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

“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.

Art Photographer Judy Wood: From Reality To Reimagining

Art Photographer Judy Wood: From Reality To Reimagining

I love looking at clouds in the sky. The prairie skyline is ideal as a giant blue canvas for displaying big ones, white ones, fluffy ones, dark ones and menacing ones. When I had the chance I would look up and gaze at them for a few minutes to give my eyes a rest from the blue canvas of the computer screen as Gary piloted Arty down the highway toward Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cloud formations have always fascinated me and without fail my imagination always found a dog, a flower or a face floating effortlessly in the sky until they either melted away into thin air or transformed into something else for my eyes to see. This interaction between me and the clouds is an intimate one; other people may see something completely different or nothing at all. I see some forms of art in this way too.

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When we arrived at art photographer Judy Wood’s house we were invited in to a home where art is created but also where it lives. Her house is filled with pieces that she has collected from many of her peers. It was lovely to look at the variety hanging on the walls and displayed around her living room; all different shapes, sizes, subject matters and media to be enjoyed not only by Judy herself, but also by fleeting visitors like us. She quipped that the walls were shrinking and space for hanging art was now at a premium. It always feels so good standing in a room filled with creativity.

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Judy and her husband had an extra floor added to their house several years ago complete with lots of big windows, sky lights and plenty of floor space. This is Judy’s creative sanctuary and she uses every square inch of it. She has a few different stations set up for mixed media work, her art photography and encaustic pieces she works on when winter sets in. And, it was obvious by all the finished art pieces hanging on display that Judy makes good use of her studio.

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After graduating with a fine arts degree it was stained glass that captured her attention at the time. Today, exploring the world through the lens of a camera and then telling a different story with the help of technology is what she loves to do now. At the time, trying something new was both exciting and challenging. Judy was always interested in photography but hadn’t really pursued it until her husband bought her a digital SLR camera. Her new creative passion came with a steep learning curve, including teaching herself how to operate her camera and finding her way around Photoshop.

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Judy’s photography doesn’t really look like a photo once she is finished with it. She is always excited to spend time in nature taking pictures of things like ravens and crows, horses, trees and iconic prairie buildings like grain elevators and tired, old farm structures. As a potter would refer to clay or a painter to paint, these images are the raw materials for the art that will emerge later. At the end of it all it is really difficult to discern what part is the actual photograph. Like the clouds in the sky, Judy’s artwork allows the viewer to have a one-on-one personal experience with it. We all get to see and feel something different about her pieces. They are interesting to look at and they give my imagination the opportunity to do just that, imagine whatever I want.

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Judy lives and creates in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She shares her life with her husband and their rescued Boxer Rony. Be sure to watch her interview with us and help us spread the word about Judy and her artwork through social media and email. Also, we love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment for Judy as well. Thank you.

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.

Paul Bailey – Photography with a Twist

Paul Bailey – Photography with a Twist

Life is full of surprises! For instance, meeting up with my sixth grade elementary school teacher Paul Bailey after 37 years had to be one of them! We both had changed a bit from those days, when we had shoulder length hair, wore ’70’s era clothing, Paul with a moustache and me just dreaming of one! We met up with Paul at his home on Denman Island, a tranquil location just a short ferry ride from Vancouver Island. It is a destination that can prompt one to say, I could live here!, and certainly the 1000 plus residents that do live here might have said the same thing upon their first arrival….and stayed! Our visit here brought back fond memories from my childhood when we explored Denman, Hornby and Tree Islands; camping with my friend or cycling across the islands during a weekend school camp-out.

From the "Abstracts" series (above and below)

From the “Abstracts” series


Paul spent 4 1/2 years at my old school and then ventured out into the world of photo journalism over the next twenty years. From there he went back to teaching; designing, establishing and then heading the career program in professional photography at North Island College, as well as teaching photography in the college’s Fine Arts Department; positions that he still holds today. Paul notes that he thoroughly enjoyed his two decades working for the magazines and book publishers, but says when it comes to creating your own agenda, both from a time and creativity perspective, he is now free to follow his own path of photographic expression.

From the "Venice" series

From the “Venice” series


Paul’s thirty plus years in photography has taken him from the days of film cameras to the present day of digital media. Paul admits that when digital photography first came out he was intimidated by it, but eventually he embraced it and now incorporates both the traditional film experience and the digital realm within his personal projects and his teachings at North Island College. Paul has traveled down various avenues of creativity within his medium and points out that he is quite excited about the world of abstractionism. He enjoys the feeling of freedom from not being bound by representational expectations; every viewer is an equal participant and afforded their own interpretation of what they are looking at.

From the "Shapeshifting" series

From the “Shapeshifting” series


A look through Paul’s website at Paul Bailey Photography will take you on a journey through cultural, historical and political imagery, abstract macrophotography, life and scenes abroad, as well as expression of cultural dances through his Shapeshifting series. My first glimpse at one of Paul’s Shapeshifting subjects in his studio gave me pause; my mind eventually sifting through the twirling and swirling motion to discern what it was, or rather who it was, that I was looking at. One of those moments of intrigue…then AHA!

Enjoy our interview below with Paul Bailey and please feel free to leave a comment! (And don’t forget the social media buttons!)

From the "Cuba" series

From the “Cuba” series


From the "Corfu" series

From the “Corfu” series


Robert Moeller – Capturing Nature in Photography and Glass

Robert Moeller – Capturing Nature in Photography and Glass

It’s pitch black outside and there’s not a sound to be heard; the only light penetrating the darkness are the billions of stars trillions of miles away on this cool, duvet-worthy night! Our resting place for this evening is at glass-work and macro-photography artist Robert Moeller’s home, an idyllic setting along the banks of the Gatineau River in Wakefield, Quebec. As a fellow Westy owner, Rob understands the more stark living conditions we may subject ourselves to, and so his gracious invitation for a place to park our van, shower and fill up on water was eagerly accepted.

