What’s the first artwork you remember liking?


Yesterday I talked about the first painting I liked and today it’s your turn. In April’s contest, I asked  “What’s the first artwork you remember liking?” and I got some wonderful answers. Thanks so much to everyone who shared their memories, I think you’ll find them all inspiring. I’ve added some images to give you a taste, but unfortunately I couldn’t always find the ones you described

Some people first loved the work of very famous artists.

Valerie said: “The first art that really inspired me was Marc Chagall’s “lovers flying over the village.”  It is typically colourful and romantic but you can also barely make out a tiny figure going to the bathroom off in the field.  I love it when artists have a sense of humour!”

Caroline said: “Edgar Degas, The Dancing Class. I was about 11 years old and clueless about art. It was on a postcard you got somewhere for free. I still have the postcard.”

Toni said: “Hmmm, great question. As a kid I was totally enamored by Salvador Dali’s work…made me question perspective and view the world through a more colourful lens.”


Others liked the art they were exposed to at home.

Malia said: “I always really liked the art prints from the 60s and 70s that my mother had on the walls of our house. The most intriguing one, though, was definitely the grey and black Saito print of a woman with a green gem on her finger–muted tones with a particularly memorable contrasting focus point. It definitely piqued my interest in print making that I have maintained (though not necessarily practiced myself) since then. It was also a neat surprise when I eventually found out that Kiyoshi Saito was a well-known Japanese print artist. Thinking about the picture always reminds me of home.”


Lesley said: “Both of my grandmothers were amateur artists, painting landscapes & still lifes once they became empty-nesters in the 70s. Their paintings were all over our home growing up. But the painting I first remember loving was one that hung in my grandmother’s home, on a skinny wall just inside the front door. It was an architectural study of a historic looking building with green shutters and pink flowers tumbling out of window boxes. She eventually gave it to me for Christmas a few years before she passed away. Still one of my favorite possessions!”

Then there was the Frieske I fell in love with at a local museum, then once I was older I discovered so much amazing art that now it is impossible to have a favorite! 

Sandi said: “Probably my older sister’s sketch book was my first artwork that I really appreciated. Other than that, probably Bob Ross. He made painting look so effortless.”

KH said: “My mother has a close friend (Jean) who has been a painter since before I was born.  The first painting I ever liked/loved was one of hers.  Her style is very much abstract expressionism and this one was called “Sewers of Marrakesh”.  It hung in our living room and I was about 3 years old when I first mentioned to my mom about the ‘donkey’ I could see in the painting in amongst the shapes and curves  (it was very funny since no-one else had ever seen the ‘donkey’ but once I mentioned it everyone could see it).  Jean and her art is very much responsible for my love of art and fervent belief people should own and live with ‘real’ art.”


Others liked both.

Julia said: “So, the real first piece of artwork I ever liked? I’ve racked my memory and its so hard to remember because I feel like I have been surrounded by art since I was born. My mother’s work was definitely the first I can remember loving, specifically her colourful pastels of fruit and adorable furry creatures.
Other than my mother’s work and the fact that I basically grew up in an art gallery, one of my clearest memories of loving a painting was Wassily Kandinsky’s Black Strokes 1. I had to do a project on it in elementary school where we had to examine the painting in detail and re-create a small portion of it. I remember picking the painting because it was so colourful and exciting (and it reminded me of a combination of fireworks and pom-poms!).
Since then, my knowledge of art and artists has grown exponentially and my tastes have developed in a more modern direction (graphic artists currently dominate my preferences). However my love of bright colours (and pom-poms) still exists. I think its interesting that when I look back at the painting I loved in elementary school, I still love it today. But more than that, I can see the influence that painting has had on my artistic tastes today.”

Elea said: “My first exposure to art was what we had on our walls at home too: typical prints of English country scenes by John Constable, and several different versions of the 18th Century portraits of Pinkie and the Blue Boy. But I never really liked them. The first artwork that captured my imagination was when I discovered the Egyptians in fifth grade. I never thought of Egyptian funerary pieces as art back then, they were artifacts in my mind (art was paintings in frames). But now I’m all grown up and can appreciate the amazing skill that went into creating those pieces, as well as the spiritual element that marks most funerary work. The Egyptian style had a certain smoothness to it that still appeals to me, as well as the glorious colours.”


The winner…

Originally, I thought I could judge the answers and pick the best one, but I enjoyed them all so much that it was impossible to choose. So I put everyone’s answers in a dish and got Pat to choose one.  Well, actually I was so inspired by your answers, I added an extra prize and choose two winners. The winners of April’s contest are, drum roll please…Malia and Caroline.

Congratulations, I will be in touch to get your addresses and mail you your mini-painting this week.
And stay tuned for the May contest, which will begin this week, both on the blog and on my facebook page.



