a Doctoral program at St.Stephen’s College / University of Alberta. His area of research is art, critical thought, and spirituality. Gerrit Verstraete’s work is exhibited in a number of galleries and is collected by individuals as well as corporations and institutions.

Gerrit Verstraete is the founder of:

Masterpeace Fine Art Studio and Gallery

Masterpeace Academy of Art and Spirituality

Masterpeace Publishers

Drawing Society of Canada

Canadian Academy of Drawing online

National Gallery of Canadian Drawings online

Verstraete Evangelistic Association (1979)

Church On The Rock, Gabriola Island, BC. (co-founded with wife Alice)

The HOPE Centre, Gabriola Island, BC (co-founded with wife Alice)