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.

Frank Townsley Graces Us With Nature’s Palette

Frank Townsley Graces Us With Nature’s  Palette

Abandoned - watercolour

It was happenstance that watercolour painter and photographer Frank Townsley spotted our van Arty’s bold ArtsQuest advertising decals, and decided to email us. Though living in Coquitlam, he was using space at a retirement centre in North Vancouver just across the street from us as one of the locales to teach one of his many workshops. And so it was there, after one of his teaching sessions that we sat down to get to know Frank and learn more about what makes his paintbrush flick and his camera click.

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In addition to his painting and photography Frank is also an avid traveler and naturalist, which are both an integral part of his life and art work. A look through Frank’s images on his website will bring you to locations from across Canada, the U.S., Mexico and South America. I found that the scenes he had photographed or painted were sometimes awe-inspiring and at other times evoked curiosity, giving me the urge to travel and to visit these spectacular places. As a naturalist Frank’s interests lie not just in capturing photographic images of nature’s wonders and putting some to canvas, but also in learning about the characteristics and history of the flora and fauna that he discovers.

Alpine Tapestry - watercolour

Alpine Tapestry – watercolour

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Having explored and photographed much of his home province of B.C., and having documented interesting facts along the way, Frank decided that putting together an educational coffee table book of B.C. would be a worthwhile endeavour and a wonderful way to capture the essence of this beautiful province. The title of his book is going to be British Columbia – Graced By Nature’s Palette, and he is planning to publish it this fall. Prefacing each chapter will be one of his B.C. inspired watercolour paintings representative of the region. Below you will see the photographic image that will adorn the front cover of his book.

Caught In The Light - Book Cover Photograph

Caught In The Light – Book Cover Photograph

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Teaching workshops on watercolour painting and photography has come a long way for Frank from the days when he was first giving tips on the finer points of photography to his family and friends. He is now busier than ever, and notes that if he is not teaching his workshops around the Vancouver area then he may be off leading a group on an Alaskan cruise painting excursion (his 36th trip is coming up!). Although into his retirement years, Frank loves to teach, and notes how gratifying it is to see his students learn, progress and gain confidence in their abilities. They leave his course with a sense of pride and accomplishment but also with a set of “tools” to further their creativity. Some of these tools may be techniques such as scratching, splattering or using salt (see video interview for Frank’s explanation), as well as learning the skills needed to fix mistakes on paintings once previously thought doomed and having to start over. To the benefit of those that can’t get to Frank’s workshops he has two instructional DVD’s that can be acquired by contacting him through his websites.

Below you will find an example of splattering (to create grains of sand or even stars or snowflakes), scratching (leaving white such as the trees shown here or the spray of a wave), and using salt (to create a softer, blended look with more water or finer detail with less):

To see more of Frank’s work check out his websites by clicking (here) and (here).

Coming up next is our interview with Frank Townsley! We welcome comments and sharing on social media and email.

Corinne Cowan Paints the Gardens of Space

Corinne Cowan Paints the Gardens of Space

As a little girl it was a gift of crayons and a colouring book from her grandmother that started artist Corinne Cowan on her path to acrylic and watercolour painting. The thrill of opening that gift is still with her today, and as she pans the room with her arm showing all of her supplies she jokingly points out, “Some people like shoes; I like paint.” Corinne says that she has always connected with painting and finds it to be gratifying and therapeutic, with her two favourite subjects being flowers and outer space. Spending virtually all day in her garden during the summer, she becomes intimately acquainted with the intricacies of the flowers, be it the petal or the pistil, the stamen or the stigma. She is fascinated by the beauty and mystery of their shapes, colour and function, and aims to paint their images based on the emotion she felt and perception of how they looked to her when first glimpsed.

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Corinne’s gardens of inspiration. Click on images to enlarge:

Corinne’s introduction to painting the cosmos was ignited when she first saw an image of a nebula. It was the Rosette Nebula which looked very much like a flower, and likewise instilled in her those feelings of wonder and curiosity. She was drawn to the similar patterns between the mysteries of her garden and that of exploring images of the nebulae, galaxies, meteors and moons. That fascination of the universe and its endless wonders led Corinne to becoming one of four members from Canada belonging to the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). It is an organization that brings together artists from twenty countries to participate, encourage and collaborate within the space art community.

