Qualicum Beach artist Susan Hiebert stands with several of her texture-focused paintings that make up her first exhibit at the MAC, running from Jan. 16 to Feb. 24. — Submitted by Susan Hiebert

A touch of nature in local painter’s Parksville exhibit

Susan Hiebert discusses her love of texture and her process

As a painter, Qualicum resident Susan Hiebert is focused on an entire spectrum in addition to colour.

For her, texture comes first, and she incorporates an extensive range of textures using a variety of natural objects and art media.

Taking inspiration from West Coast tidal zones, cross-sections of earth striations and “big sky” landscapes, a selection of Hiebert’s colourful, textured paintings are on display at the MAC (McMillan Arts Centre at 133 McMillan St.) until Feb. 24.

Hiebert, born in Taplow, England, said the natural world inspired her from an early age.

“Nature is so stunning,” she said during an interview at the MAC exhibit.

She said she remembers reading an Automobile Association book on exploring Britain as a child. “I knew, when I was eight years old, all the butterflies of Britain, the birds of Britain, the plants, all those plants and trees… I love nature so much and I almost want to put that on my paintings.”

On many occasions she does just that.

In creating her semi-abstract paintings, inspired by beaches where the tide has gone out or sections of rock, or even in her more realistic-looking landscapes, Hiebert begins by creating and collecting the various materials that will serve as a texture or 3D elements of the painting, and then affixing those to a canvas.

“I create a background to begin with,” she said, using no colour. “I put on little rocks that I’ve made with air-dry clay, real seeds and roots and plants,” sometimes even incorporating eggshells to give a kind of mica texture.

“There is a guy in Bowser that sells eggs to us,” said Hiebert.

“I carefully incorporate those into the piece and then it’s completely pretty much white, you know, with a bit of odd colour, kind of grey tones, and then I add the colour in afterwards.”

What results are often highly colourful paintings that beg viewers to reach out and touch to fully experience (though that’s of course not permitted).

With Hiebert’s big sky paintings, the setting is far more recognizable as a sort of macro example of nature versus the others, which give a more micro image. Nonetheless, texture is just as important in these macro images, said Hiebert, with skies getting a stucco-like texture, and plants in the foreground being moulded out of clay, or with Hiebert using real plants.

Asked what she’s aiming for with her work, Hiebert said, “I want to create depth and warmth. And a realism. I want the tidal zone pictures, for instance, to look like it’s possible in nature.”

For more info on Hiebert’s exhibit and other things going on at the MAC, go to mcmillanartscentre.com.

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