For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features well-known visual artist Nancy-Lou Ateah. Originally from Winnipeg, she has lived in Victoria Beach area for forty years. When she was six years old, an aunt gave her an easel, paper and poster paints, implanting a love of painting. Ateah says, “I was fortunate to be enrolled in the children’s Saturday art classes, at the University of Manitoba.”
As an adult, she studied at this same university’s School of Art, learning about watercolour and oils, and the newest product – acrylics. She also studied music, specializing in piano. At sixteen, she obtained her teaching diploma, and ever since, has taught piano lessons.
Over the years, she has enrolled in art courses with various teachers and arts councils and galleries, throughout Manitoba, have hired her to instruct. She often organizes her own art workshops in Winnipeg, renting venues such as hotel banquet rooms. Currently, she is teaching watercolour classes at Victoria Beach. She says, “I love teaching art and music. I feel blessed to be able to work at something I love!”
Although she uses oils, acrylics, and pastels, watercolour remains her first love, given the immediacy and glowing colours she can achieve with this medium. The subject matter varies; she constantly searches for new ideas, such as incorporating gold leaf into her paintings. Her work has been exhibited in various galleries and the Birchwood Hotel, south of Victoria Beach, regularly displays her art. This past June, Library Allard partnered with Winnipeg River Historical Society to showcase a retrospective of her paintings. Right now, she is working on a series of Lake Winnipeg paintings for Winnipeg’s Birchwood Art Gallery.
Ateah likes to portray local history in her art, painting from photographs or from old timers’ stories. For example, she created a scene of a log house with northern lights dancing in the winter sky, inspired by accounts about the McQueen family, who homesteaded on Catfish Creek in the 1930’s and 40’s. Her husband and his Victoria Beach family often packed picnic lunches and took the long trek to this cabin, where they spent the day visiting, singing, and playing music.
She says, “My inspiration comes from nature and from history. If it is too beautiful for words – it has to be painted!”