Vedrana Ascroft, artist and gallery owner, sits in her Aquamaris Art Gallery in Duncan. Don Denton photo

When the world needs more beauty

Artist Vedrana Ascroft curates her Aquamaris Art Gallery

  • Apr. 2, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Sandra Jones Photography by Don Denton

Perhaps it was simply the imaginative pursuits of a youngster or an indicator of what was yet to come, but Vedrana Ascroft’s first work of art was drawn with her mother’s greasy, crimson lipstick on a wall in her childhood home in Ogulin, Croatia.

“I was probably three years old and it was my first masterpiece,” laughs Vedrana, an award-winning artist and owner of Aquamaris Art Gallery in Duncan.

As the daughter of a teacher who was creative in her own right, Vedrana’s childhood was richly steeped in cultural and artistic pursuits.

“My mom was a math teacher, but she was always doing something creative, from making lace to designing costumes for theatre groups. And at school we learned a lot about almost every artistic medium,” she recalls.

That immersion in the arts had an impact on young Vedrana. “I was bitten. I knew that I could ‘zen out’ when I was creating something and anything that was concerning me at the time would disappear.”

But although her love of art grew, it met its match when she went on a school vacation with her mom.

“I wanted to be the woman at the front of the tour bus with a microphone in her hand showing people the sights,” says Vedrana.

The travel bug took hold and Vedrana pursued a degree in hotel management in Opatija, Croatia. Just two years into the program, war broke out, prompting accelerated work towards a diploma in economy of tourism, before the 20-year-old emigrated to Sudbury, Ontario, to live with family. There she furthered her studies and charted a new course that took her to Toronto and across Canada.

While she ultimately went on to enjoy a 27-year career in the tourism industry, mainly as a tour director “at the front of the bus,” Vedrana continued to paint.

“Art was something I could count on to help me regain my equilibrium. My focus on art would ebb and flow, but I was always yearning to paint and draw on the side.”

In 1997, Vedrana met her future husband, Gerry, moved to the west coast and was re-inspired to pick up her art again.

“We fell in love with Vancouver Island and knew that this was the place our family needed to be. Water is always something that has inspired me—shorelines, rivers, waterfalls—the way the light plays across it is mesmerizing. That’s why waterscapes often appear as a theme in my paintings.”

Her work as a tour director in the summer left her the winter months to pursue her art. Despite splitting her time between these two passions, Vedrana became an active status member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and her art began to garner international recognition. Her painting, Pacific Rhapsody, was published as one of the finalists in the International Artist Magazine and her work has found its way into homes in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan.

In 2019, Vedrana made a life-altering decision that was serendipitously prompted by getting her hair cut.

“I had always felt that at some point I would open an art gallery but how that came about was by having a vision. I went to get a haircut and there was a vacant space in the same building. It just hit me that this would make an amazing gallery. At first it didn’t occur to me that we should be the ones to create the gallery but I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

Several months later, after extensive renovations, Aquamaris Art Gallery opened its doors. Situated on the second floor of a century-old designated heritage building, the original wooden floors, brick walls and light-filled space form a warm and inviting backdrop for myriad art that lines the walls.

“I wanted to create a venue where art appreciators and artists would have a place to come and enjoy that immersive experience. We carry the work of 20 BC artists who we chose specifically because we’ve admired their work for years. Every piece we carry, whether it’s a painting, sculpture, textile or jewelry, is carefully curated.”

While the artists currently reside in the region, their origins are widely cosmopolitan, coming from places like Indonesia, South Korea, England, Germany, Serbia and the United States. Clients are equally international and often work closely with Vedrana to find just the right piece for their space.

“Particularly now, with the limitations of travel, our customers will send us photos of a space and ask us to recommend art to complement it,” says Vedrana. “I’ll keep my eyes open and then digitally style their home photo with art so they can see how it looks in the space. I recently did that for a woman who lives in Chemainus and it was exactly what she was looking for. We get people shopping online from as far away as the UK.”

But of course there’s no substitute for viewing the art in person.

“Our doors are open and with such an airy space, there’s room for people to move comfortably and safely in the gallery. The pandemic has been hard on the art and gallery world because it traditionally relies on well-attended art openings and live events to showcase and sell the work. However we are encouraged by a renewed focus on home and on supporting and shopping local.”

For Vedrana, the world of art has provided a creative outlet, a renewed sense of purpose and a new livelihood, but she believes that art is also integral to the wellbeing of people on so many levels.

“Exposure to art fosters creativity, tickles our imaginations and inspires innovation. And above all, it connects us to our humanity. I think now, more than ever, when the world needs more beauty, art plays a significant role. I’m honoured to play a part in bringing that beauty to more people.”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

ArtArts and EntertainmentCultureEntertainment

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

Just Posted

This stretch of Highway 14 on Parkinson Hill near Port Renfrew is undergoing reconstruction following a road washout in 2018. (Ministry of Transportation photo)
22-hour Highway 14 road closure planned for Wednesday

Closure needed to install a temporary bridge structure near Port Renfrew

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
Extinction Rebellion activists march from Vancouver to Victoria this weekend

The four-day trek ends at the B.C. legislature Monday, protest province’s environmental policy

At Tuesday’s Sooke council meeting, RCMP submitted a record showing the types of calls and incidents that were investigated within the district, which included a comparison from February 2021 to February 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Crime and calls to Sooke RCMP on the decline in February compared to 2020

Sooke RCMP share February investigation statistics

The hiring of out-of-province workers by the Canadian Red Cross to staff the vaccination centre in Langford has raised eyebrows. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Cross hires out-of-province workers to staff Langford vaccination centre

Staffer worries local jobs weren’t offered to local people

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read