A life well lived is always about balance.
For Tracy Kobus, that means exploring the trails along the Puntledge River, painting and looking after her seven-year-old son.
“Being active outside, being creative and domesticity are really strong aspects of my life right now,” she says. “But sometimes one interferes with the other. And the balance between humans and nature intrigues me. People love nature but also harm it.”
Kobus explores these juxtapositions in her solo show, Hearts and Homes, at Art Alchemy in Courtenay from March 8 through 23. An opening reception will be held March 9 at 7 p.m.
Kobus will also be at the gallery on March 9 and 23 from noon to 4 p.m. and is offering an afternoon adult art class at the gallery on March 16.
Kobus’ work is big, bold and colourful.
As an avid mountain biker and hiker and former treeplanter, the landscape has been a constant inspiration. But her paintings rely on imaginary realism rather than representational images. A large heart may have roots reaching into the cityscape below or a house may be glimpsed behind a school of salmon.
“I’m inspired by walks in nature, life events, books I’ve read or even other art shows,” Kobus says. “But my artwork always relates to my own life in some way. I paint something because it speaks to me and I want to investigate that aspect. My art always comes from inside even though I use outside elements.”
When her son started school fulltime, Kobus decided to take a hiatus from teaching art to focus on her own work.
“Domesticity and teaching can eat up a lot of time,” she says. “Now I’m trying to swing the balance back the other way.”
Hearts and Homes is her first solo show in a gallery in nearly 10 years.
“I use the shapes of houses in my paintings as a way to symbolize who we are,” she explains. “It can include your past interests, be welcoming or closed, colourful or rundown. It symbolizes a person’s perception of their self as well as how others see them.”
Her exhibit will feature work done over the past couple of years including a couple of pieces that haven’t been seen before. The largest paintings are 48×50 inches and, no matter what the size, all are executed in Kobus’ trademark colourful style.
“Colour is very important to me,” she says. “That’s one reason I like acrylic paint. It’s brighter than watercolours, dries quickly and doesn’t smell like oil paint does.”
“I never just go to a canvas and start painting,” she adds. “I might work on a piece in my head for weeks or even months. I’ll look up references, perhaps collect some photographs or imagery to work from and do multiple sketches that conceptualize the idea from many angles, styles, sizes and colour choices. Even after all that, a painting is often a surprise in the end.”
Intuition plays a large part in her work so it’s no surprise that her courses emphasize tapping into the creative instead of thinking part of the brain. Her March 16 class at Art Alchemy will involve a variety of media such as collage, India ink and acrylic paint and is open to beginners as well as those with more experience. To register, contact Art Alchemy at email@example.com.
Kobus was born in Barrie, Ont., but has lived in the Comox Valley most of her life. After graduating from secondary school she worked as a treeplanter to pay for extensive travels in Europe and the Middle East and studied painting at North Island College, the Atlin Art Centre and the University of British Columbia.
Her work has been exhibited throughout the province and she was artist in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2005 when she was five months pregnant.
Like many artists, Kobus feels a strong connection to her community and regularly donates paintings to YANA, the Comox Valley Art Gallery art auction, Avalanche Bulletin and other organizations.
Art Alchemy is at 362-C 10th St. in Courtenay (stair access only) and is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.
For more information visit www.tracykobus.com or www.artalchemy.ca.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section.