Artist craves ‘great light’

“Painting is a solitary occupation,” says Coral Barclay. “You work by yourself every day. You have to like being alone and working on your own.” 

CORAL BARCLAY  will be the featured artist at the Filberg Festival in Comox from July 29 to Aug. 1. Her paintings include Incoming Tide and Water Like Glass.

CORAL BARCLAY will be the featured artist at the Filberg Festival in Comox from July 29 to Aug. 1. Her paintings include Incoming Tide and Water Like Glass.

“Painting is a solitary occupation,” says Coral Barclay. “You work by yourself every day. You have to like being alone and working on your own.”

But that will all change for Barclay on the BC Day long weekend. From July 29 through August 1, she’s featured guest artist at the annual Filberg Festival.

With more than 120 artisans, a variety of food vendors, kids’ activities and a cool music lineup filling the nine-acre waterfront park, the event has earned a reputation as one of the best outdoor festivals in Canada.

Visitors will find Barclay in the Filberg Heritage Lodge, along with a selection of her landscape paintings. Her work is filled with light and colour, what she considers the key elements of a painting.

“As a visual artist, light has a direct impact on colour so I’m always searching for that magical moment of great light,” Barclay explains. “Light changes everything. If it’s flat it doesn’t inspire me at all.”

What she is inspired by is nature. So she spends lots of time “rambling around” with her camera watching the way light interacts with plants, sky and water. Back in her studio, the photos are used as a reference to spark the memory of the experience and then Barclay let’s her imagination kick in.

Acrylics used to be Barclay’s medium of choice but a couple of years ago she switched to oils. “I felt like it was time for a change. Maybe it had something to do with turning 50,” she says. “Oil is definitely more technical and more of a challenge. That’s part of what keeps me learning and interested in my craft.”

Barclay spends winters in Portland, Ore., and the summer months painting on Hornby Island. “I lived here for six years and love coming back,” she says. “I love painting the local area and my studio – an outfitter’s tent – is open to the public so I get to meet people too. It’s very rewarding to get that direct feedback.”

Barclay paints for five hours most days. “Each piece seems to have a life of its own,” she says. “I start a painting and it just takes off. I’m more interested in evoking a feeling or mood than a realistic image.”

Although a lot of her work is large, several years ago she started painting what she calls “minis.” These range from 6 inches square to 6×12 inches.

“Minis can be a way for me to work out an idea for a larger painting,” she notes, “or sometimes I just like to paint small. People like them because they’re easy to transport, especially if they’re travelling. And it’s an easy, affordable way for someone to get a piece of original art. ”

Barclay grew up in Lantzville in a small cabin by the sea and believes that location played a large part in her becoming an artist. She began drawing as a young child and always felt that painting was her vocation. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia and a Fine Arts Diploma at Malaspina College, now called Vancouver Island University.


”Painting’s more challenging than most people realize,” Barclay says.  “There’s a lot of repetitive movement involved and that can be hard on the body. And the technical aspect seems to get harder as you progress, I guess because you get more particular about your work.”

”But the most difficult thing is to just put aside all the other stuff in your life and paint,” she adds. “Most of what I know I learned by working on my own. I encourage beginners to be dedicated and not pay too much attention to what people say about your work. You have to find your own way.”


Barclay’s participated in many solo and group exhibits and her paintings can be found in numerous collections. But, aside from her Hornby Island studio, Barclay’s work isn’t in any local galleries. So the Filberg Festival is a great opportunity to see how she handles colour and light.

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