Gwendolyn Best: Cats, rats, bats, crows and owls

Gwendolyn Best. Photo by Doublespace
Gwendolyn Best and her spunky outcast cats, rats, bats and crows. Photo by Doublespace Photography

UPDATE: Now on at Orange Gallery: Tired Paws and Weary Wings, Gwendolyn Best’s solo show is a tribute to the four-legged and winged residents of Parliament Hill’s Cat Sanctuary, 1970-2013. 

This is sludge,” says Gwendolyn Best by way of introduction in her studio. She’s pointing out the paint that undercoats the iconic cats, bats, rats and crows that have become famous in Kitchissippi over the last year.

“This is cast-off paint and it’s perfect for my cast-off characters,” the artist explains. After building a base of sludge, Best brings out the personality in each black beast with patient brush strokes and a little bit of magic.

Best began painting crows years ago in response to a call-out at Billings Estate for a show entitled “Art is for the Birds.” “It was a playful, inspiring title,” remembers Best. “And I painted 27 crows.”

Gwendolyn Best with her outcast creatures. Photo by Doublespace Photography
Gwendolyn Best with her outcast creatures. Photo by Doublespace Photography

Later she began painting cats, but was careful to avoid what she calls ‘pedigree cats,’ preferring, instead to paint overlooked felines.
Her current repertoire features cats, bats, rats and crows in pairs, clusters and on their own against bold, colourful backgrounds.

Despite focusing on certain figures and combinations, Best enjoys being spontaneous and responding to each image as she’s creating it. “I don’t like to work too much with a plan. My favourite paintings happen when there’s a problem and then I figure out a solution to the problem.”

Best’s attention to colour and her belief that less is more comes from her background as a Waldorf teacher.

With recent success at shows in Orange Gallery and Cube Gallery, Best decided to try the WEST End Studio Tour for the first year in September 2012 and joined thirteen other area artists in opening her home and studio to visitors on the weekends of September 22-23 and 29-30.

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