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"The Eye, The Sky": The Gestures of Friendship

Pat Aldred, Lynne Howes, and Wendy Parsons share an exhibit of their watercolour pieces in the MJCC Visual Arts Gallery. The collection arose from their weekly practice of painting together.

The Friendship

Sitting down with these three artists, I was struck first by their warmth. As an interloper in their circle, I was received with a generosity eclipsed only by their support for one another.

They interjected their own questions, uncovering aspects of each other's work that I would not have thought to pursue. They expressed sincere appreciation for the differences of their perspectives even within the same medium. The shared memories of the places and times in which they began each piece had them finishing one another's sentences. It was an exceedingly enjoyable interview.

Pat and Lynne were high school friends. When they each moved away to study, Pat met Wendy at University of SK Regina campus, before it was the University of Regina. After Lynne's time studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr) she moved back to Moose Jaw. She met Wendy through a class Wendy was teaching at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery. Only later did they discover that they both knew Pat.

Together, they took a life drawing class at the Museum and Art Gallery and when it was finished they continued to meet. The practice of gathering weekly to be together and sketch the same thing each with their own distinct eye was too valuable to give up.

Soon, Thursdays had become sacred. It was a time protected for their art together. Pat, Lynne, and Wendy's friendship deepened and their shared time became even more cherished.

Dianne Warren, the curator of The Eye, The Sky, is a fourth influential friend in their circle. Both an artist and a writer herself, Dianne encouraged and curated the exhibit. She wrote the moving essay available upon guests entrance.

Their friendship spills out beyond their art time as well. The men that are their significant others enjoy one another's company so the group spends ample time together.

A shared love of the outdoors drew Pat, Lynne, and Wendy beyond the studio and they turned from drawing to water colours, which was a new focus for them all.

The Gestures

Much like a live model, an outdoor scene is a living, moving thing. For all three of them, "capturing the gesture," the movement or essence of the subject, is a challenging and rewarding pursuit.

The very specific challenge of watercolour is that it will shift and morph on the canvas before it settles and the image sets. This movement mirrors the dynamism of the landscapes these artists seek to render. Watercolour is also affected by the sun and wind so the paintings created outdoors are different than they would be if painted indoors from a photograph.

Skies are a prominent theme in the exhibit, and an example of the dynamism of nature and watercolour. Anyone who has called Saskatchewan home likely knows the maxim "Don't like the weather here? Wait ten minutes!" Our skies shift and swirl with playful abandon. These artists made special mention that watercolour skies are similar. Even as they apply the paint, it will move and settle. The final result is always a bit of a surprise.

Pat's Looking West is a fabulous example. She said she could guide the colour but ultimately the sky set with a beauty she could not control.

Watercolour surprised Lynne with how addictive it is. She has been captivated by the challenge it presents in its unpredictability and resilience to change. Unlike oil paints, it cannot be scraped off and replaced.

Another theme to the exhibit is the individual eye each woman brings. They always come to a landscape together, but with individual backgrounds of skills, memories, interests, they see something a little different. They render paintings that are distinct from one another.

Wendy's Moose Jaw Cemetery is one eye-catching example of this. Her attention to the light and the way the shadows play with the subjects is markedly different from the way Lynne and Pat handle light and shadows. The diversity of structure and contrast is a delight to compare.

The Journey

Pat, Lynne, and Wendy continue to meet every Thursday. As a record of the last couple years of art, The Eye, The Sky is a beautiful tribute to their friendships and the artistic journey they are each taking.

Visit the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre Visual Art Gallery to view the exhibit through February 9, 2023.

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