Faith, Fortitude & Flowers
Born into a family of artists, Rena Bierman’s childhood was filled with painting, drawing and making music on their farm near Elk Point, Alberta. She began painting in the same way she learned to play an instrument or sing harmony – naturally, by instinct. Most of her family were gifted in wildlife art, including her cousins Judi Roberts and Randy Fehr. But Accomplished and practical from an early age, Rena won the Grade 12 Art Award in high school, and used the money to purchase a warm coat. A necessity for the frigid winters in Edmonton, where she was embarking on a career as an ophthalmic assistant and refractionist. She was a shy teenager, and credits her grade 12 by instilling the belief that every individual is special in their own way. Well, a certain young man found Rena very special, indeed. At age 18, she met Doug and love blossomed. Less than two years later, 1967, they were married. Rena’s professional art career began by chance at Edmonton’s Charles Camsell Hospital. “I was working in the Emergency Department one Christmas, and mentioned it would be nice to paint candles, holly and poinsettias on the glass dividers. Occupational therapy sent brushes; I spent the day decorating the ER with Christmas scenes. Then, a call came from the X-ray Department to do the same; next, the Pediatric Ward. In a lab coat stuffed with brushes, pushing a stretcher laden with paints – not
Doug was sure his wife had the makings of a Rembrandt, so he encouraged her to take an art class while he attended university. Then, family and Rena had three sons to raise. In 1972, soon after their eldest son was born, Doug’s career required a move to Calgary. Parenting took over from ophthalmology at this point, and art became a hobby. Rena pursued painting on her own, and later attended private classes and university courses. She ended up teaching in her art instructor’s studio for a
few years, then taught in her own home studio in Calgary and later, Kelowna. Primarily working as an instructing artist, the skill and knowledge she had gained painting all kinds of subject matter would assist Rena in teaching the variety of interests her students brought to class. During this time, she also marketed her work in Calgary galleries. Since 2015, Rena’s only students have been her talented granddaughters, Vienna and Eden. In 2003, Doug and Rena retired to Kelowna, BC. Rena was invited to teach again, and agreed, but just for one year. She longed to focus on gorgeous gardens, orchards and vineyards of the Okanagan. In 2005, she was asked to direct an art show in Kelowna – great preparation for the enormous Rockpointe Fine Arts Event she would direct and curate in Calgary four years later. “We were enjoying life in the Okanagan, and I was immersed in exploring this new focus in my art, when tragedy struck. In 2007, my husband became ill and passed away within a few short months. This event brought me to my knees physically, emotionally and spiritually. I thank my God for His comfort during such a black time. We had barely celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary; the best years of my life. 2008 found me returning to Alberta to rebuild a life that would never resemble the one that ended.” Shortly after settling in Cochrane, Alberta, Rena was invited to direct the Rockpointe Fine Arts Event in Calgary. The show occupied an area of 18,000 square feet and included painters, potters, jewelers, photographers, sculptors, performing musicians, a bistro and coffee bar, as well as
a potter giving demonstrations at her wheel. As director and curator, responsibility for the event’s success rested on Rena’s shoulders, even though she was surrounded by wonderful, the weight of grief as a new widow, I sometimes felt it might; instead it opened opportunities for me as an artist in the Calgary / Cochrane arts community." Joining Cochrane’s two art clubs introduced me to many faithful and supportive artists who have become dear friends.” A friend and colleague who also lost a beloved spouse encouraged Rena to pick up her brushes again. To create beauty rather than sorrow. “This was a pivotal moment in my life. I took these words to heart and slowly, yet painfully, stood then 20, until I could once again derive pleasure
from painting. I made a conscious decision to reinvent my artistic expression, which is it seems, that I’m putting more passion, love
Rena was taught from childhood to work hard and have strong ethics. Her faith in God drives everything she does. “Every time I stand before a blank white canvas I am overwhelmed. Creating art is a great object lesson for life. It’s problem solving. How do I create form to make the object jump off the canvas? How do I touch the heart of the viewer?” Her home studio has pride of place on the second floor with wraparound windows overlooking the foothills and Rocky Mountains. The beauty that the light brings out in her
subjects – Flowers! – is truly inspirational. A wonderful excuse to buy bouquets by the bucket load. Rena likes to hold the petals in her hand and try to make them look on “I love my great big easel; a gift from my husband. I get excited when my canvas has been primed and sanded until very smooth. New brushes bring my pulse up. Can you ever have too many? Try walking out of an art supply store without a new one! I keep great music playing and can’t help but dance around while painting. I’m very intense when it comes to colour, I love luminosity and the play of light on and through objects. I’m told by some, that my studio is too neat to be an artist, but I’m neat, thorough and intense in everything I do.” Seeing the work of other artists who display skill and great talent is sheer pleasure. Rena is especially impressed by visual effects artist, Darren Bierman, “My son, whose talent I admire & whose critique I value highly.” Mickie Pullman Macdonald, “Her work glows with light.”
“I dream creatively – about the image, the composition, the light, the colour and the mood. occupying my dreams. I prepare my canvas until it is smooth and draw the composition on transparent paper. I position it just right over the canvas and trace it on, then paint over my
pencil lines and apply thin layers of colour. I leave highlighted areas free of any darker valued colour, so the light can shine through. shadow colours making sure that each one is dry before the next is applied. Then a thin veil of translucent colour, layer over layer, until I highlight and shadow. When all is dry, I decide if it should have water droplets. If there are too many, performing a ‘dropletectomy’ merely takes a wipe of a cloth. I have had to remove them after they dried, and that is not fun. I don’t let anyone see the painting while the droplets are wet because, more often than not, they wipe Rena has painted murals and decorative art using acrylics, as well as creating graphite drawings, and working with pastels. But none give the masterful effect of oils in yielding that translucent look. She paints layer over dried layer and, also, wet on wet to soften edges, even making them disappear into the background. “I love to paint whatever gets my pulse beating a little faster. If a client presents me with an idea that inspires me, I love that too. Once, I was commissioned to do a 60” x 48” painting of calla lilies for a client. I had an idea what they wanted and the colours they would nice things. When they came to my studio for the unveiling, the lady gasped and tears came to her eyes. I thought I must have really messed up. It took a while, but I learned those were tears of joy… the painting took her breath away.”
Since 2012, Rena has gratefully gained representation in four galleries, and become quite ambitious! “I’m crazy about this painting life and would like others to enjoy my work on their walls. Flowers are created to attract. Vivid and delicate – yet strong, transparent, fragrant, open and receptive, the wonder of life. How can I do any less in the way I portray them?” In April, 2016, Rena added fashion ar tist /designer to her repertoire. Her original paintings can now be worn and appreciated by those who love the luxury of original art on silks and cashmere. Rena Bierman’s stunning artwork is also featured in ARABELLA’S recently published “Love of Flowers” book, where she joins a bevy of amazing floral artists sharing the gift of flowers in art.
above left, The Eden Rose, oil on canvas, 24” x 30”
above right, Radiance, oil on canvas, 24” x 30”
oil on canvas, 24” x 30”
Previous Page, Sunkissed, oil on canvas, 30” x 48” This Page, left top, Twins, oil on canvas, 30” x 60” left bottom, The Trio, oil on canvas, 24” x 48”
left top, The Lily Pond, oil on canvas, 15” x 30” right edge of page: Bells are Ringing, oil on canvas, 16" x 40"