Fernie artist explores en plein air painting

Many artists have explored the concept of en plein air painting but few are as committed as Melanie MacVoy, who has been known to wear cross country skis at the easel.

Since taking a course with renowned outdoor artist Charlie Easton, MacVoy has enjoyed combining her favourite pursuits with art, hiking, biking and skiing to different locations around the Elk Valley to capture her surroundings.

“It’s kind of exciting because I don’t really know what I’m going to paint until I get out there and it’s just whatever catches my eye or inspires me,” said MacVoy.

“I get to combine my love of outdoor sports with painting, and camping trips. This one,” she said, pointing to a colourful river scene titled Kootenay Riverscape, “was inspired by a rafting trip that we do every year on the Kootenay River.”

Hailing from southern Ontario, MacVoy is the granddaughter of a prolific muralist and her creativity, and love of the outdoors was nurtured from a young age.

She went on to study Fine Arts and Arts Administration at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., before relocating to Vancouver.

Seduced by Fernie’s powder skiing, MacVoy moved to the Elk Valley in 2000 and secured a job as a snowcat driver at Island Lake Lodge.

She had ample time to study her favourite subjects – mountain landscapes and old growth cedar trees – at the mountain retreat.

They feature prominently in her latest collection, which is currently on show at Studio 562 in downtown Fernie.

“I like to make the viewer feel like they’re actually there, immerse them in the wilderness experience (and) bring nature indoors,” said MacVoy.

Her son Everett has inherited her love of painting and a selection of the six-year-old’s work is also on display.

Visitors will have a chance to watch MacVoy create at Studio 562, which she’s using as a working studio.

“I think people find it very intriguing when they see an artist paint because artists work so much behind closed doors,” she said. “Then it gives me a chance to talk about my art.”

MacVoy favours acrylics on canvas and has continued to develop her style over the years.

“I think I’m making a move more towards representational art and realistic art, but pushing the colours a little bit,” she said.

“Less stylized and more representational, that’s kind of the direction I’m going right now.”

MacVoy has been an active member of the local arts community and is currently serving on the board of the Fernie Arts Co-op, where her work can also be found.

“I see painting as a lifelong journey and the more I learn, and the more I paint, the more I want to paint,” she said, when asked what her goals as an artist are.

“Obviously I like selling my art and being a sustainable artist, and making a living from it, but it also appeals to my creativity and sense of wonder from exploring natural areas and capturing them on canvas.”

MacVoy’s work is on show at Studio 562 until April 7, visit Facebook.com/events/2317708188242171 for opening hours.

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