Discovering artistic inspiration can be a combination of search and being open to unexpected rescue.
Professional Otterville-area artist Sue Goossens regularly sources its vibrant interpretation through natural scenes from The Muskokas to British Columbia, but has also found it in patterns of light and shadows along the edge of a woods in her own rural backyard.
“We can forget Oxford County is a beautiful place to live and find inspiration.”
It can also strike in the most unlikely of circumstances, tangible and imagined potential represented in an abandoned farmstead igniting a creative spark.
“In a sense, it was kind of finding something in the middle of nowhere,” said Tabitha Verbuyst, in a media release, whose route to an unrelated destination happened to coincide with a derelict house surrounded by a few trees in the middle of a field, stark solitude speaking silently to her through shattered windowpanes.
“I’ve always been drawn to the architecture of broken, abandoned and forgotten things,” she explained of a resultant mixed-media piece in ink and watercolour. “It always intrigues me, you wonder what happened, what stories are there here?”
There is no definitive roadmap to inspiration, but the 9th Annual Oxford Studio tour does provide one to a wide-ranging exhibition of the county’s artistic community’s creative minds, spirit and processes Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
Thirty-one artists are sharing their passion and vision in an event which from inception has been a tour of artists, driven by artists, who this year are displaying works including oil, watercolour, acrylic, coffee and walnut ink, and mixed-media paintings, sculpted, thrown and decorative ceramic works, unique and functional stoneware, artisanal jewellery in precious metal clay, gold, sterling silver and precious stones, fine-art photography reflecting international travel or exploring Oxford’s own rural scenes, ‘funky, folky’ creations from a potter with a passion for primitive rug hooking, and woven creations featuring fibre, beads and paint.
“The common denominator is artistic creativity,” said Deb Beard, General Manager for Tillsonburg’s Station Arts Centre, as well as an exhibiting potter. “You will see diversity in the type of media and types of work presented and because of that, people will be able to connect with various artists through work on different levels.”
Tour participants tend to be a mix of newcomers and returnees, said Beard, mostly day-trippers who may visit half the tour’s artists one year and half the next. They represent a wide demographic as well as range of ages. Those seeking physical roadmaps can find them via the tour’s website www.oxfordstudiotour.ca or on glossy full-colour flyers including brief bios and contact information for each artist.
Flyers have been distributed from Toronto to Windsor and as far north as Owen Sound, and are available at Tillsonburg's Station Arts Centre, Annandale National Historic Site, at Ingersoll’s Creative Arts Centre, the Woodstock Art Gallery, Woodstock Library and Tourism Oxford at the Woodstock Quality Inn and Suites, Museum London and Panache Gallery, libraries or art centres in London Westmount, Paris, Dundas and Stratford, the Glenhyrst Art Gallery in Brantford, as well as a range of retail outlets in those communities. Interested persons may also call 519-842-6151 for more information.
Geographically, artists are exhibiting from New Dundee in the county’s northeast, Thamesford in the west, to Tillsonburg in the south, as well as many points in between, which provides mixed challenge and opportunity.
Heather Benton was a newcomer to the county five years ago when she took her first Oxford studio tour.
“I’m a city girl and from a city girl’s perspective, Oxford looked like a lot of flat land – and then you realized there are all sorts of back, country roads. The tour took us into farms, country houses, little hamlets, it wasn’t just discovering art, it was discovering Oxford County.”
Participating artists are very friendly, very welcoming, said Benton, who felt ‘no pressure to buy.'
“A nice introduction to the artistic community and certainly a beautiful introduction to springtime in Oxford.”