By MYRON LOVE
Jerry Rubin has reinvented himself many times during the course of his life. At various times, he has been an elementary school teacher (35 years working in the Seven Oaks School Division), owned an ice cream parlour, had a food manufacturing business, ran a concession at the Red River Ex, manufactured decorative shelving, owned a national jewelry import and distribution company with 1,700 retail outlets in Canada, did home renovations, ran an online marketing company, and been a marketing consultant for a division of K-Tel.
His most recent incarnation is “artist”.
For the month of November (until December 2) his works are on display at Bev Morton’s Wayne Arthur Gallery on Provencher Avenue. (If our Code Red lifts, you may just have some time to drop in to see them.)
“It’s a solo exhibit,” he says. “I have 20 pieces on exhibition taking up three walls.”
While it may seem that Rubin’s artistic talent has blossomed somewhat late in life, he recalls that as a child and teenager, he drew and painted constantly.
So why did he wait until these past few years to rekindle his passion for producing art?
“This latest career change,” he explains, “began eight years ago out of the need for a creative outlet - and out of boredom. I have a need to keep busy. After I sold my jewelry business, I was at loose ends. So I went back to painting.”
He points out that his background in business and marketing have been of invaluable help in his new artistic career. (Marketing may also be in his genes, considering that his late father, Sam Rubin, in his role as the long time manager of Big 4 Sales was known as the “king Of Main Street.)
While Rubin’s paintings have been exhibited in galleries throughout Canada, the USA, and Mexico and hang in homes and offices worldwide, his big break was a spin-off from his previous career in marketing jewelry.
“There was this couple on the west coast who had three gift shops and used to buy my jewelry,” he recounts. “They were among my best customers and we became good friends. I kept in touch with them after they sold their gift shops and moved to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, where they opened an art gallery. After I began painting, I contacted them and they invited me to bring some of my paintings to Puerto Vallarta to sell in their gallery. I took six or seven pieces and went down for a week. The paintings quickly sold out. The next winter, they invited me to come down for a month. After that, I became “The Artist in Residence” at their “International Gallery” and my wife and I have been spending our winters down there for the past seven years.”
Rubin reports that many other Winnipeggers spend part of the winter in Puerto Vallarta and come into the gallery. He tells one story about a painting of a polar bear that he had on exhibit at the annual Art Expo at the Red River Ex’s Exhibition Place. It didn’t sell so his friends in Puerto Vallarta encouraged him to bring it with him to Mexico to place in their gallery.
“So this couple from Winnipeg comes into the gallery one day,” he recounts. “The wife says to the husband that that is the same polar bay they saw at Art Expo. The husband says that they should have bought then. Astoundingly, they bought my polar bear painting to take back to Winnipeg.”
Rubin describes his paintings as “Art That Pops”. “Each piece is bright, innovative, and designed to make a bold statement,” he points out. “ I don’t intend for my paintings to fit a decor, I want them to be showstoppers and the first thing a visitor comments on when entering the owner’s home, business, or office.”
He notes that he focuses largely on animal paintings – lions, tigers, cats, zebras, for example - in bright – even crazy – colours. He says that his paintings are acrylic – you can’t get the colour effects he wants with oils, he says - and are usually painted on canvases that are either 3’by 3’ or 3’ by 4’.
He sells the majority of his paintings for either $1,150 or $1,250. “It is astounding to me thast my bigger pieces sell faster than smaller ones,” he observes.
He also does work on commission. He cites one example of the latter where a woman came into the gallery in Puerto Vallarta and asked the artist to paint a portrait of Tony Bennett.
“Her husband was a big Tony Bennett fan,” Rubin notes.
“The art world is now my world,” Rubin concludes. “It struck me right in the creativity when a gallery owner in Key West, Florida, with whom I had become friendly early on in my artistic career said that all the paintings in her gallery are fabulous, but none of them make her smile or are fun.
“To paint pictures that make people smile became my mantra.”