For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council revisits previously featured artist Bernice Phillips. A long-time resident of Powerview-Pine Falls, Phillips holds several positions along with her growing art practice. She cooks meals for seniors and works at “Through the Arbour,” the family-run business that provides massage, herbal products and consultations, reflexology, “Day Spa” services, and natural body care products. Also, when necessary, she looks after grandchildren.
But art has always been central in her life. As a child, she would take her father’s scrapbook and wonder at the pictures he drew as a young man. She says, “Contemplating his concepts and visions, I was in awe at how he was able to bring his work to life.”
In her younger years, demands of work and family were constant. As the third daughter, with four younger brothers, she had a busy home life. She says, “Like many of us, art got put on the back burner.”
Phillips used drawing and gardening to find peace, away from a not-so-nice world of bullying and expectations. After she left home, she married and had children, and enjoyed all the fun and learning experiences that come with family life.
When her kids started school, Phillips began taking workshops in various art methods, such as pottery at Powerview School. She says, “I loved working with clay, using the wheel, and exploring the pinch method and sculpting!’
After pottery, she tried stained glass, willow furniture-making, air-brushing, embroidery and quilting, to name a few. Then she signed up for a tole painting workshop (“the folk art of decorative painting on tin and wooden utensils, objects and furniture”). She knew she had finally found her medium. She began to look at the world with different eyes, seeing the way light and shadows changed the shades of leaves and plants.
After painting in acrylic for many years, she decided to explore watercolour by taking workshops with two well-known local artists, first Nancy-Lou Ateah and then Roberta Laliberte. In the last few years, she started experimenting in mixed media. This opened up a whole new path, combining watercolour and acrylic, working on many different backgrounds such as glass, wood, and canvas.
Phillips is currently showing her art at the Gwen Fox Gallery in Selkirk, along with three other artists, until July 27. In August, on the 17th & 18th, her work can be seen at her home in Powerview, in the Garden Path Studio, Stop #10 of the Boreal Shores Art Tour. She also decorated one of the beautiful paddles that will be auctioned off during August in the “Paddle the River” fundraiser for Winnipeg River Arts Council.
Phillips says, “My art usually reflects my surroundings, the trees, animals, and my beloved garden where I spend many hours enjoying the outdoors.”