Keith Cornell - Artist

Madawaska Church
Claire Connolly, Assistant Manager Arts on King and Queen, describes Keith's work as 'Ontario, rugged landscape at it’s best'.

Keith Cornell was raised in the small town of Uxbridge, Ontario. His father died during the war when Keith was very young, leaving his mother to raise him alongside his two brothers. Growing up in this quaint little town tucked beside farmland and beautiful forests, Keith would begin his life work painting everything around him.

He recounts time and again a solid memory he has a very young boy. The Canadian artist David Milne had set up his easel to paint a scene in Keith’s neighbourhood, and the boy watched with fascination as the artist worked plein air. The affect of this experience is timeless. Keith did not pick up the brush and start painting right away, but that time was coming.

Late Afternoon Go Home Bay
During his high school years, Keith met his future wife, Karen.  For his sixteenth birthday, she gave him a lovely box set of paints. Although he remembers there was no particular rhyme or reason for this gift – one wonders if she didn’t already see the artist in Keith. Remembering fondly his memory as a young child, Keith took the paints and set up in the exact location where David Milne had painted so many years before, recreating the same scene. The journey begins.

Keith studied at the Ontario College of Art and graduated from York University’s Fine Art Department. He went on to teach art for the next 34 years including 20 years as the Head of the Art Department at Woburn Collegiate in Scarborough. Retirement led to a full time career dedicating himself to his paintings. He jokes, ‘that is when I really started to go to work’.

Keith’s work consists of all original works of art, which began on location by exploring the many different Ontario landscapes. During his travels, when he spots a place of interest that has inspired him, he stops and begins right away by sketching and then painting. His work is very in the moment and by immersing himself in the landscape around him, this artist uses the paint to communicate his feelings about the beauty of the place at that exact point in time.

His work depicts Ontario in its vast and scenic collections of farmland, forests, rivers, and lakes. His style may change as he responds to the subject before him, and still the exceptional quality is always present. His work has been described as warm, emotional and classic, yet with a modern edge. Keith recalls a large collection he painted of the Madawaska Valley that went on display at Arts on Queen in Toronto. The curator called to say that a collector was purchasing all twenty-two pieces as a surprise for his wife who was from the area. A tipping point in Keith’s career, his pieces were touching people.

Keith speaks of delivering a message to the viewer as he captures the nostalgic in the Ontario landscapes. While I look at his work, I am reminded of times as a child when my family would drive into the country to visit my grandmother. As we left the city, we noticed the wide-open spaces, the large quietness and the splendor in nature’s colours. If there is a message to be delivered it may be by way of an invitation; it may be that Ontario truly is ‘Yours to Discover’.

To discover more about Keith Cornell, see his website at

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