In a time of pandemic, decoration has become a viable route to artistic expression.
New decorative banners that have been appearing on White Rock lampposts over the last two weeks not only add colour to the streets but also highlight the work of three different women artists in the city.
And while their personal histories may be diverse, they all share a fine arts background and a desire to celebrate the community in which they live – which is why, they say, the city-sponsored competition for banner designs first announced in the spring resonated with them so strongly.
Ultimate winners of the competition were Jennifer Tiles, whose gently-glowing images ‘Starfish’ and ‘Shell’ appear primarily in the Five Corners area; Niki Singleton, whose evocative and animated two-panel painting ‘Kitesurfer’ can be seen mostly on West Beach; and Tracy Hetherington, whose bold, print-like ‘Crab’ and ‘Seagull’ designs are mainly installed in the East Beach area.
While much of Tiles’ background in graphic work has been in creating logos for companies and clothing, she also contributed banners to White Rock before, when the city was undergoing re-branding in 2012.
“That’s why when I saw the latest competition advertised, I jumped at it,” she said. “I needed an outlet to be visually creative and connected.”
She explained her starfish design is made up of multiple dots of many colours – possibly the first ‘pointillist’ banner in White Rock’s history, she agreed, with a laugh – while the shell design incorporates the colours of the rainbow crosswalk at Five Corners in direct reference to the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
“I was looking for images that were simple things that people go down to the beach for,” she said, adding that she also wanted to express, symbolically, “that White Rock is growing and becoming more inclusive.”
Singleton, a Squamish-born full-time artist who worked out of her own studio in Brooklyn, New York for some 20 years, has been a White Rock resident for the past year-and-a-half.
While her preferred medium has been larger oil paintings on board – for which she makes her own oil paints – of late, she has been concentrating on smaller pieces on watercolour paper using acrylic paints and oil pastels to provide loose, semi-abstract colour fields, with superimposed imagery in ink.
That was the technique used in her design for ‘Kitesurfer,’ which, she explained, is actually a single image cut in two.
“When I saw the call for artists in the spring, COVID was already here,” she said. “I was going down to the beach every day… and drawing everything I saw, then going back and making paintings. When I saw the call for banners for White Rock, I thought ‘this is perfect, because that’s what I’m already doing.'”
Singleton said she is glad that her design for the banners is perceived as uplifting.
“That’s what I was hoping for,” she said. “I wanted to bring a lot of colour to the area, against the sky, because that’s what it feels like in White Rock – it’s always light and bright here, even when it’s raining.”
Hetherington, meanwhile, acknowledges that she’s more of a ‘weekend warrior’ in making art, as her full-time occupation is marketing supervisor for Surrey Libraries.
But she is always on the look-out for passion projects in illustration, she said.
And as a member of Surrey Libraries design team, she has also gained experience in digital drawing, she said.
That came in useful in creating her hard-line images, she said, for which she did some meticulous study of gulls, and crab shells she found on the beach.
“I was imagining them to look like linoleum prints,” she said of the final appearance of the work.
“Being from a city background as far as my day job is concerned, I was enjoying creating images of nature that would be seen in the air, from a distance.”
Like the other artists, she lives close to where the banners are displayed, she said.
“I thought participating in this project would be such a delightful way to express local pride – and share with the community why I love being here.”