Painter Geoff Phillips and His Rural Reflections

arts-quest-geoff-phillips-whispering-pinesNot our last interview but our last stop in Saskatchewan took us to painter Geoff Phillips’ house in Maple Creek. We had been through Maple Creek once before but this time it was with fresh eyes. It’s a cute little town in southern Saskatchewan nestled within the prairie landscape and close to the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. It was here that Geoff and Connie decided to move their family from Calgary, with both sets of grandparents following in hot pursuit soon after.

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It would appear that the Phillips family lives an idyllic life in Maple Creek. Geoff’s steady income comes from their next door neighbour, the local Co-op food store where he works in the meat department. Besides not having to drive to work, living right next door has other benefits too. When he is not helping customers with their meat requirements sometimes they come in and ask to see his artwork. He asks his boss if he can pop home to show it to them, bloody apron and all, and off he goes. Only in a small town.

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For the past 6 years Geoff has had the good fortune of being the artist in residence at the Cypress Hills Inter-provincial Park for one month in the summer. But it is no coincidence that Geoff has had this opportunity for 6 years running. His unique style gives park visitors not only an appreciation for Geoff’s art but also for the surroundings that comprise the park itself. What started out as a pilot project has turned into a marvelous draw to the park, with subsequent years also being funded to carry on the successful project. With his family’s encouragement and the well wishes of his employer he stays at the park to paint and run workshops for visitors. His paintings are based around the flora and fauna of the park and are meant to bring awareness to those who make the journey there. Geoff’s art is colourful and certainly very eye-pleasing so his pieces attract people like honey attracts bees. Every year Geoff packs up his canvasses, paints, brushes and a theme that he will incorporate into his work while he is there. This past August he worked on 12 very large canvasses and painted micro sections of the park depicting the landscape and the common plant species which are found there.

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I have found over the last 6 years of doing interviews that each artist’s process is just as unique as the art they create. During his stay in Cypress Hills Park, Geoff will go out and wander the woods until he finds an intriguing spot he wants to bring to life on canvass. I would have thought a few pictures and maybe a sketch book would be what he would use to gather material for his piece. Instead he pulls out his really large canvass and spreads it out over the ground and then proceeds to stomp on it with his shoes to try to get it to lay as flat as possible, but of course there are always lumps and bumps creating hills and valleys. No matter, Geoff pulls out a can of brownish acrylic paint and proceeds to map out his future painting. He paints in oils but acrylic dries quicker for this part of the process. He then packs up and heads back to the art cabin where he adds a layer of primer and then proceeds with the oils. There are a few reference pictures taken as well. As Geoff puts it, it is very crude but he likes doing it this way because he can really get a feel for the spot he wants to paint and this helps to ignite the passion that goes into his work.

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When Gary and I stopped in on Geoff to do his interview we also got to see the new workshop and painting studio that he and Connie recently added to their home. Both Geoff and Connie, who is also an artist, have collaborated to bring all kinds of art programs through The Art House to the town of Maple Creek. They offer their artistic expertise to help guide children and adults through their own artistic expression, whether it be at a Splatter Party where one gets to pretend they are Jackson Pollock, or something a little more structured like learning the basics of drawing. It is obvious that both the Phillips family and the town of Maple Creek have benefited from their arrival. Geoff and Connie are bringing art to their community by teaching others how to express their creativity. They also enjoy the exposure of their art lining the walls of the local pub and restaurant and in the form of Geoff’s huge mural that was commissioned by the town of Maple Creek for the Heritage District revitalization program.

So if you ever find yourself in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan stop in to the Co-op, ask for Geoff at the meat counter and ask to see his art. He’ll be glad to oblige.

Be sure to check out our interview with Geoff. Also, help us spread the word about Geoff through social media by sharing this blog post. Clickable buttons are provided below for your convenience. And we love comments so please feel free to leave a nice one about Geoff and his work below. Thank you!

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

"Sunflower" - hand dyed, applique, free motion thread painting

As we journeyed across Canada in search of artists to interview we passed through many larger urban centres, but mostly we came across the smaller towns as we traversed the roads less traveled. Willow Bunch in south central Saskatchewan was one such destination; a small town steeped in history, from its celebrated native son, giant and strongman Édouard Beaupré, to its connections to Jean-Louis Légaré and the famous Sioux leader Sitting Bull. It was here, in this pretty little town nestled within a small valley that we met up with fibre and mixed media artist Rita St. Amant.

