Teacher 'gilds lily' for exhibit

Joan Sullivan
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Krista van Nostrand show opens Sunday at Pollyanna Gallery

Krista van Nostrand brings two distinct passions to her artwork. One is her skill with watercolour and the other is her interest in the stories objects can tell.

"I come from a long line of people who are packrats, who hold on to stuff," she said. "And nothing gives us more pleasure than to take it and then do something with it."

From top, Bay of Islands, watercolour, 10 3/4 inches x 14 3/8 inches, 2010. Cape Race, miniature watercolour on ivory piano key and 24k goal leaf, 1 1/2 inches x 2 3/8 inches, 1010. Lady Slipper Orchid, watercolour and 24k gold leaf, 5 1/4 inches X 5 inch

Krista van Nostrand brings two distinct passions to her artwork. One is her skill with watercolour and the other is her interest in the stories objects can tell.

"I come from a long line of people who are packrats, who hold on to stuff," she said. "And nothing gives us more pleasure than to take it and then do something with it."

So the pieces in her first solo exhibition, "Gilding the Lily," includes works on ivory piano keys and gold leaf paper that she has had in possession "since I was 10 or so."

Her hoarding instincts have proven correct - these items have found new function as material for the miniature landscapes and burnished florals that make up part of her show.

"When I was a little girl, I used to love when we would go out to visit my grandparents every week, at Glen Bretnagh in Manuels, and I would play down in the basement or up in the crow's nest, which was the best place to play, because you never knew what you would find up there. There were old musical instruments, and semi-precious stones, and whale's teeth."

That's where she discovered the gold leaf and piano keys, which her grandfather, Dr. John A. Walsh, had set aside.

A physician, "he liked to take things apart and then make it into something else," such as, say, a violin.

A born collector, he recognized the same trait in his granddaughter, and liked to send her off with her found treasures.

So van Nostrand came easily to this love of antiques, and she was also a natural painter, largely self-taught, although she credits her contacts in the arts community, especially the guidance of Julia Pickard and Barbara Pratt, for bringing her skills along.

Scheduling time

A full-time teacher at Beachy Cove Elementary and a mother of two, van Nostrand did sometimes find it hard to pursue her artwork.

She started with oils, but oil paints are too toxic a mix with young children.

She switched to watercolour, when her studio was on the third floor of her house, "in the attic, and there was nothing done up there; it was a horror movie attic;" lacking running water, she carted buckets up and down the stairs. But she kept on.

"I have to set myself a time. If you find time to do all the other things, for work or for your children, you can get into the habit of planning time for something that's important to you."

Several styles

She has completed works in several styles for her show. There are large florals and landscapes, worked on heavy paper, with some areas wet-on-wet, and others dried and built up in glazes.

"I really like how you can get the colours to bleed into one another, and get one area that's a bit wetter and one that's dried, so that has a life of its own, different effects, and kinds of shapes, and there's a softness to it."

The florals on gold leaf are smaller, lustrous works.

"Gold leaf is gold that's been pounded, because gold is very malleable, and you can pound it into very, very thin sheets like that, it is very delicate of course."

Her interest in flowers also runs in the family. Her grandmother, Mamie Noah, was a master gardener and the staff of Bowring Park would consult with her.

The miniatures are delicate, meticulous landscapes, worked with very fine brushes and a magnifier.

"One of the things I've been interested in for a long, long time were the ivory miniatures, and I've collected a couple. I've been researching for a long time, trying to find out exactly how did they do that, because if you try to paint on this (ivory piano key) with watercolour, the watercolour just beads on the surface. It took me a long time to get the information to find out how to prepare the surface and how to mix the watercolour so the paint would adhere to it."

Miniature landscapes

The original miniature fashion was for portraits; she has done landscapes.

"I thought it would be neat to do some, and make them really detailed."

She works from photographs, and her subjects include Trinity, Cabot Tower and the Narrows, and Ontario farmland in the palette of autumn.

"Gilding the Lily" opens Sunday at the Pollyanna Gallery, 214 Duckworth St.

Geographic location: Manuels, Bowring Park, Cabot Tower Ontario

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