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Guiding Light
back alley scenes, commission, winter, large-scale painting, one-point perspective, golden section, Holy Rosary Cathedral, metaphor, spirituality, mood, symbol, reflection, tribute, mundane, ordinary, overlooked, mystery, passages, realistic, acrylic on canvas, perspective,winter day, garage, power poles, reflective puddle, trees, photography, Regina,

Wilf Perreault has been  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  back alleys for a number of years and he can always find something new and exciting in each new work.

start quoteGuiding Light has to do with the church, but more so with Betty (Barootes) as being the guiding light for the family.end quote
-- Wilf Perreault

In the back alley seen here, titled Guiding Light, Perreault has taken on a  commissionA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  from a family who want to honour their mother with a Perreault painting that would be donated to the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Their mother was a strong supporter of the arts and an active member of her community.  Her children wanted to pay tribute to her as a strong intelligent woman who was an excellent role model for them as they were growing up.

In this Perreault image we see a tidy back alley at dusk after a warm winter day. The painting is large and this, combined with the  one-point perspectiveA form of linear perspective in which all lines (describing straight edges that go from points nearer to points farther) appear to meet at a single point on the horizon. (  used, provides the viewer with the experience of being able to walk right into the scene. On the left side of the alley is a garage with a door open which is casting light on the snow and on the opposite garage. Subdued and ethereal in the  backgroundPart of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.  is the Holy Rosary Cathedral, one of the higher buildings on the Regina, Saskatchewan skyline. Over the years this cathedral has been a landmark and ‘guiding light’ for many Regina families. Perreault could be metaphorically alluding to the idea there can be a ‘guiding light’ given by the people whom we know and who influence us, as well as the possibility of a greater ‘guiding light’ in a more spiritual sense.

additional resources On Painting and Play
Duration: 2:03 min
Size: 3516kb
On Playing with Light
Duration: 1:27 min
Size: 2470kb
On the Guiding Light
Duration: 1:34 min
Size: 2783kb
Things to Think About
  • Describe what you see in this painting. What time of day is it? What is producing the glowing light at the end of the alley? The title of the work is Guiding Light. Does the title help to make connections to anything else? Does the artist use any symbols or metaphors to communicate his message? What could the reflection of the light in the puddle symbolize? What is hidden in the distance? Could this work be about spirituality?
  • Perreault often depicts back alleys which appear to be peaceful and safe places. What does this tell us about where he grew up? Why are back alleys sometimes seen as frightening places? Why do you think Perreault only shows us the positive side?
  • If you were to fold Guiding Light into three equal sections, both horizontally and vertically, where would the focal point be? Do you think this is an accident or did the artist plan this? Is there any significance to the number three? Research the Golden Section and see how it is used.
  • With the back alley paintings, we get the feeling we are passing through something.  Is there a sense of mystery about what might be at the other end?
  • Do you think Perreault is thinking about passages in this work?  If so, what features in the work give this impression?
Studio Activity
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Wilf Perreault uses  perspectiveA method used to create the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. It can be created by overlapping, placement, detail, colour, converging lines and size. See ( and for some examples.  in his back alley paintings.

  • Practise using perspective by drawing simple geometric shapes.
  • As you become more confident, gradually move to more complex shapes.

Ordinary places

In Perreault's practice, he photographs ordinary places in his urban environment. These photographs are interesting for what they suggest about what is happening behind the scenes.

  • Explore your community and photograph places of interest to you.
  • When the photos are printed, use the most interesting photo as a starting point.
  • Title your work.

Outdoor sculptures

Perreault designed Reginald the large grasshopper  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (  located on the corner of Albert Street and College Avenue in Regina. It turns green in the summer when foliage grows up within the body. In the winter, Perreault and his family decorate the sculpture with Christmas lights.

Observe large outdoor sculptures in communities and determine how the sculpture communicates information about the place it represents. Students could  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (  a large sculpture for their school or community.



Author unknown. 'Art lovers rush to buy works by Regina painter.', Tuesday, April 24, 2007. Retrieved from the Internet on August 9, 2008 from:

Sowiak, Christine. 'Wilf Perreault.' Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved from the Internet on August 9, 2008 from:

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning