The nature of her art

Fran Roelands is ABCA feature artist

21st annual Conservation Dinner
Thursday, April 15
South Huron Rec. Centre, Exeter
Tickets: $50
Phone: 1-888-286-2610

West McGillivray watercolour painter Fran Roelands is this year’s Ausable Bayfield Conservation Dinner feature artist, and is offering her painting, Along the Banks of Mud Creek (above), to this year’s auction. The painting depicts a late winter scene at the back of her family farm on Creamery Road, where she has lived for 30 years with her husband, Matt.
Casey Lessard visited her home studio and gallery to discuss art and conservation.

As told to Casey Lessard

I’m an outdoors type of person. I enjoy the scenery and we’re blessed to have this beautiful climate we live in with all its seasons. I enjoy every kind of weather.
We live on the land. We appreciate the beauty that we’re surrounded by. We appreciate the clean water and clean air and try to keep it that way for generations to come. We tap into all the resources we can to do things properly.
I was inspired (to pursue art) years ago when I was young. My dad had a lot of books with drawings and I felt someday I could do that.

The artist’s way
My approach is very simple. If I’m driving around, I always have my camera with me, and if I see something interesting from a different angle, I like to capture that. I’m also interested in our modern agriculture. As much as I like the older antique nostalgic feeling, I appreciate the newer, more modern ways of farming as well. I’m interested in painting what I see as the way our future generations will be farming.
It all starts with the initial drawings, figuring out what lines of direction you’re going to use to get your viewer into the picture and to what you want them to see. You do a light and dark value sketch to make sure that image is going to work. You don’t want something that is off-balance or boring. Contrasting colours are huge; everything you do, you try to create conflict. You try to just bring that emotion out in the painting. That’s my goal.
I take lots of photographs and sometimes combine different images from different photographs. I’m very particular about the design and composition. I look at what’s important to me in this painting and I do everything I can to get my viewer to know that that’s the focal point.
My colour choices come into that. It shows what kind of day it was, or what I was feeling that particular day. Along the Banks of Mud Creek is a painting more of what I was feeling that day than the actual site. I just felt the warmth of the sun and thought, this is the best day to be back here appreciating this winter day. We’re lucky to have that in Ontario.
Local details add an emotional feeling that I want my viewer to get. I painted an old barn near Dashwood, and I love the aspects of decaying wood; I have an appreciation for things like that because I know they won’t be here forever that way. As far as animals in pastures, I see changing times. Life is change and I’m trying to capture images of this moment in time as well.
Light can give you the mood in the painting. I like to paint something that gives the viewer a positive feeling. It’s not part of the business approach; it’s my outlook on life. I try to be positive and have a good attitude about what I’m doing. I just feel I need to be true to myself when I paint. I enjoy the interaction with people coming and talking about the art, and it’s a really personal decision to them whether they would like a piece of art.
I hope people get a peaceful sense of pleasure looking at it. I did a painting once of a crazy storm in the summer time, and it was the wildest sky. Three quarters of the painting was the sky, and there was a streak of light on a farm. I did this painting and I got it framed. That was the first year of the studio tour, and I hung it up. A couple came in and said, “When we drive to our work in London, there have been so many storms this summer, and we saw that sky. And that is exactly what we felt when we saw that scene.” They bought that painting. When someone buys a painting of mine, they are buying something of me. It’s very personal.

Moving forward
I hope to keep growing and never lose enthusiasm about what I’m doing. I’m an independent spirit and I will go where I think I need to go. I hope to venture into more colourful scenes, and this one is part of that journey. I’m having fun with it, so that’s where I’m going now.

If you’re not passionate about what you’re going to paint, don’t bother because you won’t enjoy it. You have to know what inside of you drew you to that subject, and do everything you can to make your viewer know that, too.

Fran Roelands
Creamery Road Studio and Gallery
Viewings by appointment. Giclee prints available at Baillie’s Framing in Grand Bend and Beside Mom’s café in Parkhill.