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The first painting I fell in love with…

I can remember the first original painting I fell in love with. I was about nine and we were visiting friends of my parents, and the woman was a painter who did glamourous watercolour paintings of women, in a style I’d now call Paris when it Sizzles. The one I liked best had a woman in a flowing turquoise dress, a wine glass balanced on a café table and her hair swaying flirtatiously to one side. They had no children for me to play with, and I must have spent much of the evening admiring her artwork. When we went to leave, the woman gave me a look that was half skeptical and half proud. “Do you really like this?” she asked, and I nodded, still transfixed. She removed the painting from its frame and handed it to me. I was astounded and thanked her. I took it back to my room and hung it up there, continuing to admire it for many years.
Although we had a lot of original art in our house, it was the first time I realized that paintings could be about a subject that interested me. I was young and the painting reminded me of my glamourous Barbie doll catalogues. I was less interested in the landscapes and abstractions in our house, especially since I realize now that my mother preferred palettes of earth colours like avocado green, mustard and brown, all colours I hate to this day. I think the inspiration from that painting carried through for years, as I drew multiple women and even took a class in fashion illustration. To this day, I still paint flowing, wide-skirted dresses.
So from this humble beginning, I do realize the importance that a single painting can have in the life of a child. Start with Art is an art show I have been involved since it began, and it provides the chance for a child to buy a professional painting at a very reasonable price. In fact, you have to be a child (under 16) to even make a purchase at the show!  Sarah Cavanaugh, the new curator at the Seymour Art Gallery, has taken exactly the right approach to the show, striving to get the best possible artists to participate. Ross Penhall and Peter Kiss are both involved, and Ross Penhall’s very valuable painting will be in a draw that anyone can participate in.
Artists love to support this show because they understand the importance of art for children.  In the early days of the show, one artist told me, “I want to paint something important that will inspire the kids!” It’s not all about cute art that talks down to kids, but rather real paintings that kids can take from their rooms at home to their first apartment.
Having set this rather lofty goal, I have to admit I still like to do representational paintings for the show, since I think it’s what the kids prefer. I’ve painted hockey equipment, various animals and of course, dresses. This year it’s cats. I’m experimenting with layering, so I’ve created a complex process: first an abstract background on paper, mounted it on board and then painted a cat silhouette on glass and reversed the glass into the frame.
A usual, a picture is worth a thousand words:


So, Start with Art opens on Tuesday, May 1. Here are all the details. If you have kids in your life, I recommend taking them. I’ll be there, and more importantly, there will be candy and popcorn. 
Tomorrow, I’ll post the first paintings you fell in love with, with the responses to the April contest.

Studio 101


Today I got to help some Grade 6 & 7 students as they painted light and shadow under the direction of artist Bernadine Fox. In fact, all of Williams Clark studios was hopping this afternoon, as more than 50 students from Queen Alexandra school in East Vancouver learned arts skills from painting to printing-making to calligraphy to textile art, all free and all thanks to a program called Studio 101.

The Eastside Culture Crawl underlines the relationship between a thriving artist population and the diverse community of East Vancouver. The Crawl strives to give back to the community too, and Studio 101 is one way this happens. Studio 101 began four years ago, under the direction of Richard Tetrault,  Katherine Youngs and Mira Malatestinic, who originally came up with the idea. They wanted to find a way to inspire kids about art and the artists in their own community.  This program first goes into the school and prepares the students for the experience they will have in an artists studio .  They are given Artist Trading Cards that describe the artist’s creative process and biography.  Then students from one school within the Culture Crawl boundaries spend an afternoon at the studios of six or seven different artists in a single building in the Crawl, where they will participate in an art project created by the artists. They finish with a unique piece of artwork to take home. Finally, each of the artists submits an artwork to the school, the students view the artworks and then vote on which one they would like to hang in the school. The piece of art selected then becomes part of the school’s collection and is paid for by the program.

Division 4 of Seymour School in my studio (thanks to Andrea Wilks for the photo)



Studio 101 benefits the students, since they get to see art-making going on in their own community as well as having a chance to do something completely different with their artist/teachers. The teachers also seem to enjoy the opportunity to explore the studios and meet the artists. And the school benefit from having an artwork for their permanent collection. The artists benefit from a chance to work with children, which is always energizing, and they receive a small stipend for the work, as well as payment for their art if it’s selected.  The Culture Crawl fundraises to provide the financial backing for Studio 101.

Presenting my painting with Richard Tetrault



Last year, Studio 101 took place at my building, The Mergatroid, and I was one of the lucky artists who taught a class. The kids walked the five blocks from Admiral Seymour School, and then took part in making books, clay works, paintings and in my studio, crazy multi-media works not unlike my own! I was also privileged enough to be selected as the artist whose artwork went to the school. I can tell you, it’s the highlight of an artist’s life when you stand in front of the end of year assembly and get to hear a whole school oooh and aaah over your painting. My painting, Go Canada Go, is now hanging in the school hall and I hope it inspires one or two kids to reach for the brightest colours in their paintbox.

Go Canada Go! (Can you find the hidden Canada maps?)