WRAC Featured Artist – Bernice Phillips

For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council updates previously profiled visual artist Bernice Phillips. From her home in Powerview-Pine Falls, on the banks of the Winnipeg River, she studies the surrounding flora and fauna and finds endless subjects to paint. She also loves gardening and the hours of playing in the dirt keep her grounded.

Using water colours and acrylics, along with mixed media, Phillips loves trying different surfaces such as glass, wood, and canvas. A recent innovation involves painting on diverse objects, such as recycled windows, vases, and other glass pieces. She says, “This reduces my carbon footprint, while creating useable works of art that showcase the beauty of the boreal forest.”

Phillips plans to create a series highlighting local scenery and wildlife. Painting boreal animals fascinates her and she’s developed a process for depicting realistic details of fur and feathers. After studying the subject and noting the light, fur directions, and position, she makes a sketch and traces an outline onto water colour paper. Next, she paints the background, and the main features (eyes, ears, nose and mouth). She prepares the undercoat, using soft strokes to show the direction of the fur, and adds a slightly darker layer. During this process, she often walks away for an hour, or even a day, to get fresh perspective or wait for natural light. (The best light is found at her kitchen table). She continues until the painting is complete, which can take from three to seven days.

Bernice’s work has been sold across Canada and the USA, and it is presently on display at Winnipeg River Heritage Museum (St. Georges), Through the Arbour (Pine Falls), and Gwen Fox Gallery (Selkirk). This year, she will have glass pendants, cards, and prints of her paintings available.

When COVID restrictions are lifted, Phillips plans to teach classes in Lac du Bonnet, via Winnipeg River Recreation, and at her “Garden Path Studio.” Lessons will include working with mixed-media and different surfaces. Sessions in her yard will enable participants to walk among gardens and flower beds, and draw inspiration through smell, vision, and touch. Her advice for artists: “If you’re interested in making art, follow your instincts and do it for yourself. Feedback is important but first you have to like what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, try new media, and see where art takes you!”

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