Images Tour Shines Light on Local Artists
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Every Thanksgiving local studios and artists throw open their doors to showcase masterpieces as part of the Images Thanksgiving Studio Tour.
This year's tour runs Oct. 9 to 12 in Barrie, Horseshoe Valley and along the shores of Lake Simcoe up to Orillia.
One of Ontario's longest running studio tours, Images is an artist-run, juried event where visitors can discover art and enjoy the beautiful fall colours of Simcoe County.

Mixed-media artist Debra Shelswell said the best part of the tour is giving guests the opportunity to speak directly with the artists.
“Having been in sales for over 30 years, I enjoy talking to people and liked the thought of exhibiting in my own home and meeting the people who buy my work,” she said. “And, I think, most would agree that those who buy artwork enjoy meeting the artist whenever possible.”
Shelswell added the tour also gives her an opportunity to reach a wider audience.
“Along with those who live within driving distance, we get international visitors who are staying at the local resorts,” she said. “Last year a lovely woman from Iran bought a funky little piece, and the year before a charming couple from Holland took a piece home. How cool that my work is in places that I've never been!”
The self-guided tour features painters, potters, sculptors, photographers, wood turners, jewelry and clothing makers.
The 2015 edition will feature more than 30 artists and crafts people exhibiting their work over the four days at 19 different studios.
Pottery artist Peter Michalski is another of the tour's returning artists.
“I am now entering my ninth year on the tour, and it is one of my favourite and most successful shows to do,” he said. “I always have a lot of fun on this tour, having great discussions with the people visiting the studios who are always interested in the art and want to learn more.”
The Images Thanksgiving Studio Tour runs Oct. 9 to 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Get to know some of the Images artists:



Pottery artist Peter Michalski considers himself a late bloomer.
“Art was never in the foreground throughout my early academic career. It wasn't until after university, with the encouragement of my late grandmother, that I decided to delve into the art world,” he said.
Michalski put together a portfolio and applied to the Ontario College of Art and Design, without any real knowledge of what direction artistically he would be headed. 
“In my second year at OCAD, I needed an extra course and pottery was one of my options. With little enthusiasm, I went to the first class, however, within minutes I was hooked.”
Michalski said he loves the physicality of working with the clay, especially throwing on the wheel.
“The real joy and challenge of clay for myself is creating a beautiful, unique form that also works in a functional manner,” he said. “Only recently I have experimented in nonfunctional work, which has also had its challenges, but I have been excited about the results.”
He uses a variety of techniques to create his one-of-a-kind pieces.
While working with the wheel is his main focus, he's also experienced with homemade plaster moulds and more recently, hand-building techniques with handcrafted rolling stamps.
“And just in the last two months, I have learned and developed a unique way to create my cracked vases,” he said. “I am always experimenting and trying new ideas, pursuing new avenues of creativity with clay.”
Aside from Images, Michalski also shows in Muskoka and Toronto each year.
“I find the artists that I meet at these shows all have something to teach me, and it is a wonderful way to network with a wide variety people throughout the crafting world.”



Kai-Liis McInnes divides her time between the studio and the barn.
“I own Heed Farm Alpacas with 14 alpacas, two Icelandic horses, an adorable mini-donkey called Casper, two collies and four cats,” she said.
The Mulmur artist spends most of her time painting, teaching, showing her art and preparing alpaca fleece – spinning and knitting with the wool.
McInnes, who specializes in watercolour pieces, comes from a family of artists.
“I've always drawn. My father and three uncles were artists, illustrators and political cartoonists,” she said. “But as a child I didn't want to be an artist; I thought all artists were poor and lived in garrets.”
McInnes became a physiotherapist, specializing in pediatrics and neurology.
“It was great for travelling as I worked in Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland.”
In 1970, McInnes started painting part-time and by 1996 she was a full-time artist.
“It became part-time again in 2005 when the farm was established with three alpacas.”
McInnes, who is an elected member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and a signature member of the Toronto Watercolour Society, said she loves watercolours because of the colours and textures that are possible.
“I paint what I feel about a place or animal,” she said. “I am often inspired by travels to the Yukon, Arctic, Peru, Africa, Mongolia, and the environment around my farm.”
For more information, visit kai-liis.com.



