John Osler (1935–2023)

John Osler, whom I knew as “Spike,” was an artist, photographer and jazz aficionado. Three things that he interwove into his life, both professional and personal. Many of his paintings are of the jazz musicians he admired, and many of those musicians in the Detroit area - where he grew up - became personal friends. He donated his talents to the late Gretchen Valade, owner of the Dirty Dog Jazz Club in Grosse Pointe, where you will see on the walls his photos of the artists who played there. As for the Detroit Jazz Festival, I don’t think he ever missed it.

I met Spike long ago at an art show at the Scarab Club in Detroit. During our conversation, he mentioned that he and his wife Phyllis spent many of their summers in a part of southeast France which I know well: Provence. As I lived in Paris then, Spike invited me down to have dinner in the ancient stone house he rented in Le Beaucet. A brisk night, but with windows open to the dark sky, we ate by the crackling fireplace and talked for hours as jazz records played in the background.

Spike had a studio right across from Detroit’s Eastern Market, a small space filled with light, and stacks of finished canvases. I wonder what will become of all those amazing artworks now that he’s gone. Should you get a chance to adopt one, don’t hesitate. I have one in my apartment in Paris, an oil of a saxophonist - maybe Donald Walden - who keeps an eye on me as I take my meals. We’ll miss you, Spike.