Saint John painter makes 'accessible' art for Zoom backgrounds

·3 min read
A painting by Bonny Hill from her series 'I Don't Know Anything About Art, I Just Want Something Nice To Hang On My Wall For Video Conferencing.' (Submitted by Bonny Hill - image credit)
A painting by Bonny Hill from her series 'I Don't Know Anything About Art, I Just Want Something Nice To Hang On My Wall For Video Conferencing.' (Submitted by Bonny Hill - image credit)

The child-and-pet-filled environment of the work-from-home New Brunswicker isn't always appropriate for a corporate meeting with the boss.

To fix that, some people use stock photos of a garden in summer, a sandy European beach, or a stately oak-and-velvet library to set the scene.

But one Saint John painter says, 'Why not make it more "you" and support local artists at the same time'.

This month, Bonny Hill showed a series of 12 paintings at the Saint John Art Centre in an exhibit titled "I Don't Know Anything About Art, I Just Want Something Nice To Hang On My Wall For Video Conferencing."

Bonny Hill asked people take selfies with her paintings to see how the art would look if it was hanging on the wall in the background during a Zoom call.
Bonny Hill asked people take selfies with her paintings to see how the art would look if it was hanging on the wall in the background during a Zoom call.(Submitted by Bonny Hill)

The series of photorealistic and abstract colourful canvasses are inspired by Hill's fascination with the art in people's homes, something she's been seeing a lot since the coronavirus pandemic began and more people have been connecting virtually.

She said she wanted to be part of the way people choose to express themselves using Zoom and video conferencing backgrounds.

"It's self expressions and creating a brand to help find your people who are like you, who get you," Hill said.

This painting by Saint John artist Bonny Hill is titled 'My Sister Could Do That.' The title is a play on people saying abstract art is less technically challenging.
This painting by Saint John artist Bonny Hill is titled 'My Sister Could Do That.' The title is a play on people saying abstract art is less technically challenging.(Submitted by Bonny Hill)

During her exhibition, Hill asked people to do three things: If they could do so safely, go to the gallery and take a selfie with their favourite piece, to see what it would look like if it was hanging in the background of a Zoom call. They can download one of her digital pieces to use as a background, or reach out to their favourite local artist and ask to use one of their pieces of art as a background for a small fee.

"I wanted to find a way for to make art accessible to everyone," she said. "You should pay an artist 25 dollars to use an image in a digital form and you should also get permission."

Hill said she practices what she preaches. She likes the work of local artists Deanna Musgrave and Jared Betts. She emailed them asking for permission, transferred them $20 and used their images as a background for a zoom call for a choir meeting she has weekly.

Artist Bonny Hill said anyone can download the digital versions of her art and use as a Zoom or video conference background.
Artist Bonny Hill said anyone can download the digital versions of her art and use as a Zoom or video conference background.(Submitted by Bonny Hill)

Hill said her exhibition title is unconventional partly because she believes there should be some humour in art. The two abstract pieces in the series are titled "My Little Sister Could Do That" which she said is a play on people's misconception that abstract art is easier than photorealistic art.

"I love art that doesn't take itself too seriously. I think it's more accessible that way," she said.

She said she's noticed that more people are gravitating to art on their walls for the purpose of having visually pleasing background. She said she hopes having artsy backgrounds can be a conversation starter and a way for people to connect.

"It's very much about supporting galleries, supporting visual artists and in a way that is accessible to everyone."