A Review of Stephanie Wellman's It's All About Light
By Holly Drew
Tucked into a corner of the Centrepointe Theatre is the Atrium Gallery, filled with pockets of colour. The reds, yellows, and blues inspire passers-by to take a closer look inside. It is a small, humble space with a modern concept. I sit on the only bench in the room near the entrance, along a wall of windows, and look at the grey clouds outside. It is a dreary day, a stark contrast to the various images of colourful sunsets and sunrises that line the gallery walls. On display is a collection of pastel paintings by Stephanie Wellman (PAC, MPAC) of Russell, Ontario. The collection is called It’s All About the Light.
As Wellman puts it, “Light; physical and spiritual are the basis of my pastel paintings. The heavens offer a palette of many colours and shapes. The horizon presents itself with dark silhouettes of intense form. The discovery of such subject-matter has played an important part in developing my career as an artist.”
The main element of each painting is colour. It is mostly with Wellman’s choice of colour and shading that the image is created. This technique clearly demonstrates how light affects the landscape. Pastels blend hues and shades, paramount to recreating the fleeting texture and vibrancy of nature.
As I walk past the gallery from a distance, I assume they are photographs. Wellman uses the same composition techniques used in photography: lighting, shading and colour. This has given her images a photographic quality.
The piece that draws my attention the most is Deep Blue. This 21’’ x 17’’ image can be broken into three parts. In the bottom third, we see horizontal rows of wheat that end at the horizon line of orange and red bushes. The viewpoint portrays the observer as standing in the field looking ahead as the tops of the wheat can be seen in the bottom of the canvas.
Everything about the colour gives a sense of the depth of field in the image. The dark strokes of brown at the base of the wheat give detail. The wheat is tall and mature and can produce shade, as the colour fades up to a honey orange and golden blonde. This also aids the pastel stroke lines to show movement, as if gusts of wind are rolling through the field.
Above the horizon line, the other two thirds of the image are taken up by the sky. In complementary contrast, the sky begins as a deep royal blue, then fades to a lighter shade near the top. Just above the horizon line, four white birds at various heights and sizes, yet relatively small, fly above the horizon line to the left of the centre. The birds pull the viewer’s attention up into the sky.
Two images in the collection seem misplaced to me. Pink Lining is honest - there is pink lining to the clouds. Yet the depth and texture of the clouds are not so clearly seen, as it is in Everywhere - which is purely about the depth and texture of clouds created with various tones and shades of white, grey, yellow, and blue. Both images have small colour palettes, but Pink Lining doesn’t seem to capture the details as well as other images in the collection.
In Light Line the colours used are even more conflicting with the rest of the collection. The image has a clear black mountain range in the very bottom of the image, only a centimetre high, however the rest of the image seems flat as the muted colours of white, rusty orange, and brown do not provide much detail in the cloud formation.
Although the imagery does keep to the theme of light, the use of colour does not follow suit with the others. The colours appear more muted and come from dull grey and copper palettes. I suppose Wellman was simply trying to stay authentic to what she had seen in the sky but I believe these two do not belong in the collection.
Before I leave the gallery, I examine how the pastel paintings are displayed. Each painting has its own spotlight focused on the canvas. After spending time looking at the images, I muse that with the amount of technique applied, if I was to turn off all of the lights, each one would begin to illuminate the room like sunlight streaming through open windows.
Holly Drew is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Holly is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where she spent a lot of time hiking in the beautiful Algoma District and Upper U.P., Michigan. Holly’s other home is in Lima, Peru, where she lived for one year as a Rotary International Exchange Student. Holly enjoys adventure, photography, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and writing.