Faith, For­ti­tude & Flow­ers

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

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.”

Flower Power

“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"

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