Yellowknife painter gives nod to nature with annual art show

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In preparation for her annual art show, Shawna Lampi-Legaree painted for 102 days straight.

“I’ve always treated (painting) like it’s a full time job,” Lampi-Legaree, of Dancing Raven Studio, said.

“I have to schedule sitting down during my day because I stand to paint,” she laughed.

Her dedication to the craft has been central to her success as a visual artist in Yellowknife, and the end result of her latest flurry of brushstrokes was revealed Friday at her “It’s Only Natural” exhibit, a nod to nature featuring a collection of watercolour and acrylic renderings of flowers and feathered friends found in and around Yellowknife.

At Visual Effects, the site of Lampi-Legaree’s seventh annual offering, an array of the artist’s colourful creations adorn the walls: yellow warblers in the springtime, mallards under falling snow, chokecherry-nibbling robins, hydrangeas, fuchsias and wild roses.

Lampi-Legaree’s paintings, brought to life from still images taken during her many hours of bird-watching, follow a high-realism style. The artist uses a multi-layer wash technique with watercolours, sometimes adding six or seven layers to a single flower petal.

Shawna Lampi-Legaree with “Tranquil Beauty,” one of over a dozen new watercolour and acrylic works unveiled at her latest art exhibit “It’s Only Natural.” Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.

It’s an approach Lampi-Legaree says builds a visual crescendo while capturing the “drama of sunlight and the depth of shadows.”

When painting flowers, Lampi-Legaree turns to watercolour, a “perfect” medium for the subject. She employed acrylic paint for the various birds captured at this year’s show.

After years of quilting, Lampi-Legaree began taking painting seriously in 2012, poring over hours of instructional videos to hone her skills. With no local watercolour group to practice with, she started her own, launching the Yellowknife Watercolour Society.

Lampi-Legaree now teaches beginner drawing and painting classes and has entered works into a number of juried exhibits.

“It’s Only Natural” marks the artist’s second showing at Visual Effects. Before moving into the space, Lampi-Legaree’s home was her gallery. She hung paintings in her dining and living room for five consecutive shows, opening her doors to Yellowknife art lovers.

In May, Lampi-Legaree took a masterclass from wildlife artist Robert Bateman, an experience she says has broadened her approach to capturing the world outside.

“I was painting birds but now I’m thinking environment: where are the birds? What is the context?” she said.

Lampi-Legaree tries to be as accurate as possible when painting birds. If something isn’t right, birders in the community will be sure to let her know, she said with a chuckle.
Already planning ahead for next year’s show, Lampi-Legare said painting and showing her work continues to push her year after year.

“Showing keeps me challenged and keeps me moving forward so that I’m not staying in the same place,” Lampi-Legare told Yellowknifer.

“Painting allows me to explore.”

Lampi-Legaree uses a multi-layer technique to build a visual “crescendo” while capturing the “drama of sunlight and the depth of shadows.”
Brendan Burke/NNSL photo

It also offers to her an escape — often from the cold winter months in Yellowknife. Painting blooming flowers and fluttering birds transports her to warmer time; a reminder that summer will return, Lampi-Legare added with a laugh.

But Lampi-Legare is painting for others just as much as she is for herself.

“It’s engaging with the audience. It’s connecting with people,” said Lampi-Legare.

“People come in and they have stories about birds, or they have stories about flowers and how they’re connected to someone that they really loved — their father grew irises, whatever they story is,” she continued.

The emotions her paintings conjure and the connections they create are what keeps her going — even after 102 consecutive days.

“It’s Only Natural” runs until Nov. 8 at Visual Effects, located at 4905 48 St.

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