Featured Artists April 2017 - Beaumont Studio Artists

Interviewed by Mary Bennett at Studio #2 on Monday, March 26, 2017

Laurie Monique Landry, Amy Stewart and Laura Zerebeski. Krista McLean wasn't available.
Beaumont Studios, 316 West 5th Avenue

Each artist chose a particular art work to share and talked a bit about it.

Laurie Monique Landry, Geothermal Field, Oil on canvas, 30” x 48” - $2750

Laurie: I was just back from Iceland in January.  The landscape and the colours were very inspiring.

I loved the lines: some were visual lines dividing Europe and North America. I was playing around with that idea. There was not a lot of snow on ground, so the earth colours really came through; it came a month after I left. I was trying to capture what I saw without it being too literal. I didn’t want it to look just like a postcard.

************

Laura Zerebeski, Vanorama Sunset II, 10" x 25" - $700

Laura: This is a smaller version of one of my signature scenes. Vancouver looks like Oz when you see the setting sunlight reflecting off the buildings. Those unremarkable white and green buildings become something more vivid and iridescent, like bubbles. I use iridescent paint, too.

**********

Amy Stewart, Reflect, 60” x 40", $1600

Amy: I enjoyed creating this piece partially because the painting grew from childhood memories. It has a lot of textures; it is light and slightly moody. It shows my style well, and it is one of my larger pieces.  I enjoy painting on large canvases.

Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why? Are there favorite colours, tools, sizes?

Amy: I enjoy painting with acrylic on canvas, but first my favourite part of the process is laying down the pastes and gels to get my texture.  I love going to the hardware store to find my treasures (normally called tools) and use them to spread the pastes and gels to get looks I am happy with.  

Laura: I work on everything from huge murals to as small as 1.5" buttons. I have a button machine in my studio. My favorite colours are all the colours! I do event caricaturing as well.

Laurie:  I like to work big but I can’t go too big because I don’t have the space. I often start out small to work out some problem and then take that same composition to a larger piece.

I usually work in oil. I love the feel of the oil. My style means the work needs to stay wet for a period of time while I work into it.  But I like to work with other materials too.

Amy: I love texture and I love big.  I use lots of gels and pastes, such as fibrepaste.
Laura:  I’m not a fast painter. It can take me weeks to complete a piece and the larger ones can be quite physically tiring.

Mary: Tell me about your life outside the studio

Amy: I’ve just been in a studio outside my home for a year and I love it. My daughter is seven and we have another one on the way. We are adopting a child from Haiti. We are waiting for a proposal and will hopefully be bringing her home in a year or two. The flexibility of being a full-time artist allows me to prioritize family needs. (She laughs) I can leave paint drying when we get the call. Having a studio also means I can be sane here even if things are insane everywhere else.

My husband is a huge support. He does a lot of the stuff I would hate to do: websites, installation pictures, photography. He even puts up with my stealing his t-shirts and getting paint on them. Right now I have a painting on the kitchen table. It is 4’x 6’ and we have to eat picnic style on the floor. He’s incredibly relaxed about it. His dad makes small single engine planes. As a kid he would often come home to a wing on the couch, so I suppose he’s used to it!

Laurie: I spend every summer in Wells BC – the landscape draws me there. There are a lot of things happening in Wells in the summer including the annual arts festival. (This year August 4-7, 2017, titled Festival of All Things Art http://www.artswells.com/)

I’m currently on the CARFAC BC Board of Directors. This will be my last year to be on the board.

Laura: (Laughs) Life outside the studio? I have a 16-year old son and a partner and a dog. A constipated dog! We were out walking this morning and I was worried about being late here. I was urging her: "C'mon, go! Go!”

Making art in the studio is my full-time thing, sometimes too much so, according to my family. I am lucky to have art as my full-time job and I am fortunate to get a lot of commissioned work. Right now I’m trying to balance art work that is “just for me” with commissions where I’m working towards the client’s requirements. Otherwise I would have no inventory.

