Donna Baspaly at her exhibit at Qualicum Gallery and Art Supply. (Submitted photo)

Qualicum Beach artist shows off new work full of whimsy and power

Baspaly’s new exhibit is at Qualicum Gallery and Art Supply

Donna Baspaly’s exhibit at Qualicum Gallery and Art Supply was 20 years in the making.

In some ways, at least.

“We have [talked about it] off and on. When I go in there or something. And they’re really nice to deal with,” said Baspaly about owners Bonnie and Bill Luchtmeijer. “I guess we were both in the mood to say yes.”

Baspaly’s paintings, which she created at her home in Qualicum Beach, are now on display at the gallery. Whimsical florals are featured, as well as more abstract works. The gallery describes her work as having a “strong sense of powerful shapes and rich colour combinations.”

“The florals I’ve been trying different starts when I’m beginning, just setting up the rhythm of the painting and the temperature…and the design structure, there’s always a design structure under a painting,” she said. “And then I don’t know really where it’s going, I just follow what’s happening… until you get to the proper thing that looks good in your eyes.”

READ MORE: PQB arts coverage here

Baspaly said there’s not a specific meaning behind this set of paintings, but said she thought the work of two women might have been subconsciously inspired by her children, who recently went on a trip to Africa together. What she’s certain about, is the journey the piece represents.

“The women painting was two other paintings under that, I just destroyed it. Like twice. And this was the third one and I was happy with what was the underpainting that came through for this one,” she said. “Because I wouldn’t have gotten there without the mistakes…what’s underneath it is exciting to me.”

Baspaly’s art career started approximately 40 years ago. Since, she’s exhibited in Japan, Australia and across North America. She has numerous awards under her belt, including the Silver Medal, Bronze Medal and the Award of Excellence from the Federation of Canadian Artists.

However, Baspaly’s life wasn’t always full of art. She started painting in the late 1970s while taking night school courses after working for an airline and realizing it wasn’t for her. Up to that point, Baspaly was busy raising her children and working – she didn’t have a lot of time to be creative.

“I decided, I’m so off base right now, I know I’m not on my own path, and I need to really make a decision,” she said. “So, around 40, that’s a pretty pivotal place in your life. You make some life decisions. And I decided to go…as close as I could get to full time to university and get the courses in art school.”

READ MORE: On display at Qualicum Art Supply & Gallery

From there, Baspaly said she was able to claim a piece of herself that was always there and develop her identity of an artist. Part of that for her was also discovering that she’s 1/4 Métis as an adult – she is now a member of the Eastern Woodland Métis Association.

“You just want the pieces of the puzzle to your life,” she said.

Another part of Baspaly’s identity as an artist has been moulded by other female artists she’s met and looked up to. She points to Carla O’Connor, Mary Todd Beam, Pat San Soucie and Louise Lachance as a few main influences.

“Back in the ’70s, ’80s, men had the world in art. There weren’t very many teachers that were women at that time, there were a few. And so when I did start studying under women, it was really liberating,” she said.

She said it was the women around her who inspired her use of different mediums in art. She remembers thumbnail sketches from the time, quick and small drawings/pieces that are done without changing them afterwards, and how inventive female artists were with them.

She said she was able to see a shift as an artist within the scene – one that catered more to men, to one where women were able to find more commercial success.

“In order to get into the establishment, you had to paint in their image, like the style that they were painting in,” she said. “Many changes in that. Dominated mainly by men in the Federation of Canadian Artists when I joined – I think Ann Zielinski and I changed things a little bit with mixed media. I don’t say that we claim the fame, but we did bring some new stuff in.”

In terms of how Baspaly has been able to find success in the art world, she points to a happy relationship as a solid foundation and an openness to always learning new things.

“How important it is to have someone you are in relationship with be supportive of what you do. My husband has been there all along the journey with me and I am very grateful,” she said. “It never gets boring.”

You can check out the exhibit at Qualicum Art Supply at 101 – 206 First Avenue West on Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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