At 94 years young, Parksville artist Donna Hales is the most senior artist to exhibit her work at the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC).
Thirty-five of her pieces will be on exhibit from March 2 until April 1. She will also be at the MAC on Saturday, March 6, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Guests can find her work near the front entrance of the arts centre throughout March.
Hales was born and raised in Moose Jaw, Sask., but when her late husbanded wanted to move to Vancouver Island, the couple took the opportunity to explore.
After selling their business in Saskatchewan and retiring, Hales moved to Victoria, where they purchased a hardware store and ran it for several years.
She joined the Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society in Sidney and participated in several Sidney Civic Centre shows.
From there, Hales continued to explore British Columbia, moving to Abbotsford, Mission and then Summerland where she joined the Pleasure Painters Group.
Shortly after her husband passed away, she moved to Parksville and has lived on the Island for approximately 20 years.
For the past three decades, Hales has been creating art. She said most of her paintings feature B.C.’s provincial parks in pastel.
“It’s something to do. I hate to sit around doing nothing,” said Hale about her drive to keep going.
“If I tackle something, I have to do it.”
In Parksville Qualicum Beach, Hale has taken most of her lessons from Joan Larson, an artist and previous instructor at the MAC who also specializes in pastels.
While in Mission, Hales studied under Gladys Murray who taught oil painting.
The switch from oils to pastels was an easy choice for Hales, as she found pastels much easier and much more convenient than traditional paints while camping.
She could stop and start when she wanted to without having to worry about materials.
“I didn’t have wet brushes to water and all that cleanup. And it was all really easy to put away in my camper. And oils were hard to store, they would stay wet for a long time.”
Much of Hales’s work at the MAC will feature flowers as well as landscapes, including one of her favourite pieces.
“I’ve got quite a few friends who are, I would say, professional artists. And they say, ‘Donna, that is beautiful.’ And so I take their word for it,’ she said with a chuckle.
Her favourite piece is a landscape of the prairies, one that is so incredibly familiar that it reminds her of her hometown Moose Jaw.
“And there’s nothing more desolate than Moose Jaw.”
Throughout the years, the pastels artist said her style has stayed predominately the same, as she can’t quite conceptualize ‘the abstract’ and prefers to stick with realism.
“I wish I could, but everything I do has to be neat and tidy.”
Beyond the MAC exhibit, Hales will be working with family in Manitoba on illustrations for a book. She said that even though the book is ‘still in the works,’ she knows it will be about a couple of young boys, but is unsure what the theme will be. The author, her nephew, told her that it won’t be ready until the spring or summer of this year.
Hales guesses she’ll complete approximately 20 illustrations for the book, but will need more references than she’s been supplied so far before she will continue working on them.