Painter Geoff Phillips and His Rural Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

Rita St. Amant’s Art Is To Dye For

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

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

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

"Big Muddy Valley" - needle felting

“Big Muddy Valley” – needle felting

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

"Saskatchewan Tiger Lily" - hand painted on silk

“Saskatchewan Tiger Lily” – hand painted on silk

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

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

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

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

Kristin MacPherson: Through the Eyes of the Artist

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

Kristin and Lenore

Kristin and Lenore

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

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

Equality

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

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

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

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

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

"Muscowpetung Sage Woman" - acrylic on canvas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Parallel Worlds" - acrylic on canvas

“Parallel Worlds” – acrylic on canvas

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

"On The Way To Puskwakau" - acrylic on canvas

“On The Way To Puskwakau” – acrylic on canvas

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

Turquoise on birch

Turquoise on birch

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

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

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

"Kayak"

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

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

"Lava Table" - wood construction

“Lava Table” – wood construction

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

"Raver" - Assiniboine clay

“Raver” – Assiniboine clay

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

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

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

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

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

Batik Watercolour Artist Paige Mortensen Irons Out The Past

©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik

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

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

©Paige Mortensen

©Paige Mortensen

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

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10"June 2016

Watercolour on Ginwashi Paper 20 x 10″June 2016

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

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

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

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

"Greystokes Cottonwoods"

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

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

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

"The Prophecy" - full and detail

“The Prophecy” – full and detail

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

"Tree Whisper" and "The Tone"

“Tree Whisper” and “The Tone”

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

"Monashee Moon #1"

“Monashee Moon #1”

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

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

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

"Dreams of the New Sacred Land"

“Dreams of the New Sacred Land”

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

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

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.

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 Phyllis Bergeron Finds Her Colourful Calling

Painter Phyllis Bergeron Finds Her Colourful Calling

Home of the Sign Post Forest, our arrival in Watson Lake coincided with acrylic painter Phyllis Bergeron and her husband’s plans to take off in their motor-home to Saskatchewan for a wedding. Along the way they would be dropping off seven puppies in Edmonton as part of the animal rescue program. Busy with her preparations, she initially thought we were there as art dealers and buyers, and was surprised when we asked if she was ready to start the interview. Her Smart car was already stored inside her studio/gallery, filling most of the floor space and her paintings occupying the walls all around. Unfazed, and with a quick wit and sense of humour, Phyllis easily went with the flow and we carried on as if the car had always been part of the decor.

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Phyllis has been painting for the last seven of the thirty-eight years she has lived in the Yukon and has done so without any formal training. Originally picking up a paint brush while in Mexico, she initially used Mexican cement paint to get a feel for it and to see if painting was for her. With a Mexican influence, her painting style is colourful and lively, much like her own personality as you will discover watching her video interview. Phyllis quips, “I paint in acrylics mainly because since the change of life I don’t have as much patience to wait for that paint to dry.” Originally painting flowers, she has deviated from this subject matter to focus more on animals and people and the stories that they tell.

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Phyllis not only gains inspiration from her Mexican subjects but also from the denizens of her home territory in the Yukon. With an abundance of wildlife to photograph, she loves to capture the essence of them in vivid colour depicting their social behaviours or just a pose in time. With the mosquitoes and black flies most likely larger and more abundant in the Yukon than around the Saskatchewan farm where she grew up, Phyllis prefers to paint from a picture as opposed to en plein air; not wishing to share her paintings, or her flesh, with the bloodthirsty beasties. An obvious lover of animals, Phyllis brought out one of the fuzzy puppies for a quick visit and snuggle before they were tucked away in the motor-home for their trip; a fitting end to our interview.

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Please join us for Phyllis’s video interview and feel free to Comment below and Share on social media: