Once again, it’s time for the Gallery on Main to highlight a new Alberta artist through their feature gallery. Alberta artist Norma Barsness has brought her ‘Sunday Afternoon Drive’ collection to the Gallery on June 19th. The exhibit runs until July 10th.
Barsness also has a number of resident paintings in the gallery.
She first became well known for her spectacular use of lines and colour in painting wild grasses that seem to move with the breeze, even on canvas. Her work is influenced by her adventures with her husband throughout Central Alberta and the time they spend together searching for quiet, peaceful places to share with each other.
“It’s great to be an artist. It’s so fun to be able to paint landscapes from Central Alberta. Often on Sunday afternoons when we lived near Sylvan Lake, after our company left or at the end of the weekend, we’d throw a lunch in the truck, and grab my camera and my husband and I would jump in the truck and go up the back country roads. I’d photograph the swamps and ponds and groves of trees and the wild grass. It was just beautiful,” she said.
“We’d head out towards the mountains past Rocky Mountain House and it’s incredibly beautiful. All those beautiful streams and creeks – that’s what I call my ‘Sunday Afternoon Drive’ series. It’s just about being out there and getting to those quiet little spaces.”
Barsness knew at a young age she loved art. She said she has always maintained creativity in her life, although not pursuing art as a career until 12 years ago. Prior to that, she said she often did crafts and incorporated art into her life but in smaller concentration.
She raised her family in Calgary and eventually she and her husband decided to move to Central Alberta, settling in Sylvan Lake. It was there she pursued an interest in horses while she painted.
“I asked thousands of questions to local painters because I had no idea what to buy, what to use, how to start – I had no idea. I really didn’t know one end of a paintbrush from the other but I wanted to be a painter,” said Barsness.
“Over the years I think I practiced enough that I was becoming a painter. You wake up one day and can really call yourself that. The more you paint, the more you enjoy it and it just became a part of who I was.”
Barsness has a thick stroke style, with many layers of colour and thick texture in her work. She paints with an influence of impressionism – the style in which a painting up close is much less clear than when viewed far away. As a person moves into her paintings, they begin to lose sight of the bigger picture but can be drawn into the attentive and decisive strokes.
She moves between oil paints and acrylics depending on the style of painting and what she feels most comfortable with that day.
“I’ve come a long ways. I like to try new things. I’ve gotten into oil paints now, and used to focus on acrylic. I love oils though. I love how it moves on the canvas. You can’t compare. People ask which you like better but I love them both. Some days I wake up and I work with oils for a while, and put them away and work with acrylics,” she said.
“I love mixing the colours and just learning and mixing and saying that colour looks great. Or, I didn’t expect that to turn out like that. I also love just watching the painting evolve. Sometimes you struggle with a painting and not every painting turns out great but there are some where you get in a zone and you paint and at one point, it’s enough and you’re finished.
“I look at it and think, I didn’t know where that came from or how it came to be but I couldn’t do it again. It just flows out and you feel good.”