A brush with painting brings colour to newcomers' lives

Newcomers to P.E.I. have been taking part in a watercolour class this fall. Their work will be put on display Wednesday afternoon.

Inaugural watercolour class for newcomers wraps up with a show Wednesday

Artist Julia Purcell shares some painting techniques with her class. (Karen Mair/CBC)

Tucked away in the Confederation Centre of the Arts, a group of people have their noses almost to the page. They're taking the inaugural watercolour class for newcomers and on Wednesday afternoon they'll put on an art show.  

"I'm painting the house in the winter, I like the snow," said Yan Peng from southern China. She adds some yellow to an image of an old Island house. Like many in the class she hasn't studied painting before and she loves it.

Manouchchr Alkhorshid (right) from Iran plans to continue painting. (Karen Mair/CBC)

Julia Purcell, who is leading the class, says the idea came from her own experiences with people new to the Island.

"I have a little studio in Clyde River," said the well-known P.E.I. artist. "I get a lot of visitors and many of them were newcomers and there was a strong cultural drive to learn to paint."  

Purcell collaborated with her hometown South Shore Arts Council, the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery to make it happen.   

'All kinds of colours'

Off to the side of the Schurman Family Studio, the Gallery's visual arts educator Kate Sharpley is cutting borders to frame the students' work. She says the gallery can seem hidden at times.

"Not a lot of people, if you're not from here, know how to get in or that it's there," she said. 

"The students go up to the Gallery every other week to look at art that ties in with their lessons." 

It makes my life more colourful.- Kit Tsang

Kit Tsang, from Hong Kong, is shy at first about her art, but not for long. She says taking the class has resulted in a lot of changes for her. 

"I met some good people, but it changed the aspect of colour for me," she said.

"When I look at the sky, a tree, a tree is not green it's all kinds of colours, it makes my life more colourful."  

Kit Tsang (right) says the class has made her life more colourful. (Karen Mair/CBC)

'Painting is transporting'

The course creators realize some of their students may have been through a lot of stress in the journey to Canada and adjusting to life here.

"I think art is really important in someone's life because it shows there are so many ways to do something," Sharpley said. 

"Just to have time to express yourself in a different way." 

Two students display some of their works. (Karen Mair/CBC)

"Painting is transporting," Purcell agreed.  

The watercolour class for newcomers will exhibit their work Wednesday, Nov. 22 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Schurman Family Studio (Art Bunker).

About the Author

Karen Mair

Karen Mair is an award-winning journalist and an 'Islander by choice.' Since 1986 she's worked as a host, producer, reporter and social media presenter. These days, you'll find Karen reporting for digital and radio.