Artist gives new meaning to "golden years"
- Linda Mikolayenko | April 19, 2017
Roger Jerome is giving new meaning to “the golden years”. The 72-year-old resident of Air Ronge is using his retirement years to explore a new artistic medium. Over the years he has worked in chalk, pastels, charcoal, airbrush, acrylics and oil paints. Now, he’s interested in gold leaf, and has spent many hours studying the technique and researching suppliers.
He still can’t quite get over the irony of it.
“It seems ludicrous,” he says, that a starving artist, senior pensioner would be painting with 23 karat gold leaf.
Jerome says he has been fascinated with gilding ever since he saw pictures of the gold mask on the sarcophagus of King Tut. He is also intrigued with the medium itself.
“Gold is one of the most recycled commodities in the world,” he says. “I wonder where it’s been.”
He imagines that hardship forces some individuals to sell their gold and it gets melted down, but he also wonders whether some of the material he works with might have a history dating back to ancient Mayans or Incas.
Recently, he used gold leaf on glass to create a tribute to this year’s 50th anniversary of the Robertson Trading Company in La Ronge. Illustrating the diversity of his talents, Jerome was also responsible for the sandblasted cedar sign that has hung on the front of Robertson’s store for the past 25 years. Inside, in the family’s private collection, are several of Jerome’s original paintings, and for sale, a variety of prints.
Further down the street, in Mistasinihk Place, the provincial government building, hangs the maquette (small scale version) of the monumental “Northern Tradition and Transition” mural the Métis artist created for the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in Regina. That mural, 24 feet wide and 17 feet high, covers the north wall of the third floor rotunda. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II during Saskatchewan’s Centennial celebrations in 2005.
“It’s just like a dream,” says Jerome. “I still can’t believe it.”
He is now in the discussion stages with officials with Northlands College who have invited him to create a mural for the institution’s Mine School in Air Ronge. Fortunately, the dimensions for this one are not quite as daunting.
This past winter, Jerome taught a series of five classes in acrylic painting to community members as part of an art instruction project facilitated by the La Ronge Arts Council.
“I always learn, myself, when I teach,” he says.
Jerome’s curiosity and willingness to learn is continually taking him in a variety of different directions, including glass etching. He has also taken an interest in working with drill core samples from northern Saskatchewan, and even built his own machine to polish the rock. He is experimenting with different designs, and is looking at the possibility of selling unique rock jewelry and other gift items.
“I’ve never excelled at being an astute business man,” he acknowledges, but yet Jerome rightly predicted that his art print sales would go down.
“When the economy gets tight, that’s the first thing to go,” he says.
He is hopeful his new interests will be “another avenue to garner a bit of income, and still stay creative.”