Fittingly located in the Upper Gallery this month is Birds of Prey, the passion project of lakecity artist Keith Prestone.
Born in Williams Lake, Prestone is a sheet metal worker by trade who lived in the lakecity for many years before moving away several years ago, though he has since returned to his grandparents’ homestead in between Williams Lake and McLeese Lake. Prestone said that since he was a young child he’s always had a love of art and creativity, doodling and drawing throughout his life in his spare time.
“I mean, all my schoolbooks were filled with drawings and stuff, notes and drawings on all of them and it’s always been my first love, but I had to raise a family and support them. It’s hard to do that on an artist’s budget, so I’ve raised my family so now I’m putting more of my extra time into art to fulfill that part of who I am as a person,” Prestone said.
Art provides a certain balance to who he is, Prestone said, as without it he feels like he’d be “missing a leg.” Whenever he gets “in a mood” he’s found the best way to deal with it is to simply be creative and work out whatever he’s dealing with that way.
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A man of faith, Prestone credits God with his talent and the opportunities to use his abilities to create art. He describes his faith as a “quintessential part of who I am,” which shows in many of the titles of his paintings like His Majesty.
Prestone said that he’s always wanted to be a painter full time and as such has been focusing on that medium primarily. In the past, when not painting, he’s also taken part in snow, sand and ice sculpting competitions.
His latest exhibit, Birds of Prey, began with one painting he did of a red-tailed hawk the painting is named after called Chea. When Prestone was a young teenager, he acquired Chea from a university student and cared for her for several years before releasing her back into the wild. This relationship ultimately inspired his love for raptors and birds of prey of all kinds and his desire to paint them.
Using a mix of pen and inks, oil paints and acrylics, Prestone brought each stunning piece to life, sometimes by using his hands to rub or scrape the colours in to give the pictures a photo-like texture. His subjects range from golden eagles to hawks of all kinds which have become such a point of fascination for him that his wife now points them out in the wild wherever they go. In his personal time, he said he reads up on the biology and behaviour of these birds to better understand them.
“I find them just fascinating. Their power and their beauty — they’re incredible,” Prestone said. “The natural world and the different parts of it I find absolutely fascinating.”
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All the paintings on display for this show were created in the last eight months and are part of his ongoing mission to leave a legacy. As both an artist and a person, Prestone feels it’s important to leave a part of yourself behind imbued with your ideas. He strives to create a body of work that inspires people and makes them think about what messages, or parts of his identity, he’s weaved into each painting and how it might impact them.
For Birds of Prey, Prestone hopes that everyone, those who chose to take home one of his paintings and those who do not, come to gain an appreciation for what we have here in this part of Canada. Having access to wilderness right outside our back doors is special, he said, and feels his exhibit embodies the power, beauty and intricate detail of the natural world.