Written by Susan Bates
The mischievous Peter Philip Berg, has finessed his way around the world with nothing more than pencils and a sketchbook to earn his keep. Exotic locales such as Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, Key West, and San Paulo served as backdrops for his extensive collection of photorealistic and experimental graphite and coloured-pencil masterworks.
The artist’s Key West Pop-up Gallery glistens with reflected light and shimmers with colour harmony. The skillful rendering of textured surfaces such as the sheen of metal, the grain of wood, and the curvature of cobblestones, demonstrate an attention to detail that draws throngs of tourists to peruse his colourful collection of intricate drawings. “Key West was a phenomenal experience,” reveals Peter. “Every evening there was a sunset celebration, and I was often fortunate enough to snag a spot just where the cruise ships dock—it was almost like winning the lottery with proceeds beyond my wildest expectations!”
Originally from Vancouver, Peter got his start as a professional artist with a commission to draw the Gastown Steam Clock. Although he’d been drawing since four years of age, he had never thought of it as a money-making venture, but the sale planted a seed that landed Peter smack in the middle of a hubbub of commotion, vending his artwork in Vancouver’s central tourist district. To find peace amid the downtown din, he would often conjure up tranquil imagery from his travels abroad and sketch them on site.
Surprisingly, La Vie Facile—a serene study reminiscent of late nineteenth century Parisian Pointillist painters George Seurat and Paul Signac—was the artist’s way of drowning out the traffic and tuning in to his sanctuary of stillness. Peter elaborates, “My work is about being at peace. What I do is indeed who I am, and scratching pencil marks harmoniously and deliberately on any surface takes me back to the source of that peace. Where, when, and how they go is all part of the creative process, and that is a kind of inquiry into the challenges of the mind—and of life itself. Look at any simple scene, and then look at what really went into it.” While the focus on fine detail is impressive, artistic flair and imagination are this artist’s strong suits.
Yet another experimental work created in Gastown during the height of tourist season is Winter in Amsterdam. This mesmerizing web of snow-covered branches, revealing a glimmer of houses in the distance, shivers with cold blue intensity. Sketching purely from imagination, the artist recreates a moment in time, evocative of his cycling marathon through Western Europe. “The trip was awesome,” grins Peter. “I was inspired nonstop as my mind registered flashes of live imagery that I’d only ever seen in films.”
From the chill of a European winter to the sweltering heat of the Brazilian tropics, Peter has been around the block and back. He’s returned to his old stomping grounds and feels blessed to have a ringside seat to the panorama of beauty at English Bay. The relentlessly variable landscape is his steadfast muse. Not only does the scenery vary daily, but his artistic eye continually uncovers fresh aspects to explore. “I view the same scene every day, but each time, I see it differently,” adds Peter. “And I love working and sketching outdoors. I’ve met so many warm and gracious individuals over the years.” The artist’s seaside gallery lines the edge of our glorious seawall.
Engaged in his favorite pastime, the self-taught artist works year round right across from the Sylvia Hotel. He creates images of Stanley Park from every conceivable angle in all sorts of weather conditions. His rainy day vistas are exceptionally original.
Hundreds of vertical downward pencil strokes realistically capture the somber mood of a Vancouver downpour.
But when the sun shines, Peter portrays English Bay with a sparkle and old-world elegance, selectively eliminating the steady stream of vehicles bustling down Beach Avenue. He designs the scene with such precision that one would never guess he employed artistic license to transform the major thoroughfare into a pathway!
And on the rare occasion when the snow does fall, Peter dashes off a blissful sketch of the Lion’s Gate in a “School’s out” kind of day with figures rejoicing in the freedom of strolling or cycling clear down the middle of the typically congested bridge.
“My drawing and sketching are not only about expressing, but about wanting to share with everyone—an emotion, or journey through a collection of emotions, or even a lesson I’ve learned. I do so in the best way I know how,” concludes the artist.