Artist in Focus: Rico

·2 min read

She's recognized for the realistic style she uses to paint trees, flowers, buildings and people. But you'll see a more abstract sense in some of the creations of Satoko Naito, known as Rico, at the Jasper Artists Guild (JAG) Gallery.

Her exhibit, Dream in Mountains, now on display at the gallery, is the result of a more laid back approach.

Rico attributed that to having more time to ponder at home because of limitations on being out and about due to the COVID pandemic. In a small studio in hers and husband Ray's apartment, Rico worked on paintings after their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hana, went to bed. Some had been started a year before.

"This time I really enjoyed painting for myself," Rico said. "I wanted to experiment. For example, this time I started painting without a concrete plan, using a variety of colours. I left the painting for a few days. Later, I looked at it, thought maybe I should add a tree, or a bear."

"I tried to be led by the flow of watercolour, respecting my inspiration and feeling," she noted in an email. "I enjoyed drifting across the paper without too much thinking. It's really fun to see a finished work that I had never imagined when I started painting.

“Even when everything such as stores, schools and parks were closed, there were always mountains around me and I was able to go there anytime."

Rico sees inspiration everywhere.

"I like flowers, and also sometimes, an interesting rock, or the texture of a tree, mountain goats, bears," she said.

Photos she took on hikes were the basis for some of her paintings, and others were inspired by memories and "sometimes just by daydreaming about somewhere I have never been".

Rico uses mostly watercolours and pen in her creations, and acrylic paint occasionally.

As well, she said masking liquid is great to apply "where you want to keep it white. It helps me."

Already, four of Rico's 12 paintings have sold, "one while I was hanging them," she said. "I felt so lucky."

The buyer, from Edmonton, purchased one of Rico's paintings of a black bear.

"Three of the paintings sold have been of bears," Rico said, "and one of a mountain goat."

With November being a usually-quiet month at the gallery, Rico hopes folks drop in to look at her paintings.

And she said, "I hope people enjoy this new style."

Rico is the featured artist this month at the JAG gallery, from Nov. 5 to 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays, and Thursdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh