Meet the artist: Local scenes find their way into artist’s work

Pastel artist Lyn Thomas will be opening her studio and gallery this weekend as part of the 2022 Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Art Studio Tour. Photo by Marissa Tiel

Years ago, Lyn Thomas used to host an art weekend in her garden. Nestled amongst the cedars, rhododendrons and blooming florals, artists would set up their easels with works for sale and the community would come and check them out. 

“The community loved it,” she says. Even on wet weekends, people came to visit. “But it just got that it was dwindling off and we needed to move on to something else.”

This weekend, Thomas will be looking to create a similar atmosphere for the 2022 Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Art Studio Tour. She plans to share her gallery space on McNutt Road with Coquitlam artist Simone Sullivan.

Thomas will be showcasing her paintings — mostly pastels, with some acrylic and watercolour.

She first got into painting many years ago as a mom of young kids. A group of stay-at-home moms took an oil painting class together. Later, she started her watercolour journey. After a drawing class that explored willow charcoal, she was encouraged to try pastels. Thomas had resisted the “messy” medium before, but learned to embrace it.

“The first [piece] I did, I got into a juried show, so I just kept going from there,” she says.

Pastels have been used by artists since the Renaissance and became popular in the 18th century. 

While a pastel tone is often muted or subdued, the pastel medium is anything but. Thomas’s travel case is as bright as a candy store with as many shades to match.

Natural elements

Many of Thomas’ paintings feature natural landscapes and elements, as well as local scenes. One of her favourite pieces was inspired by a fall hike in the Gold Creek area of Golden Ears Provincial Park. 

“The day we’d gone, we’d taken pictures and I was really inspired,” she says. “Not everything comes right away.”

Thomas often works off reference images, but there has to be an element of inspiration.

“I feel like I need a good image. A lot of people can just paint something, paint a scene,” she says, “but I need something to go by even if you don’t follow it exactly.”

In the case of her Chameleon Cafe painting, the shadows on the wall and the turquoise umbrellas called out to her. “It just spoke to me that I had to paint it.” She tried to revisit the scene later, but with a change black umbrellas, the inspiration was gone.

Lyn Thomas’ travel box for pastels. Photo by Marissa Tiel

Unlike other mediums, with pastel you have to be quite deliberate with your planning. The paper used is gritty like a fine to medium sandpaper. While it is possible to draw over an area, it’s not usually recommended. Even a stray drop of saliva from blowing pastel dust off the page can inhibit the medium from sticking there in the future. 

There’s also a big difference in how you use colours.

“With watercolours and acrylics, you can just make do with say six colours,” says Thomas. You can mix them together to make new shades, but with pastel, you’ll want a stick of each shade you plan to use. 

Thomas’ travel case, prepared for an upcoming workshop in Bamfield, is quite pared down compared to her usual stash. It features dozens of shades arranged by tone from dark to light.

Changing landscape

Thomas has been involved in the Maple Ridge art community for more than 30 years. She’s a member of the Garibaldi Art Club, Pastel Artists Canada and the Federation of Canadian Artists

She says the art scene is changing. Not as many people are buying original pieces. They can just pick up a large canvas for under $100 at a big box store.

But just a few weeks back, a couple from Burnaby made the trip to her gallery to purchase a Lyn Thomas original. It wasn’t the one they’d come for, but they left happy nonetheless.

Thomas is looking forward to another opportunity to share her art with the community.

This weekend, there will be art both inside the gallery and outside in the garden and the carport. She’s also planning to serve tea and coffee outside “and I usually put a few bistro tables around and put some umbrellas up so it looks kind of festive.”

The Art Studio Tour is scheduled for May 7 and May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can find Lyn Thomas and Simone Sullivan at stop number 21 of the self-guided tour at 12151 McNutt Road in Maple Ridge.

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