Elko artist Mimi Sahlstrom and her daughter Freya who is often a source of inspiration. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Elko artist’s fairytale ending

“Once Upon A Summer” opened at The Arts Station on Thursday and will show throughout August.

Mimi Sahlstrom refuses to grow up.

The Swedish-born artist paints everyday scenes inspired by her family life in Elko but in a style that harks back to the late 1800s to early 1900s.

“I quite like fairytale paintings,” she said.

“I like to build up a scene to be a little bit more mystical and fairytale-like, not super realistic.”

Sahlstrom explores childhood adventures and the love for outdoor play in her first exhibition, titled “Once Upon A Summer”, which opened at The Arts Station in Fernie on July 26.

A mother-of-two and self-confessed romantic, Sahlstrom takes inspiration from her children as well as John Bauer, a Swedish illustrator and painter best known for his illustrations of Swedish folklore and fairytales.

“I quite like watching my kids play in nature, they do a lot of imaginary play,” she said.

“(Her daughter) Freya puts on these fairy wings and she runs around and I don’t know if she’s a butterfly or fairy, but I really enjoy watching my kids play in nature and I’m getting inspiration from that, that’s for sure.”

The daughter of an oil painter, Sahlstrom grew up with a paintbrush between her fingers but never considered a career as a professional artist – until now.

“Painting was just something I did but I didn’t really pursue that professionally,” she said.

“I actually decided to go to university and take art history, so I was more looking at art and showing art at some museums in Stockholm and still painting at home just for myself because I love it but not really thinking of that part as a career.”

When Freya started kindergarten two years ago, Sahlstrom discovered she had more time on her hands and decided to take her painting more seriously.

She works with acrylics and uses abstract techniques to create her pieces.

“I mix my acrylic paint tubes with some acrylic medium and a bit of water, and shake it up in bottles and make it all runny then I actually paint on the floor first and make the paint run on the canvas,” she said.

“The background at first would be very abstract… then after that has dried, then I would go and paint the image on top of that.

“I like starting with a random abstract surface instead of just white… it’s a bit of a surprise for yourself how it’s going to turn out.”

Sahlstrom works from memory rather than drawing a detailed sketch before starting a painting, which only adds to the abstract effect.

She has been working on Once Upon A Summer since last Christmas, spending about two weeks perfecting larger pieces.

Sahlstrom plans to continue exhibiting locally and is also considering selling her work online.

“With the exhibition I kind of want to show my work – I think a lot people don’t even know I paint – so for people to realize what I do and what my style is and, well, hopefully I will sell some paintings, but that’s not the most important thing I find,” she said.

“I think all artists, we want to show our work and talk about what we’re painting… you like to share your work and have some kind of platform to do that.”

Once Upon A Summer will show at The Arts Station throughout August.

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