It’s early afternoon and, red shoes in hand, I’m about to launch into an all new adventure.
No, it’s not a Hans Christian Anderson Tale—The Red Shoes is a bit of a creepy one.
Rather, I’m lucky enough to enjoy an afternoon of art and libations The View Winery under the tutelage of Jennifer Pickering.
Pickering is a stalwart member of Kelowna’s art scene; although, painting has never been her milieu. Usually, when you think of this edgy, contemporary artist, you think of things like React 2010, the national interactive project responding to the 2010 Olympics that garnered headlines in the Globe and Mail newspaper.
Pickering was the executive director of the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art for four-and-a-half years and has become adept at sussing out new thrills with an upcoming residency in Finland and a recent curatorial stint for a show launched at the En’owkin Centre that focused on the impending end of days (as per Mayan calendar).
But this summer, it’s others’ artistic adventures she’s developed an interest in, which is what bring us to The View Winery on a day befitting of the latest light summer lit craze, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Pickering tries to explain colour theory to us as though it’s a language and, while we have hooker green and phthalo blue and a stunning turquoise that might colour our lake perfectly on another afternoon, today’s palette is all about mixing various shades of muddy grey.
“It takes about three months to start learning a new language, to get to that point where you’re dreaming in that language, and this is how I like to look at painting,” said Pickering. “People think of it as something that’s an inborn talent; but if you put the time in, it’s something you can learn.”
One look at the image I’ve produced by mid-afternoon and it’s doubtful three months will do it; but it’s admittedly a lot easier to pick up a brush and start learning the basics than one might think.
From hue to tone we learn how to deconstruct the scene in front of us, to mix our colours to at least take a stab at creating a semblance of the Okanagan beauty before us—and it proves an interesting finishing note to a few participants’ vacations.
While Kelowna may be known for its lakeside fun in the sun, wine and art pairings are becoming a popular attraction in the valley with Summerhill Pyramid Winery hosting lectures and shows, major musical performances at Cedar Creek Estate Winery and Mission Hill Winery, the Okanagan Erotic Art Show at Ex Nihilo, to name a scant few of the more obvious examples.
The idea for Pickering’s seminars didn’t come from the Okanagan at all, however.
“I was visiting the South of France a whole bunch of years ago in search of this mountain Cézanne painted…and we stopped at this one winery with a great view of the mountains and talked to the owners. My dad explained that the mountain looked like what we were looking for, and they said: Oh yeah, Cezanné used to paint here.”
That little eurika moment has produced a series of painting workshops with a clientele ranging from locals to tourists from all over Canada.
“One couple took it because he liked to paint and she liked wine. What she produced was really good, so she’s going to take some more workshops when they go back to Toronto,” said Pickering.
Pickering herself will be off to a major art adventure this fall in her Finland residency where she plans to set up a futuristic Mars Café.
“The idea is really in its infancy, but it’s based on a series of projects I’ve been working on about looking at the future and how we understand the present,” said Pickering. “It’s going to be an online project…so it’s an opportunity to participate in a global conversation on some of the issues affecting our future—like the earth and our changing environment.”
In the meantime, she’ll be enjoying a little wine and cheese as she paints with her winery groups from now through the end of the good weather.
The next workshops will be at Tantalus Vineyards (Aug. 9), Sonoran Estate Winery (Aug. 23 and 28) and Arrowleaf Cellars (September 6 and 11).
The cost is $60 per session or three for $150. To register, call Jennifer Pickering at 250-317-7263 or email email@example.com. Website information can be found on her blog.