MEET Xavier Fernandes! Xavier is a talented multidisciplinary artist and long time Orillia Arts community member. I have known Xavier for several years and worked with him on various projects involving Zephyr Art Gallery, the Starry Night Studio & Gallery Tour and the Orillia Arts District. His dedication, professionalism and knowledge have always inspired me. When he commits to a project, he gives it his all. Xavier's continuing artistic evolution is amazing to follow and his recent work with metal and wood - SO beautiful!
Read on to discover more about Xavier, his work and current projects!
(photo credit: Deb Halbot Photography)
What is your art background and how has your artistic practice grown?
I went to Sheridan College for the three-year Illustration program. While there, I took life drawing, figure drawing, printmaking, graphic design, photography, painting, computer graphics, technical illustration … it was a comprehensive course. Since then, I have expanded from mainly painting and printmaking to learning how to weld and making things out of metal, and now metal and wood, and learning how to turn wood. I have also done body painting for the last two Somniatis wearable art shows and printed the fabric for the Clocktower dress in Somniatis I. I have also been involved in Call to Action 83, a collaborative art exhibit around Truth and Reconciliation, with indigenous and non-indigenous artists. The first show, with 16 pieces by 16 artists, travelled all over Ontario. The second show has just opened at Quest Gallery in Midland and we will be doing a public sharing and talk about it on December 1 at 1 pm, free to the public.
(photo credit: Ron Hill)
You have been involved in the Orillia Arts Scene for many years – how have you experienced its evolution?
When I got into the arts scene in Orillia it was at the end of high school, over 25 years ago. It was a smaller group of artists in the community who kind of did their own thing but many of them came together for meetings of the Orillia Fine Arts Association and for the community. I was one of the founding members of Zephyr Gallery which started in 2000 and that was a big catalyst for many artists for many years. It was the first gallery where any artist could show work on a regular basis here in town. Eventually Zephyr moved on to Peter Street to join with other arts businesses and organizations, including the Orillia Museum of Art & History, Tiffin’s Creative Centre, the Shadowbox … there were only a few at that time but it was a change. That was the early beginning of artists joining together to create the Orillia Arts District. Brian Tosh and Liz Schamehorn opened a gallery together, Peter Street Fine Arts Gallery & Studio, while I had my own studio upstairs at 5 Peter Street, where there is quite a group of artists now. Eventually I moved to Peter Street Fine Arts as well as several other artists. Peter Street has evolved into a hub of artists and galleries that work together and create places and happenings for people to come and enjoy great art.
You are involved in the Underground Orillia project – can you tell me about the project and describe its development?
I was approached by some friends from high school who asked if I wanted to do a documentary on the tunnels that are under Orillia, if there are any …. Having knowledge of some of the underground spaces, they felt I could be helpful to get them into some of the places. This was a two-year journey of research and exploring these spaces, seeing all kinds of amazing things…some of them no longer exist but we were able to document them before they were destroyed. Our goal is to make this documentary accessible to as many Orillians as possible, so we are doing two free shows at the Orillia Opera House on November 28, at 7 and 9 pm. We hope to get the show into Hot Docs as well. We have had a lot of positive feedback about the show and it has generated a lot of interest and questions from people here in town. It has been really fun to be part of it, and to explore filmmaking, which is a new medium for me.
What are you working on now and where may people discover your work?
When I got into metal, and wood and metal work, I needed a new space to do it in. I am sharing a workshop at 64 Western Avenue, beside Charles Pachter’s place. I am making black walnut side tables with metal legs, and black walnut platters with metal stands. I recently acquired a lathe and a garage full of black walnut and butternut and am now busy learning woodturning, making bowls, and other hollow vessels. I am also making wooden tea light holders. I show my work at Peter Street Fine Arts, at 23 Peter Street South, and at my home in Orillia. I share my work on my personal Facebook page, Xavier Fernandes.
I would like to do more body painting as well, just for fun. It’s a very interesting medium. It’s a challenge to make body painting look realistic and like it’s not painted, and I enjoy a challenge!
