Ken Kirkby was not born on Canadian soil and he did not grow up here. But the tales, whispered into his ear by an old Portuguese whaler, that told of great ice floes, native peoples, polar bears and stone pillars intrigued the boy who loved to paint.When his family immigrated to Vancouver, BC, he knew it was fate.
Ken was born on September 1, 1940 in London, England but he was raised in Portugal.As a youth he was always interested in sketching and painting.His first exhibition in Lisbon at age 16 was a success and the show sold out shortly after the opening.
Ken moved to Canada with his family in 1958, and he spent the next year trying to get to that magical pristine Arctic which he had learned so much about as a youth.He eventually spent 5 years experiencing the stark scenery, the cruel climate and living among the original Canadian people, the Inuit.The area so inspired him, that he began to do sketches depicting the life he had come to know.Flying over and hiking across the barren landscape and meeting the people of the North consumed his interest and he converted many of those drawings to oil paintings to show the world what he had found.
In 1981, determined to provide a stage for what he believed was his best work, Ken began the world's largest canvas painting "Isumataq".Twelve feet high by 152 feet long, it became his full time project.The painting, consisting of 38 vertical panels, depicts the raw powerful landscape and the inukshuks and ice bergs that so define the North. The painting was completed in 1991 and was unveiled in Parliament by then Speaker of the House of Commons, John A. Fraser.During the unveiling Ken Kirkby was introduced to Parliament as a truly great Canadian whose unique vision of this country is an example for us all.In 1993, Kirkby was awarded the Commonwealth Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Canada.
Ken now lives on Vancouver Island while he continues to capture on canvas the images that he so loves.An avid fisherman, the outdoors continues to provide the inspiration for his paintings.
Ken's works are currently found in a number of galleries, corporate and private collections throughout the world.