White china fills the spaces in corners and atop shelves of the two-room St. Ann Street studio. Blank in colour, they vary in shapes and uses – vases and butter dishes and brie bakers – sourced from second-hand and consignment shops.
The major spaces of the room’s tabletops and lower shelves boast similar canvasses, these ones filled by the artistic eye of Oak Bay artist Flo-Elle Watson.
“I use, as my canvas, up-cycled white porcelain,” she says. “Every time I find a unique piece of white porcelain I buy it.”
Watson’s mother, now 99 and no longer painting, taught her the craft after art school. Watson put it aside for a while, teaching and working in acrylics and “just about everything else.”
She returned to the classic china painting about 25 years ago.
“I love it, it’s an entirely different medium and not a lot of people do it,” Watson says.
Watson opens the porcelain-filled space to art-lovers during her 16th year of the Recreation Oak Bay-organized spring studio tour that runs April 16 and 17 from noon to 4:30 p.m. at studios and venues across the community. She missed only year one of the tour.
She’s inspired by sharing her passion with visitors to her space twice a year – Recreation Oak Bay also organizes a fall tour.
“Being an artist, it’s a very solitary thing,” she says. “I love people coming in and asking me about the process. I love to explain it to them. I find they’re very interested because it’s a different technique. They like seeing an artist at work.”
For artists such as Arlene Davey who lives in a townhouse, Recreation Oak Bay added a venue this year. Davey and a handful of others will display and demonstrate in the new Neighbourhood Learning Centre at Oak Bay High School.
“Living in a townhouse you’re so close to your neighbours,” she says. “I would have liked to participate in a studio tour but my studio is part of a storage room.”
Instead she’ll display a half-dozen of her Chinese brush paintings at the NLC. She took up the classic technique upon retiring from a career teaching high school art.
“I didn’t want to do what I taught and this was new,” Davey says. “With Chinese brush painting it always seems new and there’s more to learn. … There are all kinds of rules and if you don’t follow the rules it doesn’t look right. And at any step of the way you could wreck the thing.”
The centuries-old skill she started more than two decades ago offers ongoing learning and a chance to meet up with her friends twice a week at Monterey recreation and Goward House. “Twice a week I meet my buddies,” she says.
Artists also plan to line the hallway of the centre with studio tour artwork.
Recreation Oak Bay’s free, juried studio tour features local established and emerging artists showing watercolour, acrylic, oil, fibre, photography, wood, glass and pottery art. Brochures with artist images, descriptions and a tour map are available at oakbay.ca/recreation, at Recreation Oak Bay centres, the municipal hall and the library as well as at local businesses and through participating artists.