What led me to my career as an artist:
As a very young girl, I can remember spending countless hours engrossed in colouring and drawing. Horses had a special place in our lives, since my father raised and showed Belgian horses as a hobby. Creativity exists on both sides of the family, though my parents were raised during an era when little time was available for drawing.
The nurturance given by teachers in Barrie, Ontario was a significant reason for my personal development. They recognized and encouraged me to believe in my artistic abilities. Though my grade 13 art teacher tried to persuade me to attend the Ontario College of Art, strong societal suggestions of poverty in the arts led me instead to study home economics at the University of Guelph.
Art has always been a continuous thread woven through my life. I continued to draw while pursuing my studies at Guelph and to a greater extent through my science training at Brock University. My commitment deepened while working for agriculture Canada and later during a rich career as a teacher in Lincoln County (St. Catharines area). Though I loved teaching , I always knew that each of my loves—family, students, and art—required a lot of time and dedication.
The answer came when my husband Wayne was promoted and moved to Guelph with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Guelph did not need teachers that year, giving my art career time to blossom. A few decades later, I am doing what I feel I was born to do. Few of us are lucky enough to find a dream, then have the chance to follow it. Not once, through all the years did my husband—friend and helper—suggest that I should abandon my love of painting. Instead, he supported and assisted me at every turn.
Historically, throughout my forty year career, I have been a landscape painter. This fact is shocking to those who know only my flowers. 1973 marked the beginning of a nineteen-year, annual pilgrimage for fall landscape painting in the Combermere - Barry's Bay Area. The Canadian tapestry of maple, spruce, and pine became the subjects of my work and were regularly exhibited in juried and judged shows throughout the Niagara Peninsula.
Then one summer—perhaps 25 years ago—while in search of change, I picked up my watercolours from university days and returned to my childhood images of horses. Horses yielded to a brief flirtation with wildlife painting, but I soon tired of brown and yearned for colour. I was instantly absorbed by the colour and form of flowers! My clients often say, "You must love flowers." In truth, what I love is the joy of colour and form. The landscape is painted with flowers that so richly contrast with the textured greens of the land.
While my favourite mediums are oil, acrylic, and watercolour, each scene or subject speaks to me in a way that suggest the use of one medium more than another. I prefer oil or acrylic for large works with a powerful statement or great perspective. The delicate qualities of petals and the fine detail of blossoms are more suited to watercolour. The lyrical qualities of "wet in wet" technique in watercolour are fascinating for the bloomy qualities of background foliage and exciting for cloud formations. My floral works could be characterized as realism and as such, they take a great deal of time and control to complete.
Life's path has molded my vision of subjects. My time spent in agriculture and my university training in science asks that I see a flower for its beautiful composite parts. But more than that, just as one child differs from another, so does one iris bloom sit differently, cock its head just so, or turn a petal flirtatiously to reveal its intricate internal structures. My attention to detail, however, does not restrict my interest in pattern. This is perhaps the reason that many of my paintings focus on the beauty of the flower itself, the innate relationship of one bloom to another, and the fascinating positive and negative spaces that they create. I continue to paint landscape and floral landscape, though more recently landscapes have preoccupied a greater amount of my time.
For many years I focused most of my work on watercolour painting, but over the last 10 years acrylic has become my medium of choice. Acrylic affords a deep strength to properly portray the landscape—oil does as well, but I am unfortunately allergic to all the solvents that I have tried. The power and ever changing atmosphere of the land encourage me to state their depths. I have found that acrylic enables me to state those depths and large scenes with definition and without glass as a barrier to viewing. Throughout the galleries, acrylic paintings of both flowers and landscapes are abundant.
I am often asked, "When do you paint?" or "Do you paint when you feel creative?" My reply is, "When the time is available and it is my time to paint...I paint." I tell my clients, students and other artists that I find that after 15 to 20 minutes, I discover something beautiful about what it is I am doing—and that special "spot" in my mind opens and painting goes well. Discipline is a critical quality for success in art. You simply cannot wait for the correct time. Anytime but bath time is the right time! Sometimes the difference between success and failure is dogged perseverance. If any part of life is important enough, you must make time for it. When I am unable to paint, I exercise my creativity by painting with my eyes and mind on a daily basis.
Twenty years ago, we built our beautiful Garden House Gallery in Guelph, Ontario. Garden House has given us a spacious gallery and studio together with our home. The gardens have become a source of daily inspiration to me. The dark and textured strong hardwood bush at the rear of our five-acre property forms a splendid backdrop for our gardens. Diverse perennial flowers, herbaceous shrubs and stately spruce, frame a welcoming path that leads to the gallery. The beautiful grounds are just one way to give our visitors a special day.