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It takes no more than a walk through her nurtured garden to inspire Corinne for her next floral painting. On the other hand, accessing the final frontier to paint a birthing planet or morphing star could be a little more challenging. Corinne’s enthusiastic niece suggested that since she heard they were taking reservations for a one-way trip to Mars that her auntie should go. Smiling, Corinne opted instead for a more down-to-earth method to gather inspiration for her space paintings. Leaving it to accomplished space pioneer and astronaut Chris Hadfield to uncover and report on the space action, it was a constant attraction for Corinne and her niece to listen to and watch him on the computer. Closer to home Corinne reads extensively about space, receives guidance from the hundreds of images brought back to earth from the Hubble Telescope, and draws on her own curiosity and imagination to fuel the fire for her stellar subjects.

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Corinne’s love of art is in the mystery that keeps her curious, searching and expressing her emotions on canvas; it is witnessing the change of a flower through one season, or the change of a star forming over a twelve year period; it is the community of artists that she appreciates being a part of with the honest critique and praise that helps her grow; it is sharing this passion with an eager participant such as a weekend spent painting with her niece; it is the appreciation from people that purchase her paintings that know they have a little piece of Corinne in every one; and perhaps the most important of all for Corinne, simply stated is, “It’s an enjoyable thing to do.”

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Painter Sandy Troudt’s Colourful Classroom

Painter Sandy Troudt’s Colourful Classroom

Worth More Than Gold

Life is a journey of discovery and learning, and the mediums for personal and professional exploration are endless. For some that inquisitive fervour may take them into the natural or social sciences, for others it could be a trip to the moon and back, while still others may devote their life to training their bodies and minds in the martial arts. For artist Sandy Troudt that constant curiosity has been a life-long journey into the artistic realm of her paintings, print making and mixed media. For as long as she can remember Sandy has always wanted to paint, and it was a wonderful experience in seventh grade that affirmed her need to pursue it. As a career educator she shared that passion with her elementary students and other teachers alike through curriculum and workshops. Sandy recognizes that her own learning has evolved from mentoring by many notable artists as well as an arts community which provides another integral part to the growth experience and personal artistic journey. Unable to seriously devote her time to art while dedicating thirty-two years to teaching, it was upon retirement that Sandy now felt it was her time to pursue her passion in earnest, and that thirst for learning and her pleasure for the paint brush has never waned.

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Patchwork

Patchwork

Sandy and her husband Dennis live in the house they built in a picturesque rural area outside of Fort St. John. It is a place devoid of traffic noise and city lights, where the only onlookers might be a deer, a moose, or any one of nature’s wild inhabitants indigenous to the Peace region. It was this beauty and proximity to the wilderness that attracted them to this area, and Sandy draws endless inspiration from this natural environment. It is also an area rich in history from a pioneering way of life, and Sandy marvels at the challenges that the early settlers faced. The remnants of those bygone days still cling to the present whether as a rusting old truck, farm implement or weathered and sagging barn. They all provide engaging subject matter for Sandy’s creativity.

Diva Winter

Diva Winter

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With her appetite for discovery, Sandy has always pursued a variety of art media. She believes that the learning one gains from working with one medium can easily transfer to using another. She loves change and is always trying to find a better way of doing things. Sandy will ask herself, “What if I did this or tried that?” and admits that it is sometimes difficult to stay on track with her enquiring mind eager to get started on new ideas. With one painting finished and a lesson or two learned she is off on another adventure of problem solving and the joy of discovery begins once again.

Patty

Patty

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Sandy’s paintings will grab your attention; the bold colours and contrasts inviting you in for a closer look. The scene is appealing and recognizable yet gives in to the imagination and loses the strict boundaries of realism. The effect is eye-catching, and is meant to evoke emotion rather than just recognition. Sandy notes that colour relationships are very important Capturing the essence and liveliness of the scene that she felt when first witnessing it is her goal and what she hopes to portray to others. Sandy will paint from a photograph but the similarity ends there. She notes, “I do not want anything I paint to look just like the photograph. I want to liven things up a bit…a photo reference is only the beginning…so I go a bit crazy sometimes…I can’t help it!” Chatting with Sandy her enthusiasm is palpable, and the joie de vivre she exhibits lives on through her art work.

Olé

Olé

For Sandy the joy of being an artist is the fun of experimenting, the discovery of new techniques, colour variations that really work together, and the thrill of change. Adhering to the guidelines of colour theory, composition and balance is still important, but allowing uninhibited creative license to amuse and amaze herself is essential to following her passion. To enjoy more of Sandy’s art work (click here) to access her website.

Enjoy our interview with Sandy and we welcome you to comment below and share on social media and through email.

