A Unique Collection of Memories

It all started with a care package from home.

Heather Read felt she was growing tired of her graduate degree program on the East Coast and parental sympathy came in the form of felt pens and watercolour pencil crayons.

From there, a trip around Newfoundland led her to experiment with bold lines and subdued washes to eventually develop an indefinable technique.

“I took a bus trip across the island and actually forgot my camera, but had a little tiny pad of watercolour paper,” she explains. “The idea of solidifying some of the memories of that bus trip on these little cards seemed kind of neat.”

Nine pieces came out of that journey and Read says she’s continued the momentum with her unique collaboration of painting and drawing ever since.

“When I first started doing this style, I would have an idea of the image that I wanted and draw it out methodically. I’ve been doing this for about two years now and it just comes a lot more naturally.

“Now I’ll do a watercolour wash, look for shapes that I find interesting and do some initial black lines and then heighten some of the colours.”

The completed artworks are inspired by the appearance of stained glass windows. Read’s use of heavy black boundaries with colour washes peaking through, are meant to mimic that stimulation.

Beyond that, she says she’s always had a love for native art – something people have told her they also connect with in her work. However, she says she finds it difficult to completely articulate her artistic intentions.

Her process involves a continuous layering of colours and black lines in order to single out shapes and create her focal compositions.

“Initially it was black pen and then it became India Ink pens and then I started to try actual India Ink. Sometimes I use a plain, old Sharpie,” she says with a laugh. “Because the watercolour paper gets really absorbent and so it dries out a lot of pens.”

Read admits she’s fond of working with non-traditional art materials. And when it comes to her artistic environment, she utilizes a plain old kitchen table rather than a conventional studio.

She says the collection currently exhibited on the walls of the Yukon Arts Centre’s community gallery is a retrospective of sorts.

“It’s almost like looking through a photo album of where I’ve been in the last year,” she says.

“I envision it as almost being something I’m going to continue like a diary. I’ve started to do other artistic things as sort of a regular habit. It’s so therapeutic. I feel a little obsessive compulsive as I’m drawing all of these little black lines over everything, but it’s a meditation.”

The show, titled The Light Got In, features abstract and more literal pieces. The majority are small-scale works inspired by Read’s time spent in Newfoundland, trips abroad and her most recent surroundings in the Yukon.

And while the show is Read’s first in the territory, it also marks her departure. Days after the exhibit comes down, she is set to leave her position as gallery intern at YAC and return to her home province of Ontario.

As Read puts it, “it’s a nice way to say goodbye.”

The Light Got In is on display at the Yukon Arts Centre community gallery until March 16.

PHOTO: MORGAN WHIBLEY [email protected]

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