Whether you’re looking to connect with local artists, enjoy a day trip or get a jump start on your Christmas shopping, next weekend’s Kissing Bridge Trail Studio Tour will have something for everyone.
The free tour includes 18 artists spread across 10 locations in Elmira, St. Jacobs and rural Woolwich Township. The artists create paintings, pottery, fibre art, photography, glass art and jewelry.
Painters Mira Wasilewska and Laurie Stockton will both open their studios to the public for the tour in Winterbourne and Ariss, respectively.
Wasilewska and her husband came to Canada 28 years ago from Poland. They’ve spent the past four years in Winterbourne after 24 years in Ottawa.
Her love of painting began in a community centre in Poland where she used to drop in and play around with the different art supplies available.
“Then I had a very good art teacher in high school and I really enjoyed not only the practical point of her classes, which was painting using various techniques, but there was a fair bit of art history also included,” Wasilewska explained.
She considering studying art after high school but when her parents questioned the practicality of studying art, she abandoned the idea. Eventually she went on to study medicine and worked as a doctor in Poland. But art was always a part of her life.
“When I was working as a medical doctor and then when we came to Canada I was working in medical research for a few years, it doesn’t give you much time really. You still tend to appreciate the beauty of let’s say landscape and you think in terms of how I would approach this subject if I had time,” Wasilewska said.
She paints with acrylics and watercolours, as well as dabbling in pottery and crafting wearable art by dyeing silks.
She says a challenge with watercolours is you need uninterrupted time because at certain stages when you’re working wet on wet you can’t leave and come back to finish later. But she says it grows on you as you learn new tricks of the trade.
“You just look at something that grabs you by the heart and you start thinking how would I approach this? Living here in the boonies, as my daughter would say, I don’t really have to go too far to find inspiration,” Wasilewska said.
Her paintings vary from landscape to floral to abstract. She says she’s found experimenting with abstract painting to be more freeing.
She’s been part of the tour since 2013. She recommends the public check out what artists are doing in their backyard.
“It’s a way of also learning about many other areas of art because we have potters on our tour, we have people who work with fabric, with glass. In general terms it’s very educational,” Wasilewska said.
Those who participate in the tour will have the chance to buy original art, or at least pick up a business card of an artist that intrigued them.
“When you acquire a piece of original art you do not only acquire the canvas that goes with your interior, you acquire something that the artist poured some soul into,” Wasilewska said.
For Laurie Stockton, the studio tour is an event she works toward each year, ensuring she has enough paintings to show and sell. This is her fourth year participating in the tour.
She says she first felt like she was going to become an artist when she was in high school.
She completed a double major in psychology and fine arts at the University of Guelph. After that she went to teachers’ college and taught art at public schools in Guelph until she retired.
“It was one of those things that you thought, ‘I think I have to do this,’ even though it was not a logical decision,” Stockton said of her decision to pursue art.
At her Winterbourne home she has plenty of space to paint the colourful canvases which cover several walls of her studio, including flowers and produce from her garden. She also did the storyboard along with some paintings for a children’s book about how farmers feed cities, but she hasn’t finished it – yet.
Last year she painted a series of wacky farm animals in bright colours which she sold largely at the Taste of Woolwich.
“My neighbour over here, he’s got the greatest little farm. All his animals are free range and the chickens kind of dance around the yard and the cows we hear every night. He’s got turkeys that will attack you if you don’t go cautiously and cats are everywhere,” Stockton said.
She draws her inspiration from what she feels, which she attributes to her combination of education in psychology and fine art. Her other inspiration comes from what’s around her.
But she says she’s interested in changing her style.
“I really like color which is fairly obvious. But I think I want to go more Matisse where when you walk into Dave’s farm and all these critters are wandering around, they’re jubilant. And how do you capture the essence of happiness in a farm setting? I think that’s the part where you take your expression of something and instead of making it look photographic reproduction, how do you make it look like the spirit of something?” Stockton explained.
She says her greatest challenge is matching what she visualizes in her head with what comes out on the canvas. It’s also hard to know when a painting is done.
She’ll have a variety of her paintings for sale during the tour, but notes participants don’t have to feel pressured to buy anything. Rather, they can enjoy a day out visiting different studios with their friends and get inspired.
“You get to see your community. It’s a great day out. If you’re looking for Christmas gifts, sometimes that’s a good thing to start thinking about,” Stockton said.
Every stop on the tour earns you a ballot to enter the draw for $100 to spend at any of the artists’ studios.
The 14th annual Kissing Bridge Trail Studio Tour runs Oct. 22-23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The full list of artists and studio locations is available at www.kbtstudiotour.ca.