J. J. Godlonton

J. J. Godlonton

Painter & Photographer
1916 - 1994
Oil on canvas, oil on board, watercolour, photography
Western Railroads and Trains of the Canadian Pacific Railroad
Prairie, Foothills and Mountain Landscapes of Western Canada
Cityscapes of Calgary, Alberta
Coastal Scenes around Victoria, B. C.

Commissioned and non commissioned works by J. J. Godlonton
hang in private homes throughout Western Canada.

Born to an Albertan pioneer family, Jack Joeffry Godlonton grew up on a farm on the edge of the prairie near Calgary, Alberta.  Like many young men of his time, he had to leave school to help out on the farm.  Education was a luxury that not many could see the sense of when you had cattle to feed and crops to bring in.  Much of what he learned early in life was learned of necessity - hunting and fishing to put food on the table, breaking and riding horses to bring cattle in during the roundup – tough, physical work done by weathered men accustomed to freezing winters and financial hardship.  Hobbies to most now, but whether it was fly fishing off the beaver dams at the Vermillion Lakes in Banff or big game hunting near Elbow Falls, J. J. was at home in the great outdoors of Alberta.  He stood tall in his buckskin coat, fishing hat set just right on his head, smiling a contented smile.  He knew he was lucky to be born at this time and in this place.  In the wilds of the prairie, foothills and mountains of western Canada his heart beat was slow and steady – this was his home; the place he loved and cherished.  He never wished to be anywhere else. 

At every stage of his life, he was always, irresistibly drawn to the wildness of his surroundings.  Nature fueled the desire in him to explore his creative talent and as a youngster J.J.’s four older brothers chided him for this “softness”.  He saw the raw beauty of the land with the eye of an artist and was able to capture it on paper and canvas and later, through the lens of a camera.  His idols were the artists of the west.  He studied Charles Russell’s techniques, particularly the scenes of the old west cattle drives.  Frederick Remington touched his soul.  Art didn’t put food on the table though, and as a young husband and father living in Calgary, he gained practical employment in the autobody industry – an art of a different sort, but artistry nonetheless.  In Calgary where he and his wife, Pearl made their home, he continued to pursue his passion for painting.  He admired Roland Gissing for his landscapes and the way he used the light in his paintings, and became friends with Gissing’s student, local artist, Penny Laveric.  At times in his life, when there was little time or space for painting, photography became his tool for artistic expression and, eventually, his skills in the darkroom would lead him back to put brush to canvas.

Having lived most of his life in Calgary, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the rail yards had a different kind of allure for him and the focus of his artistic interest broadened to include trains.  In the early 1970’s, during a first, brief retirement from his day job, J. J. would trek into the foothills of the Rockies and the mountains around Banff and Jasper, but now it was with a camera cradled in his arm instead of a rifle.  Back in town, countless hours were spent capturing the cityscapes of Calgary on film, but increasingly, the rail yards drew his interest.  Annual roadtrips west to visit his son in Victoria gave him the opportunity to photograph not only the incredible scenery of Alberta and British Columbia, but also to capture images of the rail lines, stations, historical sites, trestles and, most importantly, engines.  Engine spotting became a favorite pastime on these trips with Pearl, and documenting them gave him the references he needed for what would later become some of his best paintings. 

Restless in retirement, J. J. was lucky enough to join the Glenbow Museum’s restoration and display department in the late 1970’s.  Here he was able to marry his skills of fine detailing, carpentry, problem solving and artistry – and get paid for it!  His years with the Glenbow Museum were some of his most satisfying and the exposure to such a wide variety of art exhibits renewed his artistic drive and vigor.  Time was wasting.  He dusted off his easel and brushes and began to paint again.  During the 1980’s he painted with maturity, with confidence in his ability, and with an intimacy of his subject that comes only from years of study and observation. 
J. J. Godlonton was a self made man and a self taught artist.  He learned to be self reliant; early on in life, out of necessity, and later, out of desire.  Life was his tuition and it wasn’t until the last two decades of his life that he felt he had really learned enough to call himself an artist.  Those lucky enough to have known him knew it all along.

 View J. J. Godlonton's gallery.