Edie McIntyre works in solitude, spooning out a tablespoon of powder –– the colour of Colombian coffee –– onto a sheet of paper. She adds a dab of pure walnut oil, mixing it in until it emerges into a rusty sheen –– a burnt sienna, or maybe it is a red ochre –– only an artist who has dabbled in dry earth pigments truly knows.
Then with her finger, she rubs the colour onto the canvas, adding warmth and depth to the skin tone of a woman’s arm.
“I love the smell of paint,” says McIntyre, an Edmonton native who has been the artist-in-residence at Coldstream’s Mackie Lake House the past week. “I used to paint sunsets and horses when I was young, but for the past 20 years I have focused on life drawing.”
Working on her latest portrait –– the model is of a friend from back home –– the remnants of the Mackie house serve as a backdrop.
Behind McIntyre are shelves stacked with metal implements and old porcelain dishes, likely used years ago by the previous owners of the house: Grace and Hugh Mackie and their sons, including the last to live there, Patrick, who was better known as Paddy.
“I was invited to do the residency, and thought what a wonderful opportunity. It’s a beautiful home and such a luxury to have my art honoured in a way,” said McIntyre.
An English major in university, McIntyre painted in watercolours and drew wildlife in pen and ink before pointing her artistic vision towards the human form.
She started taking life drawing sessions at the Harcourt House Arts Centre in Edmonton, working from models to paint large classic-like figurative portraits.
A past board member of the Alberta Society of Artists who currently serves on the board of the Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada, McIntyre has painted subjects, from a homeless man she met in Washington D.C. to a series where she painted famous artists such as Degas and OKeefe.
Texture is important to McIntyre.
Besides using her fingers in lieu of a brush, she works with resilient materials as canvas, such as vintage linen, drafting film (used for blueprints) and layers of beeswax, which she melts and then levels with a heat gun, repeating the process.
“I am always on the lookout for paper. I use a lot of brown waxed paper for life drawing and usually work on big canvasses, and am always experimenting with surfaces,” she said. “I like it to be organic. I work with organic materials to find the chiaroscuro (Italian method of art started during the Renaissance period characterized by high contrast). I like to find the life within by working with light. I work from light to dark in the watercolour method.”
McIntyre heard about the Mackie residency from Bernice Nakashima, a former director of the Mackie Lake House Foundation, which runs the house as an education and social centre, with school programs as well as writer and artist residencies, tours, teas, and other functions.
“We met years ago in Jasper when I did a drawing of the church she was married in,” explained McIntyre, who is no stranger to the Southern Interior as she has a summer residence in New Denver.
“I always drove past Vernon to our place in New Denver. Now I have a totally different impression of the area than I had before. There is such a history here.”
McIntyre has been soaking up some of that history while living at the house for 10 days.
Spending nights alone in the 100-year-old mansion, she says it has sometimes been too quiet, but she has enjoyed the views of Kalamalka Lake from the same windows the Mackies looked out from.
“I love the wildlife: the quail, pheasants and the mama deer and her two fawns that have visited almost every day.”
She has taken many photos of the property and has been exploring the numerous artifacts that are preserved in the house, including the watercolours that Paddy painted of local landscapes, as well as his poetry, and old sheet music.
“He was a real renaissance man,” said McIntyre. “The whole experience has been wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to be in this building and take in all the history.”
McIntyre will also become part of the history. Her residency stipulates that she leave a painting to the house.
“I would like to do a portrait of Paddy,” she said.
For more information on the Mackie Lake House and its programs, visit www.mackiehouse.ca.