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With a little trepidation we left Assiniboia and headed for Willow Bunch; Rita warning us of crater-sized potholes in the road that could swallow up our beloved 25 year old van Arty, or at the very least deliver a concussive blow. Also, Rita thought that her interview was for the day before our planned arrival. As it turned out our faithful chariot made it there in one piece and Rita was also still there, waiting for us with some carrot and zucchini cake, to be chased down with coffee and tea. So far so good.

"Big Muddy Valley" - needle felting

“Big Muddy Valley” – needle felting

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Descending to Rita’s basement studio and gallery one might think of a dark workplace devoid of natural light, but the multitudes of brightly coloured fabrics in every corner and space defy any gloom, and instead greeted our eyes with gusto. Some fabrics rest in their completed forms as quilted art pieces, silks or scarves, while others are waiting to be transformed into her next idea. Rita hand dyes most of her own fabrics with very little usage of commercial product, and will employ different techniques to do so. She uses an ancient Japanese fabric dyeing technique called shibori; a method which can involve folding the fabric in certain configurations or also wrapping it around a foam noodle before dyeing to create stunning patterns. She will also bind stones of differing sizes in the fabric with elastics to create other engaging designs. Varying effects are also created with the use of stenciling, a potato masher, and even used dryer sheets. Rita’s imagination reveals that there are endless possibilities for textile art and the mixed media that one can employ.

"Saskatchewan Tiger Lily" - hand painted on silk

“Saskatchewan Tiger Lily” – hand painted on silk

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Rita related to us that she has always wanted to be an artist, loving to draw as a little girl and then also moving into painting. She was influenced by her parents, with her father enjoying drawing and her mother being very artistic and involved with various crafts. Her first interest into the world of fibre arts came when she was at an art exhibit and was fascinated by the textile arts of Martha Cole, who proved to be a huge influence for Rita. That sparked her initial foray into fibre art and she hasn’t looked back, with over ten years now of creating her own works of art. She notes that the feel of the cloth and the many varied forms of art one can do with it explains why she has taken to the textile arts, but also that the mixed media challenges her to grow and think outside the box. Though a self-taught artist, Rita enjoys the camaraderie that going to art retreats brings; sharing ideas and techniques with other artists.

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Rita and her husband love to travel in their motor-home, and it is on these excursions that they both indulge in their pastimes and passions. He scours the landscape with his metal detector searching for buried treasure in the form of coins, while Rita takes her fabric dyeing process on the road with her. Depending on the area that they find themselves in, Rita will also include what she finds in these natural surroundings to incorporate into her fabric patterns, such as using varieties of leaves and plants. So whether at home or on the road, Rita’s love for her natural surroundings and the colours and textures that it brings is always a source of awe and inspiration for her next project.

Learn more about Rita and her art work in our interview with her shown below. Feel free to share on social media and leave a comment below if you like.

The Inspirational Works of Painter Laura Hamilton

The Inspirational Works of Painter Laura Hamilton

I am thrilled when I come across something that makes we ask, “Why?”. Humans are a curious bunch and I’m right up there on the top of the heap. Artists are definitely one group of people that have helped to feed my voracious appetite for curiosity. After 150 interviews I find myself not yet tiring of what seems like the same old questions I ask time and time again because the answers are never the same. When I came across the girls, ladies and women with no face and crazy hair my curiosity was about to boil over, and I immediately had at least half a dozen questions for painter Laura Hamilton.

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Laura started out in her young life as a school teacher, and this was the career path she thought she would be on for all of her working years. Then one day baby Lincoln arrived and the Hamilton’s were now a family of four. This should have been a happy occasion but for Laura she found herself lost in the caverns of postpartum depression following the birth of her second son. Laura explained it was a very difficult state to overcome, but as time passed and with medical help she was able to go back to work after her year on maternity leave. Unfortunately, this would prove to be a bit of a disaster for Laura to the point where she would make herself sick with anxiety and panic attacks. Then, one day there was a tipping point and Laura was driven home from school with a one month leave of absence in tow. During that time she received some words of advice from her mother-in-law that would help to change her life. Laura took the advice and started to nurture herself back to health and, with the help of her husband, she was able to spend time reading, meditating and learning to love herself again. The rest of Laura’s story is full of inspiration and hope.

