A Victoria-based airbrush artist has expanded his portfolio by painting a mural honouring Alfred “The Flowerman” Sillem, a well-known florist who passed away earlier this month.
Paul Archer, who simply goes by “Archer,” says it took him about four hours to paint the portrait of Sillem, which is now on display outside his shop on Fort Street near Quadra Street.
“I was around back in the ’80s when he was a regular down at all of the clubs. We become good friends too, acquaintance-wise. He knew what I did, and I knew what he did. We were both entrepreneurial,” Archer told CHEK News Sunday.
Locals and visitors alike to B.C.’s capital may remember Sillem stopping by restaurants, bars and hotels, wearing a tuxedo and selling flowers. His travelling florist business first bloomed 40 years ago after he immigrated from Holland in 1968.
Archer sums him up as an icon.
“What I call Victoria’s cupid,” he said in an interview. “You wonder how many relationships stemmed from (his flowers). There could have been marriages or long-term relationships based on him being there with the flowers at the right time.”
In the mural, Sillem is seen smiling and holding a bouquet. The piece is another nod to his life, which will have a lasting impact on people like Dixie Rae-Lee, who first met him about 30 years ago at a bar in Victoria.
“He was very charismatic, you know. It wasn’t just the sell of the flower. He really invested time with people. He was a very kind person and fun and funny. You were drawn to him,” Lee said last Monday.
“It wasn’t hard to be Alfred’s friend.”
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News of Sillem’s passing quickly spread to social media, where people shared their memories of him and condolences to his loved ones, including his son Nik Sillem who told CHEK News that the support did not go unnoticed.
“It’s overwhelming, to say the least,” he said.
A celebration of life to honour Sillem is happening at The Monkey Tree Pub on Sunday, April 16, starting at 3 p.m. Archer says organizers have asked him to transport the mural to the pub so it can be used as a centrepiece during the event.
“I’m going to let them have it. It’s obviously a yes to that,” he added. “They asked me, and I said, ‘For sure, absolutely.’ I would think that that would be appropriate.”
Sillem passed away on March 17 at the age of 77, and his death was attributed to natural causes. He leaves behind several children and grandchildren.