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Wakefield is a picturesque town that exudes charm and an atmosphere of relaxation in its natural setting along the Gatineau River. The forested shoreline futilely leans and reaches for the opposite side; the river only giving up it’s span to the brilliantly red, covered foot bridge which emerges as a focal point of the town. Within the beauty of it’s surroundings, it is also an intensely community-minded place, where residents can feel connected not only to nature, but to one another. With inspiration at your doorstep and at every turn, it is no wonder that this area is home to many artists, artisans and crafts people. These are the reasons that Robert chose to make Wakefield his home, and as he conveys images of paddling his canoe to the store to pick up groceries, or swimming in the river on a hot day, I can feel the tug of my own heart strings to this halcyon homestead.

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Rob has been working with glass for thirty two years, but in the last seven his focus has shifted from working with stained glass to clear glass infused with colour from various metals, alloys and minerals such as copper, brass and mica. He has also incorporated plants such as ferns and horsetail. The effect is stunning, with the copper changing colour from brilliant blues to ruby reds depending on the number of firings in his kiln. The plants add the organic appeal with nature’s detail captured within the textured glass. Rob notes that he likes to explore his own backyard as well as traveling Westfalia style to other parts of North America to discover fresh ideas. This in part sparked the evolution from more traditional stained glass with its visual appeal to creating textures within the glass itself. Either way, nature is the inspiration behind Rob’s glorious glass work.

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Rob’s foray into macro-photography as an art form evolved from his lifelong interest in observing the world of small things and examining their textures. His shift from selling traditional photographs to his current montage style was a format inspired by an artist at an Ottawa art show. She was combining her paintings, mosaics and all her mixed media work within a montage design of same size squares. This was an “aha!” moment for Rob and the aperture on his lens has been wide open ever since! He combines various square photos of the same size and category into a larger rectangle or square. Ironically, Rob’s intent is for the viewer to be caught off guard by taking in the larger piece first from a distance, and then allow each person’s inquisitiveness to draw them in closer to find a surprise in each individual square. Rob’s goal for a viewers first impression is that the eyes are not drawn to any one picture, but that the individual photos create the overall effect. Once again nature is the prime target for Rob’s lens. The macro images not only allow him to capture nature at its smallest but also allows us to feel its texture with our eyes. What I enjoy about Rob’s work is that he is unfettered about delving into new arenas of creativity. He admits that he can get bored doing repetitive work and so he is always looking for new ways to direct his artistic channels. This can only bode well for his admirers and we certainly look forward to seeing more of Rob’s work!

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Up Close With Photographer Julian Hall

Up Close With Photographer Julian Hall

One could walk by an old farm implement a thousand times and never give it a second look, or for that matter just about any “mundane” object that is regarded as just “being there” and not offering any hope of interaction or thought in our everyday life. Julian Hall’s photography has enabled those objects to come alive and demand attention, showing the beauty and intrigue that they possess through both a macroscopic lens and thought provoking composition in a context that makes you think, “I’ve never looked at it that way before.” The character lines, textures and colours of an old tractor, the grain of a piece of wood, or even the contrast between nature and man-made objects are just a few of Julian’s photographic endeavours.

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Julian’s subject matter is certainly influenced by his surroundings, and his work has surged with new purpose and excitement since arriving at Kind Organics, an organic farm where he works as a manager helping to bring to the farmer’s markets yummy greens, herbs, edible flowers and salad blends that we had a chance to try. We caught up with Julian at the farm, just west of Newmarket, Ontario, where he gave us a tour of this dynamic operation as well as meeting the current WWOOFers that were working on the farm upon our arrival. We also met the owners Tamas, Sandra and their son Sasha, who out of the blue, generously gave us a loonie towards the care for our cat Marli. A true cat lover after our own hearts!

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Julian became interested in photography at a very young age. His father was a photographer, and so from within the dark room where images would appear “magically” from the trays of developer chemicals, a lifelong passion was borne.

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Julian’s composition is one of tactile imagery, creating photographs that bear the texture and colour more reminiscent of an oil painting. Composed through the lens of his camera, and certainly evidenced by his work, Julian is seeing the world around him in parts, or focused areas, rather than always as a whole. This characteristic is akin, in the visual sense, to “stopping to smell the roses,” gaining an appreciation for the minute details and not allowing peripheral vision to gloss over his surroundings.

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Julian’s photos tell a story about his subject matter, and can invoke feelings of nostalgia and wonder such as with the old farm implements, or even pique curiousity such as with the macroscopic images. For me personally, Julian’s photography is a metaphor for slowing down, appreciating the small, simpler things in life, and not allowing the fast paced world to blur our vision of what really is important: something, someone or somewhere that is right there in front of us. Thanks Julian!

Ellen McArthur — Photographer

Ellen McArthur — Photographer

Ellen McArthur is a southern Alberta photographer from Lethbridge. She first picked up a camera in 1970 and has never looked back. She considers herself a photo purist and has enjoyed the challenge of maintaining excellent photography without the addition of technological enhancements. “Not that there is anything wrong with that,” she says, “it’s just not for me.”

Her love for photography comes from her childlike appreciation for seeing something in the viewfinder for the first time. She describes it like entering her own private space and finding little treasures to capture in her photographs. Ellen’s subject preference is any opportunity to embrace mother nature in all her splendour. She has been known to sneak a photo on occasion of people and capture the human element with unsuspecting innocence. She loves what she does and it comes through in her photographs.