Trees symbolize strength, growth and change. Their branches provide greenery, shade and food, as well as homes for birds, bugs and animals. Their roots cling to the earth to prevent it from being swept away.
Artist Tracy Kobus contemplates this gift of nature as she mountain bikes and walks the woods of the Comox Valley. And, as a former treeplanter, she intimately knows the struggles a sapling can endure.
“I’m inspired by nature and trees frequently appear in my paintings,” Kobus says. “They serve as a metaphor for the events in our lives.”
As special guest artist at the Filberg Festival, Kobus will exhibit her work at the nine-acre heritage waterfront park Aug. 1 to 4.
Large colourful acrylics, smaller Giclee prints and art cards, all showcasing Kobus’s trademark style of imaginary realism, will be available.
As her primary theme is trees, Kobus will also provide information about Cumberland Forest Society projects and accept donations on their behalf.
“Being the festival’s feature artist adds some pressure to the event,” Kobus admits. “I’m not a fast painter and often spend weeks or even months drawing, thinking and researching my topic. To be ready for the Filberg Festival I sketched most of the large pieces early on so I’d have time to think about them over the winter. There will be some new paintings that have never been shown before.”
Kobus was born in Barrie, Ontario but has lived in the Comox Valley most of her life.
“My parents’ dream was to move to the West Coast and operate a photography business,” she says. “Our living room was the studio, a spare bedroom was the dark room and the dining room was the office. Then colour prints became popular and everything changed.”
Kobus’ mother took a drawing class while pregnant and speculates that’s what sparked her daughter’s interest in art.
After graduating from secondary school Kobus planted trees part of the year to fund trips to Europe and the Middle East and studied painting at North Island College, the Atlin Art Centre and the University of British Columbia.
Her work has been exhibited throughout the province and she was artist in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2005 when she was five months pregnant. Kobus named her son Arlo after the village where Van Gogh spent his last days.
Family vacations often revolve around art galleries and once a year Kobus makes a point to take a workshop with another painter. “It stretches me and gets me outside my comfort zone,” she explains. “Rural artists tend to be more connected to their community than the outside art world. It’s really important to spend time with other artists, get their feedback and share concerns.”
For Kobus, the key to filling the roles of wife, mother and artist is organization. “I set aside time to paint and I try to be ready to take advantage of any unexpected opportunities to paint that present themselves because life doesn’t always go as planned.”
Another way Kobus keeps herself on track is by regularly writing a newsletter and blog.
“I think of it as sending a letter to a pen pal to let them know what I’m doing,” she says. “It makes me think about my art and to feel accountable.”
Kobus and her work will be at the arbor area of the upper meadow at the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park in Comox.
For information about festival hours, artists, and transportation, visit www.filbergfestivl.com. For more about Kobus and her work go to www.tracykobus.com.