Dyane Brown readies a painting inspired by the poppies in her garden for the Nanaimo Artwalk. It’s the first artwalk held in the summer

Dyane Brown readies a painting inspired by the poppies in her garden for the Nanaimo Artwalk. It’s the first artwalk held in the summer

Art on the move: artists participate in Nanaimo Artwalk

Up to 40 artists are preparing for the upcoming Nanaimo Artwalk in venues and studios in the downtown area

Dyane Brown and Karen Birch only have to look outside the windows of their south Nanaimo studio to find inspiration.

A series of paintings line the studio’s walls featuring the progression of spring into summer, from tulips to peonies.

“Now the poppies are in bloom,” Birch said.

The garden studio below Arbutus Books on Nicol Street will host Brown, Birch and Patricia Robison during the inaugural summer Nanaimo Artwalk June 23-24.

More than 40 artists in 16 venues are participating in the summer event, which is scattered throughout the downtown, Old City Quarter and south Nanaimo areas.

It’s the first artwalk in Nanaimo held in the summer – the fall artwalk is in its 13th year.

“In December we serve hot apple cider and now we’re going to serve lemonade,” Brown said.

She and Birch worked out of the Nicol Street location for the past eight years, participating in the fall artwalk for the last four. It’s an opportunity to participate in the art community, share ideas and find inspiration in the work of others.

It’s also a motivator for the two artists who often spend months on a single painting.

“When the artwalk comes up, we start getting productive,” Brown said.

Much of Birch’s latest paintings are small scale, drawing inspiration from the nearby garden but also from her background as an activist, which Brown also shares.

“Some little canvasses take months,” Birch said. “It takes a long time to produce something that looks really simple.”

The two women started seriously studying art after retiring from successful careers – Brown operated a health-food store in the Arbutus Books location, while Birch was an educational assistant, specializing in children with autism and behavioural problems.

Birch, who was 60 at the time, enrolled in Vancouver Island University’s Love of Learning program, where she was able to audit courses for much less than regular tuition.

“[Brown] pursued her fine arts diploma and I pursued everything else,” Birch said.

Brown, who was 65 at the time, took advantage of free tuition for seniors.

“I applied on my 65th birthday,” Brown said.

The university provided a wealth of artistic information, from the campus location of the Nanaimo Art Gallery to the vast collection of books in the library.

“It was a wonderful experience to be with all those youth,” Birch said.

They share the knowledge and experience with others, hosting workshops and classes in the small studio. They are also eager to answer questions from people on the artwalk, especially those who have an interest in art and want to give it a try.

“It’s not about perfection; it’s not about the product; it’s about having fun,” Birch said.

The artwalk runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. For more information, including a downloadable brochure, please visit www.nanaimoartwalk.jimdo.com.