Painter Blair Thorson – “The Map Guy”

Painter Blair Thorson – “The Map Guy”

If you were to look at a painting from watercolour painter Blair Thorson, the first thing that you would notice is that he is all over the map…literally! Blair’s unique paintings utilize a “canvas” made from original, mostly topographical maps upon which he paints relevant images indigenous to the location of the map being used. His art is a collaboration between the left and right brain; the technically and mathematically defined lines of the maps conceding to allow the free-flowing randomness of an arbitrary image or scene. Allow me to introduce Blair Thorson, the artist known as “the map guy.”

"The Map Guy" Blair Thorson

“The Map Guy” Blair Thorson

Blair’s love of maps was no accident, and the irony of how his painting niche with maps came to be was relayed to us as Blair describes with humour his early life debates regarding profession and passion:
“In grades 7,8, and 9 we had to choose an elective via a parent permission slip from either music, art or French, and I wanted to choose art so I checked it off. My father worked for Water Survey of Canada and wanted me to join the civil service like him so he scribbled out art and checked off French instead. Consequently, two years in a row he picked French and two years in a row I purposely failed it! The third year in grade 9 he conceded and let me choose art, although pointedly saying that if I wanted art so bad that I had better be darned good at it. He didn’t want me to suffer the fate of the cliche starving artist.”
Blair went on to win the high school art awards for grade 9 and 12 and has been doing art in one form or another ever since. He also went on to work for Water Survey of Canada as a hydrometric surveyor for 35 years, and through his work he developed a love and fascination for maps. Blair’s passion for art combined with his father’s influence gave him the creative niche he has today, giving both of them the happy ending they desired.

Betalamea Lake moose with tracks

Betalamea Lake moose with tracks

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The first time that Blair’s idea for his map painting initiative occurred was after a halibut fishing excursion with friends in Skagway, Alaska. As a gesture of thanks he decided to paint them a picture in watercolour of their boat. He also found a map of the area they were in which would be framed alongside the boat. Once he set the two on the light table and saw them overlayed, then the light bulb in his head went on as the idea to paint the boat on the map itself was born. His friend was thrilled, and to this day says that when he looks at it he either sees the map, or his boat, but never both at the same time.

Igloolik igloo builders

Igloolik igloo builders

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Blair notes that “every map has a story and the images that go with it.” The subject matter for his art work is one of memories, whether from places and situations he has personally seen, or commissioned works from other people. The map provides a familiar visual reference of the area and the painted images bring that memory to life. Many of those memories occurred during his previous career where he was able to photograph his wild surroundings and the rural way of life. Ironically, many years later those images became the subjects for his map paintings. For some of his animal depictions Blair will embed the life size paw or hoof prints of his subject in the painting. It has a an exhilarating effect, making the presence of that animal more vivid. With his human subjects, Blair now strives to incorporate action; depicting people doing daily activities be it paddling a kayak, building an igloo or native dancing and singing.

Art can be a very solitary activity but at the same welcomes the public eye. As personable as we found Blair to be, he confesses that he is introverted by nature and would rather just be doing his art work but not the promotion side. Our time spent with Blair and his wife Linda revealed her to be his secret weapon; an enthusiastic supporter and promoter of him and his art. They make a wonderful team!

Canol Road - Yellow Truck

Canol Road – Yellow Truck

Enjoy our interview with Blair as you get to know the man behind the maps! We welcome Comments below and sharing on social media.

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Our destination for today was the Gitanmaax Reserve in Hazelton, B.C. where we were meeting with Gitxsan First Nations multi-medium artist Arlene Ness. Driving into this scenic area we were struck by the imposing mountains and lush forests with their breathtaking, resplendent autumn colours! It was easy to avert my eyes occasionally to glance up at them, if only for a second. Suddenly, flashing lights in our rear view mirror suggested we were now getting a police escort by the friendly RCMP of this quaint village; we didn’t even know they were aware of our arrival! As I snapped out of it I realized that I had missed a school sign during one of those brief sight-seeing moments, and the police officer’s intention was not one of fanfare. Luckily he gave me a warning and sent us on our way. Without further delay, but well within the posted speed limit, we were once again on our way to Arlene’s place to get to know this diversified and prolific fine artist.

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene says that she has been creating art in various mediums ever since she was a child. From following her mother’s and sisters’ examples, to loving high school art classes, to seeking expertise and education from renowned teachers, to undeniably her own drive and initiative, Arlene has never shied away from pursuing art forms that intrigued her. Life inspires Arlene, and depending on what peaks her interest be it her mood, the seasons, her family or nature, she may indulge her creativity in carving masks, stained glass, jewellery, paintings and drawings. She has even undertaken the enormous task of carving totem poles under the tutelage of master carver Earl Muldon. How does one person manage to spread her creative energy around to all of these disciplines and excel at them, on top of raising four children and teaching First Nations fine art at the community college? From what I observed of Arlene she has this zen-like calm about her and knows how to set boundaries and balance her life so all aspects work in harmony. With her art, she doesn’t try to force her creativity in any one direction, but rather she takes guidance from her environment, embraces how she feels and lets it come to her. She is the proverbial water flowing around the rocks.

