OLDS — Ever since she was a young girl, Red Deer artist Eelkje VanderMeulen-Smart has felt a strong desire to share the beauty of the world with others.
For years, that meant doing depictions of people and things in the style of Gustav Klimpt, whose paintings tend to show stylistic, swirling representations of people and objects such as trees.
But when the pandemic hit in 2020, VanderMeulen-Smart felt a strong pull to paint landscapes of Alberta – its trees, lakes and mountains.
Many of those landscapes are on display now until June 30 at the Mountain View Museum in Olds in a show called My Journey.
VanderMeulen-Smart was born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Her family emigrated to Alberta when she was just a child, eventually settling in Red Deer.
“When I was five, I had it in my mind that one day I would be creative, because I loved everything and wanted to share it with everyone,” she wrote.
“From that young age, I let my creativity and imagination take hold and I became a painter of people, places and things.”
She enrolled in Red Deer College and then went to the University of Alberta, specializing in art and art history.
She’s now been painting for more than 40 years.
“As a painter, I to make visual images in the search between physical and spiritual forces. Images that challenge and are appealing are like a thread which weaves itself through and connects the work. My paintings reflect my love of nature, strong emotions and life itself.”
Over the years, VanderMeulen-Smart did many things, including teaching art, working in a medical clinic and working in home care.
Now retired, she devotes herself full-time to her art.
The urge to depict landscapes hit during the spring of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic set in and it hasn’t let up yet.
“This has been my obsession. I don’t know. I can’t really explain it to you. I don’t think people understand unless it comes to you.
“It’s not always that I even want to do it. It’s just like I feel that sometimes I have to do it. To date, I have painted over 50-some Alberta landscape paintings in an impressionistic style, using heavy oil paint with layered brush strokes to create texture and depth.
“My strength comes from contemplating the beauty of the earth. Painting the mountains, lakes and prairies has become my world. As my dad would often say, ‘my church is the church of the big sky, river valleys and mountains.’”
VanderMeulen-Smart is also an author.
Written on Stone: A Novel of Empowerment, was published in 2015.
The book “explores the psyche and spirit of a people who are forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future,” according to Amazon.ca.