Heidi Hehn Uses the Big Brush


Crisp, precise and focused. On viewing most of Yukon painter Heidi Hehn’s paintings, these words draw closest to finding an underlying mood to her impeccable technique.

Her newest show, Water, is on display this August at the Yukon Art Centre Community Grotto. It is meant to disturb any complacency that viewers might have when they know they are going to a Hehn show.

Water itself is a loose thread tying together her newest pieces. As Hehn explains, “I was looking for a theme in a big hurry, something that I hadn’t done before so no one was expecting something, including me.

“I wanted something broad, so I picked water.”

Themes help challenge and stimulate Hehn. “I love it when I go into Arts Underground, they do those theme shows and you’ve gotta wrack your brain … I like that.”

Hehn set up her show as an “excuse to paint more, which is why I do shows.” Then she thought, “Whoa, look at all the ways you can go with this. With water, I was wracking my brain for months trying to figure out what to do.”

The challenge has sent Hehn into all sorts of new directions: “Usually I do tight sort of wildlife and bird pieces, so some people might be disappointed; these are different.

“In the past when I did landscape, I always had to put animals or birds in, they felt empty,” she says of her forsaken trademark. “But now I’ve been able to do landscapes without putting them in.”

Expanding even further, Hehn has been delighting in the tools of her trade: “Lately I think I just like my big flat brushes better, it’s been fun, lots of colour and stuff like that. I hope people are not disappointed because a lot of people are used to my detailed paintings.”

Whatever expectations people have, they won’t be disappointed. “Right now I just feel like doing big broad landscapes. I’m doing one painting right now that might end up being my favourite. It’s called Kusawa. It’s my favourite because it’s orange.

“A lot of the colours in the show, like the reds and the oranges, are to satisfy my own need. I really needed red in the past few years. A lot of people say it’s an angry colour, but I don’t think so, I think it’s an energizing subconscious colour.”

Heidi Hehn has been working as a full-time artist for 13 years, and been creating art for well over the 30 years she has been in the Yukon. She ended up in the Yukon because of a childhood fascination with the North and mountains.

“My father had been in the North in the air force and he came back with all these stories. I always had a thing about the North and the mountains ever since I was a kid.

“I was married then and my husband was unhappy with his job and I saw a job in the paper and told him to apply so I could come here.” As to what keeps Hehn here, “You can drive for miles and miles and not see a human being and you have such access to the mountains and wilderness.”

For the future, Hehn is “kind of ready to move to another step. I’ll still do birds. I don’t want to do wildlife so much, but I still want to do birds and flowers.”

Water is on exhibit at the Yukon Art Centre Community Grotto from Aug. 2 to 30. More of her art can be seen at www.wildartsweb.com.


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