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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Click the thumbnails to see the larger image.

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!

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.

“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.

Meghan Hildebrand’s Passions from Painting to Punk

Meghan Hildebrand’s Passions from Painting to Punk

You Are Left Alone

We were first introduced to Meghan Hildebrand’s work through the social media network. I spotted a painting of her’s someone else had shared and I was intrigued right from the start. It was a painting from her series Rivers and Logs that twigged my curiosity. Meghan lives along the Sunshine Coast of B.C. in Powell River which is historically known for its pulp and paper mill. In its prime this mill was once the largest in the world. The mill still exists but it is a shadow of its former self and now it shares the economy with tourism which stems from experiencing the arts, culture and nature in the area.

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Tinkernackle

Tinkernackle

We arranged to meet Meghan at the Dancing Tree Gallery where she displays some of her work. Meghan’s mother, who was an artist herself, always encouraged Meghan’s interest in art, and so being an artist was always part of her lifelong plan. Meghan is an artistic cartographer of sorts. She creates a series of paintings which she says are best described as story maps. Her paintings are primarily of landscapes depicting an actual place, or they may be more metaphorical depicting an idea of a subject that she wants to explore. Meghan fills her paintings with as many symbols and characters as she can. In many ways her work reminds me of a stylized kind of folk art within the realm of fine art. There are things going on all over the painting and they may be connected to one another, or not. Meghan leaves that for her audience to decide.

Boom Bay

Boom Bay

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Humans are an innately curious species. When our senses are stimulated with something unfamiliar it sparks that sense of wonder. If you look closely at one of Meghan’s paintings you will find yourself becoming lost within it. It draws you in as you follow a twisty road through what may be a cityscape, or you find yourself in the middle of a landscape that reminds you of somewhere you have been or want to go. There are some places that look so fanatastical you wonder what Meghan must have been thinking, so you look to the title for a clue but she gives nothing away there either. She expressed to us that she loves it when someone is left to their own devices to navigate through one of her paintings. That is what a story map does. It gives each person the opportunity to find their own path and discover their own way to the things they want to see within her painting. I think Meghan does an amazing job of this.

Winds and Hazard

Winds and Hazard

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O'Sullivan's Rolling Darkroom

O’Sullivan’s Rolling Darkroom

To see more of Meghan’s work check out her website by clicking here.

Meghan’s other artistic foray started about three years ago when she was invited to try out for an all ladies punk rock band called The Abbie Hoffman Society. She had never performed with a band, but she found herself taking on one of the roles of the five member band and they have been going strong ever since. Meghan says that she surprised herself as to how much she loves performing in front of an audience, especially since it is such a contrast to the singular activity of painting. Her paintings do reveal a free-thinking, non-conventional artist who walks to the beat of her own drum, so to me Meghan seems like an ideal candidate for The Abbie Hoffman Society. To date they have performed in their home town of Powell River, toured parts of British Columbia and released their first CD in 2013.

Have a listen to a track from The Abbie Hoffman Society’s first CD titled Do They Ever.

The Abbie Hoffman Society

The Abbie Hoffman Society

Click on track 1 below to hear Beaver Fever.

To learn more about The Abbie Hoffman Society click here.

Check out Meghan Hildebrand’s interview. We appreciate comments and thank you for helping to spread the word about Meghan through social media and email.

Fine Artist Cindy Revell – From Imagination to Creation

Fine Artist Cindy Revell – From Imagination to Creation

Art For All Seasons

It is safe to assume that a young person stating their intention of one day becoming an artist could trigger the stereotypical response from concerned parents about their child not getting a “real job” and of becoming a “starving artist.” While the fears inherent in these cliches could be true for just about any career, it was fine artist and illustrator Cindy Revell’s parents that knew her life would encompass the arts in some way and encouraged her to pursue it. As a young girl she was always doing art, and although detoured after high school Cindy’s innate creativity led her back to her first love. It was while attending Grant MacEwan Community College (now MacEwan University) to take graphic design that she knew she had found her life’s passion.

Cindy Revell with Spike

Cindy Revell with Spike

As children we are constantly looking at the world around us with wonderment and no limits to what our imaginations can conjure up, unconsciously disregarding any physical or societal restrictions. As we grow we learn to curb our free-flowing thoughts for protection (or more accurately for others’ perception), but we can also lose the childlike qualities that give way to unfettered creativity. Our time spent with Cindy revealed an artist who has never lost that curiosity and enthusiasm; always thinking of the possibilities, the what-ifs and the ideas that expand her creativity as a result. It was this imagination that lent itself well to the whimsical style that Cindy has become renowned for within her successful commercial illustration career over the last seventeen years. This includes the numerous children’s books she collaborated on and furniture pieces adorned with her captivating subjects.

