This oil piece called Cross My Heart by Lucy Schappy makes up part of her exhibit now showing at TOSH until August 6. — Adam Kveton Photo

‘Playful optimism’ aim of exhibit in Qualicum Beach

Courtenay painter Lucy Schappy showing new abstract work

Over the last 18 years, Courtenay-based artist Lucy Schappy has been working to distill her paintings down to simpler and more expressive pieces.

Aiming to evoke a playful optimism with her work (an outlook she says she now has on life after years of work to get there), Schappy’s exhibit now hanging at TOSH (The Old School House Arts Centre, 122 Fern Rd. West, Qualicum Beach) shares a combination of fully abstract work, and more folk-inspired pieces featuring flowers and birds, some on quite large canvasses.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with way it looks,” said Schappy of the exhibit, complimenting TOSH on its space and curating. A number of Schappy’s pieces in the show were created this past winter specifically for this show, some building on a style Schappy began working on years ago.

“Those big new ones, they definitely are an evolution of work I was doing a lot of about five to eight years ago,” she said. “It’s kind of a folksy style with the birds and flowers. It really resonated with a lot of people, but I had to leave it and come back to it because it sort of felt like a dead end at the time.”

That’s changed, though, partly due to Schappy’s new use of a palette knife to apply paint. It allows for creating “broad, smooth areas of colour that I find so satisfying.”

Though Schappy’s artistic work began as representational, she said she found it unsatisfying, and continually pushed her boundaries to arrive at, broadly, two styles of work: fully abstract work, and work that contains simple representations of flowers, animals and other things.

Schappy creates her work with little to no premeditated idea of what a painting might ultimately be, but with an emphasis on warm, saturated colours, a flat appearance (perhaps inspired by her family’s quilting tradition) and simple, almost childlike images, shapes and symbols.

These are all in service of communicating a “playful optimism” she said.

“I certainly have been seeing it more that way at this stage of my life,” said Schappy. “I did go through some turbulent times earlier on in this artistic development, and so the work actually was more cathartic and therapeutic and working through some dark stuff. I definitely did a number of years of personal work to get to the place where I’m at now where I absolutely live and breath, not just the work, but my daily life is optimistic and joyful.

“It’s absolutely a reflection of what my life is.”

Her two styles not only provide an outlet for this positivity, but also help Schappy to feed her creativity, moving from one to the other as inspiration comes and goes.

Her completely abstract work is a challenge, she said — one she enjoys. “I love the possibility that abstract work provides for interpretation. Every single person that looks at it will see it differently.”

Her other work allows her to express her love for the natural world.

Overall, she said she’s constantly trying to distill her work “and make more with less. Have it be more like poetry or develop my own vocabulary that I can use with colour and shape and line and form to say something to evoke emotion.”

Schappy’s exhibit runs until August 6 at TOSH. For more info, go to www.theoldschoolhouse.org.

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