Local artists find home for holidays

89-year-old ‘rookie’ exhibits pastel landscapes at Qualicum gallery

Donna Hales

The new kid on the Parksville Qualicum arts scene has an affinity for camping and music and a growing collection of pastel landscapes.

Oh, and two great-grandchildren.

Donna Hales, a spry and vigorous 89, has one of two new exhibits on display through mid-January at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply in Qualicum Beach.

She is sharing space with members of the Mid-Island Polymer Art Guild — also known as the Clay Mates.

“We try to include artists in our gallery in the revolving displays that, in our opinion, have not yet reached a professional status, but because they’ve been longtime customers we try to promote and encourage,” said Bonnie Luchtmeijer, owner of Qualicum Art Supply.

The Clay Mates, who include Rose Gauthier, Joyce Grenon and Lynn Orriss, are back for a return engagement after displaying their distinctive polymer clay journals, jewelry and wall hangings here last December. But this month’s exhibit is a first for Hales, whose life was taken up with raising two children and running businesses in both food service and hardware with her husband.

Polymer clay artists and crafters, from left, Lynn Orriss, Joyce Green and Rose Gauthier display their work through mid-January at Qualicum Arts Supply in Qualicum Beach. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

Still, she had been painting recreationally for decades on the prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and selling the occasional piece, by the time she relocated to Vancouver Island in the early 2000s. About two years ago, she began studying pastels at Creekside Studio under award-winning pastel artist Joan Larson in Qualicum Beach.

Larson’s work is striking for its realism, particularly her series of horses. That realism is also apparent in Hales’ bold, textured landscapes, which bear little of the dreamlike haziness that pastels can often impart.

“I’m really loving them,” said Hales. “It’s fun to do.”

It’s also practical. Hales loves camping, and most of her art represents scenes she’s viewed while on camping trips — including a unique piece showing an air tanker dropping a load of distinctive red fire retardant on last summer’s Dog Mountain fire near Sproat Lake.

“I started with oils and moved to acrylics,” said Hales, who began painting between the age of 30 and 35.

“But with pastels, there’s not much cleanup when you’re out camping.”

On of those camping trips she met a man who, when he saw what she was up to, gave her a substantial folio of scenic photos. That chance meeting led to her most mysterious work to date — an image of a suspension bridge she believed to be Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver.

“But everyone that sees it tells me it’s not Lion’s Gate,” she said. “I don’t know where it is.”

Hales doesn’t expect to make a full-time career of art at this stage of her life. On the other hand, she’s far too busy to retire. An organ and keyboard player, she appears regularly with “a little band” at the Long Lake Chateau in Nanaimo.

“And I’m a seamstress,” she adds.

The exhibits can be seen at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply at 206 First Ave. West in Qualicum Beach. It is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For info, call 250-752-3471 or email qacs@shaw.ca.

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