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The month leave of absence was almost over when Laura decided she was going to paint. She had been watching artist Buzz Siler from Portland, Oregon on You Tube, and was fascinated with his technique. Immediately she went looking for paint and tools to get started; a few cans of household latex paint and a screw driver ought to do it. What happened next for Laura was nothing short of an awakening; an outline of a girl began to take shape right before her eyes. This girl is Lucy and considered by Laura to be the first of her many “daughters”. Laura revealed to us that Lucy was the start of a new beginning for her. At the time, she represented all the things that Laura wasn’t. She was strong, bold and brave, and these characteristics gave Laura the strength and courage to change her life. When we met with Laura in September another school year had already begun, but Mrs. Hamilton was no longer in attendance. As of the end of the 2015/16 school year Laura and her husband decided to take a leap of faith and invest in her art career, and now she paints and paints and paints.

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After our interview Laura took us to her painting studio for a demo, which, if not for all her paintings leaning gracefully against the walls I may have thought this was a place a commercial house painter stored her equipment until the next job. There was a table in the middle of the room with a bad case of paint measles and a closet and shelves with all kinds of bargain bin paint cans from the local hardware store. What a surprise! This was not what I was expecting at all. Of course my curiosity was really starting to get the best of me by this time. Laura’s painting technique involves a canvas which lays flat on the table, a bunch of water, cans of various colours of oil based household paint, big, fat paint brushes, her fingers and a whole lot of intuition and trust. It’s a process that takes some time. Laura starts with an idea which can spark from a memory of her childhood, a photo, wallpaper, or even just a single colour. She sketches out a rough outline of her new daughter, applies water, paint, more water, more paint and keeps coming back to her until her aura shines through, at which point she is done. Laura says she has a starting point but really doesn’t know where the finished piece will actually end up.

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So why the no face and the crazy hair? Laura admits the hair is probably a reflection of her own curly locks but the lack of facial features is more symbolic. She wants people to really connect with the women in her paintings and she feels that by not giving them features it makes it easier for that to happen. She wants them to represent a spirit or a being, not a real person. They are symbols of courage, free-spiritedness, playfulness, purity, bravery, confidence, kindness and a re-connection to nature. Laura and her daughters give the gift of hope and inspiration to all of us.

We invite you to have a listen to Laura as she talks about how her art changed her life. Also, kindly help us spread the word about Laura and her art by sharing this post on social media. And we love comments so feel free to leave a nice one below. Thank-you.

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

Most of us are familiar with the saying the eyes are the windows to the soul, but did you know that this isn’t just a metaphor? There is scientific evidence that indicates a person’s eyes really are a window; to their feelings or intentions. Facial expressions can be forced, such as with a smile, but our eyes reveal all so our natural tendency is to avoid excessive eye contact because, for the most part, it makes us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. The eyes also affirm beauty, peace, happiness, contentment and so many other things that make us want to get to know someone. When we sat down with Kristin MacPherson she revealed to us, not through her eyes, but through her art that it is this physical feature that ignites her curiosity and compels her to want to make people’s faces the subject of many of her paintings and photographs.

Kristin and Lenore

Kristin and Lenore

As with many artists, Kristin grew up in a family of creative people, (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) each accompanied with tons of encouragement for Kristin to express herself creatively. When it was time to choose an education the likely candidate was a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree but the perceived reality was to find something that would land her a job. It turns out that photography was the path she would take, and although she didn’t realize it at the time it has played an important role helping her become the artist she is today.

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When we arrived at Kristin’s home where she lives with her husband, three daughters, two dachshunds and her ’53 Buick named Lenore it was easy to see we were entering the home of an artist. There are often signs An Artist Lives Here by the paintings on the wall, or the sculptures on the mantel, but more often than not the art studio is tucked away in a spare room, garage or basement area where the artist has the option of “To be tidy or not to be tidy? That is the question”. In Kristin’s case, the front room is her art studio, up front and center for all who enter the house to see. It was pretty tidy too! An advantage? A disadvantage? Perhaps. Or maybe to Kristin it doesn’t much matter either way. Paraphrasing, she looked at us and said, “it’s the room in the house we don’t use so it just made sense”.

