Gerrit Verstraete was born in 1945. He has been a
professional artist for over 50 years. He began his fine art studies as a child
in the Netherlands, his country of birth. At age five, he was introduced to
formal art lessons by renowned Dutch artist, Stien Eelsingh (1903 - 1964),
co-founder of the arts group Het Palet
at the Hopmanshuis in the medieval city of Zwolle. In 1958, the Verstraete
family moved to Canada.
After completing highschool in 1964, he enrolled at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto (now OCAD University). He graduated with honours in 1968, and is an Associate of the Ontario College of Art & Design ( AOCA ). The journey, however, took an unusual course for the young artist. Instead of pursuing fine arts full time, he founded and owned a design studio that soon grew into a nationally accredited advertising agency. His creativity appeared in print, on billboards, on radio, television, in corporate design and "business theatre". His work included many creative projects in the world of performing arts with some of Canada's leading dance and theatre companies. Married and with a growing family that would soon count six children, he continued to attend evening drawing sessions at the college to keep his skills sharp and work fresh.
In 1982, he, with his wife Alice, founded VEA Ministries whose work includes teaching, spiritual leadership, and the arts. In 1993, he moved his family to Gabriola Island, British Columbia. There he built a large family home including a spacious studio. In 2005, the Hope Centre was established on the island. In addition to his passion for fine art, he is author of numerous spiritual teachings, novels, non-fiction, and epic poetry. He is also a counselor and mentor. His work covers a broad spectrum of styles from realism to expressionism, to abstract and minimalism, as well as mastery of silverpoint drawing.
He is a former board member and president of Festival Gabriola and the Gabriola Community Arts Council, and former Executive Director of the Chemainus Theatre on Vancouver Island. Gerrit Verstraete is the founder of the Drawing Society of Canada, as well as the Canadian Academy of Drawing. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) from Thompson Rivers University, British Columbia. He is a consulting member of the European Academy for Culture and Arts in the Netherlands. He is known as one of Canada’s foremost figurative artists. As an artist, his work appears in international and national collections both private and corporate as well as art museums and academic institutions.
When he turned 65, he decided to go back to school by enrolling in graduate studies at the University of Alberta. He completed a Master of Arts Degree in Communications and Technology (UofA) as well as a Master of Theology Degree at St. Stephen's College (UofA). In 2016, he completed a Doctoral degree in the arts. After the extensive sabbatical to complete graduate studies, he has returned to his studio practices to begin the next series of drawings, paintings, and silverpoint works, draft the next novel, and engage in ministry practices of teaching and mentoring.