There’s nothing that Connie Watts can’t draw inspiration from.
The Campbell River-born artist even draws her inspiration from who walks into her front door.
“You walked in and you have a certain personality so then I start to think what that means,” Watts said. “I think this ideology of indigenous knowledge, that we’re all one. From that basis when people walk in, they’re not walking in as this, they’re walking in as everything that you are.”
Known for her bigger, sculptural works like Hetux (Thunderbird) at the Vancouver International Airport, she’s scaling it down a little for the upcoming Days with the Arts studio tour in the Alberni Valley (this Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26). Instead of the larger four-by-six-foot canvases that she often paints on, Watts is creating smaller prints.
“With the prints, it’s more accessible,” she said. “I’m playing with pattern and form.”
She also gets to experiment with different techniques.
“Dry brushing, different brush techniques and stuff. It’s let me work on a smaller scale.
“You can explore much quicker here than I can in my studio building things.”
She has some finished prints and plenty more in her studio.
“There’s a whack of them with backgrounds, designs started.”
Her finished work decorates the rest of her home. Prints and paintings are on every wall and if you look in the corners, you’ll spot the odd puppet.
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Watts originally started painting after fracturing her skull.
“I actually fractured my skull in two places so I couldn’t read, write or know history.”
Prior to the accident, she had gotten a degree in interior design from the University of Manitoba. It’s a background that allowed Watts to design her Alberni Valley home.
“I went back to Emily Carr and I realized what I’d lost and started creating. I felt like I was being inhibited.”
Using her interior design degree and two years of industrial design credits at Emily Carr, she started a fourth year inter-media design.
“It was a fine arts mixed-media program and that’s where I built my first big piece, Vereinigung, that’s now at the Harborview Medical Centre [in Seattle, WA].”
She works out of her home on Hector Road, where she’s concentrating on smaller works.
“Normally, my pieces that are in Vancouver are larger, usually my smallest is about a four by four so a lot of people have come in and asked ‘how are we supposed to buy this?’”
Using a smaller canvas gives Watts more freedom. Often she’ll build a digital version on the computer before sitting down to translate it to canvas.
“I start to work with duotone colours, monotone colours… I’m really trying to experiment with the laying of paint.
“That’s why I like the colour and texture, it’s pulling in that personality through colour form and texture whereas normally I use the iconography of northwest coast designs so the animals tell the story.”
One of her works, Embrace, is based on the personality of one of Watts’ friends.
“She’s very busy like [the print.] She’s a writer, director, producer, actor,” Watts said. “She’s a writer so she’s quieter in that sense, where they like to stand back a little bit but she’s so poignant with anything that she sets out. That’s where that idea came from, the idea of Embrace.”
Recently, Watts has been inspired by fashion.
“You know how we wear fashion? So you look at the texture in fashion and I’ve been playing with that, with this idea of creating other materials. So I start to play with texture and form, colour and pattern.”
But there’s always a sense of play in her work.
Inspiration struck Watts when she was taking the ferry one day.
“I’ve loved ravens forever and then I saw this little island and I started laughing because I could ‘see’ this little raven riding on a unicycle,” she said.
Watts is working on five pieces inspired by the raven, with the unicycle piece closest to being completed.
She’s using the raven prints to try out different ideas from landscapes to playing with a limited colour palette.
The unicycling raven is silhouetted on a striking background of purples and greens.
“I have another one with the raven on an old-fashioned bicycle and he’s climbing up this big mountain. So really crazy, really obscene places for him to be cycling. And then I have another one of him on a little scooter going over a log and over a huge ravine. So he’s got the sense of play.”
Watts is one of the artists participating in Days with the Arts on Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26. She’s set up in her home at 5239 Hector Rd. Access is via 5235 Hector Rd. and the home is the grey one on the left.