Hummingbird Dreams

Hummingbird Dreams

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The beauty of Arlene’s fine art transcends all cultural boundaries. Her style reflects the traditional Northwest Coast Native Art form lines which she maintains strict adherence to when working on art forms of the crests and symbols of other clans. When working on her own family’s crest and symbols she allows herself more freedom to include her own contemporary designs and interpretations. She is of the Giskaast clan; the traditions, stories and ancestral knowledge being very important to her, and it is her desire to pass down that knowledge to future generations. Her art work is an expression of herself, her culture and of the love she has for her natural surroundings and all its inhabitants. Seeing one of Arlene’s beautifully carved masks, for instance, invokes curiosity about the meaning behind it, and one does not have to be of Gitxsan ancestry to appreciate the story it tells or marvel at the craftsmanship. Though the oral history of each clan (adaawx) that is shared with succeeding generations is of primary cultural importance to the clan itself, the art that Arlene creates is the physical heirloom of her ancestry but is there for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.

Learn more about Arlene and her art as Corinne chats with her. Feel free to comment below and share on social media.

The story of Copperhaired Woman in "The Return" above can be found on Arlene's website

“The Return”


The story of Copperhaired Woman in “The Return” can be found on Arlene’s website

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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.

Mixed Media Artist Evelyn M

Mixed Media Artist Evelyn M

Our first impression of mixed media artist Evelyn M happened two weeks before we had even met her! We had sent out a call to artists for interviews to the Campbell River Arts Council; they had put it in their newsletter and Evelyn had responded to us on April 8th. On April 9th she had posted a very thoughtful and detailed account of our journey and her upcoming interview with us in her Local Home Spot.com Blog. We were quite impressed by her take-charge attitude and could see that she is a proactive contributor in the art world and likes to make things happen. It is no wonder then that in addition to her fine art endeavours Evelyn also contributes to multiple blogs as well as working with her husband Bruce in their interior design and renovation business, Design House.

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As we arrived at Evelyn`s home we were greeted outside by Evelyn and Bruce and the exuberant canine greeters Xena and Dax, their Golden Retrievers. Entering the house we were also greeted by the mouth-watering smells of fresh homemade cinnamon buns. Yummm! Evelyn said that when we had mentioned on Facebook the wonderful homemade bread and muffins we received from Terry Phillips, she thought that to keep in the spirit of things some of Bruce`s to-die-for cinnamon buns were in order. Corinne and I emphatically agreed! Could this be a pattern? We’re thinking that we could be on to yet another perk to the myriad of benefits we have realized in this joyous adventure; and grateful for every one of them!

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Evelyn started off as an artist painting in watercolour and acrylic but in time yearned for another level of creativity and individuality within her art. From a trip to Mexico in the mid ’80s she was inspired to create a unique, raised sketch technique that she uses in her paintings and it has literally given her art-work another dimension. (Watch her video interview to better glimpse this distinct perspective)

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Unlike some artists, Evelyn’s artistic process is a solitary one; preferring to be alone within her creative moments. She also uses whichever venue around her house that will deliver her artistic needs; be it using the dining room table for her sketches, seeking artistic direction within her “muse” room with all her stuff, or finishing her painting from behind a locked door in the bathroom with the right counter height, lighting and sink close at hand.

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Evelyn notes that there is a collaboration of ideas and inspirations between her art-work and her home interior design business; sometimes the new home project with it’s colours and layout inspires her art, and other times it’s her art that inspires a new feature in the home. Evelyn says, “I consider interior design a three dimensional installation of art; the room is just a large art piece that we live inside.” So from her earliest years drawing as a young girl, to her adult (and still young) years creating dream homes for other people, Evelyn’s lifelong passion for creativity has created the perfect marriage between her essential need for personal expression and a business that can reap success from that.

Welcome to Evelyn M’s interview! Please feel free to comment below and share with social media!

Colours Run Deep in Donna Bonin’s Paintings

Colours Run Deep in Donna Bonin’s Paintings

Sometimes things have a way of working out. We were in Stirling, Ontario at the fairground parking lot about to have dinner when a parade of vehicles started showing up for a soccer match, including a guy named Bill with his two daughters in their 1978 VW Bus. Of course, having commonality right off the bat can easily open the Vanagon door for conversation which led Bill to call his friend Jack, a sculptor in Belleville. Gary talked to Jack briefly and the next thing we knew we had an artist to interview. The day before I had e-mailed a lady just outside of Stirling about an interview but we hadn’t heard from her yet, so we were off to Belleville.

