Artist of the Month: Cynthia McLaren

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Tell us, how long have you been painting? Did you study art? Who or what was your inspiration (your muse)? 

Well, this is a loaded question….I’ve always had an interest in art from a very young age and had wonderful teachers through my school years. Unfortunately, there was lack of family support to follow it as a career so I became a Graphic Designer then expanded into interior finishes and decorating. Over the years art always came into my life and a desire to create a book about Canada was always in the back of my mind. After several years of working and raising my family I decided at 50 years old to quit my job and paint full-time and start my book. I’m not getting any younger and my inner voice kept tugging at my heart to be the artist I always wanted to be. I would say I am mostly self-taught except for the training I took throughout my younger years and the odd water colour, colour theory and oil painting courses. When I was young I appreciated the work of Robert Bateman and Carl Brenders. I always had a love for nature and still do. Over the years I have come to appreciate all art styles.

Why do you like to incorporate wood or rocks into your art work?

For years I painted landscape scenes and wildlife on Poplar leaves for Alberta Pacific Forest Industries. A couple of years ago a designer asked me if I could incorporate live-edge wood into a painting for her client. I gathered information about the client’s likes and interests. He enjoyed the outdoors, travel and had a colourful blanket from Guatemala that would hang on his wall as well, I gave it some thought and suggested northern lights and a treed landscape. It turned out so well I wanted to create more. I love the tactile feel of wood and incorporating nature into our homes. This year I started experimenting with various rocks formations. Rocks have so much depth, colour and patterns it makes it interesting to come up with ideas for new paintings.

Tell us a little about the process. How long does it take to complete a piece and how do you find the right rock or piece of wood for an idea? Or is the painting inspired by the natural element? What is the best type of paint to use on these elements in your experience?
 
I have a couple of local suppliers where I like to acquire my wood pieces and rocks from. Most of the wood I use is sourced locally and ethically. I start with a piece of live-edge or rock and stare at it for a very long time visualizing various compositions in my head. Once I have an idea that l like best, I will either use various reference materials or work straight from my imagination. I like to paint on canvas or wood panel. I start by laying colour down to create background in either acrylics or oils. My northern lights are created with an airbrush. I have had an airbrush for 30 years and have only used it to create northern lights. I like to paint everything else by hand and never use stencils in my work. After my painting is complete I use an archival varnish to protect my work. The wood is either hand sanded or planed then sanded again to a smooth finish. Sometimes I like to leave the wood as natural as possible using an oil and wax finish that I hand rub or I will stain the wood and varnish it to preserve its natural beauty. Finally, I use a deep floating frame to accommodate the canvas and wood to complete the look.
The process takes anywhere from a week to three weeks, depending on the size of the paintings.

Do you have any shows coming up? Where can people buy your work?

People can purchase art through me by contacting me through my email. They can also view my work on my website or following me on Facebook.
I currently, have work in the Sculpture Art Exhibition at the Airport Renaissance Hotel put on by Alexis Marie Productions Inc. The show runs till the end of September. I am also looking forward to participating in an art exhibition and sale along with other outstanding artists starting September 6th at Lotus Art Gallery in support of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. This exhibition runs till October. Lotus Art Gallery is a small but impressive and inviting gallery.
New live-edge works and prints will be available in September at the Royal Alberta Museum Gift Shop.
To view my work on my website https://www.cmclaren.com and I can be reached by email at cmclarendesigns@gmail.com.

What do you wish to share with us about the art scene in Edmonton in terms of how can people know where art shows are happening? 

In Edmonton there are many art shows happening all the time. Artists I know work really hard and need our communities to embrace and support the arts. Social media and news media seems to be the best way to help artists advertise shows and events. People can help by sharing artists’ posts on Facebook with their friends and family and getting involved or just by being present at events. If people like an artists’ work follow them on Facebook, sign up for their emails for more information on upcoming shows.

–Mariam Qureshi
Manager of the Arts
The Edmonton Muse

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