Nanaimo resident Pattiann Withapea has sold her paintings around the world and has displayed her work in Canada, the United States and India, where she represented Canada at an international arts festival. Not bad for a self-taught artist who only started painting five years ago.
“I was very reluctant to call myself an artist because I was under the assumption that real artists went to art school and here I was just teaching myself strokes and people were buying my paintings and I was shocked,” she said. “But it allowed me to buy better quality art supplies and just keep working and I’ve never stopped.”
Last year Withapea became a juried member of the Federation of Canadian Artists after submitting her work looking for feedback. She said that told her “my natural sensibilities are on point.”
So far Withapea has had five juried pieces on display at the Vancouver FCA gallery on Granville Island. From July 15 to Aug. 4 Withapea takes part in her first international open exhibition at the gallery called Painting on the Edge. A reception and award presentation happens July 18.
“It’s if not the most difficult one to get into, it’s one of the most difficult ones to get into…” Withapea said. “This is a bigger deal. I’m really excited about it.”
Withapea’s piece is an abstract painting “evocative of under the sea” done using resin tinted with pigments, as well as glass glitter and holographic elements. She calls it Blinding Nemo. She said it’s a unique approach, as artists typically use resin as a clear top coat.
“I fancy myself to be a little bit of a mad scientist because since I’ve started working with [resin] that way I’ve just had really great results,” she said. “I’m always looking to push a medium beyond what it’s traditionally used for.”
Withapea said her exploratory approach is a result of her being self taught. She compares it to the “joy and reckless abandon” of a child that hasn’t been told what is to be feared or forbidden.
“It is the closest thing to going back and recapturing that feeling that you had when you were a child because I’m not afraid to do anything in the painting world…” she said. “So I just absolutely cut loose.”
Withapea said she feels like she has a lifetime of paintings locked up inside of her and she’s only started “unleashing the dam.” Her next Island showing will be at the Parksville Beach Festival’s Art in the Park event on July 27 and 28. She said she’s not sure what the future holds.
“I could never have imagined getting to this place, so I really, truly have no idea what’s next,” she said. “I just know that I will die with a paintbrush in my hand.”