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 Greg James Thomson! Greg has evolved from landscape photography to capturing stories though portraits, live concert performances and events. He is an active member and supporter in the Orillia Arts Community, always with camera ready to document and promote local exhibitions and artists that he highlights on his facebook page Orillia Arts Scene.
Currently, his selected photography work is available at Art & Home Studio and he has a piece available in the Orillia Museum of Art & History's upcoming Sir Sam's Club Membership fundraiser.
READ ON to discover Greg's story and learn more about his work and photography services!
Describe your journey into photography and how has your practice evolved over the past few years?
In hindsight I've always enjoyed and been fascinated by photography. But my journey into photography began in 2013 when I bought my first DSLR for my Muskoka based property maintenance/inspection business. I needed to get detailed pictures to send to clients. Soon after I bought the camera I bought a wide-angle lens and found myself pulling off to the side of the roads in Muskoka because a landscape caught my eye. In September of 2014 I was working near Killbear Provincial Park and decided to head there with my camera after work and take some landscape shots. It had been raining all day but when I got to Killbear the sun broke through. I was running around the park, clicking on the "landscape" preset and one image caught my eye when editing. I found an online printing company with a 50% off sale and decided to order some large prints to use as Christmas gifts. I gave one to my niece and her husband for their home in Nunavut, and I gave one to my brother and his wife. My sister-in-law Lori posted a picture of it on Facebook and the response was quite positive. I soon found myself thinking about photography 24/7 and took pictures constantly.
In November of 2015 my father passed away and with the small inheritance I received I decided to upgrade to a professional grade camera and lenses. I also decided that, after 18 years in Muskoka, it was time to move back to my hometown of Orillia and pursue a career as a photographer. Since then I have evolved from a landscape photographer to a portrait photographer.
What plans do you have for your artistic practice in the future?
My future plans involve having a studio, again. I would love a place where I could have my gear, and design backdrops for concept photo shoots. I'm not a "PhotoShop" guy so I like to create the magic in-camera. I'd also like my own wall space to display my work. I love all aspects of photography but portrait work is quite fun. I'll see about weddings. From a gear standpoint, I need more....always.
What is/are your favourite subject(s) to photograph?
That's a really tough question! It's like picking a favourite child. My favourite images immerse the viewer. In landscape shots I try to incorporate the "golden ratio" and leave enough negative space to leave the viewer wanting more. With surf photos I include the wave because it's part of the story. In portraits I look for a 'look' that tells the story. With concert photos I want the viewer to feel like they're there. It's all about story, and letting the viewer feel it.
Any upcoming projects or events? How do people connect with you?
I recently wrapped up a project for Couchiching Jubilee House volunteering my photography services for their "Fearless Females" calendar. Currently I'm working on my own annual calendar of 2018 images. I did 30 days of long exposures in September, so I'm thinking of using some of those shots. I also recently got a paid job with Car Media 2.0 to photograph automobiles for marketing purposes.
My website is www.gjthomson.com, contact me via email, phone 705-645-8984, or connect with me through my Facebook Page gjthomsonphotography or on Instagram.
Bio: Greg James Thomson moved with his family just north of Orillia in 1970. His father Hugh sold a patent to Otaco and started working there. He graduated from Park Street Collegiate and Georgian College with a major in Business Marketing. In the early 1990’s Greg worked in the radio industry and eventually moved to the Muskoka area to help start-up the MooseFM chain of stations. Over the years, he has operated several successful businesses and continues to pursue the entrepreneurial spirit. Greg moved back to Orillia in 2016 to pursue photography work.
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