This painting was one of Alice Durksen's entries in the 2013 Ashcroft Art Show.

This painting was one of Alice Durksen's entries in the 2013 Ashcroft Art Show.

A love of painting and a love of flowers is a perfect pairing for local artist

Alice Durksen has always loved gardening, and now she gets inspiration for her watercolours from her own back yard.

One in a series of articles profiling local artists, in the run-up to the Ashcroft Art Club’s 50th anniversary show. It runs from April 21 to April 25, 2017 at St. Alban’s Anglican Church Hall.

For artist Alice Durksen, a lifelong love affair with flowers goes hand-in-hand with her more recent love of painting; something she began doing in 1998.

“Almost all photos of me as a child were taken among flowers,” says Durksen. “Dad had created a lovely back garden with fruit trees and roses in our Southern California home, and there was a space in the back beyond a wall where I was allowed to garden. I planted and cared for many flowers.”

Durksen took florist training classes, and worked for a time in florist shops in Southern California before obtaining her teaching certificate and becoming a teacher. She had an opportunity to enrol in a summer course at Oxford University, where she immersed herself in Early Romantic English landscape, painting, and poetry.

She was also able to travel to Italy for a conference, where she took in the art galleries in Venice, Florence, and Rome. “I’m passionate about art, classical music, and spirituality, so I always make sure that I visit the galleries, gardens, churches, and cathedrals of note wherever I am. I’m especially happy if there is great music happening at the same time!”

In a way, taking up painting in 1998 was almost an accident. “An architect parishioner retired, and decided to pursue art full time. He wanted to offer a watercolour workshop in the church hall, and I was concerned that he wouldn’t have enough students to make it worthwhile for him, so I signed up for the course.

“There were more than enough students, but I was committed and had the paints and paper, so continued with the class.”

She has stuck with watercolour ever since, after discovering she was allergic to oil paints, although she does branch out a bit into acrylic and mixed water media.

Durksen found that she had poor drawing skills, but could paint flowers, so continued on with an intermediate watercolour course. At the end of it, the instructor said he had taught her all he knew about painting flowers, and referred her to Caren Heine, a well-known Victoria floral artist.

Durksen says she took several classes from Heine and others, learning new techniques along the way. “I’m especially interested in the use of light in art, and continually work to become more proficient in letting the light show through in my paintings.”

After moving to Ashcroft, Durksen immediately joined the Ashcroft Art Club, and participated in the 2008 art show. She has been a regular exhibitor at the annual show ever since then, drawing inspiration from her own garden, and she will have three paintings in this year’s show. “I’m still working on them!” she says with a laugh.

One of Alice Durksen’s paintings.

In addition to flowers, Durksen likes to paint water scenes with water lilies, and still life with metallic and other containers. While she mostly paints at home, she keeps active with the Art Club by organizing the summer art walk each year.

“It’s my main activity with the club. It showcases local artists in Ashcroft stores over the summer, because I think it’s important for Ashcroft to be known as a centre for the arts, particularly to draw people to visit, which brings prosperity to the village. I have 16 spaces to fill, and seldom have trouble filling them.

“I like to build community. The addition of the glass mosaics by Marina Papais and Daniel Collett and the many volunteers who have helped them all create beauty in the Heritage Park, on various Ashcroft buildings, and at the Chinese Cemetery.

“And with the joint effort of the Art Club and the Winding River Arts & Performance Society for the annual Plein Air Paint Out, we are indeed becoming recognized for the art community in Ashcroft and the surrounding area that we serve.”