From left: Deborah Strong

Home is where the art is

A number of Langley artists are opening their home studios to visitors for two weekends this autumn

‘If it’s in you, it’s in you.”

That’s how Langley painter Vivian Harder sums up the impulse that drives an artist to create.

For her part, Harder — now an established equestrian artist and co-organizer of the third annual Langley Artists Studio Tour — was bitten early by the bug.

She sold her first painting at 14 years old, although at the time her knowledge of art terminology was still in its infancy.

“I was doing photo realism and I didn’t know it,” laughs Harder, seated in the garden of bead artist Stephanie Dieleman’s bucolic Otter area home.

Dieleman’s property will be among the more than 20 stops on a route mapped out by the tour’s co-organizers Harder and Deborah Strong.

Winding through the Langley countryside, the tour will feature 18 private studios and several “stops of interest,” — including wineries, farm gate stores and an art gallery — where over two weekends this autumn, 43 artists will make themselves available to talk to visitors about their inspiration and process.

Taking part for the second time, will be oil painter Tas Antonopoulos, whose participation last year resulted in the artist’s very first sale.

“The recognition he got through the tour is exactly what we wanted,” said Harder.

Whether he’s making money from his art or not, it an all-consuming passion for Antonopoulos, who takes a painterly approach to his favourite subjects — local landscapes, bird life and marine scenes.

The sight of every new landscape conjures up the same question: “How would I paint that?”

“If you stop, you get depressed. You’re always looking at things and thinking about painting them,” he said.

“You lay up at night thinking about it,” agreed Danielle Mlinartisch, who will participate for the first time in this year’s tour.

Mlinartisch, who took up a brush during maternity leave from her job as a nurse, saw the call for artists and thought, ‘Why not?’

“I’m kind of out there. I like to take risks,” she said.

“It’s (the tour) something I’ve always wanted to do, and I thought the worst they can say is ‘no, thank you.’”

While they did have to jury out a couple of people who applied, both Harder and Strong are happy with the response they got, including an application from Dieleman to demonstrate bead making.

“I first heard about the tour at an art show at Thunderbird, and then saw it in the paper,” Dieleman said.

“It’s in my hometown and I want to be part of things that are local.”

Unlike Dieleman, not every artist whose work meets the standards the two organizers have set, has a suitable studio for the tour, noted Strong.

That means many will be doubling and tripling up at private studios, while the Windsong co-housing development in Walnut Grove and Fields & Flowers farm gate store in south Langley, will each host six artists.

It started out as a Langley-only event two years ago, but the tour has since expanded to include a number of out of town guests from Surrey and other Lower Mainland communities.

“It’s nice to have artists from out of the area. It adds variety,” said Strong.

In addition to painters and bead makers, the tour will feature potters, sculptors, photographers, glassblowers, printmakers and fibre artists among its participants.

And though it doesn’t exactly fit the tour’s parameters, members of the Fort Gallery, an artist-run co-operative in Fort Langley, were eager to take part, too, so Harder and Strong penciled them.

For some visitors it will be enough to watch and listen, but for those who want to dig in and test the limits of their own creativity, several artists will once again be offering mini workshops.

The 30-minute sessions were such a hit last year there was no question they’d be back, said Strong, who will once again offer lessons in painting on small silk squares.

What’s great about her medium, said the artist (who also specializes in animal portraits) is that regardless of a person’s skill level, they will get a result that is pleasing to the eye.

The first Langley Artist Studio Tour was held in November, 2009, with the idea that it would be an ideal pre-Christmas event.

The following year, however, organizers decided to move it to September in the hope of getting better weather.

“September is a beautiful time in the valley, and it ties in perfectly with the federal Culture Days,” said Strong.

The tour will take place on Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Maps are now available for downloading from the website at www.langleyartstudiotour.ca.

Profiles of participating artists can also be viewed on the website.

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