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.


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.


Click the thumbnails to see the larger image.

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


Click the thumbnails to see the larger image.

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.


Click the thumbnails to see the larger image.

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!

Oliver Ray – It’s About People

Oliver Ray – It’s About People

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

Oliver and Christie Ray with Caitlin and Dylan

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


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

The Dancers

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

Old Friends

Click on the small images below to make them big!

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

Virginia McCoy Paints Stories of the Road Once Traveled

Virginia McCoy Paints Stories of the Road Once Traveled

Ever heard the expression “living in the moment”? Not to be confused with “living for the moment”. It is a simple phrase but very potent. It is the reason I can write about someone whom I met briefly a few weeks ago. I remember her face, her smile and the words she shared with me during and after her interview. She also reminded me of how living in the moment is how we connect with the world around us. So few of us spend time this way and unknowingly sabotage ourselves of some of the finest moments we could be experiencing in our life.

Photo Credit: Lindsey Vladyka

Her name is Virginia McCoy. She is a painter, an explorer and a time traveler. She lives in the moment of her own present and lives in the moment of other people’s pasts. Virginia walks many paths both spiritually and with the soles of her feet. She loves to walk on the road less traveled and the one that no longer is. Her prolific curiosity keeps her feet moving and her mind wondering who and what once lived in the moment in this space. When I asked her what she was looking for when she went walking she said it could be anything, but usually she is drawn toward an opening in the trees or between hills or rocks. Through nature’s looking glass she goes and finds herself traveling back in time. There are clues that let her know she is there; the ground beneath her is hard and the birch trees are queued up like fans waiting in line for much desired Rolling Stones tickets. This is a road from the past. It always leads her to somewhere. Does it lead her to a moment in her present or a moment in someone else’s past?

I can connect with Virginia in several ways and I hope when I look at her I am looking at myself 20 years from now. There are many so called luxuries in life and most of them are superficial. Virginia gives herself the gift of thinking deeply about the moments that come her way, she holds them within her and then when the time is right she shares them with the world in her paintings. Each brush stroke and colour choice is chosen from the moments she has collected in her life. Her paintings are an abstract representation of a very real experience, either of her own or of someone elses whose life she has pieced together from walking the road they once walked. It is an expression of her senses and what they tell her is happening or has happened.

Click on the images below to view a larger perspective.

In today’s society most people don’t have the time to think deeply about what is happening in their present moment let alone pondering someone else’s past. Virginia and her husband Frank have a rich life and volumes of moments to show for it. It comes with choosing to live simply and mindfully. Virginia’s paintings are a reflection of what it means to live this way; getting reacquainted with what really matters.

Please join us as Virginia McCoy shares more about herself and her art.

Painter Robert Naish

Painter Robert Naish

In a world full of plastics, gadgets, widgets and what nots that ultimately wind up in the landfill, painter and stencil artist Rob Naish has utilized many of these two dimensional shapes into themes for his urban inspired creations, either the piece dictating the idea or it being a contributing element. The original purpose of the found item is no longer relevant; rather the shape and how it can lend itself to the theme of the painting is all that matters. Viewing his paintings you may see throughout them puzzle pieces, numbers, letters, plumbing components, electronic gadgetry, trestle patterns, both geometric and anonymous shapes and many other pieces of “junk” that Rob has superimposed onto his canvas.

The fascinating aspect of this medium is in the mystery behind the stencils that he is using and how they will influence the final outcome of his piece. Seeing the individual objects and being told where he will put them still can’t allow the imagination to fully put it all together and know what the whole visual impact will be upon completion. I can imagine the excitement and curiosity for Rob as the painting transforms with the colours and shapes and seeing his vision of the idea emerging, step by step, evolving by his suggestions of pieces and placement.

Data City

Come join us below in our interview with Rob to get a glimpse of his unique stencil painting style. We encourage you to leave a comment.