Forget about your age, says 97-year-old Port Coquitlam painter

Chris Pearce will show and sell her watercolour paintings at this weekend's Art Focus art show, at The Outlet in Port Coquitlam.

Chris Pearce flips through hundreds of pages of notes and sketches she’s made at art classes — reminders of the “wonderful teachers” she’s had over the years.

In her nearly five decades as a drawer and painter, the Port Coquitlam artist has picked up many tricks of the trade and ideas for colours, shapes, patterns and subjects.

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While living in the Okanagan in the 1970s, the mother-of-three took up oils but switched to watercolours because she liked the magic of its flow and how it settled.

She studied at Okanagan College and took a number of other courses and workshops with professional artists — among them, Gery Puley (co-founder of the Burlington Fine Arts Association, in Ontario); printmaker and painter Judith Foster; Judi Betts, a signature member of the American and National Watercolor societies; and graphic designer Jack Campbell, who taught for the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

“I have all the notes from the lessons they gave,” Pearce said.

She travelled with many of them, too, sketching and painting in exotic locales in plein air: Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Korea, China, Bali and Mexico. “That’s really where I learned how to paint. I have been really lucky to have had wonderful teachers.”

This weekend, Pearce will exhibit five of her original watercolours in the spring show by the Art Focus Artists Association, of which she is an honorary member; its opening reception is Friday at 7 p.m. in The Outlet, behind Port Coquitlam city hall.

For the display, the 97-year-old artist will have pieces with simple titles — Shore Cornwall, Red Tree, Red Sky, Trees and Morning Glory — all depicting outdoor scenes.
Landscapes are common theme for the Chilliwack-born artist, who credits her longevity to eating well and enjoying nature.

“I like to get out,” she said. “If you don’t think you’re old and you’re careful with your health, you live a long life. Forget about your age.”

Indeed, Pearce’s active lifestyle is admired by many of her Art Focus colleagues, said spokesperson Christine Malone. “She has more energy and is in better shape than some younger people and still drives all over the place, too. She is pretty inspiring."

Pearce, who is also a member of the Garibaldi Art Club in Maple Ridge (which has its annual juried show at the Port Moody Arts Centre this summer), said she’s taken part in nearly every Art Focus demonstration and group show since she joined 17 years ago.

A life-long learner who has seen her artwork displayed in the Port Coquitlam mayor’s office, Pearce dismisses people who say her paintings are “a nice hobby. It’s not a hobby. It’s my life and I’ve got to live 20 to 30 years more because I have got so much to do.”

• Chris Peace is one of 22 artists showing and selling their oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings — and mixed media — at the Art Focus event, which runs Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in The Outlet (2248 McAllister Ave., Port Coquitlam). Admission is free and the Friday night reception is open to the public, also at no cost.

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