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Cataloging the passion of John Joseph McCormick

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No one knew just how many paintings John Joseph McCormick had actually made. Aside from his gardening business he, the Tweed-born, Bellevillian kept to himself mostly.

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But when McCormick’s sister Sharon McCormick helped him as he neared the end of his battle against lung cancer, she was left with a collection in the hundreds of McCormick’s work.

“He had his whole apartment framed with his pictures, rows and rows — you couldn’t see the walls,” said Sharon. “So he said, ‘what’s going to happen to it?’ And I said, ‘John, I don’t know. But it’s going to be something very good.’”

McCormick first picked up the brush when he was around 50 years old following a life-long teaching career. McCormick used the medium as a way of working through the grief of his divorce and the depression which followed.

“Without his family, he was very depressed. He had had a great sense of loss,” explained Sharon.

McCormick would spend hours in front of the canvas which included any surface he could put his hands on — take out container lids, small pieces of cardstock and foamcore just to name a few. The scale of work was vast, but not having traditional teaching, McCormick wasn’t sure of how good his paintings were.

“He didn’t share very much with us. He didn’t know if it was any good,” said Sharon. “In the late 2015’s he started handing out paintings to nephews and brothers… He would bring them up in his little truck and say, ‘take them with you. I have no room,’”

The question of how good McCormick’s work was wouldn’t be answered until early 2020 when Sharon brought a few of her late brother’s paintings to the Quinn’s of Tweed Gallery for framing. Upon seeing the work, gallery owners Paul Kite and Paula Fitzpatrick were intrigued.

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“When you look at his work, and the structure of his work: the foreground and the background, the color and brushstrokes — he draws you into certain places,” said Kite. “That’s something that an artist takes many, many, many years to develop or even understand. And so he obviously had a natural ability for composition and for color.”

Kite explained that even other artists who knew of McCormick — but not of his paintings — were impressed by the techniques and determination demonstrated by their quiet friend.

“Barry Argyle was one of the artists who spent time with McCormick. He said they would just sit and talk, McCormick was very quiet,” said Kite. “He had no idea of ​​the work that McCormick had done… When he came to look, he was really impressed with the technique and volume and the subject matter in the compositions.”

After learning of McCormick’s story, the couple were amazed by the sheer scale of work, from paintings to poetry. Kite saw that even though McCormick was using his artwork to overcome his depression — the subject matter of his paintings were joyous scenes including reappearing subjects like fences, owls and other countryside scenes.

Paul Kite sorts through just a hand-full of the hundreds of works done by the late John Joseph McCormick. ALEX PHILIP

“There’s no sadness in his painting,” said Kite. “The only thing I kind of see in some of them might be a sense of forlornness — but really his work is joyful and happy.”

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That visit by Sharon was the catalyst for a campaign to find homes for McCormick’s work and give back to the medical community which helped him so much as he neared the end of his life. Kite, Fitzpatrick and Sharon are working to catalog and frame the hundreds of works done by McCormick and put them up for sale with the profits benefiting Hospice Quinte.

“McCormick is gone, but his work is living on and finding a home in lots of different places,” said Kite. “And it’s generating money for Hospice Quinte.”

To learn more about the different works up for sale made by John Joseph McCormick, visit www.quinnsoftweed.ca.

“He’d be so embarrassed if he had seen all of the accolades and attention his work is getting,” siad Sharon.

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