A study in contrasts, Oil & Water explores different mediums and subjects by artists who share a passion for paint and live in remote, rural locations.
An exhibit and sale of paintings by Karen Martin Sampson and Yvonne Maximchuk opens at the Pearl Ellis Gallery of Fine Art on Feb. 12 with an artists’ reception from 1 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 17.
Both artists will also conduct workshops. Sampson’s, Cast Shadow Magic on Figure and Fabric, will take place on Feb. 16 with Maximchuk offering Add Greater Emotional Impact to Your Paintings on Feb. 23. For more information or to register, contact Sheila Pollock at 250-339-5660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a child in Toronto, illness meant Sampson was bedridden for lengthy periods. Her dad began painting a mural on her bedroom wall as a way to entertain her. “He also brought home reams of paper and lots of pencils and I was able to sit up to draw,” she recalls. “And my mother had a wonderful sense of colour and composition when it came to home decorating so I was indoctrinated early into the joys of visual creation.”
When the family moved to Ohio, Sampson faithfully attended art classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art and later the Cleveland Institute of Art even though the bus ride was one and a half hours each way. A career as a graphic designer/ illustrator and illustration instructor followed.
Later, back in Ontario she opened a studio at Alton Mill and became part of a network of artists. Then Sampson met Bob who convinced her to move to Vancouver Island. For the last eight years the couple has called two acres at the foot of Mt. H'Kusam in the Sayward Valley home.
“The area is inspirational but I prefer to find human models, or set up still life pieces,” she says. “I love the translucent, jewel-like quality of oil paints and the ability to blend and manipulate, which acrylic doesn’t offer. I’m also fond of the beautiful glow and intensity of pastels.”
“For me, oil painting requires extreme concentration,” Sampson continues. “To facilitate this I keep my palette and studio clean and orderly. When I get in the ‘zone’ hours can go by in a flash. But getting there isn't always easy. Sometimes I just go to the studio and put paint on canvas or start cleaning my paint tubes, straightening my shelves, anything to stimulate the right place in my head for working.”
Sampson welcomes spring and summer when she can visit artist friends down island. “But I find the semi-isolation and the relative quiet of my studio a place of refuge where I can contemplate the direction of my work.”
To enhance this, Sampson doesn’t have a phone in her studio or eat there. She does, however, often listen to music. “The right selection can make or break a painting day,” she says.
Sampson likes thick/thin lines, expressive strokes, soft and hard edges, and finicky detail. “My subjects are usually concerned with aloneness and introspection, but not in a negative way; there is a joy in being self-contained. Attempting to portray a specific message doesn't usually work for me - it comes from somewhere inside but I couldn't tell you where!”
Sampson and Maximchuk have corresponded by phone and email but never met. When Maximchuk wondered if she had enough work to fill the space available at the Pearl, Pollock suggested the two team up.
“I always drew and painted and never doubted I would be an artist,” says Maximchuk. “I love watercolour for its immediacy, steep learning curve, portability and fluidity. The beautiful translucency of color on white paper is like glowing gems. I use acrylic for larger in studio paintings when I want to explore a more monumental subject. It’s very forgiving and easy to work over areas to adjust and compose.”
Born in Bralorne, B.C.. Maximchuk has lived and worked as an artist in numerous locations. Twenty-six years ago, her fisherman sweetheart, Albert, invited her and her children to move to Echo Bay in the Broughton Archipelago off the coast of northern Vancouver Island. Maximchuk now paints, writes, makes pottery and gives workshops from her waterfront SeaRose Studio on Gilford Island. Her memoir Drawn to Sea: an Intimate View of the Raincoast will be published by Caitlin Press this spring.
Primarily a landscape painter, Maximchuk’s location has a profound effect on her work. “It’s so beautiful, mysterious, intriguing and ever-changing here,” she says. “I would need three lifetimes to explore the painterly opportunities and natural history of this area.”
Mood and weather dictate whether she starts with a clear subject in mind or explores a specific set of colours and if she works in her studio or on location.
“Living in an isolated area makes marketing and moving paintings around difficult,” she confesses. “And being removed from other artists is both a difficulty and a benefit. I miss the stimulation and inspiration of being around artists, yet it also keeps me free from the influence of someone else's possibly powerful style and strictly on my own path.”
“But the job satisfaction is amazing,” she adds. “Being an artist has given me a wonderful life in an amazing place. I've been able to travel and paint interesting places and meet many fine people. I can think of no better way than painting to fill the space between birth and death.”
Sampson and Maximchuk will spend time at the gallery throughout the exhibition which closes on March 3. The gallery is located at 1729 Comox Ave. and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information visit www.pealrellisgallery.com, www.karenmartinarts.ca or www.searosestudio.net.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record's arts and entertainment section.