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On Now at Artful!

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Creature Comforts runs at Artful March 1 through April 8th

Opening reception Saturday, March 4th, 7 - 9pm

Gallery hours Weds - Sat 12 - 5pm

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Creature Comforts is a curated collection of eight Vancouver Island artists: Jacques De Backer, Penny Eder, Ian Fry, David Heath, John Janzen, Josephine Olivier, Ina-Griet Raatz von Hirschhausen and Karen Segee. Creature Comforts examines our relationship with the animals we share this planet with, from pets and farm animals, to wild animals in the forests and seas. The creative expression of these artists is as varied as the ways we humans interact with them.


Humans have complex, and often contradictory, relationships with animals, and we often look to them for our comfort. Some people objectify or abandon them, while other people protect or rescue them. Some of us invite them into our homes while others are afraid of them. Sometimes we see ourselves reflected, attributing human qualities and thoughts to them, and at times we seek physical solace and companionship from them. 


Some of us admire them in the wild, and others of us eat them for food. We can train them to work or be service animals. We can relate to them as sacred spirit or for inspiration. We can tell them our secrets and talk to them, believing we are understood and making meaning of their actions. Many animals have demonstrated heroic attachment and altruism, saving or rescuing us. Our myths and stories are full of animals, often with magical properties. Many people find their antics humorous, if the profusion of animal videos on our social media streams is any indication, and animals are often the main characters in our books and movies.


Recent developments with artificial intelligence is providing rapidly expanding possibilities to understand how animals communicate with each other, and we are discovering they have been saying quite a lot all along. Bees use different vibrations of their bodies to give instructions and directions to each other. Mother bats talk baby talk to their little ones, and elephants differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ humans. 


With a broad range of styles and mediums, from mixed media collage and sculpture, to watercolour and oil paintings, from majestic to cuddly, realistic to imaginative, wild to tame, the breadth of this exhibition will have something for everyone. Come enjoy some Creature Comforts. 

The Artists:

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Jacques De Backer

Jacques De Backer was born in Flanders, Belgium in 1943. Jacques spent his childhood in southern Ontario and started painting in oils at the age of 12. For 4 years he studied at the Robert Lierman Commercial Art School in Bruges and then later by correspondence through the American Famous Artists School. 

After school, De Backer found employment at “Die Keure” in Bruges, designing signs for the silk screen department. Four years later his wife inherited a cocoa and coffee plantation and they moved to the DRC/Zaire. When the plantation was nationalized in 1974, De Backer found employment in the agriculture and forestry sector, and once again took up painting and carving in his free time.

De Backer retired in 1994, moved to South Africa, and started painting full time. He joined a group of painters who regularly painted together at improvised ateliers in the back country. In 2013 he moved to Vancouver Island, became a Canadian citizen, and now resides in Comox and spends most days painting in his small studio, working with his preferred medium of oils.

To learn more about Jacques:

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Penny Eder

Penny Eder's whimsical ceramic and concrete sculpture creations are inspired by nature. Primarily, Penny designs and creates original relief sculptural tile works, usable ceramic art, storytelling sculptures, and large scale outdoor concrete sculptures. Over the past twenty plus years, she has completed dozens of commissioned pieces, created to perfectly reflect the space they are intended to inhabit.


Penny Eder’s art can be viewed worldwide: in public art commissions, hotels, restaurants and in many private collections. As well, she has created innumerable series of usable ceramic art.

Each year Penny donates art works to organizations including the Samoyed organizations, Ocean Ecology MERS, Save the Forests, Whistler Adaptive Ski Program, CARDA and Search and Rescue, as well as the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

To learn more about Penny:

Ian Fry

Ian Fry was born in Edinburgh Scotland. He studied illustration & design at Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1978. After freelancing as a book and advertising illustrator in Scotland and later London, he moved to Canada in 1985. For ten years he worked as an independent illustrator in Vancouver's Gastown. In 1994 he decided to devote more time to painting and rented a studio at Kleewyk, North Vancouver, where he created a series of very large paintings for a Japanese collector.

On moving to Bowen Island in 1985, fine art became a full time occupation, the island itself being a source of inspiration till 2009 when a temporary move back to Scotland saw Ian painting and selling through three galleries there until returning to B.C., the part of the world closest to his heart. Ian has exhibited his art in the lower mainland of BC, including Whistler and Vancouver Island, and also in Scotland. His paintings are in corporate and private collections in Canada, the U.S.A. (where he also designed a large mural in Dallas, Texas) and in the U.K. Germany and Israel. He lives in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island.

