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What Makes Art Beautiful?

What makes a piece of art beautiful? This is a question often asked of artists and something that is hard to define. When we interviewed local painter and lead organizer of the Hammond Bay Studio Tour, Carla Stein, we asked this very question. Carla responded by stating that “beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder.”

While Carla couldn’t say what makes art beautiful for everyone, she finds that skill and understanding of the materials an artist chooses to work with can greatly enhance the conceptualization of an artist’s ideas. When looking at others’ work, what Carla looks for in a piece varies and depends on the art form. While there are some “academic elements” (colour palette and composition, for example) to consider, there are also the harder-to-define elements like mood, emotion, or meaning. After all, you don’t really know what you are looking for until you see it.

When producing her own art, regardless of subject matter, Carla wants her pieces to “illicit a story”. The art of storytelling through visuals is important to Carla and she strives to have her art provide some sort of “piece-of-mind”. Not only that, but she also sees art as a conversation between the artist, the medium, and the viewer. Ultimately, she likes for the viewer to embed themselves within the work of art.

Some Background on the Nanaimo Art Scene

When conversation shifted to the Nanaimo art scene in general, Carla said that “Nanaimo art exhibits some signs of unique styles.”

What about Nanaimo lends itself to cultivating a creative community?
Carla finds that the setting of Nanaimo naturally contributes a great deal to the local art scene. She emphasized that the incredibly beautiful, wild, and raw setting of Nanaimo might be the biggest source of inspiration for local talent, and she believes that this intense beauty is a major reason many artists and people with creative tendencies are drawn to the area.
What makes Nanaimo somewhat different from many cities around the world is the simple fact that Nanaimo is a dynamic urban hub bordered by an incredibly rich, natural setting along all sides, from seascapes to dense temperate rainforests to rocky mountain peaks. This happy mix of terrain has endowed the area with so much creative inspiration.

The culture of the community lends itself quite well to promoting the arts. There is an art lab in the Nanaimo Art Gallery, and strong culture of public art displays. Carla also mentioned that First Nations culture—specifically Snuneymuxw culture—has done a great deal to shape Nanaimo art. “First Nations art is fabulous and distinctive.”

The Nanaimo art community is growing and has been doing so quite rapidly over the past few years, said Carla, and she says it is nice to now have an arts district in downtown Nanaimo. The residents of Nanaimo and its visitors are great supporters of the arts.

About The Tour

First founded in 2013, The Hammond Bay Studio Tour is an annual event that showcases the artistic talents of some of Nanaimo’s local residents. The tour itself is the result of a number of artists who live on and have studios that are accessible from Hammond Bay Road.

This event functions as a neighbourhood collective of artists who work in various two and three-dimensional art forms. Many artists have their own studios, most of which are open all year round. A good number of the artists in Nanaimo belong to the Federation of Canadian Artists. Each year guest artists, who may not be residents of the Hammond Bay area, are invited to show their work at the collective’s studios.

This year’s tour takes place on the last weekend of May, Saturday May 26th and Sunday May 27th. Twelve studios will be exhibiting the work of twenty artists and artisans.
There are three guest studios—new this year—that showcase artwork from other artists who have been asked to participate. These artists come from all over and in this way, they add a freshness to the Hammond Bay Art Tour.

Note: this year, there is also a “sneak peek” exhibit at the North Nanaimo Library, which showcases the local art from the artists involved with the Hammond Bay Art Tour!
With an increase in the number of participating artists and venues this year, there will be ample opportunity to explore many different forms of art. There will pieces encompassing painting, pottery, woodworking, felting, jewellery, iron work, and glasswork. There is truly something for everyone!

What You will Gain

When asked “What do you hope participants gain from this tour?” Carla said “Enjoyment!” Ultimately, exploring and enjoying the work of local and guest artists is at the heart of this event. Work at all the studios is available for purchase, but the tour itself is free, and art is meant to be shared with art lovers! Everyone who goes on the tour, whether returning or new, finds something that brightens their day. People leave the tour feeling enriched by their newfound understanding of the creative process, and for those especially lucky, maybe even the spark of a new interest or hobby.

Many of the artists also offer classes and workshops. For those who do purchase art, it is suggested you talk with the artists when visiting their studios. The procedures for the safe transport of art will depend on the size and style of the piece.

How To Successfully Navigate The HB Studio Tour

The tour is self-guided with an easy-to-follow map on brochures and interactive maps found on the Hammond Bay Studio Tour website.
Signage along the tour route makes studios easy to locate (look for the red balloons!).

In addition to online, patrons can also obtain copies of the brochure (which contains a tour map) from the Serious Coffee location at 6357 Hammond Bay Road; the Vancouver Island Library’s North Nanaimo Branch; and at Iron Oxide Art Supplies – #5 Victoria Road, Downtown Nanaimo).

Brochures can also be found at the Tourism Nanaimo Info Centre located at 2450 Northfield Road.

Are you wanting to to sit down and relax before, during, or after the tour? Stop by Serious Coffee! The Hammond Bay Serious Coffee is a big supporter of Nanaimo art and sponsors to the Hammond Bay Studio Tour and have been doing so for a number of years.

Want to learn more about the studios, the artists, and the story of the Hammond Bay Studio Tour? Browse their website to find maps, brochure info, and more.

— Written by Curtis Havekotte