Who am I and what do I do?
I am Donna Berry a visual artist and I produce realistic works of art using water mixable oil paints. Nautical scenes of the beautiful Bay of Fundy are often my inspiration. I enjoy the contrast in tonal values from the deepest blues of the Bay to the sparkling of highlights on the surface of the water produced with a mixture of yellow ochre, raw umber and white among other colors.
Is there an element of art I enjoy most?
The element of art I most enjoy is the period when objects in the painting start coming together. This happens as I work through the details by adding paints and blending various area together. At this point I will stand back and view my work. Although the painting is yet to be complete it will hold a degree of positivity and will soon be ready for public showing.
Best and worst part of profession?
The best part of being an artist is having the ability to take an abstract idea through a creative process and with paints, brushes and canvas am able to transform the idea into a painting.
The worst part of my chosen profession is the uncertainty over whether a painting is sellable. Evenwith this factor I still paint subjects that inspire me rather then choose to paint what is popular at the time.
What is integral to my work?
An integral part of my work is producing paintings that reflect the beauty displayed in scenes around me.
Beauty is everywhere and my challenge is to capture this on canvas.
The most important artist’s tool
The most important tool for an artists in my opinion is the brush. The brush is the connection between the creative process and the canvas. As color is applied with the brush the creative process begins and with many necessary strokes applied a new painting begins.
Why do I do what I do
I choose to do this type of work because it is an important part of who I am. I express myself on canvas especially with my surreal paintings such as the works I produced after the implosion of the old General Hospital in 1995.
How did you first get into painting?
I have been making art ever since I can remember. My mother always encouraged me to draw and paint. It has always been a part of who I am.
Describe your creative process. Does experimentation come into play?
This method is a very non-traditional method of painting, it uses wax in a similar fashion to batik but I use rice paper and watercolour instead of fabric and dye. This process is very exciting to me with the many alternating layers of colour and wax. Normally you would watch your painting come to life as you paint it, but with this method of painting I have to trust my creative instincts until the end when I remove all of the wax and see the final result. I am constantly experimenting and trying new mediums and techniques; as an artist I believe you never stop learning.
What draws you to paint natural forms and landscapes?
Growing up in the country gave me a lasting connection with nature. The vast array of colourful flowers, beautiful landscapes and peaceful trails through the woods kept me captivated. These qualities of nature are what fuel my creative spirit and are reflected in my art.
Colour seems to play an integral role in your pieces. Can you talk about your approach to colour?
I have always been drawn to bold rich colours. With the watercolour batik I do not mix colours. I layer one colour and after it is dry, I layer another one on top of it to make the next colour I need. This gives the colours a variegation and glow that is not possible when you use a mixed colour.
What current projects are you working on?
I have recently started painting flowers in oil; I love the vibrant colours and texture that can be achieved with this medium.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
I am a detail oriented person who, for some reason is attracted to complexity. This shows in my art and almost everything else I take on.
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
So many. Ocean waves. Sitting under aspens and listening to their leaves dance in the wind. Playing with friends outside. Warm sunshine. Not liking bees.
Because I can’t sing and really wish I could. But seriously – producing art has helped me through some very difficult times. I get a great deal of satisfaction from painting. I have been drawing since I was a small child drawing animals over and over. I can still remember when I discovered that you can add shading to a line drawing!
Upon graduating for high school I was fortunate to win the Clyde Finnamore Memorial Scholarship for Sunbury Shore Art and Nature Centre. I was able to take a three week art course with Gary Lowe. It was literally life altering. Wildlife art in watercolour. Cathy Ross was there as well. Pretty cool. They gave me the keys to the place and I stayed each day as long as I could. Did some Plein Air painting as well. My first watercolour was of a blue jay feather. The second was of a large red vase overflowing with wildflowers. See, complexity even at 17!
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A few actually. Once when I was working on Drama Queen a full sheet painting of white lilies, I had gotten distracted and painted in a house fly. Shortly after I had a visitor to the studio before I was able to get the petal under it painted. The person was standing there talking to me and tried to shoo the fly a couple of times. Still makes me laugh.
Name something you love, and why.
Spring. Fresh Air. The Beach. Nature. Birds. Furry creatures. Colour. Dappled sunlight. Just because I guess
You can see more of Helen’s work by visiting her website and blog at www.helenshideler.com
How has your art practice changed over time?
I now work on 4 to 6 paintings at a time, creating a series, exploring all the possibilities of a given scene or idea.
What work do you most enjoy doing ?
I love painting that definitely comes first with gardening and travelling a close second.
What is your favourite artwork?
Impossible to choose! There are so many great works of art. Each century has its own masters, but Rembrandt’s portraits still bring tears to my eyes, Paul Gauguin’s sense of color makes me envious.
What memorable responses did you have to your work?
I had a letter from a lady who bought a painting a few years ago telling me how much pleasure my painting still gives her. That makes me very happy; it lets me hope that my work will have enduring value.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Let paint be paint! You are creating a painting, so let your impression and your feeling show in what you say on the canvass.
What would you not do without?
Good paint, good brushes and a good glass of wine!
To see more of Helga’s work, click here to visit her website visit her website