Blog maker

MEET THE MAKER: Peter Crouse fell in love with the art-making process

Editor’s note: The “Makers” column is a weekly look at entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada tapping into the creative marketplace. If you know a local creative business owner who should be introduced via email: [email protected] .


Peter Crouse never considered himself an overly artistic child because drawing never came as easily to him as it seemed to others.

However, he thinks he has always been a creative person, someone who likes to think things through and play with ideas and materials.

As a child growing up in Port Williams in the Annapolis Valley, Crouse spent most of his time playing outdoors rather than indoors making art.

“I loved building things; elaborately constructed forts and treehouses, air tracks from old clotheslines and pulleys, objects constructed from scraps from the nearby farm, elaborate rafts for the bay, and homemade pinball games at from scraps of wood, nails and rubber bands. Even as a teenager, I loved designing plans for things I dreamed of building,” he says.

It wasn’t until he was older that Crouse began creating more traditional types of artwork. however, he kept it fairly private. At first, he created simple watercolor cartoons, which usually ended up being Christmas gifts for his family.

In all of his works there is always humor, and this is something he has always tried to incorporate into his work.

Crouse never thought of becoming an artist or art teacher despite his abilities and creativity. His first thought after high school was to become a comedian and study acting in college.

Between teaching and his busy family life, Peter Crouse always finds a way to balance his own creative needs, making art whenever he can.  It can be between school homework, meal prep, and basketball games.  Even when he's not actively making art, he's still considering his next steps and collecting ideas.  - Contributed
Between teaching and his busy family life, Peter Crouse always finds a way to balance his own creative needs, making art whenever he can. It can be between school homework, meal prep, and basketball games. Even when he’s not actively making art, he’s still considering his next steps and collecting ideas. – Contributed

His mother, however, encouraged him to submit a portfolio of his cartoons to the college’s art department. Surprisingly, he says he was accepted and was able to take some studio art classes.

“It was there, in those art classes, that I ended up falling in love with the process of creating art,” says Crouse. “These classes exposed me to a new way of thinking about art and what art could be.”

Art, he discovered, didn’t have to be about traditional portraits, landscapes and flowers, but it could be about ideas and materials. And more importantly, that could be all I wanted to do, he said.

“Anything can be art. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s very true and you have to be open to that idea for the creative process to work,” he says.

Over the years, Crouse has explored so many different styles of creating art.  He's still not quite sure what his real art is.  However, he becomes more confident with what he does that he can call his own.  He describes it as a personal storytelling, with little pieces collected from his world.  - Contributed
Over the years, Crouse has explored so many different styles of creating art. He’s still not quite sure what his real art is. However, he becomes more confident with what he does that he can call his own. He describes it as a personal storytelling, with little pieces collected from his world. – Contributed

At this point, Crouse worked hard creating art and exploring different techniques with unconventional materials, trying to navigate his way through the process of creating art, which he still does today. It is basically a trial and error type method.

After a teaching stint in South Korea, Crouse and his wife, Heather, returned to the Annapolis Valley, where he began making art in earnest, selling prints and cards of his work in stores across the province. This allowed him to expand the audience for his art and learn how to market himself as an artist.

He discovered that making art is never financially easy. Thus, he became a teacher in order to get closer to the possibility of being able to make art more regularly. And that’s the case.

Today, Crouse lives in Margaretsville on the Bay of Fundy and teaches visual arts and drama at Middleton Regional High School.

“I feel very lucky to be able to teach the two subjects that I’m passionate about and have had a post-secondary education,” he says.

I have never regretted the decision to start teaching, he adds.

Peter Crouse's works are for private sale and inquiries can be made to him directly via email or social media.  He posts images of his artwork and sketchbook on his blog, called Messy Process, and on Instagram.  - Contributed
Peter Crouse’s works are for private sale and inquiries can be made to him directly via email or social media. He posts images of his artwork and sketchbook on his blog, called Messy Process, and on Instagram. – Contributed

“Teaching allows me to regularly explore creative ideas with my students and it’s a wonderful outlet for my own creativity,” says Crouse. “When you teach something you are passionate about, you can spread your joy to others.”

It is his spirit of exploration that he tries to instill in his art students.

I tell my students to try to start with the question “What if…?” as in, what if I try this way? What if I change hardware? What if I did the same thing but with different colors?

Crouse believes it is extremely important for art teachers to regularly model the actual process of creating art alongside their students. So every day he sits and gestures to create things with his students as they work on their own projects.

“A lot of times I’ll do the same creative exercises that I assigned to them because I want them to see that I’m a person who wants to improve their own skills,” he says. “They can observe me trying things and taking risks, solving problems and experimenting with my own art.

“Teaching gives me energy and inspiration that I redirect to my own creations. One job advances the other,” he says.

Between teaching and his busy family life, Crouse always finds a way to balance his own creative needs, making art whenever he can. It can be between school homework, meal prep, and basketball games. Even when he’s not actively making art, he’s still considering his next steps and collecting ideas.

These days he has become more disciplined in his art and finds a way to create every day.

“The goal is to do something creative every day that will move me creatively forward,” he says.

Over the years, Crouse has explored so many different styles of creating art. He’s still not quite sure what his true art is. However, he becomes more confident with what he does that he can call his own.

He describes it as a personal storytelling, with little pieces collected from his world.

It’s a collection of things strung together that form a visual narrative of his life, as if they were large pages taken from his sketchbook. In fact, many of his more recent paintings have been multi-panel hinged pieces because he wants them to have that sketchbook feel.

He also enjoys collage, which he has been doing since his early twenties, loving to combine various materials and art styles into one work.

Or he experiments with acrylic and acrylic gel medium transfers from his own photographs that he retouches on the computer. Then he builds up the surface using various techniques – more painting, drawing with color sticks, stamping letters, stenciling and/or gluing. It’s great fun, he said.

“As I got older, I think my art has become more directly and personally meaningful. My subject matter often has to do with more serious life topics like family, children, aging and death, although I try to bring a touch of humor to these themes,” he says.

As for inspiration, Crouse says he’s always on the lookout for something that appeals to his own artistic sensibilities; pay attention to things that might have artistic application down the road. Then, when he creates, one artistic project often leads to the next. And projects will always overlap.

When working, Crouse says he sometimes drops pieces for long periods of time, especially if they start to feel cliched or boring, and then later comes back with a vengeance, perhaps taking the work in a different direction. radically new. I usually let paintings sit for what I call a “waiting time” because they look unfinished or if I’m undecided on something, he says.

“Creating art is a problem-solving process, and sometimes you don’t have the solution,” says Crouse.

When he’s not creating, Crouse enjoys camping and traveling with his family. He also enjoys reading, gardening and doing things in his garden like frolicking.

Crouse’s artwork is for private sale and inquiries can be made to him directly via email or social media. He posts pictures of his artwork and his sketchbook on his blog, called the Messy Processand on Instagram.

On both sites, he says he tries to post images of completed work, as well as work in progress. He also shares whatever he finds creatively interesting.