Artist realizes his dream a lifetime later

Don Valley Art Club's annual exhibition opens tonight and the Observer has a conversation with Frank Pasian, one of the displaying artists

Frank Pasian believes it’s never too late to follow a dream.

“My artist friends, who are my age, and I … say we’re so lucky that we have this,” Pasian said.

It just took a good part of a lifetime to realize that dream.

The Don Valley Art Club (DVAC) had its first exhibition of the year on Nov. 25, in the art gallery at the Todmorden Mills Heritage Site. The exhibit included art created by Pasian. But his artistic journey was a longtime coming; he started painting at a very young age, and then stopped.

“I let it go when I was out of high school,” Pasian said. “And I think I stopped doing it because at the time I think people didn’t think it was cool.”

He became a high school teacher, teaching history, French, economics and geography. He taught for more than 40 years and then retired in 2004.

Despite his extensive teaching career, Pasian never taught art. He married, had children, and led what he calls a “pretty traditional” life. Art didn’t reappear in his world until the 1970s, when he was in his 50s. Even though he didn’t actually paint, at the time, he spent time studying it and educating himself about it. He frequently discussed it with a good friend who was an art historian and teacher. She finally provoked him to start painting again.

“Frank,” she said, “why don’t you just paint the damn picture? … Your problem is that you think your first painting has to go in a museum.”

That summer, Pasian went to a little town in Quebec and began to paint. He hasn’t stopped since.

He paints portraits mostly, and he can complete one in 25 minutes. The joy of painting at this age, he said, is that he doesn’t do it for the money or the recognition.

“To make it as an artist, there is also a tendency for artists to try to please the audience, the customers,” Pasian said. “I’ve always wanted to paint the way I paint. I’ve always done it for myself.” Being a member of DVAC for the last 15 years has allowed Pasian to stay active as a painter. He considers himself a “fairly new” member because some have been members for 30 years or more. But he enjoys the club because it provides a comfortable community for him.

“A lot of people are older at the club, so they’re not looking to have an explosive career in painting,” Pasian said. “They just want to go out and paint the geraniums … which is great, because doing it is better than not doing it.”

Pasian believes he has pursued his life’s greatest passion on his own terms, which brings its own rewards.

“So if there’s anything that you can find in your life that tempts you and you want to pursue, go for it,” he said. “You have to do it because it’s your salvation.”