Catching the eye of the people

An interview with VisArt2013 People’s Choice Award winner Val MacPhee

Val MacPhee

Val MacPhee

Helen Duckworth

While we’re approaching summer, Val MacPhee won the public’s vote with a winter theme, in her acrylic piece “Winter Color.”

Val contributed the work to the May VisArt2013 annual adjudicated exhibition at the Cranbrook and District Arts Council, and whilst she just missed out on winning prizes from the judged aspect of the show, she definitely caught the attention of the voting public.

After news of her win, Val gave me the time to sit down with her and discuss what this means to her, her influences and inspirations and gave some advice for people wanting to enter VisArts2014 next year. Quietly confident and with a quick wit and genuine love of art, Val was a pleasure to talk with and gave a lot of useful insight to aspiring artists and followers of the the CDAC.

I asked Val how she felt when she heard she had won the people’s choice award: “I felt great,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been the recipient of a few people’s choice awards and (for me) I feel that winning this prize is a great confirmation that I’m on the right track and that other people relate to what I’m doing.”

When asked why Val chose to put “Winter Color” into the show, she ‘felt that it has a strong design element with a play on color and high contrast” which people find visually appealing, and is somewhat reminiscent of what people have come to recognize as her style.

Val is known for her use of color but this piece was an exploration from her comfort zone in that she used more neutrals alongside the bold colors she is known for. Val took the subject of this piece from a photograph by a fellow artist, but usually takes her own photographs as the basis of her pieces.

She herself is influenced by the impressionist style, she enthuses she ‘likes the idea of broken color, to see brush strokes … seeing the juicy color and paint texture’ on a piece. She quotes Monet, his famous “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies,” (1899) and the accompanying series painted of his gardens in Giverny, France as sources of inspiration.

So what was Val’s approach to the annual adjudicated show? “Normally pieces I enter are more experimental in competitions,” she says, which is evident to followers of her work through her diverse range of styles and the exploration of media throughout the body of her work.

“If it catches the eye from across the room, even better.”

So does Val have any advice for those thinking of entering VisArts2014? “I’ve entered every VisArts (at the CADC) for the last ten years and really enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s a great way to (get) exposure and it’s not about winning, more about doing.”

Val is currently working on bigger projects but looks forward to getting involved in exhibiting again with the CDAC at the Artrageous Art Gallery in the near future.

The Arts Council has a lot planned for the coming summer, having just welcomed in the new board for 2013-14 at the annual general meeting on June 5th. Mitch Pocha, last year’s vice-president, will take over from Linda Holmes as president and brings a fresh approach to the board. Linda promises to keep her finger on the CDAC pulse, and proved as much volunteering for the Sam Steele Days “Bygone Days” opening reception which took place on June 6. The CDAC thanks returning board members Jenny Humphrey and Landon Elliot for their continuing hard work as board members for 2013-14, and welcomes new board members Luigi Cupello, Vine Madder, Tessa McGregor, Bill McColl, Mark Duckworth, Howie Mason and Sioux Browning.

For those interested, you can find out more about the Cranbrook and District Arts Council, their current exhibitions and workshops, via their ‘CDAC’ Facebook page, by emailing them at, visiting their website or visiting the gallery and office space in room 104, 135 10th Avenue South, Cranbrook, B.C, V1C 4J6.

Helen Duckworth is with the Cranbrook and District Arts Council

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