What started as a friendship through a handful of art classes at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery has turned into hundreds of watercolour paintings depicting scenes in and around The Friendly City.
And thanks to the curatorial efforts of Dianne Warren, their impressive work is now on display
In a special exhibition entitled "The Eye, The Sky" at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre.
Artists Pat Aldred, Lynne Howes and Wendy Parsons were on hand during a reception on Saturday afternoon and spent time with dozens of visitors throughout the day, offering insights into their work and styles.
It all started around 10 years ago, when the trio gathered for life-drawing sessions at the MJMAG. That led to them meeting weekly to discuss art and support each other’s ventures, and eventually coming up with a unique idea.
“Once we got to know each other in an art context and started working together, we just decided to do something different and start painting outdoors,” explained Parsons, “We get together and we decide to go out to Buffalo Pound or somewhere like Echo Valley, find something that appeals to us, set up and just paint.”
The style -- known as plein air -- is a popular one. If you’ve seen a photo or painting of an artist with an easel set up in a field overlooking a beautiful landscape, you get the idea of what The Eye, The Sky artists are up to.
The works on display and up for sale at the Cultural Centre feature a wide variety of scenes ranging from fields and forests in southern Saskatchewan to sights and scenes from all over Moose Jaw.
And it’s all in watercolour, a format they selected for its ease of use outdoors.
“Otherwise you’re carrying oils and everything like that, where watercolour is really portable,” explained Parsons. The portability of the style also plays into their decision to use the medium, as Howes touched on.
“Even when the weather isn’t right and you can’t go outdoors, we’ve been getting together in our homes,” Howes said. “That’s another handy thing with watercolour, you can take it with you, you can have your equipment, where with oils and acrylic, there’s a lot more involved.”
As for how they choose their subjects, it’s often just something that catches their eye when out and about.
“One of us might see something and think that would nice to paint and we’ll end up there,” Howes explained. “We drove out to a grid road on the Baildon grid and said ‘let’s just stop here’. So we see something and each find something that appeals to us and paint.”
All three artists have education in their chosen format.
Aldred studied art classes at the University of Regina and has a studio practice in the city; Howes honed her skills at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and graduated from the Vancouver School of Art with a major in painting and also has a local studio; Parsons has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan with a major in Fine Arts, a master's degree in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester in England and is the co-owner of Parsons Dietrich Pottery.
The trio had actually known each other for many years prior to their meeting during the live-drawing classes.
“Lynne had moved away to Vancouver, but we went to school together,” said Aldred. “Then I knew Wendy in university and she eventually moved to Moose Jaw, then Lynne moved back to Moose Jaw and we just kind of connected around our interests.”
Warren is a key figure in their current exhibit, as upon finding out about the volume and quality of their artwork, she offered to curate the hundreds of paintings into an exhibit that was first shown in Regina this fall.
“I don’t think we’d even be showing if it wasn’t for Dianne,” Parsons said. “She was the one that knew we had a lot of work that she’d enjoy curating and writing about.”
Warren agreed with that assessment.
“I just knew their work, I knew they were working really hard, meeting all the time and I knew about the exhibition space in Regina, so I just started thinking ‘this would be perfect’,” Warren said. “We met a couple of different times and laid everything out and tried to think about what would look good and show three distinctive visions and still tie it all together.”
"The Eye, The Sky" is on display until Feb. 9 in the Visual Arts Gallery at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre.