Six of the nine artists who took part in the 20th annual White Rock Studio Tour last weekend.

Art tour a purrfect success

Local artists open their studio doors to public for cat-themed event

The White Rock Studio Tour celebrated its 20th annual event last weekend (Oct. 19-20), as nine professional artists on the Peninsula opened their studios to the general public.

Participating artists Simon Cantin, Carolynn Doan, Connie Glover, Judy Jordison, Karen Kroeker, Arlene McGowan, Jess Rice, Ann Worth and Theresa Marie Shanks repeated the theme concept that proved successful with crows in 2012 – this year, wherever possible, highlighting works that included cats.

“Nearly everybody in the tour has got something to do with cats,” said Jordison, long-time co-organizer of the tour with fellow artist Kathy MacDonald, who concentrated on organizational work this year while convalescing from health challenges.

Practically the only exception was Glover’s well-known pottery – she was already in the process of firing her kiln when the theme was settled – although she admits she has a cat that wanders through her studio greeting all visitors.

The theme also provided plenty of scope for anecdote in the other artists’ works – an integral part of an event that’s continuing success has been the insight it provides into the artists’ working places, techniques and fundamental process of creativity.

This year, that included everything from McGowan and Shanks’ whimsical ceramics of stretching felines to Jordison’s portrait of her black and white cat intruding – in typical fashion – on one of her floral still-lifes.

He also likes exploring her palette, she added.

“The other day he had cadmium red and yellow on one paw and ultramarine blue on the other. You’d think I could think of something better to do than clean paint off his paws.”

A somewhat more tender portrait was among those offered by Doan, immortalizing ‘Baby Toes’ who has just turned 17.

A cat also insinuated itself into Worth’s ‘The Red Shawl’, which seemed, she noted, to be heading in quite a different direction when she began it.

“This started as sort of an abstract – it just happened,” she said, adding that once she saw a nude reclining figure in one of the bright coloured areas of her canvas, she couldn’t resist painting a striped cat cuddling against the body.

“The cat was there in a central light – the feature that enhanced it,” she said.

Karen Kroeker’s mixed-media work intriguingly mixes photography with sewing machine stitching – drawing, in effect, with lines of sewn thread.

In one of her works, for instance, a photograph of a cat she took in her backyard, photoshopped and transferred to fabric, is enhanced by almost three-dimensional stitched foliage and flowers.

“I’m kind of a newbie with the group this year,” she said, adding that her work is a logical extension of her university studies in textiles and painting.

About the only downside of the tour, the participants said, is that they don’t get to visit each others’ studios while they’re busy hosting at their own.

“But we do get together after the fact,” Jordison said. “We’ll have a wrap up afterwards and invite everyone to meet down at Whitby’s.”

In a way, Jordison acknowledged, the studio tour is a victim of its own success – clearly fulfilling a need in the community with an event that is eagerly awaited each fall. And the accessibility of the tour to art enthusiasts has a commensurate pay-off in terms of sales.

“The website for the event (www.whiterockstudiotour.com) is also a great help,” said Glover, adding that displays in local libraries (including Cloverdale, Ocean Park and Semihamoo) also help build anticipation.

Doan said the audience is also growing, both in visitors from Vancouver and further afield, but also among high school students who have been assigned to visit the studios. Persistence has also paid, Jordison said.

“It comes from stubbornness. Every year I say to Kathy, I’m not going to do it again. But every year it’s a success – I can’t ever say I’m not going to do it. And it gets easier to organize, and we’ve figured out the best ways of advertising it. You find something that works and you stick with it.”

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