Dawson Creek Art Gallery

My Travels: A Conversation Between Shanda Fuller and Haley Bassett

By Haley Bassett, February 8th 2021

For this week’s article, I met with Grande Prairie artist Shanda Fuller, the artist exhibiting alongside myself at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. Shanda’s show My Travels is up until March 5th, while my show Lineage will be on display until February 27th. What follows is part two of our exchange, where I interviewed Shanda about her work. You can find the other half of our conversation here.

HB: What thoughts or feelings do you hope to leave the viewer with after they see your paintings?

SF: I hope to leave people with perhaps a little more joy and wonder after they see my paintings. It’s like I’m saying, “Look at this! Isn’t this cool?!” Refreshing, relaxing and fun are also words that encompass what I hope they convey. I’m a little old-school with my words. We all need that reminder of the feeling of wonder every once in a while, don’t we?

HB: You have a wonderful way of rendering water. Can you describe your approach to painting it?

SF: Painting water is one of those difficult things in life, and I’m still figuring it out. So far, with my waterfalls, I start with a dark underpainting and lighten it up from there by laying on lighter variations of blue and possibly some teal or turquoise, leaving white for the very end, where the light is the brightest. For my lake and river paintings, I start with vertical layers of transparent color and add in my horizontal reflections on top. I love to show the water’s movement when I’m painting, so I’ll study how the water is moving and kind of play it out with my fingers in the air to remind myself how it’s moving, and then apply it with paint. Quite often I also need to do the age-old practice of stepping back from the painting and looking at the overall effect to see where it needs changing or needs more emphasis. With water, there is so much depth and movement because it really is transparent and plays with the light, what’s underneath it and any sediment in it, to mesmerize us into gazing deeper.

HB: Is there a relationship between your steampunk/fantasy work and your landscapes?

SF: I think the relationship between my steampunk/fantasy work and my landscapes is, in part, found in the way I tackle them. I start them the same way, with an underpainting, then build on them from there. More significant than that, though, is the relationship with wonder. As I want to show the wonder in seeing the different or the overlooked with my landscapes, I want to show what could be with my steampunk and fantasy work, pairing the natural world with something of fantasy. I take what may be unseen and make it seen, incorporating the two together. In Lady Peace, she is standing in a field of canola in this Peace Country of ours and holding a dove, which symbolizes peace. You can see an oil derrick in the background as well. As a steampunk artist, I see both industry and land as needed parts of a whole. Without industry, we wouldn’t have a lot of the tools, parts and work we take for granted in this world, and without the land, we wouldn’t have the essential food we eat and the air we breathe. There is a way for both to work together that is beneficial to all of us. It’s kind of like a rebellious, determined, and beautiful marrying of the two, just like in my steampunk world.

HB: What’s next for you and your artwork?

SF: What’s next? I’m never completely sure. However, when I dream of what could be, I see a continued fusing of the landscape and fantastical elements. I’d love to continue to explore that. Someday I hope to do some world-building and story-creating around my steampunk character and those she meets on her travels. In the meantime, I am in the process of creating four steampunk pieces based on the attributes celebrated through the month before Christmas (Advent). I already have Lady Peace and am working on Lady Hope. If you know the Advent calendar, Lady Joy and Lady Love aren’t far behind. These are challenging because although they are based in some real-world scenes, the fantastical parts are difficult to get right because they are imaginary. I work so much more easily when I have the photos of the scene before me, but there is something very fulfilling about getting a dream to look like it could be real. Other than that, I plan on continuing to show my work in different venues, and growing in my painting, jewelry-making and steampunk-creating. I love nature and I love imagination. Who knows what will come of that next?

Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? I would love to hear from you! Please email me at programs@dcartgallery.ca.

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