Who better than Sir Elton John to model a piano after?
That’s what Saanich artist Sherryl Hustins thought when she was selected as one of three artists to paint pianos for display in Oak Bay.
“It really was the first image that came to my mind when I read the email,” said Hustins. “He’s so widely known for his piano work – also Billy Joel, but Elton has a bigger personality, he’s more widely known, lots of fun.
“I have painted several musical icons on canvas and I thought this would be a great opportunity for a 3D installation.”
The creative initiative – started by Oak Bay arts laureate Barbara Adams – reached Hustins’ ears through an artists’ call, and she was accepted while she was an artist in residence at the Sidney Pier Hotel. As soon as that ended, she got to work on redecorating a piano in tribute to the five-time Grammy Award winner.
The upright 88 is decked out in sparkly spectacles and features six nods to the piano man’s chart-topping career, including Yellow Brick Road, Rocket Man and Candle in the Wind. Hustins even captured some of John’s more distinct facial features, such as the gap between his two front teeth.
“I had bigger plans even than what the piano turned out to be, but you had to consider the elements. I toned it down, but the response has still been amazing,” she said.
In an effort to engage children through art – one of the objectives of the program – Hustins painted her piano at Monterey middle school for all the kids to see. Dozens of students talked to her about her work while hundreds of eyeballs watched her every brushstroke.
“The children were just so enthralled with what I was doing and so supportive,” she said. “They had no idea who Elton John was, so that started a conversation with their parents and their teachers, and then they’d come back the next day and start singing Elton John songs. I just think it was awesome that it started some conversation.
“I really enjoyed watching them gain some knowledge and interest in a figure they’ve never heard of before.”
Now that the paint has dried, the piano is on display next to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Loon Bay Park. Hustins said she often sits on the bench or the grass nearby and watches as people are drawn to her work.
“It’s just amazing to watch the same progression: Car after car, people driving along, you see their brake lights come on and their heads turn,” she said. “In many cases, they’ll stop, get out, take pictures. Invariably someone in the group will play the piano, or try, and it’s just awesome.
“Sometimes I will identify myself and then people are thrilled, they ask for my autograph, they want pictures with me,” she added with a laugh. “It’s been over the top but wonderfully over the top. I love seeing the joy that it brings – that’s what drives me as an artist.”
The piano is on display for the rest of August and is set to be auctioned off in September. Money raised from the sale of the piano will go toward future Oak Bay arts projects.