Artist to Col­lect: Angie Rees

Arabella - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

Pun In­tended

writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

Start with a fine blend of tal­ent, hu­mour and word­play, add a soupçon of art­ful non­sense and a heavy dol­lop of imag­i­na­tion, and ta da! The re­sult is a clever com­bi­na­tion that el­e­vates an Angie Rees paint­ing from merely eclec­tic to out­right ex­cep­tional. From ti­tle to tech­nique, each smilein­duc­ing cre­ation de­lights the eye and tick­les the imag­i­na­tion. As you’re about to learn, Angie Rees em­bod­ies the lighter side… of art and life. Angie was born in Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton and grew up in Ed­mon­ton, where her father was a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Al­berta. As a child, she showed a keen in­ter­est in vis­ual art and took classes in paint­ing, draw­ing, sculp­ture and pot­tery. You name it, Angie wanted to try it. "I wasn’t al­ways cre­at­ing art, but I was mak­ing ‘stuff’. My poor mother had her cloth­ing cut up if I saw a place for a piece of her out­fit in my cre­ation. Hide the scis­sors! We also had a crazy menagerie of neu­rotic dogs and en­ti­tled cats; great fu­ture fod­der for an artist who loves the ridicu­lous and silly things in life." Her father, Sa­muel Rees, was the great­est sin­gle in­flu­ence in Angie’s life. "I lost him about six years ago – much too soon. He ex­posed me to cre­ativ­ity at a re­ally young age and made "the Art world" ac­ces­si­ble by tak­ing me to gal­leries, films and live theatre. Many of his col­leagues were hav­ing open­ings in gal­leries or on the stage, so I grew up

un­der­stand­ing that be­ing an artist was a real job." Dad also in­stilled a love of word­play in his daugh­ter – good puns and non­sen­si­cal rhymes with the odd dirty lim­er­ick thrown in for good mea­sure. To­gether, they tack­led the ob­tuse clues in the Globe and Mail cryp­tic cross­word puz­zle with gusto. Angie re­calls, "Oc­ca­sion­ally, if he got stuck on a clue, he’d take it "un­der ad­vise­ment" – code for a nap. Re­mark­ably, he would wake up with his brain re­freshed and know the an­swer. I’ve adopted this strat­egy with ti­tles for my paint­ings. Ev­ery now and then a ti­tle will elude me and I, too, take it un­der ad­vise­ment and of­ten wake up with the per­fect one."

For­mal with a flour­ish

Ad­vanced art train­ing fol­lowed high school grad­u­a­tion – first at Grant Macewan Com­mu­nity Col­lege, then at the Univer­sity of Al­berta, where Angie earned a BFA de­gree. Back then, the U of A’s paint­ing depart­ment was known for a strong ‘for­mal­ist’ lean­ing. Colour and tech­nique over con­tent and mean­ing. That train­ing has pro­foundly in­flu­enced the work Angie pro­duces to­day; though the sub­ject seem­ingly dom­i­nates, she isn’t happy un­til the paint­ing is as much about the for­mal el­e­ments of colour and brush­work. To this pun-lov­ing artist, the ti­tle is the cherry on the sun­dae; the fin­ish­ing touch that just can’t be said with a brush. Asked whether the name comes be­fore or af­ter paint­ing, Angie says, "Both. And some­times in the middle. Oc­ca­sion­ally I have a ‘Pop­corn Pop­per’ day, when rapid-fire ideas pop into my head at ran­dom, some­times for hours at a time. I’ve filled many sketch­book pages on th­ese days and I’m so happy when they oc­cur." She loves hear­ing peo­ple de­scribe her work as "whim­si­cal" and her heart soars when paint­ing sub­jects that make her laugh. The more vi­brant and pat­terned they turn out, the bet­ter. Angie wor­ried for years that her work wasn’t deep or se­ri­ous enough, but she now re­al­izes those qual­i­ties just aren’t part of her be­ing. The birth of her pre­cious boy, Jack, marked the on­set of Angie’s whim­si­cal style and helped her tap into the fer­tile ground of imag­i­na­tion. "I feed it a rich and steady diet of chil­dren’s sto­ry­books and theatre, and try to in­dulge its ev­ery whim. This, in turn, fu­els my abil­ity to day­dream. For an artist, it’s very lib­er­at­ing."

