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.

Coloured Pencil Artist Terry Mellway Delights in the Details

Coloured Pencil Artist Terry Mellway Delights in the Details

"Threesome"

“I would never believe that “Threesome” wasn’t a photograph! Ditto the others. I’m enriched by discovering your art.” This comment from an admirer is just one of many that one will find describing the art work of coloured pencil artist Terry Mellway, and it pretty much sums up the marvel of her detailed drawings. Having got a glimpse of Terry’s pieces online we were excited to meet with her and find out how she can create such realistic drawings using coloured pencils. We caught up with Terry in Winnipeg, Manitoba just as she and her husband Chris were in the middle of moving to Sandy Hook. There were boxes everywhere, but Terry left her studio intact to accommodate us for her interview.

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Terry’s life has always been exposed to creativity of one kind or another; her mother’s own artistic endeavours setting the example for her at a young age. And despite her art work being sidelined for many years while raising a large family, that early encouragement spawned a lifetime passion for creating art. It was then, about fifteen years ago, at her husband’s urging to resume that passion that she reignited the flame of creativity and hasn’t looked back. Terry admits that back then at the start of her career it was hard to imagine herself as a full-time artist, let alone considering that people would buy her work. For us, as we look through the portfolio of work she has done and learn of the many hours she has put in to developing her skills (as little as 4 hours per day!), it would be difficult to imagine otherwise.

"Arrival"

“Arrival”

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Perusing Terry’s website gallery we found that the realism of her pieces evokes more than just appreciation for her skill, they can also ignite the senses and bring out reactions, emotions or curiosity. Many of her pieces will make you smile, such as the beaming face of her granddaughter Grace, the comical parrots of “Birds of a Feather” in their splendorous colours, or her work “Found My Marbles” which brought me back to when I was a child playing marbles with the other kids; our holes in the ground permanent fixtures of the neighbourhood landscape. Staring into the eyes of her tiger piece “Sheba” may give you goose bumps, and a glance at one of her flowers may recall the memory of its fragrance.

"Sheba"

“Sheba”

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A wonderful story that Terry related to us was when she went to Jamaica for a visit and photographed a man who became the subject for her W. Cliff Packer Memorial Award winning piece, “Jamaican.” This local man that carved and painted coconuts for sale at a roadside stand in Ocho Rios, Jamaica exuded such character that Terry asked if she could photograph him. He agreed, and so back home she then chronicled the 150 hours of process from photograph to the coloured pencil drawing you see below. The submission of her piece to Colored Pencil magazine also led to a four page article in the May 2014 issue. Terry sent the man in Jamaica a copy of the magazine who was very thrilled and who happily exclaimed in the very unmistakable Jamaican accent, “Now I’m faymoos”.

"Jamaican"

“Jamaican”

Enjoy our interview with Terry and we encourage you to share her work on social media and email. If you have a nice comment for Terry and her art work you can submit it below.

Potter Valerie Metcalfe Turns the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Potter Valerie Metcalfe Turns the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

If you haven’t figured it out by now then I will just come right out and say it. I love art! I love everything about it. It constantly amazes me how human beings can take something we may perceive as having little importance and turn it into a wonder of my world. It makes me laugh, smile, ponder, sigh… and be in a constant state of awe. It is because of these feelings and emotions that studies have shown that art (not unlike nature), when we have it in our lives can actually boost our immune systems and make us healthier. But don’t take my word for it, check with Google. Luckily for us there is an endless supply of very talented, emerging and veteran artists right here in Canada for Gary and I to interview and get an immune booster at the same time. It is no wonder then that neither of us have been sick since ArtsQuest began. One such veteran artist we had the pleasure of visiting was potter Valerie Metcalfe of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Once a week or so you can find Valerie down on Corydon Avenue at The Stoneware Gallery and The Stoneware Studio where she may be firing some of her work, teaching some students or helping out in the gallery. This isn’t just any gallery. It has been in existence for 38 years in its current form and is one of the longest operating co-operative’s in Canada. And Valerie, only 4 years out of university with a fine arts degree, became one of the studio members who purchased the business from the original owner and turned it into a pottery paradise for both makers and appreciators of pots. She has been there ever since. This opportunity gave Valerie something that most people only dream of; to do something she loves for her entire working career.

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It is because of people like Valerie and what their art does for me that I can easily sing the praises for why you should ditch the Corelle and start collecting pieces of art to drink, eat and cook from. When you choose to drink from a vessel that was made of clay, a gift from the earth, by an artist such as Valerie you will have a different experience. It is not hard to go and spend a few bucks on something that will hold your coffee, but when you spend your hard earned dollars on handmade pottery your decision to purchase becomes more mindful. As it happens, there is an honest to goodness connection with something that is so beautiful you can’t take your eyes or your hands off of it. I can tell you, it is the difference between just getting the job done and bliss. Sound kooky? Give it a try.

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When I first spotted Valerie’s work it was really a matter of happenstance. I was on Instagram and was admiring the work of another artist who, unfortunately for ArtsQuest, lives in the UK. I had noticed that Valerie had commented on some of Woodbug1’s work and so I went to see what she was up to. What I found were some pieces that took my breath away and I had to know more. Luckily for ArtsQuest, Valerie Metcalfe is an artist living in Winnipeg which happened to be one of our artist interview tour destinations.

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Valerie has years of experience in the art of making fine pottery. She is highly skilled in technique and form, which her work and her students can attest to. Her clay of choice is porcelain because it is more pure than any of the other clay bodies which gives it its signature white colour. It has a delicate and graceful appearance once fired and finished, but at the same time it is one of the strongest materials used for making pots. Valerie loves the pure and rich colours that come from glazing and painting porcelain and she finds the result to be very similar to what one would find in nature. While we were there she demonstrated for us how she throws a large plate or platter. This is some tricky business, let me tell you. There are so many stages involved with getting it right and this is all before it makes it into the kiln. Valerie makes the process look like a well choreographed ballet. My immune system was fully boosted by this time. The forms, the colours, the decorations, the embellishments and every other little detail that goes into each beautiful piece Valerie makes comes from within her, and is her contribution to a beautiful world.

We invite you to watch Valerie’s video interview and encourage you to help spread the word about her and her work through social media and email. Thank you! PS: We love comments.

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.