For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features artist Heather Westdal. A long-time Pinawa resident, she recently retired from her position as Home Economics teacher at Pinawa Senior School.
In 2013, a friend challenged Westdal to discover her “inner visual artist.” Both of them already shared a strong background in music. They played in Pinawa’s Community Band and Heather often performed with the school’s jazz band and the musical ensemble, Satin Dolls. But they wanted to try something new and different in their lives. Westdal decided to try visual art for her challenge.
In January of that same year, Winnipeg River Arts Council partnered with Pinawa Art 211 to offer drawing lessons, taught by Mary Louise Chown. Westdal signed up for the classes and was immediately captivated by Chown’s quiet, supportive instructional style. When asked to draw a piece with a repetitive design, Westdal focused on a philodendron plant. This exercise later became her first acrylic painting.
These classes sparked Westdal’s connection to canvas and paints. She joined the group of artists who run the Pinawa Art Gallery, known as Pinawa Art 211. With encouragement and support from these artists, her work progressed quickly. Although early creations were landscaped-based, she has since developed her painting skills and now incorporates textural concepts. She used this technique in “The Buddha,” an image which she entered in the recent Eastman Judged Art Exhibition hosted by Whitemouth. In 2015, she entered her work in the previous EJAE, held in Lac du Bonnet.
She continues to expand her knowledge of acrylic painting through ongoing mentorship from the Pinawa Art Gallery artists, as well as the use of books and art magazine. When asked about her inspiration, Westdal said, “I find my muse using photos. They provide a back story and this narrative informs my interpretation.”
The use of photos also applies to her commissioned paintings. She said, “These works involve many discussions with the owner of the photos. These conversations help create the final painting.”