Governor General award nomination for children's book literature

Governor General award nomination for children’s book literature

Click on images to enlarge: (An assortment of book covers, furniture commissions, commercial illustrations)

Cindy’s fearless pursuit of new challenges and stimulation has given her the gift of versatility. Having illustrated for so long using acrylic paints, in 2002 she decided to try her hand at oil painting which also reignited the passion she felt for the old masters. Up until then she had been illustrating for magazines, children’s books, different publishers and products always using acrylics and adhering to the clients’ wishes. Cindy shares with us that one of the best things she’s ever done for herself was to become a freelance illustrator and full time fine artist working from home. She loves working away in solitude, free to let her imagination and mood guide her through her day. She introduced her new oil medium to her whimsical style, and although reminiscent of her illustrations she finds her work more unrestrained, loose and full of vigour. Contrasting her lively whimsical studies, Cindy’s still-life paintings impart the special connection she feels to the simple beauty of inanimate objects, their symbolic place in the natural world and the Zen-like calm felt from the peacefulness of the piece and the light bringing its warmth and depth to it.

Autumn Lingers

Autumn Lingers

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The principal character in a lot of her whimsical paintings is Wild Cat, the poster cat for all things possible in a cat’s world as imagined through Cindy’s mind. Cindy loves cats, and having grown up with these feline friends her entire life she admires their sleekness, wildness and independent being. They are unpredictable and one never knows what is going on in their minds; they don’t give a lot away. Cindy brings those what-ifs to Wild Cat’s personality such as imagining an amicable “conversation” between archenemies cat and bird, or some hidden communication that only they can interpret. Paralleling these ruminations; what if humans thought differently towards other species or towards each other, breaking social constructs? Cindy’s imagination is working on it.

Sojourn in the Garden

Sojourn in the Garden

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Portraiture was never a direction that Cindy had envisioned her art heading towards, but when she became involved with Project Heroes she not only found it to be a new and worthwhile challenge, but also one that she has learned so much from; about herself and others. The project was created to honour the character of the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the Afghanistan war and to relate to us who they were as every day people outside of the military and within it. The stories and photographs compiled from family are not meant to serve as a political statement in favour of or opposition to the war, but rather as an educational display to show the heart and human aspect of these soldiers. The project also encompasses the big picture of war; the serving soldiers and their families, the physically and mentally wounded and their families, the veterans and serving soldiers, and the men and women who lost their lives to suicide. More information about Project Heroes can be found at this link: click here.

Lieutenant Andrew Nuttall

Lieutenant Andrew Nuttall

Click on images to enlarge: (Shown are only a few soldiers from Project Heroes)

Join us with Cindy Revell and her eclectic styles of fine art. Please feel free to leave a comment below, share on social media and email.

Painter Kaaren Soby Follows Her Passion

Painter Kaaren Soby Follows Her Passion

Have you ever had the feeling that you are being followed? You know, footsteps behind you, shadows darting in and out of alleys! No? Well, maybe not so cloak and dagger but while we were wandering around downtown Smithers, B.C. apparently we didn’t either! We were finishing up paying for our deli items when the woman in front of us commented about there being samples on top of the deli counter. We headed out to our van and proceeded a couple of blocks away to the outdoor coffee stand Bugwood Bean to christen our newly purchased pottery travel mugs from Art and Soul Pottery in Telkwa. While I was ordering, the same woman from the deli tapped Corinne on the shoulder and said, “I’m following you!”

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This was our introduction to painter Kaaren Soby, who, after having noticed our van signage wanted to know what ArtsQuest was all about. She showed us some of her work from photos she had, Corinne asked her for an impromptu interview, and soon we were following her to her home 20 minutes outside of town. After traveling from paved road to gravel road to rougher gravel road, Kaaren stopped before her driveway and told us, “I think your van will make it through here okay.” We looked at each other wondering where she was taking us!

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After emerging from the wooded and bumpy “driveway,” we arrived at the remote quarter section of wilderness that Kaaren and her partner Larry have inhabited for 40 years – off grid! Over a two year period they had built a unique log home with a sod roof; their amenities consisting of a well-appointed privy beside the house, clean water hauled up from the lake, ice in a cooler for refrigeration, oil lamps for light, and enough firewood to last a few lifetimes. They have a solar panel that provides power for their computer, printer, radio and inverter, and a year round outdoor bedroom perched on a ridge overlooking the forest and valley to the west.

