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Rob Gonsalves, 57, created art that was loved worldwide

Lives Lived: Rob Gonsalves, 57, an artist whose work was loved worldwide, died in June 2017.

Rob Gonsalves: Artist. Musician. Husband. Brother. Born July 10, 1959, in Toronto; died June 14, 2017, near Brockville, Ont.; from suicide; aged 57.

Rob left this Earth on his own terms when he took his own life, calmly and deliberately on a beautiful day in June. An accomplished Canadian artist and musician, Rob was 57 and at his creative peak as he continued to create art that was loved worldwide. Although Rob died too early, he definitely made his mark on the world.

Rob was born in Toronto to Allan and Ruth Gonsalves, the second of two children in the family. Rob's passion for art was evident in childhood. Ruth used to say, "If you were wondering where Rob was, you could usually find him in his room or in some corner of the house, quietly drawing and capturing images on paper." He had a vibrant imagination and saw the world from a different perspective.

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Rob studied and practised his art first at OCAD University and later at Ryerson University in its Architecture program. He worked at an architecture firm for a couple of years, but after some initial success at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 1990, left to focus solely on developing his painting. Rob's training as an architect and love of beautiful buildings is evident in his work, which is described as magic realism.

Rob's career as an artist took off when a gallery near Washington, D.C., began selling his paintings. His work appeared on the cover of the book Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali and the Artists of Optical Illusion. His images were also featured in a series of children's books: Imagine a Night, Imagine a Day, Imagine a Place, Imagine a World. In its review of Imagine a Night, Quill&Quire called Rob's work "hauntingly magical," adding, "The paintings can be revisited time and again, and each time, readers will see something new." In 2005, Rob's illustrations in Imagine a Day won the Governor-General's award for children's literature.

Music also played a large part in his life. He played in a band in his younger years, and later experimented with instruments in the lute family, until he found the saz, a stringed musical instrument of Middle Eastern origin. Rob played and composed on it and drove for four hours to take lessons in Toronto.

Rob leaves his family and friends searching for answers and struggling to understand why he killed himself. There is no real answer that we will ever know, but as a friend remarked, "This was a tragedy but don't forget that Rob was able to create a life worth remembering for hundreds of years."

The last painting Rob completed shows a young man determinedly climbing up a tree branch that leans over a pond, the water looking like an astronaut's view of Earth. The tree climber does not look to the Earth but straight into the stars and vastness that is space.

Rob died too soon. But his family, friends and the people he touched through his art will keep him in their hearts and keep his light alive.

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To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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