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From a dirt floor to a stunning gallery

When Greg Swainson started painting in 1984, his goal was to get good within 20 years.

The third season of his gallery in North Qualicum, which he calls a dream come true, is opening April 25, and it’s celebrating Swainson’s 30 years of painting, exhibiting and teaching watercolour painting.

“I’ve painted almost 2,100 paintings,” he said. “I’m pleased. They have come a long way. I’m pleased with the fact that when people find out they are watercolours, they say they didn’t know watercolour could be so vivid and so bold and that has been an objective throughout my career as a painter.”

Swainson taught commercial art in Alberta for years before beginning to teach watercolour techniques. He and his wife Joan moved to North Saanich in 2005 and made the move to Qualicum Beach in 2011. While looking at property in this area, they discovered a home that immediately revealed itself to Greg as a potential stunning and welcoming art gallery, although it would take some work to bring that dream to fruition.

The space was initially a dirt floor without heat or lighting, but the Swainsons transformed it, and an adjacent room, into a stunning gallery featuring work by a number of local artists, surrounded by sweeping ocean views, an intriguing garden and lush greenery.  It’s called Raintree Studio & Gallery and it is located off the beaten path, along highway 19A, just north of the turn-off for Arrowsmith Golf Course. It’s exactly what Swainson said he had always dreamed of in the back of his mind.

The first year the gallery opened, it had 484 people sign the guest book and last year that expanded to 820 people, who bought 78 pieces, at least one from each of the nine artists.

“So we were over the moon,” said Swainson.

The majority of the clientele the gallery attracts is tourists, although quite a few locals also turn into the property and wander around the spacious gallery. This year there will be four painters, two artists who work with wood, one flower arranger, two potters and a jewelry maker.

The price range starts at around $50 for a piece of pottery or small painting and at the high end there a few pieces upwards of $1,000.

Swainson is the only artist who paints solely in watercolour paints, a choice he committed to 30 years ago.

“I’m a bit of a believer of, if you spread yourself too thin you become a jack of all trades and a master of none,” he said. That’s not true for everyone, as he’s seen many artists master a number of mediums, he said.

Today, Swainson continues to teach art from his home studio in North Qualicum, as well as in Victoria, and in Alberta he still teaches in Sherwood Park and Red Deer.

Raintree Studio and Gallery opens April 25 with a show called 10,000 Strokes, a collection of recent watercolour works by Swainson celebrating 30 years of painting, exhibiting and teaching.

To celebrate the 30 years, Swainson is offering deals on all his paintings during this show, which runs to May 3. He said 20 per cent of all his sales from the show will be donated to Haven Society, which provides services to women and families who are victims of violence. There will be an opening reception Friday, April 25 from 5 to 8 p.m.

The gallery will remain open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. until Thanksgiving.

On May 4 there will be a watercolour show featuring Swainson’s Qualicum Beach students. Beginning May 9, nine local artists will have their work featured in the gallery, and the majority of them will be on hand to meet on May 10, from noon to 5 p.m.

Raintree Studio and Gallery is located at 5101 Island Hwy West. For more information visit the website at www.raintreestudio.ca.

 

 

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