Adam Kveton Photo TOSH resident artist Thérèse Johnston is touching up a piece ahead of her exhibition, which began April 10 and runs to April 29.

Never safe from the brush

TOSH 10 artist Thérèse Johnston exhibiting this month in Qualicum Beach

Thérèse Johnston is leaving a set of 12 paintings alone for long enough to put them on exhibition at The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH).

But that doesn’t mean the works are safe from her brush in the future. If any of them come home, that is.

Johnston is one of the TOSH 10 — a group of resident artists at the arts centre in downtown Qualicum Beach. And she’s done plenty of exhibitions before. But each new one is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for her, she said.

“It’s normal because you’re never completely satisfied,” Johnston said. “There are so many artists in the world and so many good artists, and so many styles that you never stop learning, which is a good thing, because I always want to get better.”

That philosophy might account for her re-examinations of her work, which often result in changes.

“My husband says that until it’s out of the house, it’s not safe, because I keep going back,” said Johnston with a laugh.

“You keep examining it and saying, ‘Oh, maybe I should have done this… I take them down and I just pick at them. They are never safe.”

In fact, just before discussing her work for this article, Johnston was making some changes to one of her works — a piece on birds.

“But it’s not a realistic picture,” she explains. “It’s semi-abstract. And I work with multimedia,” meaning, in this case, that her paintings are acrylic, with gel medium and perhaps some collage elements.

“Years ago I did watercolours and I did oils and all the mediums, but I’ve been doing mixed media now for probably 15, 20 years,” she said.

Her paintings usually have a real subject, like trees, flowers, houses or wildlife, but they serve only as a basis for a semi-abstract piece. Much of what goes on canvas comes from her imagination, she said, sometimes resulting in wholly abstract works.

The key, though, is a balanced composition.

“It’s about balancing the shapes, the colours, more than getting the painting accurate,” she said. “If you look at my paintings, there is a structure to it, there are bones under it.”

Another concern is having a place for a viewer’s eye to be drawn.

Johnston creates her paintings in series, based on subject. This exhibit is mostly houses.

Asked what she wants people to get from her work, she said people often say they like the colours, and that they make them feel happy. “So (my work is) never somber or sad. There is enough sadness in the world.”

Johnston’s exhibit continues to April 29 at TOSH.