Artist Lesley Harris painting the faces of Gabriola

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Monday, August 19 2013

It started out as a joke, but before long, Lesley Harris’s gag to paint the portrait of every Gabriolan became a reality.

“When I told people, nobody took it as a joke, they were just overwhelmed by the number of people that meant,” the Gabriola artist said while at her studio.

“Everybody said [portraiture] was really hard and I thought if I had a project like everybody on Gabriola, if I was teaching myself, then hopefully I would get a better eye if nothing else.”

The self-taught artist mainly does pet and animal portraits
makes jewelry as well. Painting people has been a learning curve, but a fulfilling one, she said. She’s started with friends, painting them in acrylic from photographs. Now most of the 20 portraits she’s completed hang in her studio. Gabriolans will recognize well-known members of the community like Katherine Gordon, Antony Holland and Kathy McIntyre. Many of her subjects have never seen their finished portraits.

Lesley Harris and a few of the pieces she has completed as part of her ‘Faces of Gabriola’ project. Rachelle Stein-Wotten photo

The fascination and inspiration comes afresh with each new face for Lesley. “Everybody is really attractive – everybody is good looking,” she said. “Everybody either has wonderful lips or beautiful eyes.

“I think that’s not a surprise, but I think it’s become evident that everybody’s lovely ... it just seems to be a truth that comes out” in a finished painting, she mused.

“There’s something great about all of us even though it’s different.”

While painting 4,000-plus portraits is an ambitious goal, Lesley’s taking her time, completing them in between pet commissions and crafting jewelry.

Self-taught, she said she’s been learning more and improving her skills as she’s gone along. They’re not fine art pieces, she said, but that was never the intention. “It’s school, but it’s fun, and it’s nice to be in the studio with all the faces.”

The fact that the project, which Lesley’s dubbed ‘Faces of Gabriola,’ even exists is a little surprising to her, but she’s satisfied with how the project has progressed.

“It actually happened.... I did really mean it as a joke ... but it has become what I wanted it to because I’ve learned more about painting and I’ve improved my eye.

“And I’ve made some friends happy.”