Equality

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Although Kristin took applied photography in school, and it is in itself a form of art, her first love is painting. When I first looked at Kristin’s work I thought she was a watercolour painter but she actually uses acrylics. Her palette usually consists of only five colours and Kristin likes to keep it as simple as that. When she paints, her focus is on the eyes. That is not to say that the rest of the piece is not important but the eyes need to reveal themselves to her before she is satisfied that it is complete. It really excites her when the unexpected happens; the loose brush strokes and the paint gain a mind of their own, overlapping in shapes and patterns and flaunting randomness in such a way it gives the piece a free-spirited look.

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During our interview Kristin proclaimed that she has never taken a painting class and is solely self taught. She did say that it was photography that played a large role in making her a better painter. She spends a lot of time as a professional getting in other peoples faces so to speak. Those close-up shots have given her the opportunity to study the features of the face in great detail and with willing participants. I think the camera provides a barrier between photographer and subject which gives them each a safe place to look into each others eyes. Kristin gets to have a glimpse of the real person behind those eyes and her subject feels relaxed while this takes place. Photography has also enabled Kristin to see the element of light as she paints. Being able to see light and how it wraps itself around objects helps to bring her subjects to life on the canvas.

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Kristin’s fascination with what makes a person tick gives her the exuberance that is needed to go beyond just taking a picture or painting a piece. She works to bring that person out from behind those eyes, to tell their story, to show what really makes them who they are and not what their exterior projects them to be.

We invite you to watch and listen to Kristin as she shares more with us. We encourage you to help us spread the word about Kristin and her art on social media (for your convenience we have provided the buttons below). One more thing; we love comments so please feel free to leave a nice one below. With much gratitude, Corinne and Gary

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

"Muscowpetung Sage Woman" - acrylic on canvas

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A. Menninger

Our featured interview with multidisciplinary fine artist and retired art teacher Ladd Fogarty of Emerald Park, Saskatchewan reminded me of the above quotes; our discovery of Ladd’s prolific teaching career and what he meant to his students, as well as his life-long passion for the arts and, like Picasso, an appetite for exploring multiple mediums. Although Ladd has been doing his art work for over thirty years now, it hasn’t been until these last eight years that he has truly taken on marketing his work as a professional artist. During the thirty years that he spent teaching students about the arts he fostered not only their creative gifts which led to their own artistic achievements, but he also forged enduring friendships with many of them.

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What is it that makes a great teacher? When we asked Ladd he mentioned not only patience, humour and a diverse skill base, but also the ability to draw out of a person their creative abilities that they never realized was inside of them. One such student was David Benjoe, who was an art student of Ladd’s at age 17 and doubtful of his artistic abilities. Ladd would say to him, “David, please don’t sell yourself short, art is another way to achieve what you enjoy in life”. Then, through Ladd’s urging he agreed to be part of an outreach arts workshop program for the elementary schools in the area, which he loved. This was his first introduction to leading in a classroom setting. He went on to become a teacher himself and is now on the verge of attaining his Masters of fine arts interdisciplinary. David concludes, “I can honestly say that he was the major influence in the path I took after we met way back in the 1990s”.

"Protecting Purity" - birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

“Protecting Purity” – birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

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The diversity of Ladd’s artistic media came about from various avenues and influences. He attributes personal desire in determining whether he feels like painting at the moment or working with his hands on a 3d object, which may involve acrylic paints, clay, wood, glass or soapstone. It depends on what story he is trying to tell; it could come from the potters wheel or the painting easel. As an art teacher he also had to learn about and present a multitude of mediums for his students to experiment with. His early exposure to art included his mother who was an opera singer and musician and still plays the violin to this day (Ladd also played in a dance band for about 12-15 years until losing a finger five years ago). His grandmother was a painter and his grandfather played the piano. His father happened to be a carpenter that became a master wood-turner in his retirement and was a great teacher for Ladd.

"Parallel Worlds" - acrylic on canvas

“Parallel Worlds” – acrylic on canvas

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Within the wood and clay pieces that Ladd creates you will see striking designs of geometry, figures and symbols; the clay pieces adorned with acrylic paints adding a lustrous finish. For wood he will use accoutrements such as acrylic paints, stained glass, soapstone, buffalo bone, porcupine quills, as well as stones such as turquoise, pipestone, magnesite and jet black. With already the richness of the wood itself to catch your eye, be it maple, birch or cherry, the additional colours and design add a beautiful touch. Ladd notes that when he is working with wood or clay he uses more symbolism and has a tendency to explore more abstract concepts.

