The Peninsula News Review begins a series of artist profiles leading up to the Sidney Fine Art Show Oct. 13 to 15 at the Mary Winspear Centre. It’s part of the annual ArtSea Festival on the Saanich Peninsula the runs Oct. 13 to 22. Watch the PNR for our coverage.
Last week, local painter Sandy Bligh was just outside of 70 Mile House at the Flying U Ranch, working on her plein air painting skills. During one of the sessions, an instructor told the group that, “The better you get at plein air — because you’re reacting to what’s in front of you — the better you get at your own art.”
As the show designer for the Sidney Fine Arts Show since its began in 2003, she reacts to the space around her, too. She considers the layout and flow of traffic through the room when deciding what pieces go where. She called the Mary Winspear Centre a challenging space, but she is excited for the new LED lights this year which draw less power and create less heat, so more of the walls can be lit. She has about 24 hours to hang everything. All the art arrives at the Mary Winspear the day after Thanksgiving and it must be ready to go by Thursday night.
“It is a rush but it’s kind of an adrenaline thing,” she said.
Bligh has been painting for a long time; she received her first oil painting set from her grandparents when she was six. She has also been a UVic accountant for over two decades.
“In the ’70s, I did two years of university and dropped out because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I worked in offices, doing accounting, and I ended up at UVic almost 24 years ago in the accounting office. I thought, ‘well, I’m here, might as well finish my degree.’” She received her master’s degree in art history in 2010.
“I think about art all the time, even while I’m doing accounting.”
Bligh started out doing representational landscapes, but her work got more abstract while doing her art history degree. She says she has since returned to a more representational style.
One of her pieces got accepted into the Sidney Fine Arts show this year, which she described as a fairly abstract but still representational picture of Georgian Bay.
She said it was partly inspired by the recent 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson’s death. The Group of Seven painter drowned on Canoe Lake in 1917 at just 39, and some of his most famous works, including The West Wind, depict that region. Like so many Canadian artists, the environment is one source of inspiration for Bligh.
“I’m not a strict environmentalist or anything but when I drive up the Malahat and I see the trees being taken out, that upsets me.
“I don’t think that’s why I’m painting representationally but it makes me think about it.”