So I asked Colin Whitebread about the back-story to his paintings. Colin is one of the painters on the West Durham Studio Tour (just two days) that we enjoyed on April 22, 2018.
“It’s all influenced by Mexico. I was a high-school art teacher and took groups of kids to a small village in Mexico for 15 years.
I couldn’t believe the simplicity of the Mexicans’ lives at first. They had nothing. Nothing. They lived in shacks. No water. Most of what they ate was beans and rice. Or rice and beans. But they were amazing. Whatever meals they made for themselves, they shared with us. However little they had, they shared it.
I began to notice the beauty in their lives. The colours. The kids I took down arrived in that poor little village ready to party. Then they were shocked into silence. And in a few days, they got it.
Mexico changed me forever. I came home and repainted my home in those happy Mexican colours. They’re what I paint with.”
Colin shared his home and studio with other local artists for the Studio Tour. One of them, Cheryl Fulcher of Chained Reaction Designs In Metal, is a jewelry maker who works in silver.
After 16 years of study at George Brown, Cheryl devotes herself full time to crafting stuff from silver and stones. One of her pieces particularly intrigued me, a large “graduated flat chainmail” necklace.”
Cheryl pointed out that the size of the combined chains increases from the inside of the necklace to the outside. The change in size isn’t something we noticed, so much as felt. And then it hit me. Cheryl had, in a way, emulated the engineering in a car’s differential, which allows the outside driven wheel in a turn to roll faster than the inside, because it has to travel a greater distance. For Cheryl, the necklace is art. For me, it’s both art and engineering.
Another surprise, a few kilometers away
The fabric sculptor Tricia Webster is self-taught. What she discovered, she’s passing on to her students. She asks them to bring a throw-away T-shirt and a rock to their first class. They become “makers” in their first lesson. They actually have something to take home. And who knows where that will drive them? For Tricia, experimenting with old T-shirts, wire, roots, bark, colors and a plasticizing material that wear- and weatherproofs her work has led to unusual and remarkably “alive” sculptures.
Enjoying artists’ studio tours takes a little planning
Many of the tours are within an hour’s drive or so from Toronto. Others are within the GTA. Generally, the artists’ studios are open from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. over the weekend. Here are some tips I’ve learned from several years of visiting artists’ studio tours.
- Go online and research each tour that interests you. You’ll often see samples of the various artists’ work, so you can select where you’d like to go the most.
- Plan what you want to see for the day – then delete a couple. The travel time between studios is always greater than you’d believe from the map.
- If a studio shows several artists’ work, you see more with less travel time.
- Tour websites usually show where the studios are on a map. Print that map. Your GPS may not recognize locations in the countryside, up a concession road. I like to check out the locations on Google Earth before I leave.
- While many studios provide some refreshments, such as coffee, it’s wise to carry a few bottles of water in the car.
- Don’t be shy. If the artists aren’t overwhelmed by people, they’re always eager to explain their work.
- Ask artists whose work you really like where and when else they’re showing this summer. Then you can follow their latest work.
- If you like their work, consider buying a piece.
You’ll get out in the Spring air. You do not have to be in a buying mood. But interest and curiosity will go a long way toward making the day’s outing really satisfying.
The range of work is amazing – from pottery to paintings to sculpture to weaving to jewelry to photography. And who knows what else? My wife once bought me a little river rock painted to look like a cat staring up at me. I’m in love with the thing!
You may even make your own “found art” just by keeping your mind and your eyes open.
While we were talking to Tricia Webster the sculptor, I noticed her work table with its array of colors, brushes and materials. Just by using my iPhone camera and changing my point of view from normal eye level to directly above the table, I made my own piece of art to take home.
So here are some upcoming artists’ studio tours and dates. Start planning!
This tour is in North Toronto
Here’s a unique tour – Artists Garden – a tour of beautiful Durham gardens, with the work of local artists on display, both in support of Hearth Place Cancer Support Centre in Durham.
The Alton Mill Arts Centre is a year-round studio tour with some 25 studio artists, galleries, a heritage museum, café and unique shops, Just click on the area of interest to see what’s up.
Coming up May 4th, 5th and 6th – there’s the Beach Studio Tour in The Beach area of Toronto.
It’s Spring. There’s beauty in the air and in artists’ studios. Time to take a tour!
And before you know it fall will be here… the North York Visual Artist group 2018 fall show and sale is Sept. 22 and 23, 2018 at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.