(photo credit: Peter Stranks)
MEET Peter Fyfe! Peter's strong, energetic paintings are eye candy. They draw you in with a beautiful balance of colour, form and lines while his assemblages (pictured in above photo) reflect his literal view of the world.
READ ON to learn about Peter's process and discover his work!
Your paintings depict strong lines, vibrant colour and form – what are you trying to convey with your work – themes, emotions, statements?
I have two approaches, as I tend to produce either abstract paintings, or my more conceptual “constructions”. As a person who has coped with episodes of mental anguish most of my life, when I’m actually in a productive mindset I try to dwell in that happy place – the bright colours, and curving lines. For many years I drew everyday, sketching out my interest in chairs at first, before gravitating to simple, decorative drawings, with simple, repeating forms and shapes. In the same way, in painting I explored straight-lined chairs and partial views of chairs before canoes became my obsession. So with those, I’m in an abstract frame of mind, taking something familiar or ordinary and pushing it to the limit of what can be recognized. It’s almost musical, though I would never pretend to be a musician but as musician Laurie Anderson says, ‘the purpose of art is to provide what life does not”. So, many of my works have musical titles. A great deal of my inspiration comes from years listening to the Beatles and such over and over, but also art history and my fellow artists in general.
Love your piece in the 2018 OMAH Carmichael Exhibition, can you describe your thought process behind its creation? Is this the beginning of a new series?
Thank you for that. It’s called “AVP, An Apparatus for Viewing Landscapes”, and its about exploring ideas and getting away from just flat painting. I’ve always done dimensional work, but it has always been less productive for me; each piece actually takes a lot of time considering different ways to approach an idea, and then finding materials and objects through which I can convey that idea. For a long time I’ve explored ideas of sentimentalism, privilege and power imbalances. For instance, who gets to do what in our society. This work tackles materiality, environmentalism and the art world through those lenses. In that vein, my big question would be, “Who gets to shape art the way it needs to be seen, the artist or the art market?” That probably sounds very heady, but I actually want people to see the humour in the piece.
As for a series, yes I have already sketched out 15-20 smaller pieces I would love to get to. They’ll challenge my carpentry skills for sure. To get to those, I first have a painting commission to complete, and then continuing to be productive will be the greater challenge. However, I must say, as an artist being involved in the OMAH’s Carmichael Show has been a great boost, and I look forward to seeing how my art unfolds over the next year or so.
As an ‘Orillia’ based Artist, what are your thoughts on the art community and where do you see it/hope to see it 5-10 years from now?
I’m a reluctant person socially, but I try to find ways of getting out there and being involved. Participating in group shows at OMAH is one way, but I also use social media quite a bit – I admin a few groups on facebook, “Orillia Artists”, “Canadian Artists for Truth and Reconciliation”, and a group for my own followers. I also have tried to blog, but I find it very distracting and too time intensive – if you read one of my long posts, you’d see why [laughs]. But then there is Streets Alive projects, which I’ve done four plus a few banners. Streets Alive, organized by Leslie Fournier is very energizing, very public.
The Arts District seems very alive with studios, retail spaces and galleries, and especially new, younger faces, which is nice to see. That’s fantastic. With support from the city and a continued influx of what looks like that youth movement taking hold, Orillia will grow as a very vibrant place in many ways – the music, theatre, and the visual arts scene. I encourage others to visit downtown and encourage that growth.
Where may people connect with you and your work, online and in-person. Any upcoming events or exhibitions?
I sell some works online at Saatchi Art which is a good place to look at my last five years or so. I have my website, Fyfe Art which is like this whole survey of everything I’ve ever made! And the blog is there as well as my e-mail. I’ve got a book of drawings available at the OMAH gift store – I tell people it’s the world’s only hardback colouring book! I haven’t participated in an exhibition in a very long time, outside of the Orillia Museum of Art & History, and the Zephyr Gallery back in 2015-16. My favorite way to communicate is on facebook, but I’m in the phone book, for those who still use one of those! And of course, I’m always available just to meet for coffee and talk about commissioned works.
