Ali Spence is making a name for herself as one of the newest members of the Port Alberni arts community.
Spence has made Port Alberni her home for the last two years after spending some time travelling the world in places like Ecuador, Thailand and Cambodia.
Spence is originally from Ontario, but moved to British Columbia as a young woman and settled in the Fraser Valley.
“I always enjoyed drawing, painting, doing artsy things when I was a kid,” she explained.
This drew her to art school, after which she worked in commercial art—printing, graphic design, layout and technical illustration.
“After the kids left, I started painting again,” said Spence.
Moving to Ecuador presented a new opportunity, as Spence began selling her paintings.
“I went through a watercolour phase,” she said. “I painted a lot of the Indigenous faces with their tattoos and beads. I actually did quite well in Ecuador—I sold everything I made. I made a name for myself there.”
She lived there for seven years, teaching English, painting and offering art classes to other visitors.
“The kids had just left home,” she said. “It was a window of opportunity.”
Now retired and back in Canada, Spence enjoys working with acrylics and larger canvases, painting abstract, semi-abstract and stylized work. Spence said she was drawn to the style as she wanted to try being a little “freer” with her work.
“I saw that artists who were doing that work seemed to be having more fun,” said Spence. “They seemed to be getting more joy from their work. You get to be expressive and loose. It took me a little while to loosen up,” she admitted. “It’s a challenge.”
Although she does occasionally market and sell her paintings, exhibiting when shows are available, she says painting is largely a hobby for her.
“I spend a fair bit of time painting,” said Spence. “I see it as a hobby, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Spence has a few friends in the Port Alberni arts community, which is how she found out about DRAW Gallery. Spence is featured in DRAW Gallery’s current exhibit, Our Creative Nature. Although the gallery is partially closed due to COVID-19, the artwork is available to view online at www.drawgallery.com and on location by appointment.
“When the doors open up again, I’d like to be more involved in the Port Alberni arts community,” said Spence.