‘Eye candy’ meets West Coast Impressionism

Oak Bay artist is back at work after recovering from blood cancer

Allan de Haan stands beside three paintings from a series called “the rounds.” De Haan is one of 40 artists participating in Sunday’s Bowker Creek Brush Up.

His art has been seen by people around the world, but Allan de Haan remains firmly tethered to the reality of his day-to-day existence in Oak Bay.

De Haan, whose latest painting is featured on the promotional brochure for Sunday’s Bowker Creek Brush Up, takes a thoughtful approach to life.

“Philosophy is more important than knowledge because philosophy governs all knowledge,” said the artist, explaining that the lens with which you look at the world affects everything you do.

That understanding, and a commitment to always seeing a brighter future, helped de Haan make a remarkable recovery after a bout with blood cancer last year.

“I just didn’t see myself as the type of person who was going to end up in bad health,” he said about willing himself back from illness.

While bed-ridden and suffering through various treatments needed to fight multiple myeloma afflicting his body, de Haan refused to allow any negativity around him.

“I didn’t have time for petty emotions,” he said about not feeling sorry for himself. “The only thing I had time for was healing.

When a mournful visitor was visibly saddened by de Haan’s state, he responded by smiling and stating: “Do I look depressed? Then why the hell should you be?”

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, de Haan said he knew something was wrong before the cancer was officially diagnosed on Jan. 16, 2014. On that same day, an episode required him to be rushed to hospital where he began a series of treatments that included chemotherapy and stem cell replacement.

The treatments worked but de Haan said being able to get back into yoga was what truly helped him begin the long road to recovery.

Recently, de Haan has felt strong enough to start painting again.

A member of the Oak Bay Community Artists Society, de Haan designed the brochure for the 11th annual Bowker Creek Brush Up, which run from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Aug. 16. The brochure features an image of his latest painting, a whale swimming away, and can be found at the front desks of businesses throughout Oak Bay.

However, de Haan’s work is probably better known for appearing on art cards in the gift shops on B.C. Ferries.

The small samples of larger pieces showcase a style that de Haan describes alternatively as West Coast Impressionism and as eye candy.

It combines vibrant colours and images of First Nations art that resonated with De Haan growing up in remote B.C. towns.

“I respect the native culture for the style of artwork more than ever,” he said. “Every line has to be expressed so exactly — you can’t deviate down the line.”

Though he did not grow up aboriginal, de Haan said the richness of the culture was an inescapable part of life in Smithers, where he lived until he was five, and Campbell River, where his family moved in 1965.

De Haan stayed there until 1999, when his job was transferred to Victoria.

While art remains more of a hobby than a career, de Haan has amassed fans from around the world.

His website analytics show that people are visiting from dozens of countries – something he said reflects the diversity of tourists who see art while travelling on a B.C. Ferry.

The 11th annual Bowker Creek Brush Up runs from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 16, on Hampshire Road between Oak Bay Avenue and Cranmore Road.

For more information, go to oakbayartists.com/Bowker_Creek.

For more information on de Haan, go to allandehaan.com.