Bev Robertson’s painting “Blushing Beauties” so highly resembles springtime in Victoria you can almost smell the mild fragrance of the pale pink peonies. The vivid detail of her lush florals is reminiscent of the classical Baroque masters with their accomplished colour blending and dramatic contrasting backgrounds. Which is why it’s so surprising to learn that Robertson has only been painting full-time for six years, and like most professional artists, her journey to becoming a professional artist wasn’t linear and involved various creative pursuits along the way. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she is an island girl at heart which explains her infatuation with flowers and her adept ability to capture light as it touches on the ripples surrounding a sea bird or reflects on the lip of a curling wave. Now an award-winning artist and Associate Member of the Canadian Federation of Artist, you can currently view Robertson’s exhibition at The Gallery at Mattick’s Farm.
When did you know you were an artist? My first memories of being artistic were early, around seven-years-old. I won a blue ribbon at the local fall fair for a drawing I did of a swan. My mother was very artistic and I think she taught me how to see things others may not. She always encouraged me in creative pursuits but I really blossomed as an artist after she was gone. She would have loved to see what I have achieved.
Did you study art in school? I’m a self-taught artist. I’ve taken the occasional weekend workshop but I don’t have any formal art training. I learned Folk Art painting in the 1990s but when that trend faded, I didn’t paint for years. My real education began when I started painting full time a few years ago. It was as if I had been gathering and storing knowledge for years until the stars aligned and then it just flowed out of me. When I paint on a regular basis, I continuously discover new things and while it’s still fresh in my mind, or in my paintbrush so to speak, I can use that knowledge to grow as an artist. When I was only painting occasionally it was as if I had to start the learning process over each time. Now with every painting, I continue to learn and evolve.
Was there a particular moment or experience that helped you make the leap to becoming a full-time professional artist? In 2012, I was working full-time as a kitchen designer and as a result of the company downsizing, I was let go. That moment changed my life. I decided to take some time to explore art again and started painting full time. Fortunately, I sold some paintings right away which propelled me to paint more. Everything just came together at the right time in my life and now I get to follow my passion. A couple of years later, I found Gallery at Mattick’s Farm by chance. I was enjoying the art in the gallery and chatting with the owner, Dawn Casson. I told her I was an artist and after looking at my website she said she would be interested in showing my work. I credit her for giving me the opportunity to get my work out to a wider audience; she has been a great supporter of my work ever since.
How do you decide on the subjects for each of your paintings? I paint a wide variety of subjects from my own photographs. I frequent Butchart Gardens but you might also catch me climbing through a ditch to get the perfect picture of a flower. Armed with my camera, you can find me stalking sea birds or waiting for a crow to land. I have so many photographs waiting to be painted; I never run out of subjects. The challenge is deciding which one strikes my interest next.
Can you tell us about the mediums you use and why they work for you? Originally, I painted in acrylics but I discovered oil paints three years ago and haven’t looked back. I’m really drawn to the blending qualities that oils offer where I can softly blend a brightly saturated area with a muted shadow area that allows me to create luminosity in my work. I like using the new brands of oil paints that are water soluble and don’t require any solvents or toxic mediums. To achieve a cohesive quality to my paintings, I use a limited colour palette because mixes created from the same basic colours naturally go together. I rarely use black but I like to mix more vibrant blacks to change tones across an area for interesting results.
Do you have a home-based art studio and how does that impact your art practice? My home studio has been very serendipitous in my art journey. We purchased our home with a small studio in it just two weeks before I was laid off my designer job which led me to pursue my painting career full-time. I’m so grateful for the freedom to paint almost every single day. Having a studio at home allows me to leave all my supplies in place until I can return to it. I have a painting on my easel at all times.