Nature inspires Oak Bay artist working in pencil and ink

Ilka Bauer showcases her work during the Recreation Oak Bay fall studio tour
this weekend

Oak Bay artist Ilka Bauer heads for the Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Overlooking a brilliant sunset might inspire an artist to splash paint on canvas. Standing under the same stunning image, Oak Bay’s Ilka Bauer feels she’s far more likely to find the art in what may appear a mundane rock at her feet.

“A lot of the time I just see something and it will strike me. I want to draw that,” said Bauer, who works primarily in pencil and ink, with only a recent addition of coloured pencil. With a PhD and law degree Bauer spent the last year committed to her return as an artist.

“It’s something I did quite intensely in high school,” Bauer says.

She took the time to bring some drawings to the local art school in Hamburg, Germany before embarking on her post-secondary education. There she found an uninspiring response, the fellow who looked at her body of work didn’t love it or hate it.

“My confidence wasn’t high enough to get over that wall and there were too many other things I was good at,” she said. “I figured I’ll do biology, because that’s cool too.”

Some drawing came into play during her extensive education.

Botany – which she has taught – in particular entails simple line drawings with little detail. Her works go well beyond line drawings with basic features offering deeply detailed simplicity.

“My drawing style is very, very detailed, but simple,” Bauer said. “I like to work from life – you see things differently and you see more detail. (However), for a lot of it I have to work from photographs.”

For example, an image of driftwood at Willows Beach took her 50 hours, an impossible feat sitting at the beach.

“You have to look under a microscope for some of this stuff,” she says, gesturing to an intricate drawing that’s actually minuscule moss.

“Every piece is still ‘lets see.’ A lot of what I do is still experimental.”

Bauer took formal pencil drawing lessons as a youth and “really learned a technique,” she said. “For a lot of people it’s a step on the way to painting but I really love the medium.”

She first reintroduced herself to the craft in 2009 while teaching at a Newfoundland university. Keenly aware of the silent auctions the art school there hosted, “I picked it up to see if I could still do it,” Bauer said, surprising even herself.

She brought her re-emerging passion with her when shifting coasts to Greater Victoria in 2010, but it would take another five years of settling before Bauer ventured out. The 2015 Bowker Brush Up was like a coming-out party.

“That’s when I started doing it regularly and have been since,” she said.

A member of the Oak Bay Community Artists Society, Bauer attended this year’s Brush Up and featured in two major juried shows on the south Island, Sooke Fine Art Show and the Sidney Fine Art Show.

She earned international kudos with the Nonesuch Art on Paper Awards.

“That was exciting,” she said. A couple works are at the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver.

Bauer is among several artists who share space at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at Oak Bay High during the fall studio tour this weekend.

She first took the tour in 2015 – there are two, one each in the spring and fall – and enjoyed it so much she joined in, sharing a space with another artist later that year.

“It was fun,” Bauer said. “I like talking to people about my work and I find everybody has a different perspective on my work, which is interesting.”

The Oak Bay fall studio tour is Nov. 12 and 13 from noon to 4:30 p.m. The free, self-guided tour includes 29 local artists showing paintings in watercolour, acrylic, and oil, as well as ceramics, jewellery, photography, fibre art, paper castings, art cards and more.

Find the brochure and tour map online at oak bay.ca, at Oak Bay recreation centres, municipal hall, the GVPL Oak Bay library branch, local businesses and participating artists.

Visit www.ilkabauer.com to learn more about the artist.

Get an early taste of the tour with a walk down the hall at the NLC. Pieces from most of the 29 featured artists are on display at the centre, adjacent to Oak Bay high, 2121 Cadboro Bay Road, this week ahead of the tour.