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Liv­ing in Cal­gary with hus­band Bill ( a metal sculp­tor aka "Tinker­bill"), 14-year-old jokester son Jack, their needy dog Samp­son and fat cat Vi­o­let – there is no short­age of rea­sons to laugh. "I spend ev­ery morn­ing with this odd squad," Angie says, "the ideal start to the day." Their home is filled with art col­lected over the years; a blend of styles and sub­jects that per­fectly rep­re­sents this eclec­tic house­hold. Of note, a 20’ long as­sem­blage of quirky trin­kets and trea­sures amassed from far and wide. At one point, a vin­tage Bing type­writer is at­tached to the wall, topped with a vi­brant yel­low bird that rides back and forth on the car­riage. Be­side it is a beaten-up brass sax­o­phone full of red pop­pies. Nearby, lurks an African mask – its men­ac­ing ap­pear­ance di­min­ished by a rubber eye­ball and polka-dot­ted party blower. Hu­mour re­sides in Angie’s stu­dio, as well. She ad­mits, "It’s a treat to lis­ten to a record­ing by Amer­i­can hu­mourist David Sedaris while paint­ing, but not when the paint­ing I’m work­ing on re­quires a steady hand. Hearty laugh­ter and fine brush­work don’t go well to­gether!" She also en­joys the mock­ing ir­rev­er­ence of car­toon­ist Gary Lar­son (cre­ator of The Far Side). "My brain seems hard­wired to no­tice life’s ab­sur­di­ties. For ex­am­ple, I’ve al­ways thought that cow ud­ders and bag­pipes bore a strik­ing re­sem­blance to one an­other. I’m cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a se­ries of works about that, en­ti­tled Scotch and Sir­loin." Head­ing the list of artists Angie ad­mires are Marc Cha­gall for his whimsy and folk­lore, and Paul Klee for his child­like way of in­ter­pret­ing the world. An­other favourite is chil­dren’s books il­lus­tra­tor Lis­beth Zw­erger: "A mas­ter­ful wa­ter­col­orist

whose abil­ity to say so much with her sparse com­po­si­tions has kept me fas­ci­nated for years." Then, there is NYC artist Paul Balmer: "His cityscapes have a won­der­ful naïve qual­ity that plays with your per­cep­tions of two- and three­d­i­men­sion­al­ity. I’ve been work­ing for years on a se­ries of paint­ings called Itty Bitty Cities and I turn to Balmer’s work reg­u­larly for in­spi­ra­tion. Paris sculp­tor Ger­ard Cam­bon also amazes me, with his abil­ity to take a rec­og­niz­able found ob­ject and present it so dif­fer­ently (i.e. his lo­co­mo­biles se­ries) that you for­get its orig­i­nal pur­pose. Such an in­ven­tive mind!"

Ic­ing on the cake

Hav­ing ex­per­i­mented with a wide va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als – oils, wa­ter­colours, chalk pas­tels – Angie far prefers acrylics for their ver­sa­til­ity and range of ap­pli­ca­tions; whether ap­ply­ing them thickly, or more sub­tly as a thin veil. Work al­ways be­gins with draw­ings, and much time is spent get­ting those "just right" be­fore she ever picks up a brush. "I paint ex­clu­sively in acrylics and use dif­fer­ent tex­tu­ral grounds to es­tab­lish in­ter­est­ing sur­faces on cra­dled birch panel sup­ports. My cur­rent favourite is GOLDEN acrylic Light Mold­ing Paste. It is light­weight, like whipped frost­ing, and can be ap­plied us­ing al­most any tool. It can be sculpted and shaped as it goes down and then scratched into at a later stage, if de­sired. I love the tex­ture, and it gives me the bit of re­sis­tance I like when I paint on it." Angie has done many com­mis­sions over the years, and likes the chance to brain­storm and col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers. As long as they al­low her artis­tic "wig­gle room" to make de­ci­sions that oc­cur to her while paint­ing. "If I’m sup­press­ing my in­stincts, I don’t paint well."

