Drawn to sky and water

Wendy Rose
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Toronto-based landscape artist drawn back to Newfoundland again and again

By Wendy Rose

Special to The Telegram

Rollicking waves and foggy, barren marshes are common sights to those who call this island home. It’s easy to lose the sight of true beauty when you are surrounded by it every day. Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes, or in this case, a set of oil paints, a canvas and an artist by the name of Elzbieta Krawecka to remind us locals of how truly lucky we are to be surrounded by such intense rugged beauty.

No stranger to foreign landscapes, Krawecka grew up in Poland and spent her teenage years in middle eastern Kuwait. After finishing high school, she began hunting for a post-secondary arts program, which led her to the Ontario College of Art and Design.

“We really loved Canada from the get-go,” the artist said, reflecting on her maiden voyage to this country with her parents in the mid ’80s.

Since completing her arts program in 1994, Krawecka has established herself as a landscape artist in the Toronto art scene.

“I’m based in Toronto but I’ve moved around a lot. I spent a year in London, England. I lived in Montreal for a year. I’ve travelled all over the word but in terms of living I’ve lived in Montreal, London, Vancouver Island and northern B.C., close to the border of the Yukon and Alaska,” Krawecka said.

For a landscape artist, travelling is inspirational and motivational.

Although she has experienced many different scenes in nature, Krawecka said that Newfoundland has been, and continues to be, a very important source of inspiration for her landscape pieces for the last decade.

“I’m not saying this just because I am in Newfoundland,” Krawecka said with a laugh.

“I started coming out here 12 years ago for the artist residency with Jim (Baird). I’ve been coming here basically every two years, if not every year, and I have to say that Newfoundland is probably 70-75 per cent of my overall painting inspiration. I think it’s the European heritage. I really feel that it’s still here and present in Newfoundland and St. John’s. That, coupled with the large open spaces like the ocean and the barrens, is a majority of my inspiration. Not to say that there aren’t other places that have inspired me or that I have painted, but I’m mostly inspired by, like I said, large open spaces where you can feel that space. You can feel like you’re really sort of alone.”

“It almost feels like everything else sort of gets blocked out, which allows me to get in touch with my inner self, in a way. I think that’s very difficult when you’re bombarded by every day information, people and just constant simulation. It sort of allows me to exhale and just think about breathing and existing.”

“I am drawn mostly to skies and water. I would say that is my preliminary subject matter. That connection with water, there’s just something about it,” Krawecka explained.

The real beauty of Krawecka’s landscapes is how she seems to be able to capture and express a millisecond in time. The artist has her own set of tricks to help recreate a moment gone past.

“I work from pictures. As I take the picture, I’m sort of already planning out the painting already. I’ll take a bunch of pictures and work from all of them, to sort of bring back the feeling I had at the time, that feeling of whatever it was that inspired me to paint that particular landscape. It’s not really so much about reproducing the exact place. It’s more about the inspiration and what sort of drew me to want to capture that feeling. I don’t usually sketch because I find it too distracting. I prefer to just absorb and take pictures. The pictures bring me back to that particular moment.”

In “Morning Tale,” a massive 40 x 40 oil painting, waves explode upon a sandy beach in a way that can only be described as photorealistic.

Another seascape, titled “Everything Is Waiting,” acts as a teleportation device, pushing the viewer to imagine the smell of the ocean and feel the salt air on their cheeks.

“Here, I see landscapes that are sort of more fluid. In Newfoundland, everything seems really fluid, whether it’s the ocean or that forever-changing light. And the weather, even from one minute to the next. I was just standing upstairs watching the light change and the whole landscape looks different from five minutes ago to now.”

Krawecka is staying in scenic Pouch Cove during her visit, conveniently close to the James Baird Gallery where her exhibit “Anchor” opens Saturday.

“I decided to title this show “Anchor” because of whatever it is that keeps bringing me back and the feeling that I get when I’m here, that sort of grounded feeling,” Krawecka explained.

“Anchor” is the third exhibit Krawecka has held at Baird’s gallery in Pouch Cove. She has previously showcased work at Baird’s gallery in downtown St. John’s on four separate occasions. This upcoming exhibit will showcase 14 landscapes pieces which are inspired by Newfoundland.

“A lot of the pieces involve water. That crashing wave, that moment ...” Krawecka trailed off, making a theatrical swooping and plummeting motion with her hands.

“It’s all about motion and fluidity, but also that grounded feeling. I guess it’s a bit of a dichotomy, in a sense,” the artist said with a laugh.

When asked if she has ever entertained the thought of making a permanent move to the province she loves so much, Krawecka said she hasn’t really thought about moving away from Toronto, but she will “never say never.”

Krawecka’s 4 1/2-year-old son has also fallen in love with Newfoundland, albeit for different reasons than his mother.

“What he enjoys and what I enjoy through him, is hiking and blueberry picking,” Krawecka said.

“He couldn’t stop talking about it, asking, ‘When are we going to go blueberry picking?’”

“Anchor” opens Saturday and will be on display at the James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove until Sept. 5.



Organizations: Ontario College of Art and Design

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Toronto, London Montreal Poland Eastern Kuwait Canada England Vancouver Island Yukon Alaska Pouch Cove

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