Infantry Camouflage Officer

John Bennett

You can spot John Bennett by the colours of his shoes – black and mottled with a rainbow of paint splatter.

John, 94, is a Second World War veteran at Sunnybrook's Veterans Centre, where he has enjoyed a life full of colours for two years.

"I love it here," he says. "I'm being taken good care of and I like the freedom to do art – that's my whole life."

A painter since the age of six, John has created about 7,000 paintings over his lifetime. In 2011, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa accepted 78 of his paintings into its collection.

The watercolour paintings capture his experiences in the war, beginning in 1943 when he was an army infantry camouflage officer, in the woodlands of Normandy, Belgium and Holland.

"I made time to paint during the war – I had my own Jeep and I always took my art supplies with me," he recalls.

With the support of the art therapy program at the Veterans Centre, John continues to express himself creatively through a variety of mediums. Since coming to Sunnybrook, he has also taken up fused glass.

"I interpret and I reinterpret things – I steal ideas from newspaper clippings or photographs I collect," he says. "I do some art just about every day."

John Bennett was recently profiled on the CTV National News. Avis Favaro looks at the strong connection between art and wellness.

Veterans art therapy video

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