Artist EiraShay Barker-Hart takes on the setting at Bowker Creek with one of her latest pen-on-paper pieces. She’ll return to the waterway for the Bowker Creek Brush Up on Aug. 11. Organizers are welcoming Barker-Hart and other youth artists for the annual event.

Youth artists join Brush Up crew

Sixteen-year-old Oak Bay resident brings variety of styles, mediums to annual creekside art show

On a hot spring afternoon, sunshine reflects off a framed drawing in EiraShay Barker-Hart’s grasp.

The 16-year-old smiles as she explains each element of the politically-charged piece, inspired by the proposed Enbridge pipeline.

“Back here we have the machine that’s building corporate lines,” she said. “Then the Earth, here, is crying and back here we have a jellyfish, which is a sign of polluted water. I’m trying to mirror the pain that the Earth feels and the anger and frustration that a lot of people are feeling.”

Barker-Hart is one of a handful of youth artists set to return to the Bowker Creek Brush Up for the second year this August – a fact that couldn’t make organizer Joanie McCorry happier.

“I wish she was my daughter,” said McCorry, who got to know Barker-Hart through the Creatively United For the Planet fashion show, while the Vic High student was building dresses of flower petals. “Last year, EiraShay just sat on the grass and just kept painting. She didn’t need a chair or table or anything.”

Oak Bay resident Barker-Hart admitted being a little unprepared for her debut at the Brush Up, but found it to be a huge learning experience. The positive side of putting her work out there – including marketing herself as an artist – outweighed the sting of not making any sales during her first Brush Up.

“It makes you so vulnerable,” she said. “It’s your work. It’s so much of you.”

The Grade 11 student grew up on Cortes Island and attended Linnaea, the Island’s alternative school, until Grade 8, an experience which exposed her to an eclectic community of artisans.

“I like how she hasn’t become a big-city girl,” said McCorry, a photographer and creator of three-dimensional paper casting cards. “She just continues to follow her heart and her passion and her love.”

Whether she’s making a Mexican-inspired self-portrait in oil soluble water colours, snapping photos on a Pentax K-1000, or constructing clothing from flower  petals, Barker-Hart is open to just about anything artistically.

“I don’t know what my medium is yet, so I figured I’d try everything until I find the medium that fits. I change my mind all of the time.”

Though her approach may come off as fickle, her intentions behind the work are anything but.

“I like having an intention and a point to it, as opposed to something that’s just nice to look at. In the past I was just painting things that were fun to paint and I wasn’t comfortable pushing social barriers. I was terrified to do nudes for years, just because of what people might think considering how young I am.”

With the 50 artists at the Brush Up at different stages in their artistry, McCorry feels age is irrelevant.

“I think her art is so good that it doesn’t matter,” McCorry said. “These young artists are fearless. They don’t think, ‘I’ve only been doing this for five years.’ They’re artists, and for them, that’s what it’s all about.”

The Oak Bay Community Artists Society, a group of some 40 amateur and professional artists, launched the Bowker Creek Brush Up in 2005. It has since become an annual draw for several thousand people interested in taking a peek inside the artistic process, purchasing a new piece of work straight from the source or contributing a stroke to a community painting. This year’s Brush Up guest artists are Pat Martin-Bates, Martin Machacek, Marion Evamy and new Oak Bay resident, Robert Amos.

Youth artists – including high school students and young adults – are invited to join Barker-Hart from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Aug. 11 along Bowker Creek, between Oak Bay High and Hampshire Road. Contact McCorry at 250-294-1944 or to register.

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