For mixed-media artist Debra Shelswell, art is all about the texture.
“I love experimenting with media that can create depth and mystery and, sometimes, just amusement,” she said. “Even the few paintings that I do have at least some texture – perhaps sand, plaster, silicone or even coffee grounds. I have also had some fun making garden sculptures out of found fence wire, car parts, stained glass and other odds and ends.”
Shelswell admits it took a while before she considered herself a real artist.
“Although I have always been creative and played with various crafts. To me, my siblings were the artists because they can draw,” she said.
She was in her late 30s before she decided to have some fun decorating a few flowerpots using beads, wire and bits of leather.
“The leather appealed to me so I acquired some larger pieces, which morphed into jewelry, candle-holders, leather covered vases and free form wall hangings,” she said. “My first show was Christmas Celebrations at the old Continental Inn in Barrie in 1992, and I quite enjoyed the experience and the feedback.”
She was hooked. 
“Things just kept evolving as I kept playing. My brother took up stained glass and showed me the basics. I designed my own stained glass pieces, adding agates and other crystals. Crystals found their way into wall pieces – now done on wood – with leather, wire, solder and other found objects. Over the years, I've used hundreds of different items in my work.”
The artist has not had any formal art training, but Shelswell said it's better that way.
“I rather like not knowing all the rules – this way I'm not afraid to experiment and see what happens,” she said.
Shelswell is constantly collecting raw material to work with.
To create a piece, she starts with one piece of metal or chunk of crystal and then adds to it from her collection of materials.
“I can spend a considerable amount of time looking through everything to find the right combination of materials that work together. It's a process of moving the elements around until I'm satisfied. I mix contrasting textures: like soft leather with cold stone, hard metal or warm wood.”
Her favourite part is watching how the piece changes as she's creating.
“When I begin, I may have an idea, but I never know what a piece will look like before it's finished. It's very much an intuitive process for me. Much of my work takes me quite a while to complete, not because it's necessarily that complicated, but because I fiddle around with it. There are so many options since there is no definite way a piece is supposed to turn out.”
Shelswell considers herself a scavenger. A walk on the beach, in a garden or the woods, a visit to the Re-Store, or a garage sale can turn into a masterpiece. 
“I look at odd bits of things and get a charge out of wondering what I can do with them,” she said.
For more information, visit debrashelswell.com.



Art has always been a part of Jan Wheeler's life.
She started drawing at an early age and started taking art lessons at age eight.
After earning a design arts diploma, Wheeler started her career as a graphic designer and travelled across Canada, Japan, Italy and the U.K with her work.
“Along the way, I was able to take formal courses between contract work. Programs included intensive studies at Lorenzo d'Medici School of Art in Florence, Italy and mentored conceptual studies at Byam Shaw School in London, U.K.,” she said. “The bulk of the training and development of course is the endless hours of studio work.”
Painting was a natural fit for Wheeler.
“With painting I can bring both form and colour together to create an intensity of expression that better projects my interpretations of wilderness scenes,” she said.
Wheeler's process begins with first finding locations to express. She has been known to kayak, hike, sail and snowshoe to find that perfect location.
“The method used informs what tools I have with me to work with. After all, I have to carry them and for some distance. I like to take pencil and paper and do quick drawings on-site along with a photo and colour notations. In the studio, I develop the drawing and take it to canvas.”
She admits her style has developed over many years.
“I seek to capture the rhythmical movement of the scene. Using oils I layer and blend colour to further build and complete the painting,” she said. 

For more information, visit janwheeler.com .

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