Herald’s Q&A: Rosemary Byrne

Celebrated artist Rosemary Byrne talks modes and methods of art, love of Newfoundland and Labrador and teaching through Art Cansel


Rosemary Byrne hasn’t slowed down during retirement. The Avondale-based artist is still creating paintings and sculptures, plus sharing her knowledge by teaching art workshops at Art Cansel.

We spoke with Byrne seven years ago in 2012, and caught up with the artist this year to see what’s inspiring her creativity today.  

Let’s go back to the beginning… When did you start creating art?

My family moved to Montreal when I was 13 years old. Newfoundland was always with me, and so I convinced my husband to go “home” on a short junket to see for himself. Well, Gayland fell in love with NL and that was it – 12 years later, we retired here in my hometown of Avondale. The idea of retiring in NL seemed so perfect, but I had no talent. I walked into an art store in Calgary, bought a brush and became an artist with artist obsession painting!

What was your original source of inspiration, that led to the creation of your first piece of artwork?

A fancy wine box with a glass front looked like it needed to be painted. I did and still have the box today – a funny, bad looking box, but it brought me so much happiness.

What inspires your work today?

Not so much “inspires” me, but the need to hold a brush, paint and canvas. Next, turn up the music, blast it over the harbour, and so the idea forms for a textured painting – usually flowers. 

My cloth sculpting comes to life with a piece of wood I found on the beach or in the woods. The wood, the figure, and the colours combine to make a fisherman, a siren, a faerie or a customized piece for someone special. Our folklore is the inspiration for the figurines.

Tell me a little about the various mediums you work in, and the kinds of materials you use to create your pieces.

I have gotten to the point where texture has to be on the canvas. Paste, thread, cement, twine, rocks – pretty much anything! I mix with gels, glazes and different types of paints.

What pieces have you been working on lately? Can you describe a couple of recent pieces and the creative process behind them?

I only now completed a 3’x4’ gallery canvas with multicoloured flowers – mostly abstract flowers – that will be on exhibit at Art Cansel.

I was recently approached to do a “lineman.” It was so much fun to create. I do a lot of research when I paint something out of the norm, i.e. the lineman climbing up a pole with all his gear. Down below him, there is cribbing around the pole, with rocks inside and a few outside the cribbing with the couple’s initials. I had to study the lineman, his job etc. and I loved all of it!

I understand that you now teach at Art Cansel. Tell me about those classes. 

I have my artwork at Art Cansel. That place is an artist’s dream! Anything you want is there, and if not, Bev Newhook Campbell (Operations Manager of the Kenmount Road location) will bring in for you.

The staff there are the best and the most fun in an art store. I teach workshops on occasion. If there is a style of painting or figurine that attracts a few people, then I will teach it in a workshop upstairs there. If you are an artist or love the idea of art  – go to Art Cansel, even for the fun of it. Bev and the group will have you trying something new!

Is there a medium that you haven’t touched yet, but are interested in trying? If so, what medium would that be?

I was recently introduced to “wet felting,” and was hoping to find someone here who teaches it. The vibrant colours make me so keen on knowing the “how-to,” in abstract form of course.

What’s on the docket for 2019? Any big plans relating to your artwork, or even your personal life (ie. expanding your studio, travelling, etc.)?

I will travel to Calgary twice a year and of course, take in every art workshop pertaining to my interest. I have an art show at the beginning of April at Art Cansel. It is called “Can’t Stop the Colour.” 

I will be there for that weekend and if anyone is interested in learning or knowing how to go about painting, please come by. Texture, figurines – just ask!

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