Turning Red Director’s Talented Father Paints Beautiful Nature Scenes

Pixar turn red has been streaming on Disney+ for over a month now, delighting audiences with its relatable characters and pitch-perfect portrayal of Toronto.

Director Domee Shi, already Oscar winner for her short film in 2018 Baodeservedly garnered a lot of attention for her historic role as the first woman to helm a Pixar feature film on her own.

But did you know that his father is also an accomplished artist, although in a completely different field?

Shi Le, who immigrated to Toronto from China in 1993 and earned an MFA at the University of Waterloo, has been painting traditional Ontario nature scenes for decades — think lakes and Muskoka wood.

Moving away from the dark (and rather depressing) browns and grays he used in his late 90s still lifes, Shi now paints almost exclusively in jaw-dropping saturated colors.

A work by Shi Le. Image via Mike Bastoli.

Its current style can be described as a contemporary version of pointillist Impressionism. Notably, Shi prefers large canvases; most of his works, painted in glossy acrylics, sell in the range of $5,500 and $8,500.

Although far from a big name, some of Shi’s paintings have found their way into the offices of majors like BMO and IBM, and they are carried by a few respected commercial galleries. In Toronto, the Bau-Xi Gallery across from the AGO has a large in-house collection.

“My landscape painting is my response to nature,” Shi says in his artist statement on Bau-Xi’s website. “Walking along the river through the bush and sitting on the rocks watching the ripples in the water makes me feel at peace in the tranquility of nature.”

Shi Le

One of Shi’s lake scenes. Image via Mike Bastoli.

In person, Shi is calm and reserved, just like the father of turn red. But his creative passion and love of color has clearly rubbed off on his now famous daughter. “He’s the reason I got into art,” Domee recently told Toronto Life.

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