Although I have always had an interest in art, and drew a lot when I was young, I didn’t begin to paint and draw seriously until about 15 years ago. I have to credit my uncle George Bates, who was a professional artist, with encouraging me over many years, with conversations about art, painting, and being an painter. One particular thing he told me was that a person might never become famous or a professional artist, but could learn to draw and paint and become proficient enough to enjoy working at it. He was planting seeds for my future.
‘Summer Preserved’, Oil on canvas, 22 x 28 inches
Through these conversations, I learned the importance of light, and to observe how light interacts with objects and the environment. I am attracted to the way light moves over, through, and behind objects both manmade and in nature. Glassware, metal, leaves, flowers, fruits and water are what I enjoy painting. My collection of family glass and silver, various old bottles, shells, leaves and such, flowers from my garden and everyday objects I come across, provide a source of my favourite things.
‘Water Lily, Boffins’, Oil on canvas, 16 x 16 inches
The process of observing how the light illuminates and creates shapes of different colours and intensities and then translating those colours and shapes onto the canvas or paper brings me the greatest sense of quiet and peacefulness that I enjoy so much. The magic happens when those colours and shapes suddenly become the object or scene that I am trying to express. With time I have come to the place my uncle said was possible to achieve, enjoyment and contentment in painting and drawing.
What excites me most when I am painting is colour. I love how colours work together to create a mood or a feeling. I love working with black gesso and will start a painting by drawing in white on the black. I developed my style of painting when experimenting with different mediums and combining them with gilding.
I wanted to change the underlying texture to create an interesting surface. I like when one of my paintings reminds me of a wood block print or a piece of tapestry.
‘Spring at Butchart Gardens’, Mixed media
My mother used to love birds and in the last few years I have developed a fascination for birds as well. There are so many different varieties of birds and each has a distinct personality. I have focused my subject matter on birds because I feel that they provide some additional interest, personality or humour in my paintings.
‘Lemons at Sechelt’, Mixed Media
Once in awhile a cat or a frog or fish will turn up in one of my paintings. I choose my subject matter by what is interesting to me or is something that I would like to explore with gilding. I have always loved to paint still lifes and find that adding birds to a still life changes the perspective.
I enjoy the process of layering in each painting and the time that it takes to plan the drawing, mediums, gilding and adding colour. I am always surprised at the end when the painting reveals itself, which is the biggest payoff and reward.
Val in her studio
I have never been a painter of local landscapes. While houses and buildings, trees and skies are recurring subjects, they are figments of my imagination, realistic-enough looking, but wonky and whimsical. I hope that my artwork uplifts the spirits, is a source of comfort and tranquility, and reinvigorates a sense of the sacred.
‘Playful Planet’, 10.5 inches square, pen-and-ink, pencil, acrylic
For many years I focused on mandalas, a wonderful vehicle for colour and detail. Several years ago I returned to an earlier love: pen-and-ink, this time in the meditative Zentangle® style using structured patterns. Currently, my work is moving towards more mixed media.
People sometimes comment on one of the witty titles. I think titles are important and I hope never to call a piece “Blue Square #14”. Usually a title pops to mind quite early in the process, which is fine if that’s a direction I want to go!
‘Oakenfall’ 8 x 5 inches, pen-and-ink and pencil on eco-dyed paper
Colours, patterns, visual textures and designs thrill me. I love how a line can change from chubby to hairline and back again. Prairie sunsets, fireworks, and night skies full of stars leave me speechless. I am enchanted by small things and details, and fascinated by how the very large and the very small are so very similar. I love translucence and coloured glass and light in water and sparkly things. Perhaps I would have been a good magpie.
“Painting with Paper”
Collage is defined as an artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface. People have been making collages (scrapbooks, photo albums, Valentine cards) since the inventions of paper, but collage has come into its own as an art form in the twentieth century thanks to such artists as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
My choice of material is mainly magazine paper. Two other artists using this medium whose work that I admire are Derek Gores and Vik Muniz.
The title “Painting with Paper” came about as a result of people mistaking the collages for paintings.
It’s not hard to guess Marilyn Weiss’s favourite colour. Just check out her lipstick, her boots, the decor in her home, her collection of paints with names like “Luminous Rose” and “Quinacridone Crimson.” Red shows up in pretty much all of Marilyn’s art works, whether it’s the under-painting of a boreal forest scene, the sky above a Nutana alley, or one of her well-known poppy paintings.
‘Off Broadway Alley’, Acrylic 8 x 16 inches
And speaking of poppies, you might not be surprised to learn that they can be found not only in her paintings, but also in her garden . . . and even on her bed linen.
‘My Garden Poppies’, Oil 16 x 24 inches
Marilyn takes regular sketching trips to northern Saskatchewan and other locations, especially in the fall and spring, her favourite times of the year. The sketches she makes on site serve as a foundation for larger works completed in her studio. In addition to being a founding member of Artists’ Workshop, Marilyn is the best dressed, frequently coordinating her outfits with her paintings (something the rest of us only achieve by getting paint on ourselves).
“How do you decide what to paint?” That question fascinates me. I paint ‘intuitively,’ meaning that when I begin a work, I don’t have a set idea of what I am going to produce; I start painting and see what happens, making choices as the work develops. (I used to say, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, I just begin to paint and trust it will work out somehow,” but I think “painting intuitively” sounds better!)
This first painting is an example of what I’ve ended up with using this process. I certainly didn’t have an image of this in my mind when I began to paint . . . so where did it come from? It looks a bit to me like an aerial view of land masses, oceans and clouds, but others might see something completely different. My best guess is that everything I’ve ever taken in visually is stored somewhere in my brain and when I make art, bits and pieces come out, mixed together in a new form.
‘Map of the Heart’, 24 x 36 inches, Acrylic on TerraSkin
Then last summer, I was introduced to photographs of thin sections of rocks, as seen through a polarized-light microscope. I was astounded by the variety of colours, shapes, and textures and immediately thought, “These look like abstract art!” So I decided to try going back to the way I used to paint, except instead of working from a photo of a landscape, I took my inspiration from these images of rocks. Doing so has introduced some new shapes and colours into my work, but the process of working from a reference photo rather than simply my imagination feels quite strange—I can almost sense different parts of my brain firing!
‘The Secret Lives of Rocks 1’, 18 x 24 inches, Acrylic on TerraSkin
Kathryn in her studio