For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features visual artist, Shirley Cummer. Although her main interest used to be landscapes, she has been challenging herself to learn more about painting animals. Inspired by these results, she continues to work at expanding her artistic education.
Originally from Winnipeg, Cummer lived in the Lee River area for several years and her two children attended school in Lac du Bonnet. During this time, she worked in Winnipeg, as well as in Lac du Bonnet and Pinawa. In 2005, she moved back to Winnipeg, where she was employed by RCMP Depot Division, and met her husband, Brian, from Carman.
In 2016, the couple retired and built their home in Pinawa. Shortly after they moved into their new house, they got the opportunity to check out the snowbird community of Weslaco, Texas, where Cummer joined a group of women who enjoyed painting together. At first, she started doing art because she wanted to depict the hypnotic path that her husband had described to her, as a method to deal with sleep issues.
She says, “This Weslaco painting group, led by Judy Anaka, was a life changer, and soon became a very addictive, wonderful hobby.”
Prior to connecting with the Texas group, Cummer had no formal art training. However, she enjoyed other artistic hobbies such as sewing and crocheting. Motivated by her experiences down south, she signed up for classes at Pinawa Art Gallery, learning from well-known local artists and instructors, Vivian Thomson and Arlene Bohn.
Over the years, Cummer has worked in conventional careers, such as human resource manager, office manager, bank teller, and employment consultant. But, in 2015, she took training to be a professional stage hypnotist and certified hypnotherapist, specializing in smoking cessation. On different occasions, Cummer and her husband have performed for charities, fundraisers and corporations, presenting an act known as the “Brian and Rhonda Comedy Hypnosis.” Last November, they appeared in an episode of “Still Standing.” This popular CBC program featured Pinawa, as an example of a small town that has thrived after a setback.
In 2002, she entered an ART 211 contest and her oil painting of a swimming polar bear won first prize in the adult category. When she is not painting or helping people to quit smoking, she enjoys winemaking, travelling by pontoon on local waters, and visiting with eight grandchildren. She is also a member of Pinawa Art Gallery.
Cummer says, “I find painting to be a wonderful, relaxing hobby. I’ve created numerous pieces that I’ve gifted to friends and relatives for various special occasions.”