Passionate about art

St. Hilda’s Anglican Church


What drives an artist to create? Where do they find inspiration? How does their spirituality appear in their creations? These were some of the questions that four painters and one potter answered during a panel discussion at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church on Sept. 20, titled Art and Spirit: An Exploration of the Creative Process.

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Bishop Melissa Skelton of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster visited the Coast for the first time, and opened the discussion by saying that art, religion and spirituality have been interwoven since time began. Skelton started with the basic premise that we need art and that God is the ultimate creator.

Halfmoon Bay artist Gigi Hoeller paints with passion to the point that she or others will look at one of her paintings and start crying. For the panel discussion Hoeller exhibited a painting that she has a very deep connection with — the face of an elephant, up close and personal. After a recent trip to Africa where she learned of the problem of elephant poaching, she has thrown herself into a campaign to raise awareness and funds for an organization that cares for orphaned elephants.

“I paint based on what my heart and soul tells me to paint,” she said.

Ray Niebergall, a potter, has a deep connection with clay.

“It’s a medium of dialogue,” he said, “a lump to mould, shape and communicate.” Niebergall told of how a piece of pottery collapsed one day while he was shaping it, but the resulting accident allowed him the freedom to create a new form from the old.

“That’s the creative spirit,” he said.

Ed Hill’s encounters with the creator come to him in the church of the forest or canoe, or behind a fly rod — all of his paintings are inspired by nature. His passion is for stories behind the images, and he told of an experience trying to find an appropriate image that would honour a fallen RCMP comrade who was murdered at a northern lake site.

“The spirit knocked me over,” he said, and he came to know his own spirituality through the experience.

Suzy Naylor’s paintings are about colour, and she recognizes that all of our artistic activities are spiritual. Naylor’s abstract painting, titled Jacob’s Ladder, was on display at the panel discussion and it elicited interested comments from the audience.    

Paul Gibson spoke of his growing awareness over the last ten years that the most important aspect of being human is spiritual health. Gibson blends East and West motifs in his paintings, and he showed the audience a painting with a Christ figure sitting in the lotus posture of Buddhists.

The group’s advice to those who are beginning an artist’s life? If you’re always thinking about what will sell, you’ve lost your creativity. Just do it.

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