Local Painter Laurie Vickery
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by John Liviero
When asked how she spends her free time, 61-year-old Dominion Golf Course employee Laurie Vickery doesn’t hesitate with her answer: “Gardening,” Laurie states. “I love all things nature. Trees. Birds. Bees. Flowers. I love everything Mother Nature has given us.”
A moment of silence passes.
“Oh,” Laurie catches herself. “And painting, I guess.”
Laurie grew up in a small farming community called Thamesville. She spent most of her childhood playing with her siblings at her grandfather’s hundred-acre crop farm.
“Grandpa kept a piece of bush on the property,” Laurie recalls. “He liked to take us out there. We would hunt morels and look for arrowheads and fossils.”
Those long days spent under the blistering sun would shine through Laurie’s canvases. She first started painting seven years ago, in the summer of 2014. That year, she received a painting kit as a gift from her two daughters, Christina (who is also an artist!) and Jennifer. However, rather than immediately splashing colours around, Laurie ended up sitting on it for a number of months.
It wasn’t until the family took a trip to Wiarton that Laurie discovered her new passion.
“I had taken the painting kit with me, sort of on a whim,” Laurie explains. “One day, the husband went fishing, and I set myself up a painting station outside the RV. I put the tutorial DVD in the television, and started painting along with the video.”
Laurie admits that her first attempt was nothing to write home about.
“I was frustrated,” Laurie states. “The instructor on the TV made it look so easy!”
Rather than give up on her new craft, Laurie indulged a moment of inspiration.
“When I finished that first piece, I still had all this paint on my tray,” Laurie explains. “So, I took a look across the bay at the Niagara Escarpment. I turned off the television and decided to paint that.”
Instead of falling into a sophomore slump, Laurie immediately found her second wind. “I was encouraged by that,” Laurie states. “I decided to keep going and give it another try.”
For the last seven years, Laurie has painted almost compulsively. Her style ranges from the breathtakingly realistic to the hauntingly evocative. Dark trees bathed in autumnal leaves. Blood-red roses shimmering against a jagged black landscape. A mossy river slithering underneath mountains so blue they seem composed of crystals.
And this is all from a woman who has never so much as doodled the first 60 years of her life.
“I never did anything artistic as a kid,” Laurie admits. “Although, my daughter did point out to me that, when she was young, I would make my own Christmas decorations. Bows and reefs and urns and all that kind of stuff. I used to give them away as gifts. But, it never even dawned on me to try anything like this. Even now, I don’t draw anything on a canvas before I start. I don’t think I could draw a circle if you begged me to!”
Naturally, Laurie’s family and friends were astonished when she started producing these amazing works of art.
“They were all pretty surprised,” Laurie explains. “My daughters said, ‘Holy cow, Mom! You can actually do this!’”
And sometimes, when she’s feeling generous, Laurie takes requests.
“My husband has a real thing for eagles,” Laurie states. “One day, he asked me, ‘Can you paint an eagle?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. Let me go upstairs and try.’ I found a really, really great close up of the head of an eagle. So, I painted it and the canvas is hanging downstairs in his study.”
Laurie describes her style as completely improvised, fully intuitive.
“I don’t have a formal style or any kind of training,” Laurie admits. “I just kind of wing it! I’ll get an idea, and I’ll just see if I can do it! Sometimes I look at old photographs. And sometimes it’s just whatever happens to come out of my head.”
Laurie reckons that she’s likely produced over 75 paintings in the last few years. And, while choosing a favourite would be like choosing a favourite child, there is one work in particular that she takes a great deal of pride in.
“It’s called Family Tree,” Laurie reports. “It’s just petals and leaves, five roses and all kinds of green hills in between. And the whole frame is filled with these black lines, that makes the whole canvas look like a stained glass piece. Everyone seems to love that one! It makes my heart smile.”
And the smiles must be contagious. Laurie’s paintings have a profound effect on everyone who views them. Which, considering the trials and tribulations of the last year, is more important than ever.
“I started painting a lot more during the pandemic,” Laurie states. “The golf course was shut down. I was home all the time. And whenever I talked to people or went on Facebook, all I could see was negativity and sadness. So, I started to post a different
picture every day. Some old. Some new. I even came up with themes: Mountain Mondays, Whacky Wednesdays and Throwback Thursdays. And people reacted! Every day, they were waiting for me to post something. It was something that could make them smile for a minute. And that brought me great joy.”
But, perhaps more significantly, is the effect that painting has on the artist herself.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘What are you going to do with all those paintings?’” Laurie explains. “And I’ll say, ‘It doesn’t matter if I don’t do anything with them. Maybe I’ll just paint over them!’ It’s something that gives me peace. My studio is a serene place for me to go. I can just melt into the painting and the world goes away for a while. It’s very therapeutic.”
Laurie encourages anyone interested in painting to pick up a brush and give it a try.
“People always say, ‘Oh, that’s so beautiful. You’re so talented. I could never do that!’” Laurie reports. “But, how do you know you couldn’t do that? In our house, when the kids were growing up, we had a rule that two words that never go together are I and can’t. Unless you try and find out, then you can’t say I can’t. I never knew I could do this either. It never mattered to me if anyone else liked my paintings. All that ever mattered was that I enjoyed doing it.”
Laurie’s work can be found on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/laurie.vickery.