"On The Way To Puskwakau" - acrylic on canvas

“On The Way To Puskwakau” – acrylic on canvas

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To Ladd his paintings relay the inspiration he gains from his natural surroundings as well as the experiences of the people who are a part of it. Ladd has a deep connection to First Nations people and their culture and his work reflects that. One such piece is “Muscowpetung Sage Woman”; the painting featured at the top. This piece was created as a donation to a charity auction to raise money for shelters for women and children of domestic violence. It is a personal piece that shows a woman and child, his adopted First Nations daughter with her daughter, looking over her shoulder to an old woman picking sage, a symbolic gesture of acknowledging her ancestral roots. It represents part of the healing process for a difficult time that she was going through.

Turquoise on birch

Turquoise on birch

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We finished up our interview with a tour of the family home to video Ladd’s art work on display; the house itself a part of his artistic handiwork. We had the pleasure of getting to know Ladd’s wife Liz and their daughter Kaitlyn as we sat down to a lovely lunch that they prepared. A stroll through the yard and garden (where we gratefully accepted some veggies for the road) capped off a wonderful day with the Fogartys.

Enjoy our interview with Ladd and please share his interview on social media. If you are inclined to leave a nice comment for Ladd please submit it below.

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

"Kayak"

You know the type, a guy that seems to be able to do it all; fix anything, create anything, with the only limitations being that of his own imagination. Meet artist Jeff Morris of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, a man with a vast imagination and seemingly no limitations to his creativity. When we arrived at his studio and gallery a few miles north of town we thought we were interviewing Jeff Morris the artist, but what we found in addition to that was also an inventor and explorer; a Renaissance man of sorts.

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Jeff Morris has always liked to create things, starting off as a youngster with the basics of a hammer, some wood and some ideas. It seemed like a logical choice then that he go into carpentry after high school, giving him the satisfaction of building functional wood structures and earning a living. And although he enjoyed it, he wasn’t able to unleash the creativity that was brewing inside of him, so he decided to transfer his wood construction skills into his artistic side and put the fun back into functional. The result has been not only beautiful and innovative wood pieces, but also Jeff’s expansion of creativity into other mediums.

"Lava Table" - wood construction

“Lava Table” – wood construction

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When we spoke with Jeff about what drives his art he kept coming back to his thirst for learning and discovery. Always experimenting with different techniques and having no shortage of new ideas, his curiosity is endless and is reflected in the variety of media he has his hands in such as concrete, wood, photography, painting and pottery. While he was giving us a tour of his spacious studio and workshop he also pointed out other inventive projects, such as the drum set he made from used propane cylinders; see video HERE, as well as the new musical instrument he made from the inner workings of a piano. If whiskey and slide guitar are more your style then check out the whiskey tumbler and glass slide that Jeff made from a whiskey bottle; see video HERE.

"Raver" - Assiniboine clay

“Raver” – Assiniboine clay

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Jeff admits that his projects are not based on the path of least resistance principle, and he likes it that way. Rather his methods are based more on his quest to satisfy his curiosity and the inherent challenges that come with it. For instance, buying clay for pottery is not too costly, but his discovery of a clay source along the Assiniboine River while he was out kayaking led him to hand dig and haul out a lifetime supply of clay; an enormous physical task. After testing out the initial few hundred pounds of clay with a couple of local potters and then researching the correct combination of additives to make successful pots, he now uses only the Assiniboine clay for all of his pieces.

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

One of the great messages that we took away from our visit with Jeff was that creating art, or any other project, does not have to involve expensive supplies that can stop you before you begin. If a person has a creative urge just waiting to burst from within them, just a little extra work using re-purposed or scrap items or even paints from a building supply store (Jeff’s not-so-secret supply), can get anyone started. In many cases Jeff’s creativity and innovation has lent itself to just providing the materials themselves for the project before the work on the artistic piece has even begun. Although the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” may apply to finding a solution through lack of financial means, for Jeff it means a necessity for trying new, unconventional, or historical methods that stoke his curiosity and that gives him a satisfaction of having taken the road less traveled to discovery. When asked if there were other mediums that he would to like to explore Jeff mentioned glass blowing but that it is quite a pricey endeavour. We don’t doubt that one day, somehow, Jeff will find a way.