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Above: Kaaren and Larry’s outdoor bedroom
Below: More of their distinctive log home

Kaaren discovered, through a painting instructor, that she has a penchant and a preference for painting very large canvases. The instructor noticed that her intensity and abundant energy were being constricted by trying to paint on smaller canvases, and she needed to “let loose” with large paint brushes, lots of paint and large canvases that would allow her creative expression to flow freely (she once used a curling broom to paint with!). She also loves to paint flowers, appreciating the gifts that they bring to the senses with their beauty, colours, fragrance and energy. Kaaren refers to flowers as embodied spiritual beings, and mostly likes to represent them as portraits acting on their true purpose.

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From the start of our meeting with Kaaren we quickly became aware of her energetic and enthusiastic nature; a striking persona that undoubtedly helped manifest a life of adventure, impulse and profound reward. Kaaren has always been integrated with nature and growing up in a pioneering environment in High River, Alberta was the start. After having found their back-to-the-land piece of rural property in northern B.C. they decided to spend four years working and living with the Chipewyan people in northern Saskatchewan in order to pay off their land purchase. There, Kaaren learned how to tan caribou and moose hides to make incredible moccasins, mukluks, mitts and snowshoes. Coming back to Smithers it was here that she home schooled their two children and spent many years next to them at the table keeping creatively active by knitting whimsical Happy Hats, a cross between Dr. Seus and a Scandinavian style toque. It is apparent that regardless of her surroundings, Kaaren’s creative affinity does not limit her to any one medium or mode of expression. Today she has come full circle back to painting and finds herself in yet another environment. Every winter she and Larry help out on a coffee farm in Hawaii where they have been able to build a small “tree house” to stay in and an outdoor studio where she mostly paints large, large canvases of beautiful flowers.

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This story now ends where it actually began. Kaaren told us about a meditation she was doing the morning we met; her intent to protect some wildlife that are being threatened by a rancher that recently moved into the area, and she also thought to throw in something about art as well. Low and behold she came across us. How serendipitous!

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Join us with dynamic Kaaren Soby and don’t be shy to leave a comment below and share on social media!

Ranch Life is in the Heart of Painter Pat Gauthier

Ranch Life is in the Heart of Painter Pat Gauthier

Dawson Creek Stallion – done in pastel

Ever wonder how many out of the way, off the beaten path places there are in Canada? I can tell you, from the tiny experience we have had so far, there are plenty. The birth of ArtsQuest has been perfect for me as I have always been a lover of going places that aren’t the “destination” place. I find real people with real lives in such places as is evident with all the amazing artists and non-artists we have met so far. Fort St. James, B.C. is one such place I had never been and if it were not for painter Pat Gauthier answering our call to artists, I might never have had the pleasure of visiting there.

Canada National Historic Site, Fort St. James, B.C.

Canada National Historic Site, Fort St. James, B.C.

Stuart Lake, Fort St. James, B.C.

Stuart Lake, Fort St. James, B.C.

When Pat contacted Gary and I she indicated that we really should take the time to stop in and check out another of Canada’s National Historic Sites, the fort of Fort St. James. She went on to say that Fort St. James has had the longest consecutive settlement of people in British Columbia; 207 years. The fort and the town sit adjacent to the formidable presence of Stuart Lake. Before we even met Pat we could tell she has a passion for her community and sharing with others her appreciation of what a special place it is. The fort was closed when we arrived but a friendly caretaker gentleman said we were welcome to wander around and take some pictures. It was such a perfect day!

Pat in her studio and gallery

Pat in her studio and gallery

Please click on the thumbnail images below to enjoy a larger view.

Pat and her husband Louis live just to the south of Fort St. James on a large working ranch where they invited us to park our van for the night before we were to interview Pat the next day. When we arrived Pat was just heading out to an art council meeting so Louis kindly shared some of his time filling us in about life on the ranch.

Shuswap Lake - done in oil

Shuswap Lake – done in oil



Mount Ida - done in watercolour

Mount Ida – done in watercolour

Pat is originally from the Shuswap area of B.C. but made her way up to Fort St. James when she was just 20. Someone had mentioned to her that they hired females in the sawmills, so she packed up her car and away she went. The area has been her home ever since. Although many of Pat’s hours in the day are dedicated to working on the ranch she often feels it contributes to her passion for art. Being outside in the vast, open expanse of land with their horses, cattle and the wildlife is strongly interconnected with her desire to be creative. Often in the fall, when there is a break with the ranching duties, she and Louis pack up their horses with gear along with Pat’s painting paraphernalia and head for the hills. Climbing to vistas not seen by many people is not an easy task but the inspiration is bountiful.

