Finding Purpose Through Painting
Garry Toop is a Kelowna resident and family man who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2005 at the age of 55. He is also one of several British Columbians who have had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery.
Painting is as simple as picking up a brush and making some marks on a canvas.
My parents enrolled me in art classes at the age of 5, and I stayed with it until college, where I spent a year studying fine art. But I realized that as much as I loved art, I would find it very difficult to earn a decent living with, so I switched to technical studies.
From then on, I directed my creative juices toward music. My first instrument was the Highland bagpipe, which is very demanding as the music is peppered with complicated series of grace notes, ornamental notes that add flourishes to other notes. I played in a pipe band that was successful in competitions around the world, learned to play the guitar, and studied piano as an adult.
I've always had it in the back of my mind that I would pick up painting again when I retired. But then in 2005, I started showing symptoms and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s by my family doctor in early 2006. So, in 2006 I sold my business and joined the Prince George Artists Co-op. I realized that I would not be able to play music at the level I had been used to because of my Parkinson's disease.
I am involved with SongShine in Kelowna and am still able to play basic music. But painting gave me an alternate creative outlet.
I mostly create paintings from nature based on my experience in the great outdoors. I was — and still am — physically active. I still golf, bike, hike, and cross-country ski, albeit I have to be careful because my balance is not perfect. I've made it my goal to continue the sports activities I've always enjoyed, as these have always kept me emotionally buoyed.
I canoed the Bowron Lake circuit twice, once in 2009 and again in 2010. I pursued the activities that I know will — one day — have to be put aside due to the progression of my Parkinson's disease.
Through my kayaking and canoeing trips, I have had the good fortune to see parts of British Columbia most people will never set eyes on. I love the wildlife and scenery that is at our doorstep. I draw inspiration for my paintings from my experience on these adventures.
Hobbies are important to keep you involved in the community and to provide personal gratification. They also keep the mind active, a benefit to anyone regardless of whether they have Parkinson's disease or not. Looking at life positively requires being involved in activities that one can improve on with practice.
My mantra has been modify, but not quit. When I picked up painting in my retirement, it had been 40 years since I lifted a paintbrush. Painting as a retiree living with Parkinson's disease is very different from painting as a 5-year-old. But I didn't quit. I just modified the way I paint.
So get painting! It's as simple as picking up a brush and making some marks on a canvas.