Peter Fyfe is originally from Kingston (Ontario), where he grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. His formal arts education began atYork University Ontario (1982-1986) where he earned hisFine Arts degree studying painting and sculpture. After that there was a stint at the Banff School of Fine Arts, 1986-1987, and then things got wrapped up with a Bachelor of Education (Artist in The Community Program) from Queen's University 1993-94.
For fifteen years, Fyfe taught mostly at Gravenhurst High School, 1999 – 2015, and mostly in Social Sciences, as well as Visual Arts, but also significant course work in Communications Technology, Media, and Business Studies.
Today, Fyfe feels like a re-emerging artist, working from home in Orillia, no studio, but where he also happens to live with his wife Jennifer, two lovely children and two cats.
MEET Sylvia Tesori! I first met Sylvia a few years ago when she came to Peter Street Fine Arts Gallery & Studio asking about being a Guest Artist - ever since she has been a part of the downtown Orillia Arts District community and a great friend. The past year we shared gallery/shop space together and it was a fun, creative adventure. I spent a great deal of time surrounded by her work and was continuously awed by the vibrant energy, colours and unique story of each piece!
Read ON to learn more about Sylvia and her work!
Your work has a very spiritual quality, where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from the natural world. I spent years working outside and refused all jobs that had me “caged”. I love Ontario’s forests and waters. My favorite inhabitants are the birds! Inspiration also comes from my dreams; birds soar, crows speak, deers listen and bears lead.
You make soap! As an artist, how does your creativity transfer into the making of your soap and body products?
I am always making something, and love to try new mediums. The soap and other body items are a great blend of my creativity and science skills. I was trained as a scientist, and though I no longer work in that field, I continue to teach sciences at the high school and college levels. It’s really satisfying to be able to offer a great, healthy product that everyone needs anyway!
You have a street level business in the Orillia Arts District - What is your favourite part about operating a gallery/shop?
My favorite part of being in a street level gallery in the Orillia Arts District is the people. I really enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. It is also a lot of fun to have a visitor and see their reaction to my art; it’s so cool when someone connects and sees what you see.
Where may people find your work, in person and online?
Three Crows Speak Studio is located at 9 Peter St. S, in downtown Orillia's Arts District. My website is Three Crows Speak Studio or find me on Facebook: Three Crows Speak Studio.
Upcoming: Find Sylvia at First Light at Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, November 22 to 24, November 29 to December 1, and December 6-9, 5:30 to 9:00pm.
Meet Christina Hartwick, multimedia artist who specializes in amazing and beautiful wire sculptures! I am always enthralled at the detail and unique character of each of her creations! Visit Christina this weekend during for her first Art Studio Open House, October 6 to 8 (co-hosted with artist Cheryl Sartor).
Read ON to discover Christina's inspirations and more about her work!
What path led you to working with wire? What other mediums do you work with when creating?
I first started out doing portrait drawings of people and animals. Wire became a new form of drawing for me which brought my drawings off the paper and into a 3D form. I enjoy working with many different mediums. Some of my favourites are wire, wood, rock, paints, fabric, pen & ink, pencil & coloured pencils. I most enjoy sculpting and working with hand tools and electric tools.
Your work feels whimsical yet very strong and grounded, what is your inspiration?
At the family cottage was where I found a lot of my inspiration. I would sketch just about anything at anytime. I would take extensive time shading with pencils, coloured pencils or pastels. I would always travel with my pencils and sketch book. One time I had forgotten my supplies back home and felt lost. So I began a search for other textiles. I came across some rusty old wire in the garage and that’s where it all began. I brought the drawings in my mind to life into a 3D form. It was very satisfying to see those images come off the page. I believe art heals the artist and the ones who appreciate it and want to know more of its story.
What are your favourite subjects to create? Do you accept commissions?
