Veteran perfects the art of portraiture in remembrance 

Artist Gilles Boudreault

Gilles Boudreault as an infantryman (left) and today. Photos supplied.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

Soldiers and veterans come to life through impressionist portraits in a home studio of one Bedford, N.S. artist.

Retired warrant officer Gilles Boudreault says art lets him reflect with remembrance on friends and colleagues that has passed on from his former units.

“I don’t usually think of one particular unit or person on Remembrance Day but this year, more than ever, I will be thinking of all the people I served with who are no longer here,” he said. “It makes me wish I took the time to reconnect and visit with them after our service was complete.”

Boudreault retired from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 1999 after 21 years of service. He joined the CAF in September 1978 and was posted to Third Battalion of Royal 22nd Regiment (3R22R) and then Canadian Airborne Regiment in Petawawa, which included a deployment to Cyprus in 1982. In 1988, he trained to change trades from Infantryman to Topographical Surveyor and moved on to the Department of National Defence Mapping and Charting Establishment (MCE) in Ottawa, where he worked until his retirement in 1999.

Today, the married father of two paints every chance he gets. Boudreault says it’s not hard to get inspired by his subject matter.

The smiling portrait of the late Major-General Herbert Pitts of the Canadian Army is one of many photographs that inspired him to pick up the brush. Boudreault says the warmth of Pitts’ smile made the portrait a delight to paint.

“The fact that the subject was wearing a maroon beret – which are the airborne colours of my former regiment – made the creative process easier and gave it a familiar feel to me,” he said.

Pitts, a Korean War veteran, was a former Colonel of the Regiment of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Pitts spent the later years of his life in Victoria, B.C., where he died in 2018.

He says his paintings and style of portraiture reflect his admiration for legendary impressionist John Singer Sargent, and Rembrandt, one of the great masters portrait of all time. He paints with acrylic on canvas and tries to capture his immediate impression of the subject using light, colours, and short or textured brush strokes to capture a feeling or mood.

“I always paint the person’s face last because if I don’t, I will go back and change it too many times.”

Boudreault’s talent for portraiture quickly caught the eye of many, including Barbara Brown, a former paramedic and founder of the Steel Spirit Gallery in Barrie, Ont, which showcases the unique artwork of military, police, firefighters, paramedics, hospital practitioners and other first responders.

“Gilles artwork is all the more impressive because he didn’t focus on his art until later in life,” says founder Barbara Brown. “It goes to show how it’s never too late to dive into a creative chapter.”

Last year, four of Boudreault’s paintings were hung at a gallery in St-Jean Sur le Richelieu, Q.C., for Remembrance Day. Some of his artwork is also donated to the non-profit True Patriot Love, which is then sold to help in their fundraising efforts.

Brown says the Steel Spirit is always looking for new and emerging artists, with and without experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, please visit:

Artist Gilles Boudreault

Major-General Pitts painted by Gilles Boudreault.

Artist Gilles Boudreault

Another favourite is a commissioned piece of his former colleague, Wayne Deaves. Boudreault says knowing the subject so well made it easier to paint him but getting the various shades of green in his uniform was challenging. “What I tried to capture turned out very well; the tension on the subject’s face and the colours, uniform and surroundings of a military setting; I was happy with the results,” he said.

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