‘Onwards East’ is a series of surreal landscape paintings that represent a combination of Penny Heather’s physical journey moving from Western Canada to Eastern Canada, as well as her mental journey as an artist.
During the past year Penny has learned about the law of attraction and her mindset about her life shifted into high gear. “I started to consider the things I really wanted for my life and how I could achieve them.” She and her husband sold almost everything they owned, packed what was left into an 85’ VW Westfalia van and drove across the country to be close to family, and to see what else would await them on the East coast.
The trip was something she had dreamt about for 10 years. “It just sort of fell into my lap unexpectedly and suddenly. Everywhere that we went on the cross canada journey gave me this immense sensation of joy and contentment, i felt as though i was being led where i’m supposed to go. When we arrived in Fredericton, I was able to support myself solely on my art; another blessing that i only dreamt of. As I worked through the ups and downs of figuring out this new opportunity, the words that kept coming into my mind were “I am being guided down a golden path of light.” This past year I feel as though i have a newfound focus in my life, I just have to keep taking the steps, walking the path, trust myself and i will get somewhere vibrant and bright.”
Onwards East is the portrayal of both of these personal journeys merged into one, she explains. Penny wanted to capture the spiritual and emotional connections that she felt while visiting these special places.
The series is chronological, starting with “West: Three Sisters”, which is in Canmore, Alberta. Alberta is where Penny started her journey, where she really started to think about the pursuit of an artistic career, and began to take the steps, however small towards her dreams. Second is “Central: Agawa”, which is on Lake Superior in Ontario. This was the middle of her journey across canada, where she decided to trust in the unknown and in herself, to fully realize the path she wanted. Last is “East: Hopewell”, which is in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. “This is where I feel that I am now, immersed in joy, possibilities, and risks. Discovering where my own work can take me, which is certainly not the end of the path. Above them all is “The Guide”, the full moon which represents the constant, familiar force that i feel, gently reminding me to keep moving forward in pursuit of the golden light ahead.”
Driving across Canada in s 85’ Westfalia van, Penny got to see and experience some amazing places that she admits she probably wouldn’t have in a newer vehicle. “When you drive something older than yourself you of course have to drive differently. Everything became more patient, we visited lesser known destinations and forgotten places.” Taking time to really enjoy the journey made the trip especially special and helped lead her to many new things, including her own self-discovery.
Inspired by artists she has found through instagram, the work that most often influences her are the works that are truly distinctive and authentic to the artist. She looks for something that captures a perspective that couldn’t be replicated by someone else in the same way. To name a few, Rachel Pohl, Ruth Speers, Sha’an D’anthes, Marc scheff, & Jessa Gilbert.
“Most of my work of the past is made in a series of many, many layers.” However, for Onwards East Penny says she wanted to find ways to highlight the multiple layers of the painting so that they would create a palpable depth and 3-dimensional affect.
“To start, I carefully chose wood panels thats grain would compliment the subject of the painting, I prefer to work on wood panels as i love how the pattern of wood grain can influence and add a natural effect to the painting. I then make my own stains with acrylic to saturate the piece with colour. I consider this my base layer, where I paint any of the “farthest” elements of the painting and my gold lines. The second layer is resin, which I painted the landscape on.
The landscapes are painted in their own series of layers using a reductive technique, in which i do a base layer of colour in the silhouette of whatever form I am creating (ex. the shape of a mountain) and then paint on top of it in a brighter, contrasting colour leaving contour lines and shapes unpainted from the base layer. Once the landscape has been finished i seal the entire painting with a final layer of resin so that the elements almost look as though they’re floating in place above the wood panel.”
The aesthetic of Onwards east is a result of combining two of her most used mediums: painting and illustration. “When I paint I tend towards vibrant colours and photorealism, and when I do illustrations I create graphic, simple-lined black and white pieces that are more intuitive. They were somewhat in opposition of eachother, so Onwards East is a marriage of both.”
Penny Heather obtained a Bachelor in Fine Arts with honours from Bishops University in 2014. She explains that when she was in university she was lucky enough to be exposed to multiple different mediums to experiment with, from printmaking, photography, sculpture, fibre arts and many others. “I strongly believe that this really helped me hone my craft. I think being an artist shouldn’t be restricted to one medium, so much magic can happen when you explore new means of creating.”
She also enjoys photography and has been taking photos for years but kept on the back burner. Currently trying to incorporate more photography into her work, she uses her own photos for reference.
With both parents having creative talents, Penny was exposed to art at a young age, but it was University that really blew open her creativity, and her concerted effort to persue her dreams in the last three years has shifted her focus to work with intent: “I want to be a full time-artist, do what I need to do to get myself there … when I look back at things I’ve written about or made as a child, I think I always knew this was what i wanted for myself.”
Penny looks forward to continuing her exploration of creating art that is more personal, telling her story from her perspective.
You can see Penny’s collection at Motion Gallery during the month of April, or visit her Facebook page Penny Heather Art, Instagram @penaynayjane and even her website (temporarily under maintenance) pennyheatherart.com
Written by Sandra Montgomery