Jean Wellburn is known for a lot of things in the Cariboo Chilcotin where she has made her home since 1968.
She is known for her music as a classical harp player and more recently for her ukulele prowess, and she is known as a Scout Island Nature Centre naturalist and preschool educator, but few people know her as a painter.
This month Jean’s collection of paintings of Riske Creek erratic is being featured on the main floor of the Station House Gallery. Meet Jean as she reveals a side of herself splashed with rich colour and emotion, heralding one of the great landforms of the Chilcotin.
When you emerge from the Fraser River gorge up Sheep Creek Hill, one of your first impressions of the Chilcotin Plateau, is the landscape of Becher’s Prairie strewn with erratic boulders deposited by glacial activity millennia ago.
With her pallet and brush, Jean Wellburn introduces you to these rock personalities like they were familiar friends.
“I’ve always been a painter,” she explains, “but this is the first time I’ve concentrated on a series of paintings on one topic.”
She has been drawing the erratics of Becher’s Prairie for years, but this is the first time she has dedicated the time to work on bigger canvasses with such a singular focus. She has spent close to two years putting this show together.
“Becher’s Prairie has always been a very special place in our family,” Jean told the Station House audience at the Nov. 1 opening of her show. “The lovely kettle lakes and moraines are timeless, intimate and beautiful. It’s our own Stonehenge, magical and beautiful.”
She said her family members jokingly refer to the erratics of Becher’s Prairie as “Mom’s rocks.”
“My friend Charlie Wyse has names for all the rocks too,” she continued. “So they are Charlie’s rocks too.”
Jean says when her daughter, Jane, was four years old she asked if rocks were people.
“I asked Jane what she thought, and she answered yes.”
Jean’s show, powerful and colourful, encourages the viewer to embrace the spiritual quality of rocks. “The rocks on Becher’s Prairie came from the Coast Mountain Range many miles away,” she stated. “It’s a wonderful process. The rocks are silent witnesses to ancient traditions on planet Earth.”
To add ambience to her show, Jean’s brother-in-law, Bruce Ruddell, of Victoria, composed background music to view the paintings by. He titles his hour-long composition Rock Music for the Erratics. “I tried to capture the weight of the erratics and the light Jean portrays them in,” says Ruddell, who journeyed to Williams Lake with his wife Barbara for the opening.
In the Upper Gallery, Quesnel painter, Christa Krisman has several paintings of abstract realism. “My travels in Europe and Canada for many years have influenced my painting style,” she says. “Many memories of amazing places and cities in Europe and the stunning beauty of Canada are reflected in my work.”
She is inspired by structures or interesting shapes of trees, rocks or buildings. She says she approaches each painting spontaneously with an intuitive sense of what she wants to accomplish.
“Following my feelings and emotions, I incorporate squares, lines or circles to develop dynamic movement. To achieve texture I apply layers of paint or use different mediums.”
Though she sometimes uses oils, she prefers acrylic ala prima applied and mixed with big brushes and palette knives applied directly to the canvas.
“My abstract painting style employs compositional elements to bridge realism with imaginary passages.”
Krisman, born in the Bavarian region of Germany near Munich, started painting at a young age and incorporated her artistic skills in her profession as an interior decorator and in the upholstery trade.
She immigrated to Canada in 2000 and retired to Quesnel in 2008 where she started painting full time as an artist.