What are some of your artistic endeavours that you are proud of present?

Amy: Right now I am grateful and proud that my work is getting more international attention.  People are seeing my work on Instagram and then buying it directly from there. The challenge I had was then figuring out how to ship the pieces. I got a lot of quotes for crates and shipping and it seemed really expensive. So I was grateful to get Laura’s advice when I had to ship a 36” x 72” piece to Louisiana.

What are some of your artistic challenges at present?

Amy: Just navigating the industry and getting my art out and learning how to market in my own style. Also I dream day and night about painting. I get sidetracked and work on a canvas at home after my daughter goes to bed. My challenges there are keeping paint off the floors. I guess my challenge could also be finding balance in life.

Laurie: My challenge is the limitations that oil paints have. I push it as far as I can go without compromising structural stability. Then sometimes, I put them away and work in acrylics or inks for a while where there’s more flexibility. I’d like to find ways to blend the various media together. I’m trying to do that.

Laura: Artistic challenges? How to work faster. Then there's all the day-to-day admin stuff that comes with running one's own small business which cuts into creative time. Oh, and: perfectionism. I'm a horrible perfectionist. I hate almost everything I do as soon as I do it.

Do you have the imagery unified in your mind before you start out, or do you discover it as you go? How much of a role do accident and control play in your work?

Laurie:  I have an idea of what I want. Then I play with reference photos that I’ve taken on my computer, cropping and resizing. Once I have an idea I like, I work it out on canvas.

Because I’ve planned it out, it allows for happy accidents. I call these “controlled accidents.”
Laura: I used to plan more than I do now. I used to do small studies and research different angles. Now I just attack the canvas. And, yes, there are a lot of accidents.

Amy: I plan and then I welcome accidents. With my style and the variety of products I use in layers, it might be that the fibrepaste takes on a different colour as it dries. Layers might come through in a different way than I expected. Often I wind up liking the effect. One time I accidentally spilled paint on the piece as I often work on the floor! That kind of accident is not common though.

Tell me about how you learned to make art?

Laura: I’m mainly self-taught. I took oil painting lessons as a kid and through high school. I didn’t set out to be an artist. I wanted to, but always feared the "starving artist" archetype. I got an English degree while I painted dark, gothic paintings on the side and doodled depressed cartoons for The Ubyssey. I stopped painting for a while and did the corporate career thing. When I picked up painting again, after my son was born, I had a more joyful outlook. These paintings started selling well enough to quit my job.

Laurie: I’ve always done art.  Growing up in Wells, there was lots of opportunity and encouragement to do art. I always participated in summer programs. I started painting when I was 12 years old. I went to Emily Carr for one semester in 1985. Conceptual art was the big thing and that wasn’t my style so I dropped out. Later I went back to Emily Carr to do the certificate program in fine arts techniques. That gave me the confidence to make the jump. I’m not there yet. I still supplement my income with graphic design contracts.

Last year I received a Canada Council grant to develop a body of work.

Amy: I painted all through high school. I did watercolour courses. Then I was involved in working in child and youth care in homes for abused kids. I found it quite demanding and I painted for myself as my own therapy. When a friend wanted to buy one I was at first surprised because I was doing it just for myself.  I continued to sell privately for years. I was not comfortable being that vulnerable with my work to market it.

Before my daughter was born, I went into Victim Services for children and youth. I was too attached and too emotional and felt I needed to leave that kind of work. So last year I decided to just focus on art full-time. It’s been great to be here at Beaumont Studios.

With which past or contemporary artists or artworks do you, as an artist, feel a connection? What is it that draws you to them?

