Dana Statham‘s passion for art reaches as far back as she can remember, particularly to time spent at her family’s second home on Hornby Island. Some of her earliest memories of merging creativity with her idyllic island surroundings date back to building sandcastles on the island’s famed white sand beaches and tie-dying t-shirts with her twin sister. In fact, Statham’s connection to place is so strong she now uses acrylic paint to visually communicate these coastal surroundings gleaned from years of keen observation and hands-on experience. Capturing the west coast’s curving coastal shorelines, native arbutus trees and underwater schools of fish with her opaque colour gradients, her lively saturated palettes almost animate the landscapes in an illustrative way.
Currently residing in Victoria, Statham carves out time to paint in her home studio when she’s not working as an occupational therapist at the Victoria General Hospital. With no formal training, her masterful style is a result of her commitment to her art practice and her desire to evoke a sense of endless summer on island life. Her work has been featured in galleries and shops on Vancouver Island and Hornby Island and in both group and solo art shows. Her next solo show is scheduled for April 2018 at The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm.
Give us a brief overview of your artistic journey. As a child, I was always drawn to colour, drawing and painting. My mother always said I had superb macaroni art. “It was very well put together for a preschooler.” I grew up in the Comox Valley with a second home on Hornby Island, where my family would escape for long weekends and holidays. It’s an inspiring community, brimming with unique landscapes, wildlife, farmer’s markets, potters, textiles, musicians, and many talented painters. As kids, we were entertained with various art projects: sandcastle building, tie-dying, rock painting, scavenger hunts (a glorified garbage clean-up, in hindsight)… always combining nature with creating that continues to inspire me today.
I favoured art classes during my school-age years but never pursued any formal art training. After high school, I travelled abroad to Australia and Southeast Asia, then later to India and Ireland. Travelling provided me with an intense appreciation for what I missed most about “home” and what defines Vancouver Island: coastal landscapes, sandy beaches, characterful arbutus trees, rocky bluffs, underwater kelp gardens, fields of dry summer grass and the rugged shorelines of the wild west coast. This is where my heart is and what I aim to capture and translate into my paintings.
When did your art career start to take off? I would say my art career started gaining momentum about seven years ago when I sold my first painting to an anonymous buyer. This was a turning point that gave me the confidence to invest a more conscious effort in pursuing my art. Since then, my work has been featured in galleries and shops in the Comox Valley, Victoria, and on Hornby Island, in both group and solo art shows. At this point, my art has never been more than a part-time passion, competing with full-time university studies, a Masters program, and now full-time work as an occupational therapist. I hope to one day achieve a balance that allows for more time to paint… and I can’t wait to retire!
Your work demonstrates a strong sense of value and colour. How did you acquire such a technical style? I have taken very few formal art classes — only ceramics and painting electives in university — and do consider myself to be mostly self-taught. What I enjoyed most about exploring art with classmates was seeing how each person would interpret the same project so differently. I would admire aspects of their techniques, but despite my attempts to mimic or adopt them, it became quite evident that I had my own style of painting, whether I liked it or not. My style has evolved spontaneously and features intentional brushstrokes, opaque colour, and vibrant hues. It has been likened to stained glass, with each stroke being its own entity.
Describe your mediums and your process. When I first began painting, it was all from imagination, creative freedom at its best. However, as I began taking on more commissions and when I wanted to capture well-known scenery, I began working from photographs. This is especially important when painting peoples’ beloved boats… some know their boat better than they know themselves, so it’s important to fine-tune the details.
I usually start my process with a sketch to get the composition right — while still enjoying some artistic license — and then paint from there. My colour palette is pretty consistent, which is evidenced by the fact that most of my paintbrushes are stained turquoise. I love nothing more than a sunny, blue-sky day, so my paintings evoke feelings of an idyllic perpetual summer. Sometimes we just need something pleasant to look at, to see the beauty in the world.
How do you find the time and energy to be creative while working full-time as an occupational therapist? Occupational therapy is a profession that inherently values a work/life balance. I sometimes find this ironic, as it’s easy for me to get in an unmotivated art rut. Although, I find lots of ways to kickstart my creativity again like getting outdoors, riding my bicycle along the coast, spending a long weekend on Hornby or visiting local galleries. It’s phenomenal how my focus will shift, and I’ll be inspired to sit down at my easel again to revisit a long-forgotten canvas. And once I’m painting I realize (yet again)…I love this…why did I procrastinate for so long? I also have a nice little home studio that is cozy and comfortable so having that dedicated space is really important to me.
How did you connect with the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm? Why is it a good fit for you? Dawn Casson discovered my work and approached me a couple of years ago. She recognized that I could bring something unique to her gallery which I found flattering. I had been to Mattick’s Gallery before as Mattick’s Farm was a frequent stop on my bike commute and I admired many of the artists she represented. It’s a beautifully curated gallery and being invited to show my work there made me feel like I was in good company.
Dawn has been patient as I’ve steadily built my body of work. I have my first solo show in April 2018. This will be my first opportunity to get a sense of how my paintings will be received. It has been a number of years since I have shown my work in Victoria and I feel it will be a good time and place for me to reintroduce myself to the art scene here.