Steveston artist inspired by world around her

·3 min read

Art runs in Jennifer Heine’s blood.

The Steveston-based mixed media artist comes from an artistic family, and says she’s been making art “forever.” Initially working in galleries and as a graphic designer, she has been professionally showing her work for 27 years.

Heine says she likes to paint organic things—“I don’t really like straight lines that much”—and is constantly inspired by the natural beauty of the region and whatever she sees out her window.

“If I was going to be locked anywhere for two years straight, there are much worse places to be than Richmond, and B.C. in general,” she adds.

The pandemic has afforded Heine more time to participate in virtual shows, as well as studying with people she’s always wanted to learn from but couldn’t because their workshops were previously sold out. And while visiting her sister, she tried out a new medium—resin and alcohol inks—that she’s wanted to work with for a while.

“Having all those other distractions culled by not being able to do volunteer activities, talks, teaching in person—I actually had a lot more time to spend on painting,” says Heine.

Heine is also actively involved in the local art scene, having been part of the Grand Prix of Art—a unique plein air painting event that takes place annually in Steveston—since its inception. While she initially participated as a painter, Heine has been acting as the exhibition director for the last seven years.

“I help out with some of the planning—(event organizer) Mark (Glavina) and I walk around and choose the locations,” Heine says. “I lay out how best to organize the flow (of the exhibition), and figure out how we’re going to hang over 100 artworks in an hour or two.”

While the plans looked a little different this year, Heine’s dedication to the Grand Prix has been unwavering. She loves the event’s grassroots origins, as well as the opportunities for artists to socialize and even collaborate after the competition part ends.

“Spectators are shocked at what artists can do in a few hours, admiring the beautiful scenery out here,” she says. “It’s probably my favourite weekend—just the chance for all these artists getting to admire each other’s work, talk about techniques, get together for a beer. It’s a tremendous amount of appreciation for this beautiful spot.”

The president of the Richmond Artists Guild, Heine says the Grand Prix has also been instrumental to that group’s survival. The donated commission funds from the 2019 event helped them get through the last two years without charging membership dues during the pandemic, when they weren’t able to provide services.

As for her own art, Heine says she’s made a point of trying everything so there was nothing she didn’t feel like she could paint. But her specialization is portraits that allow for a detailed, close-up look at the subject.

“I want to interact, and I want viewers to interact with things as if they’re seeing them,” she says. “Rather than having something at a great distance, if it’s up close and at the same scale as you would be interacting with it in person, I think there’s a different energy seeing it on your walls, and I really like that.”

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel

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