Artist Gordon Milne gets hall of fame treatment

A Tuner Valley resident has found a place for himself in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Remarkably, he’s done it without breaking any competitive records and without winning even one Olympic medal.

Instead artist Gordon Milne has painted his way into Calgary’s athletic shrine at Canada Olympic Park (COP). Many of the large colourful portraits, which comprise Milne’s Canadian Sport Heroes Collection, have been on display at the hall since it opened on July 1.

The artist was there for the opening of the facility and witnessed for himself many people seeing his acrylic on masonite paintings of Canadian Olympians for the first time. “I am the type of person who likes to stand in the corner and be a voyeur,” Milne said. “I did watch people when they were looking at my stuff and it was a very positive experience. It was interesting to see people try and figure out who the athletes were without looking at the nametags. For the most part they did pretty well.”

The ongoing heroes collection began about a decade ago when Milne was commissioned by the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary and supported by ARC Resources to do a series of large-scale portraits of athletes from this country who enjoyed some form of Olympic success and notoriety. The painter recently added a portrait of Alberta’s Kevin Martin to the exhibition in celebration of the curling skip’s gold medal victory at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Also on display at COP are the portraits of cross-country skier Beckie Scott, speed skaters Catriona Le May Doan and Gaétan Boucher, pentathlete Diane Jones-Konihowski, high jumper Greg Joy, decathlete Michael Smith, downhill skier Nancy Greene and boxer Willy De Wit.“It’s the first exhibit we’re having at our changing gallery here at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame,” said Bridget Cox the hall’s manager of marketing and communications. “Of course we’re really honoured that it’s the collection of Gordon Milne which has been on loan from the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary.”

Milne’s paintings will remain at the Hall of Fame through the end of the year. His four other sports hero works, the portraits of rower Silken Laumann, swimmer Alex Baumann, figure skater Kurt Browning and hockey player Cassie Campbell, are currently showing at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre.

Creating the collection has put the Turner Valley artist face-to-face with many of the biggest stars in Canadian sports. “I spend three or four hours doing some drawing and just chit-chatting with the athlete to just get an idea of who they are and what they are about,” Milne said of beginning each portrait. “I take a few reference pictures. Then I go back to my studio and work from the drawings basically. They were all very accommodating and all very pleased to be a part of this project. I would say probably Gaétan Boucher was one of the ones I had the most fun meeting and drawing.”

With each painting the artist strives to utilize a palette of colours reflecting the athlete’s personality and his or her sport. “Initially, when I was starting out I really tried hard to consciously figure out what those colours were going to be before I started,” Milne admitted. “Now, I just kind of go with it and see where the painting takes me. Generally, it comes out the way I want it to although that’s not necessarily what I originally planned.”

The painter shows no sign of closing up shop on the Canadian Sport Heroes Collection anytime soon. He said the next athlete to be immortalized in the collection would be Olympic gold medal swimmer Mark Tewksbury.

If you or your corporation is interested in sponsoring the creation of a Sport Heroes portrait please contact the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary at 403-220-6733