Drawing on the Arts - Eliza Fernbach
As the harvest of colour that is autumn comes to and end and the last fiery colours cling to the trees, there is a longing to capture some of nature's art that even a photograph cannot fulfill. The document that is a picture taken electronically lacks the human connection that a painting filled with landscape joined to human mystery evokes.
Like the difference between reading information and being instructed or having a master demonstrate, a painting invites us into the moment. A good teacher has experienced this invitation and extends it repeatedly.
The artist Debbie Lamey-Macdonald is a teacher and painter who lives in New Glasgow. Her own passion drives the incredible and enriching contribution she makes as an educator in our community. Her website biography describes her as self-taught. Aren't we all?
In fact Debbie's craft has developed over the course of the kind of teaching that is the most successful and enduring; apprenticeship. Debbie's desire to share her gentle and positive outlook on the troughs and valleys of our shared existence found its expression in the disciplined, dedicated practice of plein air oil painting.
While the details of her plein air adventures alone and in the company of fellows she has invited to be part of her plein air painting group can be found in vivid document on several websites, it is her actual presence and the real experience of her artworks that convey some of the deep joy she possesses.
Inside Debbie's home studio there is an air of wonder and the evidence of a jolly curiosity. Tiny oil paintings, little moments of delight are displayed on a wall next to tidy, organized supplies. And that speaks of the way in which Lamey has supported and nurtured her passion. Debbie Lamey-Macdonald has been a teacher for thirty years serving the children of Pictou County by day and throughout the school year while she nourishes her own creative needs in the evenings and throughout the summers.
Like any good apprentice she is a master in her own right.
In fact the "self-taught" description she provides is a little misleading once the evidence of her self teaching is inspected. Her paintings bring to mind classics of landscape such as the Canadiana Group of Seven masterworks. But Lamey-Macdonald's dedication has distinguished her work with a fine and delicate sensibility.
There are pastel hues that emerge as atmospheres uplifting the scenes they are part of. The sensation of gazing on one of these paintings is not only soothing, but slightly unsettling. How does the sky turn that peach pale colour at twilight? What is it that makes the leaves on a tree look blue?
There are technical art answers to instruct the reproduction of these things as well as scientific explanations of light and shadow and colour, but Ms. Lamey-Macdonald with her work, offers a demonstration. In doing her work over and over she has achieved that which only doing can; the perfection of her passion become a personal style in a category that often leaves the individual artist forgotten while landscape and object invade the field of vision.
Perhaps in the way her teaching has left traces of wonder in her students over the years, her images imprint the sweet fruits of her own learning onto the viewer in the most pleasurable kind of instruction.
Debbie is an avid high tech fan and proponent, her work is on view via computer and for sale online, but the real commodity she imparts in real life. In person and in her actual paintings there is joy wrought from pain and the ordinary; the lessons that are the light in the shadows of our landscapes both real and imagined.
You can discover one entrance into the delight of this artist's learned world at her website bursting with information and links but I urge you to visit her or get yourself in front of one of her actual works. There is nothing like the real thing to "faire le plein" and Debbie's reality en plein air is the actual transformed by a passion for sharing wonder.
As the autumn fades into the blank canvas of winter's whites and greys, her wonder-filled landscapes and carefully rendered objects remind us of the repetition that makes the seasons and the soul ever extraordinary; ongoing delight in the mystery of destiny's daily invitations.
-Eliza Fernbach is a filmmaker and Vice President of the Visual Arts Nova Scotia Executive Committee.