When Doris J. Paterson thinks about her artistic life, she uses the metaphor of a pyramid.
At first, she painted common themes like flowers, landscapes and portraits, which sold well. But as she experimented, her style narrowed and she says she became less understood.
"When you get to the top of the pyramid, there's hardly anybody left," the Mission resident said. "People don't like change. It's like a rock star: They are in one mode of their career and people expect you to always stay that way.... They're shaken up if he turns completely different. You have to reach an educated audience when you reach the top."
Paterson's evolution came a few years back when she studied with an American teacher who instructed her students to paint unconsciously - that is, to paint layers on top of layers until something appealing showed up.
"You sort of block off your brain as you're doing this," she said. "In my instance, as I proceeded, I found that subject matter came out of what I was doing and I was kind of shocked. If you veer away from that subject matter that appears to you, then everything will fall apart. But if you honour it, it will stand for you in good stead."
Paterson now considers herself a minimalist abstrationist, meaning, "I don't care to have a lot going on in my work," she said. "It's very simplified and, by that, it becomes more powerful."
She acknowledges her current artwork is, perhaps, a reaction to her former life, when it was very full and very, very busy.
A mother of 10 children, the English-born woman lived around the world with her Armed Forces families. Her father rose to the rank of army major in the Royal Engineers and moved his family around the United Kingdom and to Hong Kong.
Her first husband was in the air force and they also moved frequently, mostly across Canada. In total, she has lived in 46 homes.
In spite of her large family and relocations every two years, Paterson not only found time to paint but to attend classes and to write poems and books, including an autobiography titled Do It Whichever Way You Can. She was encouraged to keep going with her art after winning a prize in the first exhibit she entered in 1962.
Now, at 86, the multi-award winning artist said she "continues to mature" with her work. And, this month, Paterson will display 30 acrylic paintings, dating back to 1982, that "gives the audience a chance to see how the artist changes," she said.
Her solo show, titled A Renaissance Woman Artist, starts tomorrow (Thursday) in the Leonore Peyton Salon at Coquitlam's Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave.).
The opening reception runs from 7 to 9 p.m. and also features new exhibits by Lili Masbough as well as members from the Fraser Valley Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists. The three exhibits close June 4.
For more information, call 604-664-1636 or visit www.placedesarts.ca.