Crossing Our Borders - mixed media

Crossing Our Borders – mixed media

The subjects and the mediums for Pat’s work are quite diverse but one of the pieces that caught my eye was her work titled Crossing Our Borders. Many of us who live in urban areas don’t really understand or perhaps just don’t think about what kind of impact companies like Enbridge can have on our fellow citizens. The government spends millions of dollars for television ads singing the praises for pipelines and fracking. As we drove north it became more and more evident that people like Pat and Louis have something different to say, unfortunately most of us don’t get to hear the other side of the story. Pat painted her personal protest against Enbridge because the company wants to cross much of the area’s waterways and part of their land with the pipelines, leaving the landowners with all of the environmental risk and devaluation of their land. She is not the only one. According to Pat, there is an entire art show dedicated to this particular subject. Who knows how this story will end? In the mean time Pat continues to paint whether for protest or for pleasure which gives all of us a glimpse into this part of Canada. To see more of Pat’s work please visit her website by clicking here.

Please join us as Pat shares with us more about her life on the ranch and her passion for painting. We appreciate comments and helping us spread the word about amazing artists in Canada on social media! Thank you.

Oliver Ray – It’s About People

Oliver Ray – It’s About People

Oliver and Christie Ray moved from the province of British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, a lush agricultural landscape with it’s rich red soil and pastoral beauty. The rolling hills, woods and beautiful sandy beaches was their dream destination to raise their two adorable children, Caitlin and Dylan. Their plan was not for the faint of heart though! Oliver and Christie ambitiously purchased and subsequently renovated a 100 year old church to be their home, studio and office, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that they had no experience in construction.

Oliver and Christie Ray with Caitlin and Dylan

Occasionally ones eyes will catch sight of something that truly makes them stop and take notice. It is something so out of the ordinary that it seems to stand on its own in its dissimilarity from anything else. That was what I felt when I first saw a painting by Oliver Ray! My eyes were drawn to a style of painting that even Oliver wasn’t sure how to describe. Impressionism? Abstraction? Expressionism? Oliver says that there may not be an “ism” to describe what he paints but he can tell us that he was influenced by west coast aboriginal art and the colour blocking techniques that they utilize.

Barflies

Oliver’s subject matter is borne from catching sight, not of something, but of someone in a certain context that makes him stop and take notice. Unlike Oliver’s paintings though, these people are not out of the ordinary, rather they are everyday people in everyday situations where he might be capturing a thought, mood, special moment or emotion within them, leaving one to wonder, “What are they thinking?” or “Who are they waiting for?” There is certainly no mistaking the clarity of the context; the knowing glance, the emotional embrace, the joy of the dance, the feeling of satisfaction…or melancholy, emanating from Oliver’s subjects.

The Dancers

Painting people in different situations. Before we met Oliver we wondered what type of person he was and why this was a prevailing subject matter. We then learned that he had run for office and had also spent time in the military. We also learned of his concern for parents having to spend a lot of time away from home in far off provinces just to earn a living to support their families. After meeting Oliver and Christie, we can see that they genuinely take an interest in people, and Oliver’s paintings are an expression of those that he sees around him, touching his heart in some way or another.

Old Friends

Click on the small images below to make them big!

Join us with Oliver as he gives us some insight into his world of painting!

Jamie-Lee Cormier – Painting in Her Corner of the World

Jamie-Lee Cormier – Painting in Her Corner of the World

Corner Brook, Newfoundland is located on the west side of the island and is the first larger center we came upon after embarking off the ferry in Port Aux Basques. It is nestled among a rocky landscape right at the edge of the water. It has a breathtaking view, an extremely helpful tourist information center, all the amenities a person would need and a young painter by the name of Jamie-Lee Cormier.

Jamie-Lee in her gallery in downtown Corner Brook.

Jamie-Lee graduated with a degree in fine arts from Memorial University in Corner Brook in 2007. I remember when I was younger and fresh out of school my imagination about the future seemed boundless and fruitful and this was the impression I got upon meeting Jamie-Lee. She has a youthful exuberance that so many of us lose or ignore because we think it isn’t “appropriate” as we get older. It is refreshing to meet people like her.

Mixed Media Composition

After graduating from school there wasn’t a place for Jamie-Lee to show her work. The art school turned out an artist but left no place for her to go. She didn’t let that stop her. She went into business for herself, opened her own gallery in the downtown corridor by the name of JL Gallery, and invited other local artists as well. Jamie-Lee has always wanted to be an artist since she was a child and she has held a steadfast commitment to it ever since. Consequently, with a supportive family and lots of encouragement, she has worked hard and it has paid off. Her gallery has been contributing to Corner Brook’s economy for almost 5 years.