Outdoor and large sculptures are my most favourite to create. Being able to create large pieces without welding is a complex process and the outcome is always engaging.
I have and do accept commissions.
Where may people find your work, in person and online?
My art can be found at Art & Home Studio, Orillia Opera House and the Orillia Museum of Art & History. On facebook, find my work on my All Wired Up - Wire Sculptures and Mixed Media Art page.
Contact me through e-mail or at my studio 705-326-6713.
Website up soon! www.allwiredupartist.com
Artist Bio: Originally from Newmarket, Christina has always had a passion and a appreciation for all forms of art and music. She took art through high school and continued her love of Fine Arts throughout the years as a self taught artist. Christina has called Orillia home for many years and would visit the parks camping as a child. She has participated in local art events such as, Art Meets History, Maple Masterpieces/Streets Alive, Women’s Art Show Exhibit, Woods End Studio Tour, Art Studio Open Tour and Somniatis The Wearable Art Show. Christina has her art displayed for sale at the Orillia Museum of Art History, The Orillia Opera House and Art & Home Studio. She is also a member of The Orillia Fine Arts Association. Christina is hugely inspired by her two children, exploring the outdoors, wildlife and music. She works with wire as her prominent form which requires a level of manual dexterity and her sculptures are of life like proportion as well as abstract.
Meet Kathryn Kaiser. Kathryn creates beautiful, thought-provoking images, scenes and stories through her art. Her work's intense yet subtle energy is mesmerizing. Find her studio at STOP F of the Images Studio Tour THIS weekend, October 5 to 8, 10am to 5pm daily!
READ ON to discover more about Kathryn and her work ....
Your work emanates with emotion - What are the core themes and what do you hope people absorb from viewing your work?
I paint what moves me. If an image, an event or a vision leaves an impression, I will often find a way to attempt to capture it in my work. It is not that I have a strong desire to educate viewers, but I am always pleased when a piece inspires someone to stop and consider the story behind it. Occasionally my work may push people outside their comfort zones. Although this is often a frightening place to be, it is also where I tend to learn the most about myself and the world. I consider a piece successful if it provokes an emotional response in the viewer.
Your depiction of light is amazing. What medium do you paint in and what inspires your colour palette?
I have always been in awe of the way light affects what we see: shape, colour, depth and mood. Light defines everything in our physical and visual world.
Oils are my medium of choice, and I also work in acrylic, charcoal, and chalk pastel. I am looking to experiment with other media. I have done a bit of water colour, clay sculpture, and would very much like to learn more about printing and working in metal.
I am not overly conscientious about the colour palette I use, and tend to let the colour mixing become intuitive. I begin with a fairly limited selection of colours and mix what is needed from these. I can see that I am drawn to warm, rich colours and love to play with the contrast of warm and cool, and how that defines space (depth) in a piece. Understanding colour is certainly an ongoing process. Not being very scientific or technical about colour mixing, I have the messiest palette board ever. More than a few of my teachers would cringe at these words.
You recently opened your own Artist Studio – any future plans for workshops, events?
Oh yes, I have a studio! It is wonderful to finally have a dedicated space to work, and I am so excited (as is my family) to finally be out of the living and dining room. I would very much like to run workshops, and have other creatives use it as well. Our plan is to make the costs accessible to instructors to facilitate workshops both in the studio and outside. I would enjoy having a drop in studio for parents with kids one day a month, for example. We also have a 48 acre property with bush and trails that we would love to use. I would love to have a drop in studio for parents with kids one day a month.
You are participating in the upcoming Images Studio Tour, but where else may people find your work, in person and online?
Currently my work is only available to see in person in my studio, which is open by chance or by appointment. I have many of my pieces on my website, which will also show links to upcoming shows and exhibits. Plans are to exhibit at a couple of different galleries in Orillia in the near future. Stay in touch for updates on upcoming events.
Find Kathryn's work online on her website Verity Blue Studio, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Behance.
