When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, Avalon Butchart heard a call from God.
“The only thing I can say is it was like God calling,” the Agassiz painter said. “I really don’t understand why all of a sudden it was this pull to go” and paint outside.
Butchart is a member of Agassiz’s Monday Painters group and has been a professional artist in Agassiz for nearly a decade, working mostly on horse and pet paintings.
Although she loved her animal subjects, Butchart hated painting the landscapes behind them. But when COVID-19 found her film industry husband out of work and her son at home from school, she had an impulse to take her paint brushes outside.
“I had the opportunity to take some time out and go and do that,” she said. “That was a really big thing with COVID.”
“I was able to go and paint and have the time to do it, and (my family) was able to come with me and sit,” she continued.
In those early spring months, Butchart began painting “in plein air” — a term artists use to describe working on their art out of doors.
Using acrylic paints on small canvases, she travelled to the Nathatlatch Fire Tower to paint, and then to other areas around Agassiz and Harrison, capturing the scenes she saw.
|Avalon Butchart has taken her acrylic paints outside in the Fraser Valley because of COVID. (Avalon Butchart/Contributed)|
“I would take my kayak and I would actually paint inside my kayak of what I was seeing,” she said. “Because it was places that people couldn’t see. They wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in a kayak and go see, so it was a way for me to show people all these back country roads.”
The change to her work and her business because of the inspiration has been huge.
“It’s really enhanced them,” she said about her commissioned paintings. “I have such a greater understanding of art because of going out and doing it.”
Her goal is to keep moving her work out of doors for 2021 as well. Butchart has been working with the Lower Mainland’s Four-Wheel Drive Association on projects, and she plans to increase the types of paintings she does outside.
Butchart has applied for a grant to help support her as she paints in different regions — but even if she doesn’t get it, she’s still planning to take her paints into the wilderness.
“I just might stay in a tent more than I stay in a hotel,” she said.
The changes have been positive ones, for Butchart’s personal and professional life, and she’s hoping that other artists or artists-to-be learn from her example.
“Get out there and try it,” she said. “That’s my saying for the year, in a way.”
“I want to help (others) share their artistic voice that’s inside of them. I want to inspire them to get out and go and try,” she added. “Because I did and it’s made a big difference in my life.”