Through her artwork, Qualicum Beach artist Deb Peters strives to “make people feel good again” during the ambivalent days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She considers art an emotional experience where storytellers, be they musicians, sculptors or artists, yearn to be understood.
“I’ve had people who have a painting of mine in their home say to me ‘gosh, everytime I go by that I smile’ and I think ‘yes, I’ve done my job,’” said Peters.
“If you’re given the ability to create something, you need to pass it on to people.”
The wildness of Vancouver Island is what inspires the Qualicum Beach painter. The Island, Peters said, brings a lot of creative people together, who participate with it and become a part of it.
Growing up, Peters remembers her parents being creative people whose footsteps she followed down the road. And as time went on, through university art classes and theatre, she was able to forge her own path. Her career lead her through education and then administration, where she admitted having to ‘put art aside for awhile.’
But after retiring, she found the drive to put her whole energy back into creating again.
“It was a cycle, an evolution. It’s been good for me because I’ve learned a lot along the way.”
Through the years her practice and personal style has changed drastically. When first starting out, Peters recalls her paintings being very fine and detailed. Now, she paints with broad bushstrokes in a sweeping motion, often with two or three different colours on one brush.
“I used to have a teacher, years ago, who said ‘if I gave you a brush with one or two hairs on it, you’d probably be happier,’” said Peters with a chuckle.
Since March, she said she’s branched into more tactile mediums such as tapestry and fabric art, all in the search of different ways to make her feel happy and good again.
“I am now doing a lot more landscapes that are bright colours. I’m doing that for myself as well as for other people because I think we really need it right now.”
Peters said she likes to try different things, and that if she had to do one thing over and over again, she would “get bored out of her head.”
Such as with figure drawings, she tries to keep her style more impressionistic, but leans toward realism without even noticing. The village series currently at the Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply is mostly a symbolic array, and enjoys the loose flow of the series. If she were to paint a tight, detailed scene, it can take the better part of month to finish it.
“I can’t decide if it’s dedication or masochism,” Peters said.
Her current favourite work is called Ancient Gift, now on display at the Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply. She describes the scene as a moon surrounded by trees over water, and says its “a dark and thoughtful painting” that resonates with her.
But she admits that next month she’ll probably have moved on to a something else, as it “all depends on the moment.”
Peters believes a canvas will tell you what its needs and wants are. There have been times, she said, when she would get angry at her work as it misbehaves and doesn’t do what she wants it to.
“It’s very rare that painting goes totally smooth. But if you could just perserve, get over that hump, then something good will come.”
A sentiment, she believes, that can be applied to the outlook of the pandemic.