To learn more about Ian:

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David Heath

David Heath resides in Comox, B.C, having made his way west from his hometown of Montreal. While living in Montreal, Heath considers himself fortunate to have been employed with Belcan Technologies as a Ballistic Technician. As a result of his employment he was able to travel to many countries, all over the world. Heath spent five years in Calgary working for a printing firm before settling here on the Island.


Heath is passionate about both art and motorcycling. Heath considers motorcycling more of a lifestyle than a hobby, and has enjoyed criss-crossed both Canada and the U.S multiple times.

Heath started painting seriously in 2013, and his medium of choice is acrylic on canvas. He is self taught, never having received any formal art instruction. He has many pieces in private collections throughout Canada and the United States.


Currently his main inspiration is the natural world, which forms the subject of most of his work. Heath maintains that he is still developing as an artist, and is contemplating new directions to pursue in the future. Heath is a big fan of Abstract Expressionism and is inspired by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem De Kooning, Jonathan Meese and Joe Bradley, just to mention a few.


John Janzen

Encouraged by family and friends, John Janzen always nurtured his artistic talents from an early age. Although born in Ottawa, ON, Janzen has spent the majority of his life in Alberta. Predominantly a self-taught artist, Janzen took advantage of many quiet moments and lengthy layovers during his career running engines for CN through the Canadian Rockies, painting the picturesque and changing beauty of the rugged landscape.

In 2001 Janzen enrolled in the University of Alberta’s Extension Program further perfecting his style and skill as a painter. Later, he relocated to Milan, Italy for two years where he studied Italian and continued his art education at the NABA School of Art and Design. Moving to Victoria BC in 2013, he continued to share his passion with watercolour, acrylic and oil, exhibiting and selling his work through galleries and art shows on the island. In 2022, John completed the fine arts program through the University of Alberta Extension Program. Currently, Janzen joyfully resides in the Comox Valley where he creates in his Rivertown Studio.

Learn more about John:

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Josephine Olivier

Josephine Olivier has been living and working in South America and Europe over the past 2 decades, focusing on marketing, design and hospitality. A student of art and life she has moved from graphic design and photography into fine art and back again various times. Clear communication and strong visual connection are guiding principles. 


Painting murals and illustrating children’s books are both new challenges on her radar. Josephine grew up in the Comox Valley and has recently returned due in part to Covid and a strong family connection. She is excited to participate in the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that seems to have taken hold of the island.

To learn more about Josephine:

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Ina-Griet Raatz

von Hirschhausen

A professional artist since 2005, Raatz-von Hirschhausen feels honoured to show her work along with other Vancouver Island artists at Artful : The Gallery. She invites everyone to view her work through the eyes of curiosity. When Raatz-von Hirschhausen moved to Vancouver Island in 2014, after four very successful years in Germany, she felt inspired by the abundance of artistic talent and the vibrant, powerful nature, which expresses its' beauty partially in a cheery, ingenuous, colourful palette and partially in dreamy subdued melancholic tones. Merging animal heads with human bodies, she is expressing the inspiring, positive, fun and interesting encounters with the many wonderful people she has met on Vancouver Island.


Raatz-von Hirschhausen is still fond of the style that she had developed in Europe, but the amazing variety of arts and culture have urged her to add a lighthearted side to her art, which she pursues by taking on commission work, teaching classes and working on new projects. Raatz-von Hirschhausen hopes to add smiles and beauty to the world, as she is convinced that creativity feeds the soul and is essential for mental wellbeing. With the approach “Do what you can with what you have" (Theodore Roosevelt), “Onward ever - backward never” (Eisabeth Gilbert) and “Give me colour” (Ina) she paints, makes puppets and marionettes, creates medieval style scrolls, makes “stuff” and writes poetry. Her preferred media is paint, paper, fabric and wood, often happily used together. 

To learn more about Ina:

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Karen Segee

A long-time resident of the Comox Valley, Karen received her Fine Art Diploma at North Island College in 1994, followed by 2 years of independent study in sculpture. She participated (and received mention in) several group and juried shows during that time. Her natural design inclinations led her into a long career in publication design and layout in newspapers and print shops locally and throughout Canada. Along the way she completed diplomas in both Graphic Arts and Digital Media Design.


From 2005-2014 Karen owned and operated a successful local graphics business and experimented with Digital Collage, using Photoshop layers as a new medium. She has recently retired and returned full-time to her painting. With a love of pattern and influenced early on by the works of William Morris and Gustav Klimt, she utilizes her design skills and experimentation with mixed media materials to reflect both the whimsy of everyday life and the mystery of the natural world. Karen explores a variety of subjects while striving for a deeper understanding not only of the relationships between colour, line, texture, and form, but also the interconnectedness between ourselves, our spirit and this beautiful planet we inhabit.

To learn more about Karen:

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