Enjoy our interview with Jeff and this glimpse into his artistic life. Feel free to share his story on social media and email, with nice comments submitted below always welcome.

Free-Spirited Art Works of Jan Jenkins

Free-Spirited Art Works of Jan Jenkins

Zendoodle titled Unity in Diversity

When Gary and I first contemplated interviewing artists all across Canada in 2011, we had decided one thing for sure, our travel home was not going to be a tent. Was it to be a truck and trailer, a truck and camper or some kind of van? Marli, our cat, made the decision in the end. A van was the best choice for her needs and really ours as well. But we decided it couldn’t be just any old van. It needed to be unique and attention grabbing. So it came to pass that we all agreed on Arty, our VW Westfalia Vanagon.

A couple of great businesses got their start in a Vanagon; Mountain Equipment Co-op and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Perhaps ArtsQuest will join them one day. In the mean time owning Arty is like having a membership to an exclusive club with benefits, including offers of places to stay by a couple of the artists we intended on interviewing. One of those artists is Jan Jenkins of Dauphin, Manitoba.

Jan Jenkins at the Dauphin Art Group

Jan Jenkins at the Dauphin Art Group

Now, a Westfalia is not the only thing Jan and her husband Brian Erickson and Gary and I have in common. In fact we have a very similar later-in-life story as well. It turns out that Jan and Brian also used to live in Calgary up until eight years ago when suddenly they found themselves buying a house in Dauphin and taking early retirement there. As serendipity would have it, on a visit to see Brian’s family one year, Brian decided he wanted to show Jan the house he grew up in and as they drove past they saw that it was for sale.

Although they were seriously contemplating a move and change of lifestyle, Jan wanted to be sure there was a thriving art community so that she could resume her life long passion of creativity on a full time basis. It turns out Dauphin has the Watson Art Centre which is housed in a beautiful building that was once the old town hall built in 1905. Now it is bursting with artistic life in the visual, literary and performing arts. Dauphin is a town of approximately 8500 people and the Centre is supported and appreciated by the community and visitors alike. Inside the building are restored remnants of the town hall itself; the council chamber’s long wood table and the gorgeous wood banisters and fixtures. There is a stage with heavy, red velvet drapes and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony, and even an old jail cell in the basement (currently being used only for storage). Also in the basement is a large space which is home to the Dauphin Art Group and was the other factor that clinched the decision for Jan and Brian to move. Jan has a home studio but she also loves spending time in her space at the Dauphin Art Group. She gets to be with other artists to share ideas and have that creative connection.

Sgraffito titled Windfall

Sgraffito titled Windfall


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Upon arriving at the little home on River Avenue West we were welcomed by Jan and her pooch Tramp and his pal from next door, Barley. Tramp and Barley, however, were in a dog run which Jan refers to as Guantrampamo. This segregation was a temporary measure just in case the four legged greeters were a little too happy to see us. Brian was away in Brandon for the day so the three of us had decided we would do Jan’s interview first and then later the four of us could relax and socialize.

Zendoodle titled Sea Urchin

Zendoodle titled Sea Urchin


Lino Cut Print titled Gardener of the Forest

Lino Cut Print titled Gardener of the Forest



As I asked Jan my questions I discovered that she and I had a couple of similar character traits. Jan considers herself a jack-of-all-trades and has many interests (so do I). Focusing on specializing on just one doesn’t seem to be Jan’s thing (me too). This could be one of the reasons why Jan likes to work in several different media. She works with pen and ink to create intricate and fascinating patterns in the Zendoodle style. And often she will incorporate poetry within her pieces or a story to accompany a particular piece which adds a thoughtful dimension to them. She also enjoys print making and working in oil pastels with a technique known as Sgraffito in Italy. Sgraffito is such an interesting art form. In its simplest explanation, Jan pencils out her drawing on paper, fills in the colours she wants for her subjects with stiff pastels and then eventually covers the whole piece in a buttery black pastel. Upon doing that she takes tracing paper with her original image on it, lays it over top and then traces over it with a pencil which then lifts just enough of the black off the paper so she can see where her drawing is located underneath. At this point she starts scraping away with a tool at the black pastel to reveal the colour and her original drawing. Some of Jan’s other creative activities include making jewellery, rock painting, tie dying, writing poetry and volunteering several hours a month at the Watson Art Centre. Whew! And if that’s not enough she made a fabulous beef stew for dinner for some weary travelers.

