Toque & Canoe has always been excited by the point at which travel and art intersect.
For example, we met with artists from the planet’s circumpolar regions during our recent coverage of the very cool Adäka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon.
And our story Wild, Wild Horses gives a platform to the outstanding fine-art photography of Alberta’s Debra Garside and her obsession with life on Sable Island National Park Reserve in Nova Scotia. (Wild horses have never looked wilder!)
Now, as we launch into a new year with our latest Eye Candy — a regular column featuring short, shareable visual hits of Canadiana to sweeten your day — we present Rossland, British Columbia-based Stéphanie Gauvin.
This Quebec-born artist lists the illustrators and designers behind the historic Canadian Pacific Railway posters among her influences. Why? Because, she insists, they delivered both a strong sense of adventure and a deep love of country in their work.
Thanks to Gauvin and her exuberant style, a canvas and acrylic-inspired version of this uniquely Canadian artistic tradition lives on today.
Q: Stéphanie, tell us about “Impulse,” the painting featured in this post?
A: It’s inspired by the Nordic skiing we do around where I live in the Kootenay mountains. I love the idea of painting ski tracks because the parallel lines invite the viewer into the landscape and the canvas itself. Portraying snow always excites me because although it appears white to most, there are so many cool and warm shades to play with depending on how the light hits it. Here, I try to bring the warmth of the moment forward by capturing sunlight as it fragments into multiple colours through the branches.
Q: How did you get started as a painter, and how has your work evolved?
A: I began getting into art at 19, when I was living as a ski bum in Whistler. It started with a few designs printed onto T-shirts — which eventually led to hand painting T-shirts that I would sell at markets and festivals. After this, I began window and mural painting. Throughout the years, I’ve attended various workshops and events led by prominent artists. I’m always keen to learn more. Along with the creatives behind the old Canadian Pacific Rail posters, I’m inspired by the skill of Canadian painters such as Robert Genn, Mike Svob, Cameron Bird and Bob Kebic. My style has evolved to be free, whimsical, bold and joyful.
Q: What inspires you most as an artist?
A: The feeling I get while I’m in the outdoors. I am a skier and a mountain biker, and I love camping and just being outside in the mountains or on the water. I really love examining shapes, colours and textures when I’m outside. Trees especially captivate me. Even though most of my work is done from photo references in studio, I enjoy painting “en plein air” — immersed in the moment with the elements around me, having to consider fast-changing light, wind, bugs, rain and cold.
Q: What moves you to keep doing what you’re doing?
A: I am living a dream and want to stay here. It’s incredibly rewarding each time I finish a painting that works, a painting that I love. It’s kind of like being the conductor in a concert and all the instruments are making harmony! What I enjoy most about this kind of work is the freedom of expression, or “Free To Be” as I once expressed in my logo on T-shirts as a young artist. Plus, when my art is with someone who genuinely appreciates it, it’s like a ticket, or permission, for me to continue creating.
Q: Travel is part of your artistic process. Can you tell us more?
A: I feel fortunate to have participated in artist residencies and events in iconic places like Assiniboine Lodge, Maligne Lake in Jasper, the majestic Bugaboo mountains of the Canadian Rockies and the West Coast’s Gulf Islands. I get so inspired after a trip, it’s like getting a jolt of inspirational energy to keep working. For the record, I’m always open to new artist-in-residence opportunities. I feel like there is so much to paint and so little time! This country is full of beauty, and painting is my voice. It’s the way I communicate best.
Note to reader: For more information on Canadian artist Stéphanie Gauvin, feel free to visit her website here.