Sooke artist and playwright Sheila Thomas and her self-portrait of Emily Carr. (Contributed)

Sooke painter highlights Emily Carr at all-portrait show

Whether or not you are a fan of Emily Carr’s work, check out her portrait, painted by Sooke artist and playwright Sheila Thomas, at About Face, running at the end of March at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.

First, note that it’s in colour, painted using a single 3.8-centimetre house painter’s brush and only four colours, which is the technique of art teacher Nicholas Pearce.

Second, trust your instincts: It is Emily Carr, but it isn’t.

And third, open your mind to the possibilities – that Emily Carr is Sheila Thomas.

READ MORE: Portraiture Through The Eyes of Artist Nicholas Pearce

Thomas took her first portrait class with Pearce wanting to paint Carr, but knowing that no colour reference photo existed. She knew, however, that he insists on students painting what they see in their reference material.

So Thomas did what she does best: came up with a creative alternative. She would rent a costume, pose as Emily Carr, have a friend take photos, and paint from that. She succeeded: You’ll see the results in the show, consisting of more than 150 portraits, from March 29 to 31.

Thomas is one of 41 students joining Pearce to fill the Bodine Hall, the space at the Mary Winspear Centre occupied by the Sidney Fine Art Show every fall. All have taken Pearce’s latest weekend workshop: the Portrait Intensive. They come mostly from Vancouver Island, but also from the Lower Mainland and Ontario.

Some students have found painting these portraits helped them deal with the loss of a loved one. Others have become their family’s chroniclers. Most works are paintings; some are pencil portraits. The latter are done with Pearce’s scribble technique, which involves one pencil, no eraser, and a gradual layering of texture to create the right shapes in the right places in the right greyscale.

Thomas incorporated her portrait of Emily Carr into a dream of changing the direction of her own life. She has always loved Emily Carr because Carr chose an authentic life for herself despite the ridicule she faced.

“She refused the pre-fab design for women,” Thomas said. “Instead, she painted a canvas for her life, which meant a solitary journey into the woods with her paints.”

Thomas, like Carr, is painting a canvas for her life. She is looking for a smallish school bus to convert into a home in the west coast style of Emily Carr. She plans to hit the road with her easel, brushes, paint, and her 75-pound poodle, Stroodle. Meanwhile, she’s also working on a play about Emily Carr.

Pearce was inspired to organize About Face after seeing students overcome their fear of painting portraits and produce successful works in his Portrait Intensive workshop.

“I’m really proud of all the work and effort my students have put into their paintings,” Pearce said. “I want to show them off, and to show that portraits are indeed achievable.”

Pearce believes a portrait is like any other painting – a collection of colours and shapes. He does admit, however, that tackling a portrait carries risks that a landscape does not. “A tree won’t complain that its mouth isn’t right,” he says.

Pearce, whose technique was inspired by the Impressionists, teaches his students to avoid trying to create perfection through photorealism. “Indicate, don’t illustrate,” he said. “Absolute definition of anything can take the magic out of a painting. Give just enough detail to imply rather than to state.”

His goal is to help students capture their subject’s spark, not just a likeness. He said a portrait works when it morphs from an image of a person’s features to a sense of the person’s being.

“You don’t see an eye; you see a soul shining out through an eye,” Pearce said.

Each portrait, or group of portraits, will come with a story so the viewer can learn who the subject is and why the work was created. Visitors will be able to watch demonstrations, sign up for classes, or commission portraits done by Pearce or his students.

Pearce believes artists want to paint portraits because of the challenge involved, and the need for connection through art. But most important, he said, it’s the feeling for the person they’re painting.

“When we paint a portrait of someone we care about, it’s an act of love.”

•••

IF YOU GO

About Face art exhibition with Nicholas Pearce and his students

Mary Winspear Centre

2243 Beacon Ave. West, Sidney, B.C.

Friday, March 29, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 30, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, March 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reception: Saturday, 7 to 9 p.m., refreshments and no-host bar

Free admission



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich farm stands can stay open

Council amending bylaw to allow for temporary use permits

Study looks at feasibility of Vancouver Island abattoir

South Island Prosperity Partnership funds study looking at local meat processing

Royal B.C. Museum reopens in phases, some galleries remain closed to start summer

Victoria museum and archives open first galleries June 19

Greater Victoria’s first BC Cannabis Store could open at Saanich shopping centre

Store application for Uptown Shopping Centre headed for public hearing

Bike lane closed, traffic impacted by landscaping in Metchosin

Construction begins May 25, to be complete by mid-July

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

Island city cancels plan for homeless camp; exploring alternative option

The plan heard strong objection from neighbouring residents and businesses

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read