Artist Bio: Kathryn Kaiser is an artist & designer living outside of Coldwater, Ontario. Largely self-taught, she has been painting just over six years now. Her main focus is portraiture and landscapes, which are emotionally charged and often reflect an aspect of the human condition. She approaches each piece with a unique perspective... allowing her work to stay fresh, which keeps the whole process ever changing and evolving.
Kathryn is a board member of ODAC (Orillia & District Arts Council). She is an active member of OMAH in Orillia and Quest Art in Midland ON. She is involved in various projects in the Orillia and Coldwater communities and internationally, as well as humanitarian work with new Canadians and refugees.
“The human condition holds the most inspiration for me, and this is where I find myself returning again and again. I am relentless in my search for truth and understanding. It is critical for me to interpret each subject individually. How are we affected by our environment and experiences? Where do we hold our scars, what are our stories?"
Meg Leslie is a multidisciplinary artist working in several mediums, her main mantra - 'creativity'. Meg and I grew up together on the same street in Orillia, we played 'Kick the Can', fed feral stray cats and I was inspired by Meg's creative spirit even back then (she gifted me a handmade stuffed animal for a Birthday!).
Whatever creative endeavour she embraces, from offering Workshops (in mosaics and ceramics), creating daily drawings, to working on community projects like the Awesome Wall in Kitchener, Ontario where she currently lives, Meg brings immense talent, determination and creative magic!
Read on to discover more:
You have worked in several different art forms, how has that journey evolved and what creative medium are you currently focusing on?
I am currently focused on creativity in general. Yeah, whatever moves me creatively, that’s what I do.
I have this daily practice of sketching with my left hand. It’s just practice and for fun, but I’m starting to think that Leftie needs a show sometime soon in a gallery. I’m also preparing ceramics for an art walk on November 10th in a sweet old neighbourhood in downtown Kitchener. I’m taking over the living room and there are 2 other incredible creatives with me, and the tour itself is one of the best....you can really walk it - the Frederick Art Walk!
You have an on-going ‘leftie selfie’ series, describe the process and the ‘why’ …
Leftie ... well, it started from a tweet that I read in 2014 that just said, “Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. That’s all I’m saying, just try it” ... so I did. Then I started washing my hair in the morning with my left hand, then I started drawing with my left hand. It was such fun that I committed to doing it every day. I have fallen off the wagon a few times in the last 4 years, but every time I come back Leftie evolves. She has a body and often words now. I love her! : )
As a community minded artist, are you currently involved in any projects? What have you worked on in the past?
Ah Patti, there’s a lot of large scale mosaics that I have done in the past like that huge letter C for Streets Alive in Orillia, the aWEsoME wall (71’ mosaic wall with the help of 300+ people at the men’s shelter downtown Kitchener) and one of my favourites was the Homewood Green Art Wall for the City of Kitchener.
Lately ... nothing like that on the go, but I’m busy with my personal practice and I’m teaching ceramics regularly at Homer Watson House and Gallery, and then there’s my day job.
Oh something I’m excited about is a presentation I’m doing about community art as part of an event in Waterloo called Amplify Culture Summit on October 24th.
For fun, I've been taking weekly pottery lessons from an incredible potter in Waterloo.
I love that/always learning and growing.
Where may people find your work or connect with you about workshops and commissions?
Well, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. My Facebook page for creative ideas and inspiration is called Earth Sky Sandwich. My website meglesliecreative.ca has lots of lovely photos of my work, or follow Leftie’s journey on instagram as meglesliecreative #leftieselfie
Also, find Meg's work (porcelain jewelry) at the Orillia Museum of Art & History in downtown Orillia's Arts District!
Bio: Meg Leslie is a multidisciplinary artist originally from Orillia, currently living in downtown Kitchener. She has been nominated Waterloo Regional Artist of the year in 2013 and 2014 for her community art projects, and nominated Oktoberfest Woman of the year for Arts and Culture in 2017. She won 2nd prize in 2013 for her mosaic letter C in Orillia’s Streets Alive.
