February Member of the Month: Gwen Hayes
Welcome to Member of the Month, a new feature on the Scarborough Arts website! Every month, we’ll be profiling a different Scarborough Arts member. If you’re a member and would like to be profiled, send an email to news AT scarborougharts.com for more information.
How long have you been a member of Scarborough Arts?
I’ve been a member of Scarborough Arts for several years, but I can’t remember how long! I joined when I felt I could spend more time focusing on my art and because I wanted to meet people across a broad spectrum of the arts, and to give back to the creative community.
What kind of art do you practice, and how long have you been practicing it?
I am a visual artist; a painter. My primary media are watercolour and acrylics. I’ve also worked in oils, pen and ink, and enjoy multi-media work as well. I’ve been painting on and off my entire life, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve had more time to consistently focus on my practice. I also write poems, short stories, and essays, so if I haven’t been painting for a while it’s often because I’ve gravitated back towards writing for a while, which tends to inspire my art.
Tell us about the piece we’re featuring today.
This piece, Being of Breath, is part of my Threshold Series. For a watercolour it’s unique because at 39 x 57.5 – it’s rather huge, and has been beautifully framed by Gold’s for a recent exhibition. There’s a sinuous quality to it; it’s characterized by bends, curves, and folds, winding and undulating. It’s like muscles and tendons, water flowing, new buds, growth, and life. My inspiration comes from reflective practice, which includes making mandalas and writing, and also looking outside to what’s going on in the world around me. Often, I find a thread of inspiration in a word, and I follow that from one idea to the next. In this case, my over-arching theme was thresholds, which is about being on the verge of moving from one place or state to another, and passageways. This led me to thinking about how things unfold in our lives, which led to the idea of being fully present, and the stillness that comes when we focus on our breath yet maintain awareness that there’s so much that goes on in our hearts and minds, and inside our bodies, even as we do, just breathe. Everything flows more easily when we breathe.
Where is your favourite place in Scarborough to go for inspiration?
I live close to the Bluffs, so my inspiration comes from living here and spending time at the beach at the bottom of the hill or walking the meadow up top, behind the seminary. I love how the light and the colours change over the course of the year and I’m particularly enamoured with seeing the water every day. It helps me sustain a creative frame of mind. I also find inspiration in my back yard, which is always a little wild and unkempt. There’s a lovely tangle of leaves, branches, and blossoms out there in every season that attracts the birds. And my studio is just an excellent space to work.
What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best piece of artistic advice I’ve ever received doesn’t just apply to art-making, and that’s to define my own measures of success (and thus as an artist, my own areas of focus). Certainly, as an artist there are techniques to understand and skills to master; and the quality of my mood has a huge impact on my ability to sustain my creative process. But in contrast to developing technique, which I enjoy, there is also a sort of intuitive, full-on creative outpouring of self-expression that just needs to happen from time to time. There’s no one absolute right way to do anything and our perceptions change over time. So generally, I think it’s important to just show up at the page, whether that’s writing or painting, or in life and no matter how you’re feeling, just show up and do something. Make a mark and go from there. As far as painting goes, I look for the meaning in what I’ve done and sometimes that will turn into the basis for a body of work, and just as often it won’t, but that’s okay too. Really, my art is one of the few areas of my life in which I simply do what pleases me, and if the end result pleases anyone else at all, that’s wonderful.
For more on Gwen and her work, visit her website.