We invite you to watch and listen to Jan’s interview with us and we thank you in advance for helping to spread the word about Jan and her art on social media and email. And we love comments so please feel free to leave one below. Thanks.

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik

As we approached Saskatoon, Saskatchewan little did I know that we were arriving to the place that is known as the “City of Bridges”. Actually, I knew nothing about Saskatoon overall. Gary and I have always just taken Circle Drive that bypassed Saskatoon on our way to northern Saskatchewan for our paddling trips. On this particular trip we were there to meet artists, and one of the side benefits to that is finding out about the place where they live. Saskatoon was established in 1882 as a Temperance colony. Today it is a diverse and vibrant place where people of many different cultures call home. The population is roughly 270,000 and growing at a steady pace on both sides of the South Saskatchewan River. It is the river that made it necessary to span eight bridges within the city. There are new ones being built and old ones being dismantled along with the visual reminder of their history.

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So what do these bridges, vintage doors and daisies have in common? Much more than you would think, starting with Batik watercolour artist Paige Mortensen. When I went looking for artists to interview in Saskatoon, Paige’s work intrigued me immediately. I was familiar with Batik as a wax-resist technique used to die fabric and create stunning patterns as a result, and initially this is what I thought Paige was doing with her artwork. It turns out the idea is similar but the materials used are completely different. Paige uses Ginwashi rice paper instead of fabric, watercolour paints instead of dies, and paraffin wax instead of bees wax or sticky wax. I was really looking forward to finding out more.

©Paige Mortensen

©Paige Mortensen

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Paige’s studio is on the third level of their 4-level split home. There is an extra kitchen which is perfect for helping with the whole process, decent sized windows for natural light and finished and unfinished pieces hanging all around. When we entered Paige’s work space the first thing she showed us was not her art, but rather the stool she sits on to do her work. It used to be her mother’s high chair, and other than the upper part now just a memory, it was lovingly the same. In the corner, carefully embracing some of her art supplies, is an old chest her grandfather had made which remains in it’s original condition. These things were the start of our understanding of what inspires Paige to create the pieces that she does.

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10"June 2016

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10″June 2016

As I get older I find myself becoming more and more nostalgic and reaching out for fond memories of my family and friends and our experiences together. And I wonder about other peoples experiences, even those whose faces I have never seen or whose voices I have never heard. As I listened to Paige talk about her work and in particular the subjects of her work I could see we were connected in this way.

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So what do the bridges in Saskatoon, vintage doors and daisies have in common for Paige? They contain sweet memories of her past and stir up curiosity about a past. As the bridges get older and need to be replaced she begins to ask questions about who built them. Melancholy hangs in the air because she knows that one day they will no longer be visual reminders of Saskatoon’s past. Realizing this, Paige is now on an artistic mission to rebuild these relic bridges as a Batik watercolour so they, and the memories that surround them, can be preserved. The vintage doors hold a similar curiosity for Paige. When she and her husband went to Europe the doors, knockers and knobs became the subject of her fascination, and when she got home the subject of a series of paintings. Who lived behind that door? What were they like? Where did they go? As for the daisies, Paige is actually allergic to flowers but her grandmother always appreciated the single Gerber daisy she used to take when she went to visit. She finds beauty in flowers as a subject and as a memory.

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Check out Paige’s interview as she talks more about the Batik watercolour process and gives a little demo. Also, we would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word about Paige Mortensen and her work through social media and email. We thank you in advance for sharing and commenting below.

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

"Greystokes Cottonwoods"

“Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting and using wild materials for food, medicine, construction, art and craft. Whether it’s a wild botanical like devils club, shed antlers, pine cones or mushrooms, the gathering of found materials provides wildcrafters a means to generate a living direct from nature.” ~Don Elzer~

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

The above quote from Don Elzer therein lies the first clue to the life he leads. It is one of stewardship to the lands he roams, loves and protects, collecting materials for his own use and commerce but like all healthy relationships his connection to the Earth is one of give and take, and then give some more. Through permaculture principles he advocates for, and engages in responsible harvesting practices of plant species; tread lightly, take only what you need, replenish and propagate, then repeat.

