A whole new show: Pandemic gives Calgary artist a chance to create wildflower-inspired works

Michelle Austen, Wildly Captivating, photo: Michelle Austen
Michelle Austen painting for her Wildly Captivating show that is currently on display at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. (Contributed-Michelle Austen)Michelle Austen painting for her Wildly Captivating show that is currently on display at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. (Contributed-Michelle Austen)
Michelle Austen, Wildly Captivating, photo: Michelle Austen
Michelle Austen, Wildly Captivating, photo: Michelle Austen

Michelle Austen’s whimsical, nature-inspired show, Wildly Captivating, will be on display at the Revelstoke Visual Art Centre for the remainder of the month.

The Calgary-based artist’s landscapes and floral pieces reflect the natural world that captivates her attention. Initially intended for August 2020, her show was postponed due to COVID-19, which allowed her more time to prepare and specialize the theme.

The original show was “New Territory”, inspired by Alberta’s mountains, prairies and forests. Last year however, after finding out that her show was postponed, she came to Revelstoke anyway and used the time to find inspiration, exploring Mount Revelstoke National Park.

“The wild flowers up there last year were stunning, I was blown away,” said Austen. “I was able to paint some of the giant cedars and the Selkirks and the wildflowers in the area, that’s how I ended up changing the show.”

Austen explained that the show being postponed was perfect for her work, as it resulted in her new show taking place alongside the Revelstoke Wildflower Festival.

READ MORE: New bloom rises, Revelstoke wildflower festival returns

“My primary love of painting is flowers, so Wildly Captivating seemed to be a perfect fit.”

Austen’s creative process begins with adventure, through hiking and exploring the natural world she finds inspiration, collects sketches and takes photographs which she uses as reference.

“I try to do all that in season and then I have lots of material for winter and studio work,” remarked Austen.

Austen said that she started painting during junior high, while she was good and received awards for her early work, she was soon directed towards the work force.

She studied medical lab technology and began a family in her early 20s, planning to pick up the brushes again once her kids where older. As that period of her life grew closer her life shifted drastically and unexpectedly.

“I became a single parent and I thought, ‘oh boy what am i going to do now?’. So I started teaching art and decided I was going to stay and try do the best I could with my art.”

She progressed as an art teacher and became the artist in residence for the school system in Calgary.

Her openness to new opportunities allowed her to grow as an artist. She started being involved at the Leighton Art Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting emerging artists.

She continued hungrily, showing art whenever she could before getting noticed by the Master Gallery Ltd. in Calgary and developing her first show.

Austen also wrote, illustrated and self-published her own children’s book called Adventures of Wilde: A Sense of Wonder, about a bear cub named Wilde, who makes a small but meaningful appearance in the current show.

“I hope that people can get out and see the show and support art in Revelstoke, I had such a great time meeting local artists and being about town,” she said. “I hope that people coming through are able to take it in and enjoy seeing art in real time, because it’s been so long since people have been able to.”

Wildly Captivating is showing until Aug. 27, entry is by donation to the Revelstoke Visual Art Centre.

READ MORE: Traveling through time with Revelstoke film photographer Maxim Vidricaire


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