“I consider myself a surreal nature artist,” says painter Bob “Omar” Tunnoch

Article & image of Bob Tunnoch by Bill Hornbostel: painting images supplied

Surreal scarcely begins to describe it. The subjects Tunnoch – a member of the Colborne Art Gallery since last year – paints, are the rare and bizarre, such as the hairy anglerfish or the puss moth caterpillar.

“I try to paint animals and things people don’t know about. People ask me, ‘How did you ever think that up?’ And I say, ‘I didn’t think that up, this thing really exists!’”

Tunnoch often paints his subjects out of their natural environments. Tunnoch draws his inspiration for that from a variety of sources often circumstances most people don’t even notice.

“I’ll put things in unusual situations. I noticed a halogen light on the ceiling cast this funny little ellipse on the wall, and looking at it I thought something should be displayed under there. So then I had this idea, and I did a whole series of paintings with the ellipse on the wall, and some would have a string stretched across on the wall and would have an animal perched there. And then I did a complementary series called, ‘From the Depths of the Dining Room,’ so I have a wallpapered background, and I’ll have jellyfish or anglerfish floating up from the bottom.”

Some of his subjects are also New Guinea tribesmen. Tunnoch says about them, “Well, I was always interested in the New Guinea tribesmen who make these elaborate headdresses and stuff out of bugs, and flowers and all kinds of stuff, kind of amazing, right? So I decided to put them in unusual situations, just to catch viewers’ attention, just so people ask questions about it.”

Making people ask questions, provoking thought, are what Tunnoch is ultimately trying to do.

“I enjoy it because people start asking questions and they’re flabbergasted at what this thing is, that it actually exists. That’s what I’m trying to do, educate people to take a really good look around, because there’s some really interesting stuff out there, and it’s disappearing really fast, it’s scary.”

The natural world has been his life-long passion and is a constant source of inspiration for Tunnoch, who has been making art his whole life. “When I was a kid, I was always painting, doodling, stuff like that. And then I went to art school. I went to Humber College for fine art school for two years, then I went to Vancouver School of Art and finished there, sort of. Well, I never graduated, all I wanted to do was paint.”

His interest in painting, however, was not his only artistic passion.

A musician and songwriter, “I’ve been playing since I was sixteen. Mostly rhythm & blues music, and I’ve had the good fortune to be able to play with Etta James, Paul Butterfield, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton.”

Then I got in a band over twenty years ago called Fathead, a Canadian blues band, and we won a couple of Junos, and that kept me in lots of trouble on the road. So now I’m trying to integrate my music and art together. So we’ll see how that goes.”

You can visit Bob “Omar” Tunnoch’s Web page for more information: http://bobomartunnoch.com/index.html