Out of the past: showcase artist looks back on 20 years of painting and drawing at Year End Art Show exhibit

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald Prince Albert artist Marjorie Somers poses for a photo next to one of her paintings inspired by a trip to Neslin Lake with her husband, Jim, when they were in their 30s. Somers is the Showcase Artist at the Christina’s Art School Year End Show.

It was a bit of a surprise for Marjorie Somers when the longtime Prince Albert painter and drawer discovered she would be the Showcase Artist at the Christina’s Art School Year End Show.

In fact, she was so surprised she had to go looking for a few of her pieces.

Somers has been drawing and painting for 20 years, but she’s given so many pieces away to friends and family, coming up with enough for an exhibit was a bit of a challenge.

“I thought, ‘oh my goodness.’” Somers said with a chuckle. “I was very, very pleased, but still wondering how I was going to get enough art pieces together, because most of them were gifts. I had to gather up pieces and bring them in, but it’s been lots of fun. It’s nice to be acknowledged, very nice.”

Somers started painting after retiring in 2002. Prior to that, she would tell everyone she planned to paint once she retired, but didn’t take that plan seriously until her staff paid for a year’s worth of art lessons with local art instructor Christian Thoen as a retirement gift.

Somers loved the classroom, but said her first few attempts were a bit rough. She began devoting herself to still life studies, and started collecting them in a binder along with sketches she made as part of her regular lessons.

That binder is on display as part of the Year End Art Show. It includes pieces from her first 10 years of work.

“When I started, they weren’t very good,” Somers remembered. “But then as I progressed I thought, ‘oh my goodness, look at the improvement, look at the improvement’ and I was enjoying them more and more, so I decided that I would take the lessons, along with my attempts at the studies, and put them into a scrapbook.”

Somers’ work focuses on the things she loves best: her family. Her pieces include drawings of her children and grandchildren, and paintings of her late husband, Jim, including one of the two of them up at Neslin Lake when they were in their 30s.

“We would sit there covered in blankets and just enjoy the sunset,” Somers remembered. “This is a very important piece.”

Most of her work is in soft pastel, acrylic, and graphite. She loved the soft pastel because it reminded her of water colour painting, which she wanted to try but didn’t think she was quite ready for, and chose acrylic because it allowed her to create more detailed pieces.

Somers credits Thoen for helping develop her talents without becoming overbearing.

“Christina’s amazing,” she said. “Over the 20 years we’ve become very close (and) she lets you do your art. She never touches your piece. She never corrects your piece. She just asks us to look a little bit harder and see if we can see something in that particular area, and that is so empowering. I’ve never experienced that from the art experience before, and that’s why I’ve stayed with her for so long.”

As for the future, Somers said she knows of one woman in Saskatoon still painting at the age of 92. She’d like to hit that mark too if possible.

“I want to paint for another 20 (years),” Somers said with a laugh. “I’ve done 20. I want 20 more. I don’t know if that’s practical, but I do want 20 more.”

The Christina’s Art School Year End Show runs until September at Sandra’s Framing, Gallery, and Gifts on Branion Drive in Prince Albert.

Somers is one of many students putting their work on display at the year-end show. She said it’s incredible to see how other students have progressed in just a few months.

“The art that Christina’s students produce is amazing. If you take a look at each piece, the first-time artist comes in and ends up with a piece they can frame and be proud of. It is miraculous, and you use all the diversity and it’s, yeah, her students really, really bloom.”

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca