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Painting pictures alla prima
The walls of Stephen Dobson’s home, tucked into the ever-encroaching woods of Rolley Lake Provincial Park, are filled with his paintings.
You can follow canvases from the foyer as they wind their way through the house, up stairs into the living room and into his office.
There are four paintings propped near his dining room table, still waiting to be hung, and row upon row of paintings in a room below.
That’s what happens when you are a prolific painter who works on his art daily for eight straight years. Paintings pile up.
“If you work at something, it becomes second nature to you,” says Dobson, shrugging at the mention of talent. “I really encouraged myself at the start to paint, paint and paint.”
As a manager for large construction projects, Dobson isn’t someone who grew up with a brush in hand.
Eight years ago, Dobson and his wife were walking on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton when they happened on a small painting in a store window.
The painting was a Renoir, although Dobson didn’t know that at the time, and he thought out loud: I can do something like that.
That Christmas, his wife bought him a set of paints.
“I haven’t been able to put them down since. It grabbed me and drew me in. I can’t wait for my next blank canvas,” he says. “It’s the strangest thing.”
Dobson works primarily with oil paints, and strives to find light and colour using confident brushwork.
He often uses pallet knives and his fingers while painting.
Dobson likes to work alla prima, a technique used extensively by the Impressionist movement, where you complete entire paintings in one session or two without waiting for layers to dry completely. It’s a technique that’s forced him to get better at drawing and study his subjects closely.
“It’s almost like putting butter on a canvas,” says Dobson with delight.
“If I can’t get it right the first time, I’ll throw it out.”
Whether he’s painting cityscapes or landscape, Dobson tries to express his feelings in his art and hopes to bring the observer closer to his thoughts about the people, places and things he sees around him.
His paintings capture light in fleeting moments as it illuminates a mountain, building or face and evoke a sense of timelessness.
It’s perhaps why Dobson was asked to join the invitation-only Stave Falls Artist Group, less than a year after he began painting.
Its annual fall show is the only event where the public gets to see his work up close.
Since 2010, Dobson’s paintings have picked up several American Art Awards, winning first, third and fifth place in a variety of categories.
This is a competition open to artists from around the world, juried by 25 well- respected galleries across the United States.
Eight years on, Dobson’s compulsion to paint isn’t waning. After work, he still spends between three and four hours in front of a canvas, on weekends, 20 hours can disappear in a blink.
“Art allows me to go to a quiet place,” says Dobson, wishing he could immerse himself in his paintings all the time.
The seventh Stave Falls Artist Group show opens at the Meadow Gardens Gold Club in Pitt Meadows on Friday, Oct. 28 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The show continues Saturday, Oct. 29 and Sunday, Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The show will feature work by Stave Falls members Gina Rubin, Ron Hedrick, Walter Adamus, Beverly Beresh, Melanie Jane, Linda Bishop, Maria Daley, Janis Eaglesham, Stephen Dobson and guest artist Janice Robertson. Admission is free.