Lois Goodnough celebrates the sale of two of her paintings at the opening of her exhibit at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach. (Emily Vance photo)

Working with intuition and a critical eye: Parksville painter’s work on display

Lois Goodnough’s female figures are full of joy and movement

Lois Goodnough has been creating most of her life – drawing, painting and working with textiles.

She’s picked up the paintbrush in a serious way in the past five years and the Parksville-based artist is currently showing her work at The Old School House in Qualicum Beach.

The works on display at TOSH are mostly figurative, depicting female figures in various poses, many of them joyful with big hair, displaying plenty of movement. Most of them are faceless, with some showing only the slightest shadow of a face.

“I like painting the female figure … there’s just this camaraderie and connection that women have, that I don’t believe men get to have. And I think it’s really special, and it brings joy, and it’s just fun. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that men get together and laugh and have as much fun as we do,” said Goodnough.

“I think we can really have fun together, no matter what’s going on. I think we really lift each other up. I like to celebrate that in my paintings.”

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She’s always been intrigued by fashion. Prior to the paintings she was creating dolls, designing their outfits and casting them in various positions, like one that sits in her French Creek home, a Cruella De Vil-esque doll with a long cigarette, lounging on a black chaise.

Though they are different mediums, it’s not a far stretch from the dolls to the paintings of female figures. The paintings, featuring abstract patternwork, are strongly reminiscent of her textile background.

“I think that’s what probably influenced that still – that love of fabric, and pattern and colour, And just intuitively I just went there I think – just to try and create something unique, and something that I wanted to see. And somehow this little technique just came out of me.”

She begins her process by choosing a colour palette and covering the canvas with paint in a variety of abstract swirls.

“When I start that, it’s just so freeing. I have no idea where it’s going. It could be a mess, it could be something really good, but I just start putting it on there,” said Goodnough.

“I’m not thinking about what it’s going to look like that way, I’m just thinking about – I’m just going intuitively and freely I’m just playing with the canvas. It’s really freeing … especially when you pick the right colour palette and start seeing how they’re going together, thinking ‘this is good. This feels good.’”

Following your intuition can be difficult at first, and Goodnough said she had to break away from her painting group and work alone to really find her own style. Often in the early stages, the results of intuition may not look so pretty, but it’s all part of the process.

“Then I’ve just got a canvas full of madly applied – as somebody has called it who has seen it – a dog’s breakfast! Just a mess of colour and if you walked in here you would say ‘what is she doing??” said Goodnough with a laugh.

“There is a point during the process where it takes a critical eye, and a good sense of colour to know where to make those marks, where to use the stencils. Because otherwise it could just be a bunch of polka-dots.”

After that she scans the helter-skelter patternwork and looks for figures.

“I just stand back and look for where – usually first I see where the face is coming out. And just see a face. I find the faces, and then I put the bodies, and figure out where the hair is going to go,” said Goodnough.

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“And then I just kind of start painting in the background, whatever colour I choose for that.”

Though the message is not overt, Goodnough says she’s often inspired by women’s movements and issues. Like one painting, Women Talking 2, that hangs in her backyard studio.

“That was my inspiration when I was getting totally frustrated with the Kavanaugh hearings – and I came out here to paint,” said Goodnough.

Some of the patternwork is suggestive of an American flag, and linework swirls around the women’s heads, going back and forth and converging to hover and cloud overhead.

“And that was my response to the Me Too movement – that nobody was listening, everyone was just talking and the words were just flying in the air, and women were just talking to a wall,” said Goodnough.

The first Women Talking has gone on to live a life of its own: on the silver screen. Several of Goodnough’s works from the Federation of Canada Artists gallery on Granville Island were purchased by a film production company, and are appearing in the NBC TV series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Goodnough says she watched the pilot and spotted one of her works, saying the experience was surreal.

“It was really ‘oh look! Can’t they make that clearer?’” she said with a laugh.

“It was fun to watch.”

Goodnough’s work will be on display at TOSH until Feb. 16.

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