Meet Robyn Rennie! Robyn creates intoxicating abstract paintings that vibrate with a radiant energy - each one a visual treat that engages the senses. Using various media to create texture and colour, her recent abstract body of work evokes a strong and beautiful experience for the viewer.
Read on to learn more about Robyn and her work!
Your art practice altered/evolved as a result of health issues – how has that impacted your creative process and subject matter? Describe your work and creative process?
I suffered a life-changing vision loss in 2005 which has changed how I experience the world. But while I continue to choose my subject matter from the natural world, visual impairment has freed me from my former style of highly-detailed expression. While I use the same medium and grounds, I now employ them to subvert popular assumptions about sight. One common stereotype about vision loss is that it results in more acute hearing, but in reality sight merely allows the brain to filter background noise so that we can attend to something specific. My abstract works challenge what we see by evoking other senses: For example, I want the viewer to be able to visually experience what we rationally know about colours by thinking about how they might taste, smell, sound, or, feel. I hope to impart that seeing beyond vision can open the door to understanding that so much of what we assume to be true is open to interpretation. I demonstrate this concept further by using iridescent and interference paints; even a slight shift in point of view changes the changes the viewer’s experience. Any form of new information can change a person’s perspective – visually and emotionally.
What are you currently working on and any upcoming events or exhibitions?
I just finished my design for the upcoming “Somniatis III”. I’m am currently working on my design for next year’s Streets Alive installation. as well as new work for the next “Feministo” show (Feministo is a group of female contemporary abstract artists that includes Patti Agapi, Catherine Cadieux, Stephanie Stanton, and myself).
As an Orillia Artist, what are your hopes for the continued growth and vitality of the Orillia Art Community?
Orillia is a dynamic arts community, and I am so honoured to be a part of the creative pulse of the city! I love that the City understands and supports the value that art has to our collective sense of self and community, as well as tourism. I could say that I hope there will be continued opportunities for public art installations and growth for the artists of Orillia, but I know that will happen. It is already happening!
I met Murray Van Halem several years ago when we were both members of Zephyr Art Gallery. I have always been impressed with Murray's confident painting style and his consistent enthusiasm as an artist. He is a prolific creator and varied in his painting subjects but always produces strong and fresh work. His intense use of colour is mesmerizing!
MEET Murray! Read on to discover more about him and his painting practice.
How long have you been painting and how did your journey as an oil painter begin?
I've always been interested in art, since my childhood. I started my working life as a photographer, but really all I ever wanted to do was paint. I dabbled a bit in watercolours earlier on but not enough to develop my artwork to any degree. I retired from a long career in real estate and started painting seriously. My first time using a paint brush with oil was at Haliburton School of the Arts in a workshop with John Anderson, and I haven't looked back. That was in 2011.
Your work varies greatly in subject matter from landscapes to portraits to city scenes – where do you get your inspiration and reference from when painting?
Painting different subjects is a great way to develop painting skills. That is why I do so many different things. Portraits are the most demanding and also the most rewarding. If you can paint a portrait well, you can paint anything.
I spend time in Toronto regularly and find lots of inspiration, and I photograph things that I might want to paint. My 20 year career as a photographer serves me well as a painter.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or events? Where can we find your work?
I will be at the annual Images Studio Tour during the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend, and exhibiting at the Leacock National Historic Site in Orillia. Also, I have paintings on display at Twig Creative on 6 Peter Street and at Manticore Books in downtown Orillia. I am participating in Midland's Quest Art School and Gallery "Art at Home" fundraising art-loan program, and their Art Slam speed painting event on September 21st.
Artist Bio: Murray Van Halem is a Canadian artist and educator who lives in Victoria Harbour, Ontario. A graduate of Montreal’s School of Modern Photography, he began his career as a large-format commercial photographer and worked as a photojournalist, portrait photographer, magazine editor and writer. Murray now explores light, form and space through paint.
Visit Murray's website and connect on facebook and instagram to discover more of his work!
Inspiring ARTists & ART!
Greg James Thomson
Murray Van Halem