Art in the Barn – exhibits with wow factor, in a casual atmosphere

"Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It's enough to drive one mad." - Claude Monet

The annual Art in the Barn 2016 Show and Sale at the Lombardy Fairgrounds, just a few minutes south of Smiths Falls in eastern Ontario, was held this past weekend.

Featuring over 50 local artists, it is an annual affair not to be missed.

One of the largest shows in eastern Ontario, it is without a doubt a source of inspiration for people such as myself who are still dabbling, and searching, and questioning, and doubting.

Best of all, it is a place to discover wonderful like-minded artists with stories to tell about their creative journeys.

Many of the artists were on site in their booths and we chatted with them if they weren't already busy with other attendees.  

Peggy Orders at Art in the Barn 2016

Peggy Orders' whimsical dogs were a big draw as we entered the barn on the fairgrounds.

Her dogs are especially delightful with their paws on mugs of beer or very debonair wearing their colourful bow ties and bandanas.

Peggy discovered quite by accident that dogs could be great subjects for her paintings.

She explained to me that she had first drawn a racoon with a morsel of food and when she showed people the painting, they asked her if she could draw dogs, in particular, their own dog.

Peggy said she had lots of self-doubt (oh, I know all about that!), but once she started painting and adding the unique features for each pooch, there was no going back.  She has been painting dogs for less than a year but has already had many commissions.  Who wouldn't love having their pets painted in such an original way?

Each painting has a story. Some pooches are enjoying a drink with a partner much like their owners while others are eyeing a juicy, thick hamburger.

Peggy strives to add a personal touch that will make the painting meaningful to her clients. To that end, she questions clients about any habits, likes, dislikes their dogs might have, and then works on a painting incorporating one or two of these elements. For any commission work, Peggy requests many different photos of the subject so that she can see the dog's attitude and personality.

She has definitely found her style in the crisp colours and the animated canine poses in her acrylic paintings.

If you are interested in a painting of your favourite pet, Peggy does commission work, and you can find more examples of her one-of-a kind paintings on the Rideau Lakes Artists' Association website as well as information to contact the artist herself for commission work.  www.rideaulakesartists.com

Dogs at the Bar series by Peggy Orders at Art in the Barn 2016

Elaine Arkwright's gorgeous batik is definitely not the batik of the hippie era. Her colours and designs far surpass anything I can remember from the seventies.

Elaine Arkwright Batik and Watercolour - Art in the Barn 2016

Elaine always had an interest in art, but like so many artists I have met recently, she only began painting later in life, after she had raised her family and had more time to herself.

When Elaine moved to Sarnia in 2003, she became aware of the local art community during the Monthly Art Walks which celebrated different artists and their work.

She was especially drawn to watercolours and began to attend workshops in the Sarnia area. Elaine recalled making watercolour cards for her family at that time.

Many of the skills learned in watercolour paintings could be transferred to batik according to Elaine, who later moved to Cornwall to be closer to her adult children and friends in Montreal.  

In Cornwall, during several family get-togethers, Elaine reconnected with a cousin who was having a vernissage of her batik work in Carleton Place.  Elaine decided to take a batik class.

Afterwards, Elaine joined an art group in Cornwall called Focus Art where she was the only batik artist. 

Elaine's art is infused with bright colours or gradations in tone.   Such work requires the artist to select certain parts of the cloth to be covered in hot wax while other parts are dyed.  The sections covered in wax retain the original colour because they resist the dye. The process is repeated many times to create the complex multicoloured patterns.  The more colourful and complex patterns require hours and even weeks of blocking, dyeing, and washing and drying.  Elaine says she then stretches the finished cloth on a canvas.

Elaine has been in several juried shows and has won Honourable mention for "After Church".  She has also won first prize for "Young Minds" at the Focus Art Juried Show, and first prize for "Walking Home" at Cornwall (TAG) Art Gallery's juried show in 2015.

  Elaine and her cousin Jenn offer batik classes in Cornwall.  Visit her website to view her gorgeous work at www.elainesbatiks.com .

Elaine Arkwright Batik and Watercolour at Art in the Barn 2016

I was looking forward to meeting Pam Hills. At our first stop in the barn, we had met Peggy Orders who had shown us a vintage Corvette belonging to Peggy's husband, painted by Pam. It was breathtaking.

As you know, I have been sketching vintage cars since my recent holiday in Cuba and I was eager to see someone else who had the same fascination with old cars.

Pam Hills Mixed Media Artist at Art in the Barn 2016

Pam has been painting for some time, but she has only recently started painting vintage cars.

Her cars often emphasize one element that makes classic cars of the fifties so sought after. She might paint only the iconic big fins with red bullet lights, or perhaps the polished seats and the sparkling dashboard of a vintage car might be the focus of another painting. All her cars make a bold statement with their eye popping colours.

Pam's eclectic creations speak to her versatility as an artist; her paintings run from naive style featuring an element of nostalgia for country life, to paintings of women in vividly coloured 1950s  swimsuits, to abstracts with glass beads, to fanciful sculptures made with Paverpol.  When we visited her booth, Pam had just sold the sculpture she is shown holding in the above photo.

Pam does accept commissions and you can view her work at www.pamhills.com

The exhibits were all very enticing and we spoke with many different artists who were willing to share the various techniques they use in their work.

I particularly enjoyed the casual atmosphere of this art show which was well-attended in spite of the occasional downpours, and much more crowded as we left mid-afternoon to have a very late lunch in Smiths Falls.

Art in the Barn was just what I needed: it gave me a boost of confidence. I realized that many artists have travelled the same path as mine.  It was so reassuring.

I had trouble sleeping that same evening. I had too many ideas for my own art and I was up in the middle of the night, searching through my photos, and jotting notes on a series of paintings I would like to start in the fall.  

More discoveries to make on the way to becoming an artist!

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