Embracing Change

The Courage to Create

Being an artist is risky. It takes years of practice, whether swinging a paintbrush, drawing a carving knife, or taking countless photographs. There’s no guarantee you will master your art form, or that collectors will buy your artwork if you do. And yet, courageous creatives take the leap. Some emerging artists, often with a modest body of work, are just starting on their careers. And some successful mid-career artists make bold moves by charging into unfamiliar territory, such as switching to a new subject matter, medium, or an unconventional process.

“Contemporary art galleries continue to be the platform for many emerging artists,” says Jeanine Messeguer, director of the Whistler Contemporary Gallery. Searching for these rising stars of the art world is an exciting endeavour, and the gallery owners travel widely to visit many of the major art fairs to discover new work by emerging artists, such as Jay Kelly. “At first glance, he convinces viewers that his medium is paint rather than paper,” Messeguer says. “With closer study, they uncover the paper intricacies of his subjects through minute variations in colour, shape and size, whilst fragmented sentences echo the tone and theme of the collage.”

Mixed-media artist Jallen is intrigued with nature and chaos. She uses an addition and subtraction process of paint to create her artwork and often introduces untamed scratches carved directly into the panel, resulting in works displaying both a natural and abstracted character. Collected by both locals and international visitors, her ginormous mixed-media butterfly paintings embody the metamorphism that her beautiful subjects undertake in real life.

Call 604-938-3001, or visit whistlerart.com.

Eleven years ago, Mark Richards worked as an engineer in high tech when he had the spark of an idea to create fine art using the latest digital photography tools. Taking a massive risk, Richards quit his career and moved out West. He developed a completely unique artistic process and opened the Mark Richards Gallery, where his exquisite landscapes are featured. His piece “Soo Valley,” shot in the valley north of Whistler, was taken after the first snowfall, and shows the transition from fall to winter.

Richards combines his digital photography with painting, using electronic pens on a tablet. His photographs of vibrant West Coast and East Coast landscapes are transformed through the process, taking on a lush, painterly quality.

In a digital medium, the paint never dries, which allows Richards to fine tune his work. “I can keep working on my pieces until I get really finely tuned colours and shadows and highlights and the pieces have a really nice glow,” Richards says. “And in the end, I finish with a traditional varnish to give it depth, saturation.”

Call 604-932-1911,or visit markrichardsgallery.com.

Mountain Galleries artist Shannon Ford has a background as a jeweller, and her successful career as a jeweller and sculptor informs her unusual process of painting. Ford’s acrylics are infused with semi-precious and precious gemstones, which she sources and grinds into finer sediments in her studio. Her artwork “Noble Buffalo” has elements of pipestone, 24K gold, diamond dust, sugilite, azurite turquoise, rubies, garnets and silver nuggets painted onto the canvas.

Ben McLaughlin is Mountain Galleries’ communications director and an artist in his own right. About five years ago, he started creating unique sound-resonating furniture. “I’m experimenting with the tonal properties of different species of hardwood and then turning them into musical interactive furniture,” he says. The benches, coffee tables and side tables are a visual and aural delight. With furniture formed from wood like Peruvian walnut, African Padauk, Vancouver walnut and Canadian maple, McLaughlin notes that the frequencies, originating from an organic source, have a soothing, therapeutic nature.

Call 604-935-1862, or visit mountaingalleries.com.

At Black Tusk Gallery, owner Bill MacGillivary recognizes Native Kwaguilth artist Trevor Hunt as a master carver who has branched out from traditional work in yellow or red cedar to mediums of glass and metal. Hunt’s panels, paddles and masks are colourful and carved in the traditional form, yet have his own style, which adds contemporary flair. Instead of using a carving process, working with glass involves sandblasting and etching. Designs are created by attaching rubber relief to the glass, where the artwork remains clear, with no etching.

Artist Wesley Wyse is a carver who has worked in traditional First Nations style and forms, yet has expanded his repertoire to include non-traditional, three-dimensional sculptures that are more contemporary. While Wyse’s “Humpback Whale” has elements of First Nations design, the whale has a more realistic form. “He still uses Native elements in his work but the rest of the subject matter is more contemporary,” says MacGillivary. In traditional First Nations designs, creatures such as bears, salmon or humans are represented with exaggerated features such as deep eye sockets or big lips, because the artists did not want to replicate the true form, which was considered offensive to the Creator.

Call 604-905-5540, or visit blacktusk.ca.

Liz Harris, owner and director at Adele Campbell Fine Art, encourages the gallery’s artists to push boundaries in their work. Sculptor and Whistler resident James Stuart formerly had a career in animation, and is now a full-time contemporary artist who predominantly works in bronze. Harris describes how Stuart is bringing a new feel, and a fresher look, to his carving. “It still has a human aspect to it. It has those imperfections to it,” Harris says, “but they’re also quite calculated. They’re very much focused on the personality, the inner soul.” His bronze sculpture “Arch” is one of a series of women in sensual poses that also mirror mountains.

Valerie Butters is an artist based in Pemberton who has taken great risks by evolving her painting style and switching up her subject matter. Butters was very successful painting pretty florals. After taking some workshops, and on the suggestions of fellow painters, she left the subject matter entirely and stopped painting florals for a year. Instead she painted abstracts and used different palettes before returning to florals with an edgier style, and more movement, as shown in her painting “Phantas Magorical,” from her “Moody” series. “She’s found that happy balance of going back to the florals because she loves them so much, but having a much newer take on them,” Harris says. “And you see more of the freer stroke. There’s a lot of the drips and the chunkiness of the acrylic and more texture in them.”

Call 604-938-0887, or visit adelecampbell.com.

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