If you are in the Fort St. John area and have a little time, I would encourage you to stop by the North Peace Cultural Centre and view the Peace Liard Regional Juried Art Exhibition (there is just no short way to say that!) which is on display there until May 2, 2008. I was there on Saturday the day the show opened and it is always awe-inspiring and a little daunting to see the work of so many talented individuals living in our region.

I had entered my watercolor painting, Freckled Orchids, and I did entertain hopes of winning; the painting being something of a personal best for me, and after all, no one enters a competition without some anticipation of success. I wasn’t able to attend the opening of the show, however, earlier in the day the juror, Carrie Klukas, was doing a walk-through for the entering artists, and she critiqued each of the 150 entries for those artists who were able to attend. I didn’t win either of the awards in my category, nor did I claim an honourable mention, but the walk-through was very beneficial. Not only did I get some insight into the juror’s rationale behind her decisions, but I learned a bit just getting to see the works that won and those that didn’t.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Oil and acrylic paintings made up 60% of the entries. There was also a number of photographs and some sculpture, and two pieces of textile art.
  2. A large watercolor painting is much smaller than a large oil painting – though my orchid painting is one of my larger works, it seemed dwarfed by some of the large bold oils on display.
  3. Honourable Mention – it seemed as though the juror used the Honourable Mentions to single out some of the variety in the show – not necessarily choosing the overall runners-up – of course that’s my opinion!
  4. I would have liked to see more categories in the show – divided by medium and/or by level of skill. There was a student category but everthing else fell into the “open” division. Sigh…wish there were some watercolour competitions around here.

It was a little funny, as the crowd of artists collected around each piece being critiqued (why is FSJ’s gallery so darn SMALL? It’s like an afterthought), we were of course all waiting with bated breath for her to get to our own entries. In critiquing 150 pieces of artwork, Carrie had taken on an awesome task, and I appreciated her insight – she seemed to be able to recognize each artist’s skill level and didn’t critique the beginners too harshly.

When she finally reached my painting, she commented on how she liked my treatment of the dark shadow areas of the painting (I had started with a salt spatter wash and then deepened the shadows with several dark glazes), and praised the details in the orchids as well. She recognized that I had been painting for a while (10 years) and asked if watercolor was my chosen medium (of course!!). She didn’t have any real criticism for the piece, so I felt good about that!

I met another watercolorist there, Ken Crowle, and talked blogs with another Dawson Creek watercolorist, Tracy Wandling. I was able to introduce myself to a fellow artist who is also a customer of mine – we hadn’t met but I sold her a painting last year during my Christmas studio sale. And I am in awe of the two winners of the exhibition, Mike Kroecher and Cindy Vincent, who both painted some incredible oil paintings of local scenes. I’m hoping that I will have opportunities to meet them both in the future and then I can ask them all my burning questions.