SHOP TALK: Face painting at the Waldorf
By Kelsey Klassen - WE Vancouver
Published: May 16, 2012 10:00 AM
The reimagined Waldorf Hotel is one of those places that will be remembered in old age as the place for a vast cross-section of Vancouverites. Whether you go for the Ice Cream Socials or East Van Wine Academies (which got my parents in the door!), peek in the artists’ studios, pop by for the vintage clothing sales, a hair cut or friend's wedding — you feel like you’re engaging in a conversation with the city. Their newsletters are works of graphic art, and driving past the line on a Saturday night for a slow scan is as much fun as lurking on their Facebook page for new event photos featuring local savants.
The community of creatives that swirls around its stylish doorways can be intimidating to the unfamilar, but the feeling is family. When artist Sarah Holtom, a Vancouverite since falling in love during the Olympics, declared she and her betrothed could no longer afford to live in Vancouver, Graeme Berglund of The Cheaper Show moved mountains to get her the last artist residency before their moving deadline. Then they put it in that pretty newsletter and watched the magic happen.
Her “50 portraits in 15 days series” in the Black and Yellow Gallery (Room 106 at the Waldorf Hotel) boomeranged, selling out as fast as the notices arrived in our inboxes.
Former mayor Sam Sullivan (pictured) and Real Housewives’ Mary Zilba are just some of the notable faces staring boldly from the gallery wall.
The hardworking artist (she’s a teacher at Collage Collage and an artist’s assistant on Aritzia window displays) is leaving for a June residency in Ivvavik National Park in the Yukon, painting cariboo and other awesome beasts alongside her photographer fiancé, before moving into a three-bedroom homestead in Canora, Saskatchewan, that she bought for $5500. I blinked as well.
She admits that, had the portrait series happened earlier, she might have rethought her decision to leave, but the ball is rolling on this Tour de Yukon, and having heard firsthand how cool it is, I’m not surprised she chose adventure and ultimately rural Saskatchewan over one-bedroom Vancouver living. Between two artists and a dog, things were getting cozy in all the wrong ways.
She and her soon-to-be, Robert Fougere, will be piling into a 1992 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon for the trip north, and if things get cozy there, at least it’ll be memorable.
The Jasper, Alberta painter studied drawing at the Alberta College of Art, and then took a residency in Australia, heading overseas with only pencil crayons in hand. It wasn’t until she won a set of oil paints that her knack for colours and lack of traditional patience supernova’d into Sarah Holtom: painting from life (SarahHoltom.com).
She’s pretty rad. I’d know, because my boyfriend and I sat for portrait #23 for two hours and learned all about her. I also know she’s a great girl, because one of her old roommates is doing her a solid and bringing his band to her wedding. That it happens to be The Albertans just makes it more special for the guests. Oh, and all the money she makes from this portrait show is going straight into her wedding fund. Aww.
What I’ll remember forever about this interview is how comfortable she made us feel. We listened to love songs on All Time Favourites AM 650 (she swears what the DJs spin influences the end result). She had been painting three portraits a day since May 3 but was absolutely delightful to spend the end of a long day of work with — her sense of humour showing through despite her concentration. Even though we were the ones gaining a work of art, she literally did a happy dance after hanging it to dry on the wall, saying that after painting all those skin tones, the right side of her brain was going, “Pew! Pew! Pew!” which either implied lasers or explosions, I wasn’t sure...
The closing of Sarah Holtom - Portrait Artist In Residence is May 18 at 7pm. All 50 portraits will be on display and rumour has it she might be opening up some more spots just for the heck of it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for availability.
You can follow Kelsey on Twitter @kelseyklassen.