Local artist finds new direction

Jim Middleton (above) with one of his pieces from his first solo art show, which he has been working on for the past 18 months. (Johnny James/AQ)

When Jim Middleton participated in an art battle after 20 years of working behind a desk, he had no idea it would reignite a passion that would lead him toward pursing a career in art.

His first solo art show, featuring a collection of mainly painted portraits, took place on Oct. 12 at Fredericton’s York County Cider.

“I just was absolutely intoxicated with the paint once I got into it. And once I started doing it, I just wanted to do more, I want to get better.”

Middleton was born in Sussex, New Brunswick and enjoyed art from an early age. He traced and drew Archie comics, superheroes and other cartoon characters.

“Whether I did a little cartoon of the Mona Lisa or whatever it was, it’s been there forever [my love of cartoons], it was a huge part of my youth.”

He said cartoons and capturing people in the moment has stuck with him ever since.

But as Middleton started a family and his career in sales 20 years ago, art became less of a focus in his life.

“I probably didn’t do more than a half a dozen pieces over [the last] 10 years and they would have been just little things for myself or family members.”

Middleton was inspired to pursue painting after filling in at an art battle on short notice, despite having no experience in the medium. (Johnny James/AQ)

In April 2018, Middleton’s friend, Esther Vaswani, asked him if he would be interested in painting in the art battle. He said he thought it would be a challenging task, as had no experience in painting.

He even turned to YouTube for help before the battle, looking to a painter named Andrew
Cadima for helpful techniques.

He won – which was a huge confidence boost. Middleton said he was intrigued by the usage of colour in painting after doing almost all of his previous art in black and white.

Since then, Middleton has been working on developing his skills in painting and expanding his portfolio.

As motivation, Middleton keeps a screenshot of the Facebook message where Vaswani asks him to participate in the battle, a reminder of where his new journey started.

“It started everything, it’s her messaging me that totally put me on this path.”

He said it was a major learning curve to be able to put himself and his own unique style into his paintings.

“As you learn your technical skills, that’s one thing, that’s great, but you also start to put things that are you [in paintings], [like] how do I make a background in my piece.”

Middleton said the greatest challenge in creating his first painting collection was putting himself in his art. (Johnny James/AQ)

He said the recurring element that ties the collection together is the presence of water, as it is something he’s struggled to paint.

“It’s something that I try to force myself to learn [to] try to get better [at].”

Middleton knows a career in painting won’t be an easy road, but is ready for the challenges in order to pursue his passion.

He said his art will need to produce seven to eight different [revenue] streams that add up to a livable salary, meaning it will require more hours of work.

Still, Middleton hopes to make his art a full-time career within the next decade.

“Come hell or high water, within 10 years, this will be my full-time income. It’s not going to take longer than that. That’s what I told myself.”

Middleton has art displayed at both the Abbey Café and Gallery and Isaac’s Way and sells prints of his art at the Northside Market every Saturday and Sunday. He will also be participating in The Capital 100$ or Less art show in December.