Lynn Zanatta convinced her father, Joe, to sit for a portrait Friday morning. He was the first of 50 people artist Sarah Fougere, nee Holtom, was to paint in 15 days.
“I think it’s nuts,” said 79-year-old Joe, of being painted.
Asked why he was at Black & Yellow gallery to get his portrait done he pointed his finger at Lynn.
Lynn’s daughters saw Fougere paint Lynn’s partner, former mayor Sam Sullivan, last year and booked a portrait session for themselves and their mom for mother’s day. When Lynn saw on Facebook that Fougere was back in town, she booked a session for her father.
“I love Sarah’s work,” Lynn said. “It’s just so free and happy.”
Fougere, who graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2004, wanted to be a fashion designer when she was young, so she was always drawing people as a kid and then as a drawing major in art school.
“I don’t paint in a traditional way where you paint in layers and you work from darkest to lightest,” Fougere said. “I’m painting with the exact colour that I see and I put it where I see it and then I maybe blend a bit, but I almost use my brush, I use a smaller paint brush, so it’s almost like a pencil crayon.”
Her portraits are vibrant, somewhat loose and not always perfectly proportioned.
Her landscapes sold like hotcakes at The Cheaper Show in 2011 so she showed the event’s founder and creative director, Graeme Berglund, her book of portraits and pitched the idea of painting 50 in 15 days at his Black & Yellow gallery.
“I’m in it for the long haul. I feel like I’m almost like an athlete… It’s a good workout for my art muscles,” Fougere said, adding, “And [painting from life is] a tradition that’s kind of maybe being lost a bit with all the new technologies.”
Fougere painted 100 portraits of Calgary artists in 90 days in 2006 and the portraits were added to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary’s permanent collection.
With the sale of her portraits, Fougere bought her house in Saskatchewan for $5,500 and opened a gallery in Canora called The National Gallery of Saskatchewan.
“My paintings are more exciting to look at when they’re painted from life,” she said. “I can’t go make a coffee and sit back down because it’s all in one moment and because either the weather’s going to change or the lighting or the person’s going to get tired of sitting… You really have to make those brush strokes count.”
She’s embraced the performance aspect of having someone sit for a portrait through these sessions and the TV show she created and stars in on Cable Access 7 in Saskatchewan called The Painting from Life with Sarah Holtom Show!!, which features her painting a landscape from start to finish within an hour.
One wall at the gallery space Fougere occupied Friday was decked with a dozen landscapes mostly of Vancouver and, except for one portrait, the other walls were decked with blank, one-foot square, wooden panels with red dots beneath most of them. She’s since added 10 more sittings and the portraits will be shown at a closing reception at 602 East Hastings St., Sept. 7.
Fougere doesn’t know why strangers, quite a few couples, are keen to have their portraits painted. But she suspects they like having art that portrays them at a particular time and place.
Fougere is selling the aforementioned landscapes in an online silent auction, with bidding starting at $500.
As for Joe, she says he loved his portrait. “He was like, ‘You said it was going to be an abstract,’” Fougere said. “‘That is a real painting.’”
For more information, go to sarahfougere.com.
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