February 13, 2015 - 7:29 PM
VERNON - Bernie DiDiT—the cartoonist behind window paintings all the way from Armstrong to Keremeos—likes to make people smile.
The quirky 60-year-old loves bringing a little cheer to city storefronts during events like the Armstrong IPE, Vernon Winter Carnival and May long weekend in Keremeos.
“When someone comes along and says wow, that’s cool—that pat on the back lasts way longer than any of my artwork does,” Bernie says.
His full name is Bernie ‘DiDiT’ Bates. DiDiT, his nom de plume, was born when a German fellow asked a shopkeeper who painted his window. The merchant replied, “Bernie did it.”
“He came over and called me Mr. Didit, and it stuck,” Bernie says.
Bernie grew up in a poor family in Williams Lake where his father ran a ranch. He learned necessity is the mother of invention. He learned to make-do.
“One of my first memories of doing anything artistic was my mom would give us potatoes and a paring knife. We’d carve them. Those were some of the only things we had for toys,” he says.
Bernie was dyslexic, but wouldn’t be diagnosed until he was 35.
“I couldn’t read, back then, nobody knew what dyslexia was,” Bernie says. “My only outlet was drawing.”
A pivotal moment in his artistic career was in grade one, when the “prettiest girl in the world”—a second grader—complimented him on his doodles.
“That sort of set me on my course,” Bernie says.
His father wanted him to pick up ranching, something manlier than being an artist.
“I’d show him my drawings and he wouldn’t approve,” Bernie says. “But ranching just wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
At 16, someone noticed his work and told him if he could paint it on a window, he could make some money. That summer, he started painting windows for businesses during the Williams Lake Stampede—something he still does. After that, he picked up work window painting for car dealerships in Vancouver, and 12 years ago, moved to the Okanagan. Even after many years of window painting, every time he picks up a paintbrush, something new and original is created. With an imagination like his, he’s never stuck for inspiration.
“I have a running brag that I can come up with a cartoon on any subject in the world in 15 minutes, and if not you I’ll give you 50 bucks. I’ve never lost,” he says.
Every painting is full of detail—right down to making sure the font is reflective of the theme (for this year’s Winter Carnival of Rock and Roll he used jagged lettering).
He says the beauty of painting in public spaces—rather than having art shown in a gallery—is that people can watch him create.
“Especially kids, they love the process. I’ll give them a brush and say, paint the grass, or that shoe, and they just light up,” he says. “I feel like it’s my job when someone comes along interested in art to give them my time, and to pass it on.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015