The Tortured Artist is Alive and Well...and His Name is Ken


I took this picture of Ken Foster a few months ago. He is one of Vancouver’s most extraordinary artists - a local legend known for his unique and gritty art. 

Ken is best known for using scrounged material. Pizza boxes, construction signs, and discarded furniture are some of his favourite materials.  

 This is one of my recent acquisitions.  Ken painted this amazing cityscape on a traffic sign made of coroplast. The original material is designed to be reflective so motorists can see it.

What you can't see in the above image is that the painting has an awesome "shimmer" effect when you walk by it. Ken developed a technique to take advantage of the shiny surface. When I use a flash on it you can see the tiny razor cuts that make the city come alive. 

Below is another Ken Foster cityscape. I got this from Ken on my birthday.  This one is done on a construction sign.

Ken has been known to paint on old umbrellas, discarded tiles, and closet doors. He has also developed a habit for painting on vinyl records. Here is one I had him paint for a friend of mine (who recently joined the RCMP). We call it "the Mountie."

Ken's signature piece is the Vancouver alleyway. He has painted hundreds of them on all kinds things.  I myself own three such pieces, including this one on canvas:

I am proud to call Ken a friend. We share much in common including an interest in art and alleyways. But our lives are very different. Ken has spent twenty years living on the DTES. Once he told me that actually lived in an alleyway for six months. Ken paints because he has to. It is what his soul commands. He also paints to survive, often producing two or three paintings a day to sell on the street in order to feed a daily drug habit.  

But make no mistake. Ken is the real deal. He studied art at Emily Car. His work hangs in galleries. Collectors will pay hundreds to own a Ken Foster original. He has won several "Art Battles." He has painted sets for Hollywood movies. He was even commissioned to paint for the Rolling Stones. 

Ken's amazing story caught the interest of local filmmaker, Josh Laner.  “What about Ken?” will be hitting the film festival circuit later this year. 

Ken has crazy talent and skill. I once saw him create a masterpiece using only a sharpie and nail polish he found on the street.  He is one of our city's treasures, and his work is sure to become more and more valuable. 

This is not to say that there are not times Ken can be difficult or ornery, but at the end of the day, Ken reminds me that art matters. Art transcends. It touches some place beyond the here and now. Art has the power to uplift and even, to sustain. 

Like the discarded material he paints on, Ken is rough and worn around the edges, but his art, if it does anything,  demands that we pay attention, and see that even the broken can be beautiful.

-Sean Nosek


  1. Nice post!
    I've been trying to track Ken down. Do you know where I can find him? I'd like a painting or two :)
    Please email me at


  2. Hello,

    I'd also like to buy from Ken. Know where I can find him?


  3. first off it is called "Coroplast" which is (corrugated plastic like cardboard), not "Chloroplast" which is (organelles, specialized compartments, in plant and algal cells). everyone should know that "foster" goes about doing what he wants because of an ever evasive but looming presence of his real "friends" and let it be known that if messed with will be the last thing anyone sees coming undaunted by prestige or position in government, law enforcement or any other public or private sector. Kenneth Gordon Foster is a member of a group that runs deeper than the genes of any family and harder than the pavement that he has chosen to sleep on.

  4. Bc chill out


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