Annual treks influence the yearly Victoria Sketch Club show.
The name’s a bit of a misnomer, though you generally sketch before painting, said 17-year member Victor Lotto. It is, however, historical.
“It actually is a 126 years old, this club,” Lotto said.
For over a century Victoria Sketch Club artists have gathered weekly to paint or sketch from local scenes or indoors from live models or from still life. Its story began in 1909, when a small band of enthusiasts formed an arts society. The result was the Island Arts Club with 56 charter members, including Samuel Maclure, Emily Carr, the Crease and Pemberton families.
By 1935 the Island Arts Society was the largest in Canada but in the intervening years interest waned except for the “Sketch Club” component which met regularly. In 1952, the Island Arts and Crafts Society became known as the Victoria Sketch Club.
As the oldest art group west of Ontario, the club takes pride in its history both to maintain its traditions and bring in new energy, ideas and artistic styles. A notable addition in recent years was the late Ted Harrison, whose unique vision and portrayal of Canada’s north received international acclaim.
“We have 35 members in the club and entry is through a juried process. The executive look at paintings by people interested in the club. So there’s not that much turnover,” said Lotto. “We do have one woman who’s a member of the club, been with it for 50 years, her mother used to take her when she was a little girl.”
This year, the group that meets each Tuesday at Windsor Pavilion celebrates a record of unbroken activity covering 105 years.
“Those sessions are really painting sessions, we’ll either have a still life set up or bring in a model and do figure drawing or painting. The big activity is to work toward this show at Glenlyon (Norfolk School),” Lotto said.
The annual show and sale is held in the school gymnasium, started when a former member was a teacher at the Beach Drive establishment.
Much of the art is inspired by the annual group jaunt throughout Vancouver Island and its archipelagos. Travels take the group from Salt Spring Island to Tofino, last year to Cowichan Bay and this year’s plan is Parksville.
“We’re unique in at the end of September we all go away somewhere, different places on the Island, to paint for a week,” Lotto said. “Every day we go out and paint, and in the evenings we do critiques of our work.”
The group of retired professional artists, and those who held it to their heart while paying the bills as doctors, lawyers, generals and psychiatrists, continue to learn, bringing in outside instruction a couple times a year.
The objectives remain to foster the practice of painting and drawing and to contribute to the variety and richness of the local art scene. Club members continue to put on exhibitions either collectively or on a group basis, exhibit with such organizations as the Federation of Canadian Artists and participate in many community events.
March 17 at 7 p.m. the group launches its own community event. A show and sale that features more than 100 works, primarily acrylic and oil with a handful of watercolour in the mix, will range from representational to abstract.
“You’ll see a lot of paintings that were done on site in Cowichan Bay … It’s one of my favourite painting spots,” Lotto said. “The entrance is free and we always have a door prize.
The Victoria Sketch Club show and sale runs March 17 to 22 at Glenlyon Norfolk School, 1701 Beach Dr. It opens with the 7 p.m. launch on March 17 and runs daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. closing at 4 p.m. on March 22.
Lotto plans to do a demo on Friday, March 20. Visit victoriasketchclub.ca for samples of work.