Cindy Mawle stands with her award-winning painting, which placed first in the Arrowsmith Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists’ juried exhibition at TOSH. — Adam Kveton Photo

Unique tree take awarded at Qualicum Beach art show

Painter branching out with new style gets attention

Painting trees is nothing new for artist Cindy Mawle, but her latest take on them has her painting in a completely new style, having more fun and getting some attention from her peers.

Mawle’s painting, Creative Dialect, won first place at the Arrowsmith Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists’ fall juried show, now on display at TOSH (The Old School House Arts Centre, 122 Fern Rd. West, Qualicum Beach).

The annual show saw dozens of artists take part, with a variety of styles ranging from realistic to representational, abstract and more.

The winners of the show, based on the choices by jurors Judi Betts, Lorna Hannett and Darlene Botkin, are as follows:

– First place: Mawle

– Second place: Diane Michelin

– Third place: Peggy Burkosky

– Hon. Mention: Birgit Coath

– Hon. Mention: Faith Love-Robertson

The NEWS sat down with Mawle to discuss her painting and her thoughts on taking first place.

“It’s pretty neat,” she said of getting the award. “It’s confirmation from my peers, from other artists that that direction, a new direction I’m taking, is actually a good thing.” Though, she noted she’d keep working on this style even if it hadn’t won any awards.

“It’s a much different direction than what I was doing before,” she said.

“My paintings before are very representational, west coast scenery, trees. It’s always about the trees it seems,” she said with a smile. “This style is a little more Art Nouveau. Almost with a decorative flair, but there’s still the trees. That’s the common connection.”

The exhibit is actually the first that Mawle has had one of her new paintings in.

The switch in style came about after a workshop just a few months ago, and a traumatic development for the tree-loving artist.

Behind Mawle’s home, there was a forest located on private property, but it had recently been clear-cut, she said. “Totally flattened, logged.”

“It was very upsetting to me at the time,” she said.

Mawle said she’s not entirely sure why she’s so compelled to paint trees, but said her love of them began as a kid growing up in Sooke, climbing trees, making tree houses, and ultimately taking them for granted until she moved to Alberta where there were no trees like she had growing up.

After returning to the Island, Mawle said they meant so much more to her.

When that forest behind her home was logged, she said she had to stop painting in her representational style, finding it too emotional.

“I kind of had to put it all into context and understand that they had to take trees down to build my house too, and it was their property. They can do whatever they like. It was just sad because it was a forest. It was an absolutely beautiful, stunning forest.”

It was difficult to navigate her feelings, she said, as even her childhood was financed by the logging industry: her dad was a logging truck driver.

“The reason why we had food on our table when I was a child was because my dad drove a logging truck, so we were part of the logging industry.”

So, while Mawle found she didn’t want to paint in her usual style, she decided to try a new one inspired by a workshop she had taken. Her inspiration was a question: if the trees could talk to her in some non-verbal way, what would that look like as a painting?

That’s the thought that resulted in her award-winning piece, Creative Dialect.

“This is fun,” she said of her new style. “This taps into my 10-year-old self, and also I can relax and paint like this and I wouldn’t have been able to do this before I’d spent 30 years working towards painting representationally. To me, this is like the reward of spending so many years working on representational work. It’s so much fun.”

Mawle said, painting representationally, she had some anxiety over realizing a piece accurately. With this new style, she feels much more free to do as she likes, or as her subconscious likes, and see what happens. Having started on this new style, Mawle said painting representationally has become easier as well.

To check out Mawle’s painting, as well as many others by members of the FCA Arrowsmith Chapter, head down to TOSH where the exhibit will be on display until Oct. 27.

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