Through the Idealism lens of artist Iris Mes-Low, she shares her view of the landscape with a standard of perfection that is other worldly. A third-generation artist, Iris relocated to Vancouver in 1991 and draws on urbanization as inspiration. She shares a fascinating glimpse into the world of idealism painting. Read and watch her interview below.
What style of painter are you and tell us what that means?
Other artists when I consult with them, call it Idealism. It is painting a world as we would want to see it.
Dawning skies and puffy clouds, not a human in sight. I grew up with CS Lewis and Tolkien and developed a massive interior world. I was the target of bullying in school until my teens and felt alone a lot.
The world now is full of anxiety and I paint from the premise: look at my work and find that restful spot to relax. I always remember finding that spot growing up that was quiet and beautiful and where I could find peace and feel secure. I paint those places.
How did you get involved in painting? How long have you been painting?
My father was a painter. We emigrated to Canada when I was a small child. The picture books I loved were my father’s art books. We went to museums and I listened to my father, my mother and his friends talk about art and music.
I loved watching him paint. My mother said as a young child I could tell who the artist was based on the color and style. Even then, I loved color. I was so determined to become an artist that when I was 9, I applied to an art school through the tv guide. The application required a drawing of Bambi. They accepted me until they found out I was 9. Then my father decided to take me under his wing. My first assignment was copying Asian artwork.
When have you been most satisfied in your life?
I thought raising my children would be my ultimate goal. Growing up in the ’70s and becoming an adult in the 80’s I had a somewhat traditional view. I thought marriage and children were the role of a woman with a nice house, dog, and picket fence. Unfortunately, I was not happy just being a wife and mother. I felt stunted and restless. It wasn’t until I acknowledged that this biological side of me would never fulfill me entirely that I became more satisfied.
Nor can the onus be put on any one person to make you “happy”. While raising my children I continued to paint, be creative and develop my skills. I did realize that I could not have it all, I had to put art on the back burner (art is an all-consuming profession – a selfish pursuit) When I was fifty, I saw the opportunity to restart the career. Painting makes me happy.
What is the piece of learning that has stood the test of time?
I worked, in the ’80s, with an artist in The Netherlands Jan de Kok, priming canvases and helping with murals in his studio. Later I taught classes. I learned an enormous amount about the art world, not all of it was good. I learned a lot about color and technique and that period of learning still influences my work the most.
Do you have a favorite book that totally changed the way you thought about life and why?
C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia introduced me to the concept of an ideal world. It opened my imagination to endless possibilities and my style of idealism is rooted there. I also read the compiled letters between Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo and learned so much from that. The commitment to finding the right thing to do was amazing.
If you could meet anyone for lunch, who would it be?
I would love to have lunch with Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and of course Emily Carr. These were women who stepped outside of traditional roles. Totally their own woman, they did not stand in a man’s shadow. They took the adversity in their lives and the adversity they saw and painted from that place. I hope that I do that too.
What is some key advice that helped you through your life?
A person’s experience colors your thinking. What you think may not always be the reality. Life is a teacher, not a fair or unfair entity.
What do you need to make more room in your life for?
Exercise. I was never particularly sports-minded. I was bullied in school – classic last kid picked on teams, excluded from games, etc. My. mother told me once girls don’t do sports, they take ballet lessons, so they have good posture and grace. I hated ballet. So physical fitness has not been something I make time for: I prefer to read and paint. Now that I am older, I recognize that being active will keep me mobile if nothing else.
If you could learn anything new what would it be?
Piano, I tried every instrument but didn’t have the patience for it. I love hearing piano music and would love it. I would also like to write.
What is your key strength?
Determination. I have been told I am like a terrier when I get something into my head I follow through. A bit of a perfectionist although I don’t do things perfectly – I guess that goes with being one.
Is there a key piece of wisdom you would like to share with women contemplating a renewed self?
Trust your instincts. We all know where we belong; if we listen to other people we may never find out where that is.
Iris Mes-Low art is available for sale at ROAM Gallery
For more idealism pieces check out her website
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