A great piece of abstract art can make a room. It has the power to instantly update a space. Depending on your mood, it can inspire or energize you. When I discovered Noella Noel’s abstract paintings, I was taken by the way she mixes and layers colours to create juicy textured canvases. Noella is passionate about her work and open to collaborating with clients when they need a painting to fit their space. And, let’s face it, sometimes it’s nice to have that option. She and her husband own a gallery in Prince Edward County, on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. I asked her a few questions about her work.ARTIST: Noella Noel
JM: Tell me about Bayhaus gallery. When did you open it and what makes it unique?
NN: “The Bayhaus Gallery on the Bay of Quinte was built and opened two years ago. The studio/gallery is on a beautiful country road in Prince Edward County and is open to spectacular views of the Bay.
We’re restoring the early modern house and many gardens on the property. The gallery is also my studio where I paint daily from April to November.
It’s a contemporary gallery and in addition to my paintings, features hand crafted jewellery and metal work from other artists. I think what makes it unique is the history of the home and studio. Many people tell me they have happy memories of painting in the gardens under the instruction of the previous owner – a well known artist.”
JM: How has your work evolved over the years?
NN: “I’ve been painting for about ten years. After dabbling in watercolour, I switched to acrylic and then to oil. I found I could easily make mistakes and go over them. I loved the freedom that gave me and it’s become an integral part of my method of painting. My work is very layered and textured and it’s ever-changing.
I often start with collage as it helps me to work out the composition and gives the painting some form. I’ll work on a painting for weeks and sometimes several paintings at once, going back and forth as I struggle with colour combinations. I like to work large and expressively – I usually start my canvas on a table, and sometimes put it on the floor if I need to loosen up. Finally, to finish it, I’ll place it on the wall of my studio.
Last year I started a website and I was delighted to be accepted to the Artist Project Toronto. The show was very successful for me and I hope to have many new visitors to the gallery this season. I now have large paintings in the Denison Gallery in Toronto which caters to designers and corporate clients.”
JM: What inspires you to paint? What’s a typical day like for you?
NN: “Painting is a passion for me. I love art, and I’m inspired by early modern art and abstract expressionism. A typical day for me would be to take my coffee up to the studio and put my open sign out. I’m usually nervous to see if my painting is still as good as I thought it was yesterday. If not, no problem – today is another day. I lay out my paints, put on some good music and get busy. Clients pop in and I’ll sit and chat with them for hours at a time. Sometimes I take a break from painting and catch up with the gardening or go for a canoe ride with my husband.”
JM: You encourage collaboration with clients. Explain how this works for you.
NN: “The first year I opened the studio, a couple came in and bought several paintings for their home. They were also looking for a painting for their kitchen, but needed a specific size so they asked if I’d consider doing a commission. They gave me a colour chip of their walls and told me the size they needed. I told them to come back in a week or so and I would have some ideas for them on colour and composition. I was able to give them the exact size they needed and it was a very successful experience. I’ve since collaborated with other clients and enjoy the challenge very much. I love design, so this is just another extension of my art. There’s no pressure for the client to purchase the finished work and I insist that they take it home to be sure it’s right for them.”
JM: You also do outdoor paintings. Tell me how that works. What protects the canvases from the elements?
NN: “Last year, I decided to create a large painting for the front of the studio. I found some old panelling that we’d taken out of the house and I primed it. I used outdoor acrylic house paint and oil paint. I finished it with a varnish and hung it on the building where it was exposed to extreme sun all summer. It held up very well, but we did take it down for the winter. I had a lot of comments about the painting and was asked if I’d consider selling it. I haven’t, and I’ll hang it on the building again this year. I’ll do another for next year and I want to research the best way to preserve the paint – although the panelling has held up very well.”
JM: What are you working on at the moment?
NN: “I paint in the winter in Naples, Florida, and since returning home, I’m anxious to set up my studio for the season. The gallery will open in the next week or two. Two very large stretchers are already in the gallery and I plan to stretch canvas and prime them this week. I’ll be working in oil through the summer as I can open the large doors of my studio for good ventilation. I also want to paint outdoors on the deck attached to the building.
I’ve been working on a series of paintings all influenced by compositions found in my previous work. The limits to this way of working are endless, and it gives me a good place to start. I also want to continue exploring a series of black and white paintings that I started just before leaving for Florida. I’m very excited about finding some colour in black and white.”