"The Prophecy" - full and detail

“The Prophecy” – full and detail

We met up with mixed media artist Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest Wild Tea Plantation thirty minutes east of Vernon along Highway 6 in the Monashee region of British Columbia. We had already been following Don’s initiatives on Facebook for quite awhile now, but when we sat down to chat with him we were amazed by all of the wildcrafting irons that he had in the fire.

"Tree Whisper" and "The Tone"

“Tree Whisper” and “The Tone”

Don’s art work is one extension of his wildcrafting. Found materials such as antlers, birch bark, feathers and naturally harvested clay are just a few items that lend themselves to Don’s sculptures in symbolic, spiritual and storied interpretations. His paintings may be a mix of acrylic paint, pastels and crayons which seems to create an almost 3d effect through the contrast of glossy and matte finishes. They depict memorable scenes, places once been and of stories yet to unfold.

"Monashee Moon #1"

“Monashee Moon #1”

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If wildcrafting is the hub of Don Elzer’s wheel of life, then the many spokes borne from that are not only his art work, but also initiatives such as:

-Teaching Permaculture Design and Wildcrafting Courses at his Wildcraft Forest.
-Offering wild tea blends, herbs and potions at the Wildcraft Forest Apothecaeri.
-Social enterprise through his Watershed Intelligence Network.
– The Shelter Revolution. Tiny House building, sales and workshops with off-the-grid applications.
Author and Publisher

Don may wear many hats but through all of these labours of love lies a common thread: a deep connection, appreciation and relationship to nature.

"Dreams of the New Sacred Land"

“Dreams of the New Sacred Land”

So you see, it matters not whether you are looking to appreciate nature through a sculpture, a painting, a soothing and medicinal tea, or a hands-on practical education in wildcrafting to further your stewardship on Earth, a visit to Don Elzer’s Wildcraft Forest will awaken your senses.

Enjoy our interview with Don Elzer as you peruse his art work! Comments and sharing through social media and email are encouraged and welcome!

Off-piste with Painter Jenny Baillie

Off-piste with Painter Jenny Baillie

"Orange Bear"

There are many reasons why one would want to visit the charming town of Rossland, tucked within the mountainous south central region of British Columbia. For some it may be for the world class skiing at Red Mountain, for others it could be carving the trails of Canada’s mountain biking capital, while for others a visit to the Rossland Beer Company to whet their whistle would be in order. For us, we were drawn here by the bold and vibrant art work of visual artist Jenny Baillie, and a chance to discover the personality behind the paintbrush.

Jenny Baillie beside her "Women of the Klondike - Mae Field"

Jenny Baillie beside her “Women of the Klondike – Mae Field”

It was the lure of skiing in the Canadian Rockies that drew Jenny first to Banff, Alberta from New Zealand back in 1979, and then on to Rossland, B.C. in 1982. It is there she has called home ever since. The many peaks, lakes and vistas she has encountered throughout the B.C. mountains all called out to her creativity, and she notes that it was through the rigours of skiing, hiking and backpacking that Jenny attributes the initial inspiration for her landscape paintings. She says she, “likes to sweat and suffer in the great outdoors” to help fuel her creativity.

"Lake O'Hara 1"

“Lake O’Hara 1”

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Jenny notes that if she were to put a label on her style of painting that it would be something like, “abstract impressionism with some funk.” She typically uses six colours to create her vivid paintings, but Jenny admits that her goal is to simplify even more to three primary colours, plus black and white. Her subject matter is varied, ranging from her landscapes, to bears and bunnys, super heroes, flowers, comic relief, and a series of historical women, from those of the pioneering and mountaineering ilk, to those of the Klondike Gold Rush fame.

"Women of the Klondike - Kate Carmack"

“Women of the Klondike – Kate Carmack”

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Jenny is never afraid to get out of her comfort zone nor is she at a loss for new ideas. Her eclectic subject matter exhibits her need for self expression; wherever her imagination takes her. At the same time she understands the need to satisfy the market, and so she appeals to her audience with her signature landscape pieces. This is much like a skier who will follow the groomed runs because that is what they have always done, but really wanting the thrill of uncharted territory. Jenny confided to us that her creativity is about to go off-piste once again. We look forward to her new discoveries.

To view more of Jenny’s art work please visit her website by clicking here.

Enjoy our interview with Jenny and please help us spread the word about her art work through sharing on social media and email. Comments below are also welcome!