When we arrived Jack was nowhere to be found but in the meantime Donna Bonin had e-mailed back and so it was meant to be that we were to go back toward Stirling to interview Donna in Oak Lake. She has one of two year round residences situated on the lake. Her’s is a charming century old country home. This is where she lives, works and plays. I use the word “work” loosely as Donna never gave us the impression that her art resembled any kind of mundane work in the 9 to 5 sense. As a matter of fact, the day we were to arrive she was to be captain of the boat for some waterskiing fun in the afternoon.

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Donna invited us to sit in one of her many Back-In-Time Gallery rooms where we got to know some things about her and her incredible watercolour paintings. Donna has been painting for most of her life but watercolour has been a recent journey that began in 1998. Around this time her physical health changed and this prompted her to try something different, and so began the watercolour chapter of her life. One of the first things Gary and I noticed in Donna’s paintings was the intensity of colour. Not being familiar with watercolour, I always assumed this medium was characteristically muted and subtle. Donna shared with us that often the brand of paint can be a factor but more than anything it is the time she takes putting layer upon layer of paint to her canvass. Sometimes she will let an incomplete painting calmly sit on its own as she looks at it periodically with fresh eyes. The painting tells her what it needs or doesn’t need when the time is right. She says, if the way you want to change or add something to the painting doesn’t significantly enhance it than just leave it alone. It can take up to several months for Donna to decide when her painting is complete.

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Donna’s subject matter is incredibly varied as well. She has traveled all around the world and has been inspired to paint many different things. She loves nature and animals and has painted a range of things from the landscape in her own back yard to buildings in Europe and settings in the high Arctic. She says there is nothing she wouldn’t try as each painting brings with it a collection of new ideas and creativity. She even enjoys her own version of abstract which she calls fantasy. The paintings in this category remain partially representative of something that has caught Donna’s imagination. She might paint it from a different angle or in a different plane from what our eyes register as the comfortable orientation.

We concluded our interview with a self-guided tour of the rest of Donna’s gallery. Our observation was that she is an accomplished painter in the eyes of her peers, her students, her buyers and people, like us, seeing her work for the very first time.

We welcome you to leave a comment for Donna.

Janice McBrien: Vibrancy Grows in the Garden and on the Canvas

Janice McBrien: Vibrancy Grows in the Garden and on the Canvas

Our second interview in Hartney, Manitoba was actually just outside Hartney at a beautiful little acreage with some wonderful family history. After our overnight stay at the local campground we set out the next morning to go find Janice McBrien and her husband Bill. They live on a farm that was once homesteaded by Janice’s father. He built the original cinder block house they now call home. Although Janice and Bill are both retired, the land they love keeps them working hard but is also a simultaneous source of inspiration.

Janice McBrien

Upon the usual greetings, Janice invited us in to their home, kindly offered us coffee and a chance to get to know a little bit about her and Bill and their life together. They shared with us stories of their ten years of life together in the Northwest Territories. They once owned a gallery and framing store there which occupied much of their time, but all the while falling in love with the landscape, flora and fauna. Bill gave us a word of advice; if we ever find ourselves living there make sure we are equipped with a parka and a bug suit. Sounds like worthy advice to me!

These days Janice and Bill enjoy what they call “picking”. They go to garage sales and pick up all kinds of treasures which Bill sells on E-Bay. His favourite find is vintage cameras. Janice loves her garden and spends a significant amount of her summer there. She plants seeds that she saved from the summer before to grow both annual flowers and vegetables. Fall brings with it the harvest of sixty tomato plants and a whole lot of canning.

Landscape from the Northwest Territories


When I asked Janice how she got started painting she explained to me that many years ago her son was taking a painting class and she was so thrilled with what he had done that she really wanted to give it a try. This ignited a passion for painting that has carried on to this day. Many artists identify their interests through whatever medium they choose to use. Janice loves colour and the flowers in her garden are the inspiration for her paintings. Growing up as a little girl, her family always had beautiful blooms filling the gardens and the vases. Janice takes her delicate and vibrant subjects and creates wonderful watercolour paintings in their honour. She has done oil and acrylic but she loves the challenge watercolour presents to her. As she says, there is no messing around that can be done. It is what it is and you either commit or you start over.

Click on the images below to view a larger aspect.

Watch the video interview below of Janice McBrien as she talks about her creative passion and we invite you to leave a comment for Janice as well.