My goal is to depict what is beautiful, and to portray peace, drawing the viewer into the long hours of a summer afternoon, the overwhelming magnitude of the Canadian Rockies, the luxurious depths of a velvet rose, or the quiet watchfulness of everyday farm animals.
My artistic training began at age five, when my older sister completed a house drawing that much improved on my usual style, by approaching the house at an angle rather than just the front. I was fascinated with the simplicity of realism; and saw that with practice, I could depict images on ordinary paper which would jump off the page, or recede into the distance. My early sketches were often awkward, but occasionally pleasantly proportionate; and I decided drawing was like math—I needed to discover the formula. The patterns in nature were common denominators. Light made visual paths that the eye inevitably followed. Shadows intrigued and queried the viewer. Curves were comforting. Repeated lines emphasized each other like increasing echoes.
In adolescence, I had a private drawing tutor whose method was simply to continually ask, “Are you really finished?” She watched me draw, and told stories, and laughed so much that drawing became the highlight of my week, despite the emphasis on patient perfection. In my mid-teens, I began painting without guidance, struggling and frustrated until I thought of examining famous artwork for the brushstrokes. The town library offered treasures of art history; I attempted to memorize every major artist until the impressionists. Vermeer and Rembrandt delighted me with their use of shadows and spaces, and the English landscape paintings were warm and dreamy. I had no use for modern art until I encountered Georgia O’Keefe, and suddenly understood how abstract lines can trigger distinct memories.
As I reached adulthood, however, I lost interest, even as others began asking for my work. I didn’t mind painting for others, but my own art felt endless and pointless. Eventually, I decided to change my approach: instead of calculating the zones of my painting, determining the important objects and details, and completing the painting in a logical manner, I would simply focus on light and colour, and allow my instinctive feel for composition to play out. Details should come second to atmosphere. To quote Jackson Pollock: “It doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on, as long as something has been said.” My process is to ask “what comes next?”—and something always comes to mind.
Modern art is distinguished from older styles as internally birthed rather than externally inspired, but what I appreciate in my surroundings is that which harmonizes with my deepest understanding of what is good and true. In this sense, my art rises from within me, but then finds colour, form and texture in what I see.
I never intended to be a professional artist (I get strange looks whenever I say this), but chronic illness precluded my other plans, so I have been painting and teaching art privately since my late teens. My lack of an arts degree also causes the occasional raised eyebrow, but entails that I approach art with the openness of an amateur. Every painting is a potential disaster, which I still confidently assume will be appreciated by others.
Beauty, however, is not the special territory of artists—it can be understood by anyone. The ingenuity of others is the foundation of custom art, using the artist’s technical skill to depict the inspiration of the non-artistic client. My custom artwork includes antique tractors, stormy nights, beloved pets, and imaginary worlds—things that are meaningful to each client. Custom work is the artist’s opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes, by painting what they love most.
I am artistically indebted to my customers; without them, I would remain within the ideas I personally enjoy most; instead, I have tackled a wide range of subjects, styles, and compositions. The most exciting words to hear are, “So, would you be able to paint…”
And the answer is, “Yes, I believe so; I can certainly try!”