Three Grande Cache Artists

Mountain town panorama keeps them inspired
By Jody FarrelClusters of Blue by Evelyn Sutter

Evelyn Suter

Evelyn Suter’s Clusters of Blue is a pretty convincing argument for the monoprint’s contribution to the world of painting and prints. Something in the marks that are added to and subtracted from the work give it a sumptuous textural look that isn’t found in traditional watercolour. Yet, the soft and airy quality that often gives watercolour the edge over more textured paints is still very present.

Suter’s own excitement around the process is catchy, and she converted many new enthusiasts at an exhibition in Grande Prairie two years ago. One can almost read in her animated explanation of the sheer mystery of the monoprint process, that she seeks out wonder in life and is willing to risk losing a little control to get it.

“It’s that element of surprise I love,” Suter says. She generously shares the process in workshops.

This sense of wonder may have influenced her choice to retire to Grande Cache five years ago. Its “pristine views” and a great campaign to get people to relocate drew her there.

But, like many who are inspired by life and its many mysteries, Suter is hardly the retiring type. She integrated into the community soon after her arrival, discovering Palette Pals, an arts group that meets and exhibits locally. She is currently its past president. Suter credits a photography course she took years ago with giving her a keen sense of composition. “Everything I do is evocative,” she says of her intention in her work. “When it’s successful, it calls to people, and tells them something.”

Baneberry by Joan BelandJoan Beland

Like many artists, Joan Beland experimented with paints in her search for the medium that best suited her personality and style. The Grande Cache artist found oils too messy, and while she did like acrylics and had used them for years, she still works in ink and pencil, it was watercolour that best captured her mark.

“I like detail, and like to draw,” Beland says. Watercolours afford her that combination of drawing and colour. They also give the self-professed lover of all things tidy a chance to play around without wreaking havoc. “You can get such a variety of colours without making a mess. They really suit the way I paint.”

She loves nature, and while some of her work depicts the town’s mountainous landscape, Beland is finding herself more drawn to nature close-up and still life these days. Her Baneberry watercolour, as well as one of Mount Hamel, is currently on tour with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts TREX Exhibition Out on the Mountain, Deep in the Woods. The show features selected works of The Grande Cache Watercolour Society, and is made available through The Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie. TREX coordinator, Sue Cloake Millar, notes that the intimacy of the baneberry painting is what caught her eye in selecting works for the exhibition.

Esteemed Grande Cache painter and mentor Robert Guest says Beland consistently does good work.
Beland is humbled by the praise. “I don’t work outside,” she confesses. “I work from pictures I take. I like to be comfortable, and have everything in place. Even my housework must be done.”
Sharing the News by James Harvey

James Harvey

As James Harvey casually rattles off contributions to advertising and commercial illustration over his several decades-long career, you can’t help but wonder how he wound up retiring in Grande Cache. The baby face on the Gerber cereal box; the Alberta wild rose design, the Edmonton Oilers and Travel Alberta logos are just a few of the marks he produced in a field that has seen tremendous change over the years. He’d worked in New York, Toronto and Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and Edmonton. He’d worked for the CBC, Imperial Oil, Proctor and Gamble, and Alberta Tourism and saw graphic design and advertising explode into the powerful medium it is today.

Harvey and his partner Trudy moved to Grande Cache in 2002 after witnessing the towns spectacular mountain panorama while visiting friends. It’s where he first tried watercolours, having only ever used felt pen in his commercial design work. His paintings still bear that illustrative style; they are unique in their combination of watercolour and felt marker hatchings. His drawing Sharing the News, reminiscent of once popular newspaper and magazine illustrations, tells a layered story of man’s relationship with nature and how tuned out we sometimes are to what is real.

“I’m no teacher,” Harvey says dismissively. Still, he has an affinity for getting people to create, and is an active mentor-participant in the Grande Cache Watercolour Society. He was recently made its president and has created a logo and poster for the society’s May- June show.

Grande Cache may remind Harvey of childhood years in Northern Ontario, where his father was a bush pilot and conservationist. The mountain town seems to have restored some deep-seated passions he alludes to having lost before moving there. He has all kinds of building and art projects on the go, and speaks with conviction about Grande Cache’s potential to house a northern fine arts centre.

“It’s a wonderful little town,” he says. “The people here are so neat.”

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