Some­times, it’s a stretch…

Angie used to paint the­atri­cal sets for Al­berta Theatre Projects and Theatre Cal­gary, and cred­its the ex­pe­ri­ence as won­der­ful train­ing for in­vent­ing pro­cesses and new paint ap­pli­ca­tion tech­niques. It’s not un­usual for scenic painters to work from a 12" model and have to trans­late the paint­ing de­tail to a stage 50 times larger. "I learned how to paint large and fast, and how to es­tab­lish a con­vinc­ing il­lu­sion that would trans­late from a great dis­tance … way at the back of the house (theatre)." When her son was born, she gave up the work and the "weird hours" and started a mu­ral com­pany in Cal­gary called Eye-won­der. This, and teach­ing The­atri­cal Paint­ing at Mount Royal Univer­sity kept her busy and happy un­til the theatre pro­gram was cut two years ago at MRU. "I think the hard­est thing about mak­ing art full time is the fi­nan­cial un­cer­tainty. It’s hard to be cre­ative when you’re wor­ried about your mort­gage. Be­ing con­cerned how some­thing new might be re­ceived makes ex­per­i­ment­ing dif­fi­cult, al­though it’s re­ally im­por­tant to the artis­tic process to do so. My ad­vice for those just start­ing to ex­plore paint­ing is to take as many classes and work­shops as you can. I’d give this same ad­vice to peo­ple who paint a lot. I love to take a class with some­one new, par­tic­u­larly if it’s a dif­fer­ent tech­nique. This forces me to stretch in a di­rec­tion I might not oth­er­wise go, and it’s good to switch it up some­times." As pan­icked as she was at the loss of her teach­ing job, Angie chan­neled that en­ergy into a change of di­rec­tion and be­gan paint­ing for gal­leries full time. She ex­plains with grat­i­tude, "I’m so very glad that I did. I love the abil­ity to set my own sched­ule. Al­though I’ve never worked

harder in my life, I’m rep­re­sented by a host of won­der­ful gal­leries that give me carte blanche to paint what­ever my heart de­sires." The whim­si­cal work of Angie Rees is rep­re­sented by th­ese fine gal­leries: Blue­rock Gallery Black Di­a­mond, AB www.blue­rock­gallery.ca 403.933.5047 Gallery 421 Kelowna, BC www.gallery421.ca 250.448.8888 The Avens Gallery Can­more, AB www.theav­ens­gallery.com 403.678.4471 The Av­enue Gallery Vic­to­ria, BC www.theav­enue­gallery.com 250.598.2184 White Rock Gallery White Rock, BC www.white­rock­gallery.com 604.538.4452

left, The Lunch Ladies, acrylic on birch panel, 20" x 30" above, Mary Had A Lit­tle Ham, acrylic on birch panel, 10" x 10"

above, Chicken On The Way, acrylic on birch panel, 8" x 10" right, Bon­nie and Clyde, acrylic on birch panel, 16" x 20"

left, Car­ni­val High Jinks, acrylic on birch panel, 18" x 18" above, The Painted Ladies, acrylic on birch panel, 20" x 20"

above, Flabra­cadabra, acrylic on birch panel, 8" x 8" right, Sum­mer Bird­song, acrylic on birch panel, 16" x 20"

above, Plaid Cow Dis­ease, acrylic on birch panel, 18" x 18" right top, Knit Wits, acrylic on birch panel, 8" x 10" right bot­tom, Plaid Is The New Black, acrylic on birch panel, 12" x 16"

above, Dou­ble Trou­ble, acrylic on birch panel, 11" x 14" right, For A Good Time Call…..wild Rose, acrylic on birch panel, 8" x 8"

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