Jamie-Lee works primarily in mixed media but lately has been stretching her wings and working more on realistic paintings with oils. Although her art career is just getting started she has had commissions and requests from the people in her community for her mixed media art as well as her oil paintings. Most of her work incorporates some aspect of nature taking on a more abstract interpretation of it or sometimes a realistic impression.

Iceberg in St. Anthony, NL

Gary and I have interviewed many veteran artists and some emerging as well and found with life experience there is usually an evolution, and sometimes the art becomes a message or a story for a personal philosophy. After talking to Jamie-Lee, I didn’t get the impression that there is some kind of deeper meaning when she paints; she just loves to do it and that is all there needs to be. Her work is alive and full of energy, just like her, and as time goes by, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Jamie-Lee Cormier and her art.

Please join us with Jamie-Lee as she talks about her passion. Comments are always appreciated. Thanks.

Is It Real or Is It Guy-Anne Massicotte’s Painting?

Is It Real or Is It Guy-Anne Massicotte’s Painting?

Callas and Roses in a Carnival Vase, Finalist for 2011/2012 Art Renewal Center Salon

Our visit to Quebec was one of my favorites, not only because the province is drenched in rich culture, history and beauty but also for the down to earth and wonderfully gracious people we met. Everywhere we went we came across helpful people who could see our grade twelve french was a little rusty. In my case a lot rusty. Gary was definately better at it than I was. It probably has something to do with his European heritage. Probably our most overused phrase was, “Je ne parle pas tres bien francais”. I was a bit disappointed because I couldn’t practise the whole phrase. Usually I wasn’t fast enough and the person I was addressing would know just exactly what I was trying to say and switch to english before I had a chance to finish.

Because of our inability to carry on a conversation in french, I decided our smartest move would be to utilize CouchSurfing for all our stops through Quebec. This is how we met Francesca. She was a wonderful host and we had a lot in common with her. I had asked our CouchSurfing hosts prior to our arrival if they knew of any artists that we could interview. Francesca answered our call and lead us to Guy-Anne Massicotte, a contemporary realist painter in Sherbrooke.

Guy-Anne Massicotte

We arrived a bit late to Guy-Anne’s home as we got lost but luckily we were able to muddle our way through asking and receiving directions. She invited us in and immediately insisted we stay for lunch after the interview even though she was getting ready to go on a weekend trip with her two boys. Guy-Anne has been painting for many years. At first, becoming an artist hadn’t occured to her as she was studying science in school. She ended up taking an art class and immediately knew she wasn’t going back to her other studies. At the time, she enrolled in a one year art program in Sherbrooke and was going to continue her studies at Bishop University but she didn’t want to take all the art history courses. She just wanted to paint. And paint she did! She spent 5 to 7 years doing self study; reading art magazines and books and learning the techniques of her favorite masters.

Guy-Anne has perfected the realism of still life subjects in her oil paintings. When I first looked at her lobster painting my sense was that I was looking at a photograph. However, even a photograph can not capture Guy-Anne’s ability to cause you to look twice. It is quite magical how she can take a flat surface and make you think you could reach out and pick up a rose or a vegetable from the table. Guy-Anne says the secret to taking the “ism” out of realism is in the preparation of her canvass. She uses a preparation substance called Gesso. Gesso is used to eliminate a rough surface such as that of an unprepared canvass. This gives her the ability to control the texture with the paint which gives the wonderful illusion of being three dimensional. Guy-Anne is in no hurry to complete her paintings and the 4 – 5 days of preparing the canvas; applying Gesso, waiting for it to dry and sanding in between each application sets her apart from many artists. For her, although the preparation takes time, it makes the actual painting easier to do and a lot more fun.

All of Guy-Anne’s hard work and dedication has enabled her to achieve recognition at the international level. For the 2011-2012 year she was a finalist for her painting Callas et Roses sur Vase Carnival for the Art Renewal Center Salon. This competition garners 2100 entries and the finalists represent the top 24% of all works submitted from around the world. Her work was also selected to be on the cover of the Febuary-March 2012 issue of International Artist Magazine. And most recently, she was asked to be a member of The Group of Twelve. This group is made up of some of the finest realist artists in Canada today.

Guy-Anne’s Friend’s Portrait Done in Charcoal

Although this recognition is for her still life paintings, Guy-Anne told us she is now up for another challenge. She loves the human face. Her focus these days is to capture the real emotion in a portrait of someone. After spending a bit of time with Guy-Anne, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be able to rise up to this challenge and meet what ever goal she has set for herself. She is an inspiring woman indeed!