David Walton-Ball opens the door of his summer home, east of Toronto, and is greeted by a child looking up at him:
“Can Sandra come out to play?”
Sandra — you may be surprised to hear — is not a child.
She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.
She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.
If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.
In Mexico where she and David spend the winter, Sandra teaches art to children whose parents can’t afford to pay for lessons.
“We put on Andrea Bocelli and the children sing along.”
San Miguel de Allende is home to many artists from Canada and the U.S.
Years ago, Sandra met Leonard Brooks, an esteemed artist who started the Canadian and American migration to San Miguel. They became friends. That’s one of his paintings behind her, above.
Music playing, the children in her studio sing and paint. This is her gift to them and their families: encouraging the children’s creativity. She introduces them to the styles of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo.
You wouldn’t know that, nearly 20 years ago, Sandra was so ill, she was on life support for months. It took her 15 years to start painting confidently again.
Once recovered, she decided to take more risks with her art. And so wherever she is – in Owen Sound, the family’s main base, or in San Miguel de Allende, or here at the summer home near Toronto, she’s painting – doing “gutsier and more experimental work”.
“When something happens to disrupt your life, you recognize that things can happen and you may not get a chance again – so you start taking risks.”
David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.
Generations of the Walton-Ball family have lived in Historic Bond Head for about 150 years.
During World War 2, the family planted and supplied potatoes to all their neighbours.
(Another historical tidbit: David’s first ancestor in Canada is the “Walton” for whom Port Hope’s main street is named. Port Hope, a famous heritage community, is near Bond Head.)
Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.
“I fall in love with it each summer. Each year my garden grows. And now, like Virginia Wolfe, I have a room of my own, so it’s easier to find my heart.”
They love this place for the history, the house, the studio, the family times, the garden and the orchard. Some of the apple trees are more than a hundred years old.
One summer, Monarch butterflies visited Sandra and David here. (Monarchs fly from Mexico all the way to Canada each summer and back.)
“You couldn’t see a leaf,” Sandra says. “The trees were covered with Monarchs.”
That magical event led to this painting….
… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.
“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.
“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.
To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: firstname.lastname@example.org