Alberta artist Georgia Graham has branched from her illustration career and is now showing her collection of original acrylic art at The Gallery on Main.
Up until approximately two years ago, Georgia Graham was known for her multitude of illustrated children’s books, including some that she’d written herself.
“I bought paint years ago and just left it there. I looked at it every once in a while and finally got it out because I had a break between books. I love illustrating, but I love painting, too. With paint, I choose what to do,” she said, adding she is currently enjoying her time on a break between book publications.
For the last 10 years, Graham has put out a book each year. Painting has become a new kind of expression that is not based on manuscript, but on photographs that she has taken herself.
Graham expressed that while she thoroughly enjoys the hobby, one particular aspect is much different from her illustration career and is leaving her torn.
“It’s different from illustrating because I finish a book and it launches out into the world.
“Then there are thousands of copies out there and they have a long life. With painting, you finish it, sell it and it’s gone.”
Graham graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1982 and has since had an industrious career with illustrating.
She worked as an editorial cartoonist for a Central Alberta newspaper for two years in her youth, and said that it was a great way to get into illustrating. After that position, she moved on to illustrating children’s books.
She added the world of painting is very different from that of illustrating. Graham knows many of Alberta’s children’s book authors and other illustrators and has worked with several publishers and editors over her career. Within gallery showings, she is still breaking through and getting comfortable.
The paintings that Graham has submitted to The Gallery are a demonstration of realistic, although chunky and painterly.
This means that Graham’s style is slightly messier, with visible brush strokes and lots of paint. Her use of thick acrylics adds texture to her paintings and her signature stylistic waves and lines give the pieces life.
“I have a realistic but painterly style. I call it that because I double load my brush usually – you can see that in a brush stroke, there’s a bunch of colours at once.
“I have lots of scribbles and stuff. I have interesting paint strokes but I keep everything in proportion, so that makes it realistic. I think the marbles are a good example. They are very realistic but you can really see the paint and different strokes.”
For each piece of work, Graham’s process begins with a photograph that she takes herself. For nature books, travels to look for mountains, streams, woods or whatever the illustration or painting calls for.
For her more cartoony work in children’s books, she draws inspiration from her family members posing, her neighbourhoods and items that she sees in her own life.
Graham added that she loves painting reflections because it allows her to exaggerate and be creative.
“For a realistic book I get real people to pose. My brother and nephew and their dogs posed for a book. I went to Canmore for another book – I take hundreds of photos to do a book. I maybe would have photographic references for a piece of wood and another for the mountains, another one for the clouds, people posing.”
Being an artist comes naturally to Graham. As a child, she constantly doodled in margins of notebooks and was interested in cartoon drawing. This style evolved into a signature look that she uses for illustrations in children’s books.
Graham said that she never has to get herself into a specific frame of mind – she always wants to be doing art. Her passion comes through in the sheer volumes of works under her name. Creativity comes naturally for her.
“The imagination side of my brain works very well. I’m really not ever stumped for an idea.”
Graham tours Canada regularly, presenting her techniques, process and style to 10s of thousands of children each year. Touring through schools is a major aspect of Graham’s life. She describes the experience as rewarding because the children show great interest and the interaction and feedback is always welcome.
Graham’s art includes a heavy focus on contrast, either in distances, colours or textures. A collection of acrylic pieces will be on display at The Gallery on Main until Sept. 5th.