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Yorkton woman reflects on years of art work

Several pieces currently on display at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery.

YORKTON – The local artist's exhibition currently on display at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery features multiple submissions from talented artists in the area.

One artist used her spot in the exhibition to showcase her acrylic paintings displaying historical Yorkton buildings.

Jeann Spilak currently has five pieces in the exhibition, three of which are acrylic paintings.  They include the now demolished City of Yorkton office which once stood on 3rd Avenue North next to City Hall, the original Simpson School, now demolished but was once a part of what is now the Prairie Harvest Christian Life Centre, and the CPR Railway Station, which once stood near the City Centre Park.

"They are sort of architectural designs of the actual buildings – so of course it has to be pretty precise," said Spilak of her works, adding, "you almost kind of have to be a draftsman to get everything right and get your measurements right."

Spilak said there is no definitive design when it comes to other types of art she practices, but that the paintings of the historical buildings had to be specific.

"I do use a bit of pencil – I don't start off with pencil, but I add my corners and do my points of interest to begin with so I can measure my metric and millimeters and centimeters to get it right."

Spilak said that although she had been practicing different types of art for 30-40 years, she hadn't considered architecture until about 15 years ago.

"I started with the schools – I did all the Catholic schools and I did Sacred Heart," said Spilak.

Spilak said she'd been working at Sacred Heart High School as a librarian at the time.

"I really loved Sacred Heart," said Spilak, adding, "it started because we were having a reunion in 1991 and I thought for the reunion I'd like to have a couple pictures of Sacred Heart – that was the old Sacred Heart of course."

The old Sacred Heart is what is now called the Gladstone Seniors Residence.

"It was quite an experience," said Spilak.

"Of course, I did St. Joe's because they were demolishing St. Joes," said Spilak.

St. Joe's, another Catholic School located across from the Yorkton Regional High School, which was demolished in the mid-2000s, another painting of Park Place, a former bed and breakfast in the city and also a painting of Harvest Meats.

Spilak took time to reflect on some of her past works and achievements.

"I've been in the local artist show for the last 30 years or 20 years," said Spilak, adding, "I did have a show here about seven years ago...it was all miniatures."

Spilak said that Don Stein – the curator for the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery at the time - asked Spilak if she could do up 200–300 miniature paintings for the show.

Spilak agreed and said it took her two or three months to complete all of the miniature paintings.

"Most of them were landscape – most of it was Saskatchewan, some of it was Canada," said Spilak, adding, "I had a little part of just portraits – grandkids and friends," and, "I had a little collection of abstract ones that I did with alcohol inks."

"Some done with oils, some done with water colour – I've done all the mediums, I guess," said Spilak.

Spilak said that along with practicing different forms of art she also taught them as well.

"For two or three years I taught at Mental Health," said Spilak, noting that the art was therapeutic for the people learning it.

"Most of the student art there is still hanging on their walls," said Spilak.

Spilak mentioned that she also taught classes at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery for upwards of seven years.

Spilak said that over the years she's delved into many different artistic mediums and referenced using burnt beeswax.

"I did burnt wax – which was really interesting," said Spilak noting that the process was "way too much work, way too hard, way too time consuming."

"I burned my beeswax outside for about twenty hours to get it black," said Spilak, "anything you touched with it – you can't make a mistake."

Spilak explained her process when it comes to making art.

"Usually when I'm doing one thing I'm doing five other things at the same time – I never really do one thing at a time," said Spilak.

"I start a painting of something and then I look at it for a few days...and then I do something else meanwhile and then I get back to it...you know you get a better perspective when you don't do it for a few days – and then you just see it in a different light," said Spilak.

"Some things take a lot more concentration than others," said Spilak, noting, "Patrick Place – for me – was really hard, it had so many curves and curvatures."

"It was actually quite difficult for me," said Spilak.

"Everything is a challenge, and you know, when you start it, you have a totally different idea than when you're just thinking about it," said Spilak.

Spilak talked about parting with her art and the issues that arise with having an abundance of it.

"You have all these painting, and so, what do you do with them," said Spilak, adding, "you've got to find a place for them," and, "I can't keep everything forever."
When asked if she could part with her painting of Simpson School, Spilak said, "I think I'd like to maybe make a print of it first."

Jean Spilak's art, along with over 50 other local artists' work, is available to view at the Godfrey Dead Art Gallery until June 30.