Artist Rena Bierman - AIC Interview

Alberta Artist Rena Bierman began painting “living ” flowers and fruit as her full time focus in 2011. After building a body of work with that subject matter, her art is now represented in Alberta, British Columbia and Arizona.
"I distinguish my florals and fruit as “living” because that’s exactly what they are. They are not cut down, put in a vase, nor are the fruit picked and put on a plate. They are as you see them in nature — alive."
Rena paints colour in full chroma since flowers and fruit are not too shy to display their lavish colour. They are created to attract; she can do no less. Realistic, romantic and painterly, but not photographic.

Question:
When did you realize you had the need to create and develop your skills?
Answer:
When I first got married. My husband was attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and he suggested I begin to take art classes. I have developed over the years, painting all subjects, including musical portraits; however after my husband passed away ten years ago, I re-invented my art. I had been an instructor for 20 + years, so I needed to keep sharp with my skills in every area of painting, but after I quit teaching over ten years ago, I re-invented myself as an artist. I naturally fell into painting living flowers and fruit exclusively. Once I began to refocus where I wanted to go as a floral artist, I was compelled and driven to simply create more. There are a lot of flowers out there, so I don't have to worry about falling short of inspiration.

Question:
How do you know when your art is complete?
Answer:
As long as I know there is still something else to refine in the painting, I keep working. Then I come to a point where adding to it would be taking away from it. It's instinctive I guess.

Question:
Where do you gather your inspiration from?
Answer:
I tramp through market places, floral shops, gardens and fields etc. with my camera in hand looking for that unusual flower, with exciting colours and just the right amount of light. My friends, family and neighbours frequently invite me to see an orchid or amaryllis they have been growing, or ask me to visit the lilies in their flower beds. When one of their treasured flowers becomes a painting, or is designed on a garment in my clothing line, they are quite honoured.

Question:
Where do you typically create art?
Answer:
I go on photo shoots, then bring my photos into my studio which is where I create art, even though the creative process begins with taking the photo. Quite often I bring home plants and fresh flowers to paint them from life in my studio. Even so, I still photograph them because sometimes the plants don't last as long as it takes to paint a 60 x 48 inch painting. Although I am skilled at “painting” flowers, I am known for killing plants, so the photo is needed.

Question:
Right now, what is your medium of choice and what is your favourite subject matter?
Answer:
I love to paint flowers in oils. I paint with top quality oils that are like slipping and sliding around with coloured butter. What fun!

Question:
All artists at all stages of their career want to try something new, what other medium or subject matter do you see yourself experimenting with?
Answer:
I have used acrylics and painted murals and decorative art in show homes and private homes. Then I painted with acrylics, but kept longing for oils the whole time. Finally I decided I would stick to my love of oils.

Question:
Continuing education, do you partake and if so what did you learn?
Answer:
I have continued to take courses presented by artists. But my continued education mostly comes from exploring new things and referring to the many books which fill libraries. I also have found inspirational new ideas and techniques revealed on YouTube. I have many years of painting experience, so self teaching is a way of life for me. Every time I take on a new project which is entirely different, it is an education simply bringing it to completion. However, I have taken some art marketing courses which I have implemented in my career with great results.

Question:
Have you ever taught a class or done an artist talk? If so, what did you talk about or teach? Can people sign up for your workshops and how?
Answer:
I taught art classes for over 20 years, and now I do demonstrations in galleries. I talk to those who watch me paint, about how I achieve depth perception in the many and varied ways that it can be accomplished. Recently, during an Avens Gallery demonstration in Canmore, Alberta, I was painting water drops on a flower which piqued the curiosity of nearly everyone who came by. They stood on the side of the canvas to see if I had built up material to make the droplets look like they were standing out. I finally had to explain that the canvas was perfectly flat, but I have placed shadows and highlights in just the right places to make them appear in three dimensions. I no longer teach. But I still participate in demonstrations.

Question:
Have you ever painted en plein air? What was the biggest hurdle for you? Environmental challenges, wildlife, people, weather?
Answer:
Years ago, when I painted landscapes, I painted out in the fresh air. Yes there were hurdles. It seems that wasps, hornets and bugs really like the smell of oil paints and the mediums. I don't appreciate them walking across my wet painting, or swatting them constantly. That isn't really a problem for me in my studio.

Question:
Do you do commissions? If so, what is your process?
Answer:
If a client asks for a commission, I will agree to paint the subjects that I am now settled into painting, and not in someone else's style. I discuss the subjects and colours and size, conclude the finances, explain my materials, give them an approximate date of completion and keep in touch during the process. So far I've not had a disappointed client.

Question:
What is your favourite art related quote?
Answer:
“Don’t you hate it when that happens?”

Question:
Do you have a favourite artist and what do you like about their art? Have you ever met them?
Answer:
I do love the work of Mickie Acierno and her attention to detail and luminosity in her work. No I have not met her.

Question:
Did they inspire you to pursue a career as a professional artist?
Answer:
I was more driven to paint than inspired. My family is full of artists and like many of them, I began to create art as a little kid. My professional career initially was in the field of ophthalmology, then I painted as a hobby, then I pursued my craft professionally. I didn’t come across Mickie’s work until recently.

Question:
What is most challenging to you when starting a new project?
Answer:
Looking at a huge white canvas, with the image of what I want to create in my head, wondering how on earth I will bring them both to the same place. Then I get started, and one petal at a time, a flower begins to take form and comes to life.

Question:
What advice would you give to an artist starting out?
Answer:
Approach this as you would any career, coupled with drive, commitment to excel, and a love for what you do.

Question:
What keeps you going forward with your art in this very competitive industry?
Answer:
I love to paint and create. But recognition, accomplishment, achieving things I didn't expect, and success helps! Most of all the love that others have for what I have created, whether they are able to purchase, or not. Seeing viewers tear up when they stand in front of one of my paintings; because the 3 D effect of a large original can be breathtaking.

Question:
In your studio, right now, what is your most important tool that you would be lost without?
Answer:
My great big, heavy duty, hardwood easel which was my husband's last gift to me. He would love to see what I'm painting on that thing now!

Question:
What is your favourite piece of work you have created, thus far?
Answer:
Oh, I can’t really say. I think I appreciate them the most when I haven’t seen them for awhile. By that time I’ve forgotten the challenges I faced painting them.

Question:
What is the most well received piece of art you have created?
Answer:
There have been several. On Fire, Twins, Spanish Dancer, I Can Fly. All of these have been chosen for publication and purchase.

Question:
Do you have a favourite gallery or museum that you visit?
Answer:
The Avens Gallery in Canmore, Alberta