Amy: My grandma. (Jean Stewart.) She grew up in Vancouver and then raised six kids in Richmond BC. She lost one son in a plane crash and her husband years after from Parkinson’s disease. I am not sure if painting became her therapy but later in her life she took up watercolour. One of her sons built a beautiful studio onto her house and I loved going in and snooping through her work. Of course she didn’t mind. She kept learning and was passionate. She even went to China to learn different methods. She is my inspiration. She is now 93 and unable to paint as a stroke left her right hand paralyzed, but her passion for the arts has been passed on through the generations as many family members paint, including her daughter Roberta Horn who is a Whistler-based artist.

Laura: I like the modernists: Munch, Dali, Van Gogh. I considered going to art school but, like Laurie, I didn't like the conceptual postmodern art that was popular then: turning a canvas around and calling it art because painting is dead. Much of postmodernism is ironic and repetitive; I always thought that we needed more beauty and hope.

Laurie:  I look to the past. I saw an exhibit by John Singer Sargent. He amazes me with his brushwork. He creates drama with just a few brush strokes. I admire the economy of his work.  
I also really admire Artemisia Gentileschi. Her life story is inspiring, being a woman at the time and her impact on the art world.

Do you visit galleries and studios to get inspired?

Amy: I don’t have a lot of time, but I wish I did have more opportunity. 

Laurie:  I like going to galleries to see what’s out there. Sometimes the gallery has the answer to a question I’m considering. I go to be a spectator and admire it. Sometimes when I look at someone’s work, I find that I have something to say about that. So I might create my own art in conversation with what I saw, not copying it but somehow giving my response to it.

Laura: And then there’s the internet. I hear you can find a lot of stuff on there.
What is exciting on your artistic horizon? Are there new media or techniques or teachers you want to explore?

Laurie:  I want to explore new methods. I’m always checking my current work with a view to expanding the range of it. I might take some things away and add others.

Laura: I’ve got some good projects on the go. Some are very challenging to work through, such as a series of 24” x 48” panels. I also really enjoy doing illustrative and design projects like children's books, beer labels, and clothing patterns.

What works for you in getting people to see your art?

Laurie: (laughing)  I would like to know the answer to that. You really have to get it out there in as many ways as possible. I think social media is important these days.

Amy: I’m focusing a lot on Instagram. I hired Pennylane Shen. http://www.dazedandconfucius.com/ She went through my website and was really direct. She emphasized: You have to have a story. And some kind of system. I alternate a photo of me in the studio working on something; then a finished painting—often showing how it would look installed in a home and then a photo and story about what inspires me to do the painting.

Laurie: She (Pennylane Shen) emphasized that I should show only one image of a work in progress.
Amy: One thing I like about showing my work this way is that I can hide behind it. It’s not as intense as actually meeting people over a two-day art walk the way we will do in May.   I have gotten used to being braver and I do look forward to meeting and talking to people about my work now.

Laura: I haven’t explored social media much. I sell things via Facebook sometimes but mostly through my website.

Amy: Each platform has benefits.  Conversations can get started on social media.

Laura: Not twitter, though. It’s like standing in a room full of people and everyone is shouting at the same time. Kind of like my nightmares.

Tell me a bit about your connection with Artists in our Midst. I know it’s the first year for all of you. What drew you? What are you looking forward to about this year?

Laura: I got an email that said that they were extending the boundaries. The East Side Culture Crawl doesn’t extend west of Main and the Main Street Drift wound down. Our studio does group shows but we don't have any art festivals that cover our area.

Amy and Laurie: And we saw Laura’s posting on the private facebook group that’s just for Beaumont artists when Laura posted it and thought it would be a good idea.

Laura: Open studios are great; they’re loads of fun. Last year we had an open studio here and tons of people came through and we got a chance to cross pollinate.

The four artists from the studio will be both in their own studios and have a group show in the gallery on the main floor.

Mary: Is there anything else you want to say that I haven’t asked you about.

Laurie: Community!

Laura: Because being an artist is a lonely job.

All then chimed in to talk about the importance of the support they get from their colleagues at Beaumont Studios including the private facebook group and Slack where they can post questions.
See more of these artists’ work at: http://www.artistsinourmidst.com/artists-gallery/