P.E.I., a ‘broad market’ for Island artists

Kim Bamberger drove to work with reluctance.
She sat in the driver’s side of her car with her phone in her hand. Her husband listened from the other end.
“I don’t want to do this,” she said.
“Are you going to give them notice?” he joked.
“You should do what makes you happy,” he said.
She had worked as a bank teller for 15 years. She worked for CIBC, TD and Scotiabank as her husband’s 25-year military job required them to move often.
In her early teens, she had taught herself to oil paint but when her kids came along she couldn’t find the time to keep it up.
A year before quitting her job at Scotiabank, she picked up painting again, this time with watercolours. She taught herself how to paint with a package of watercolour paint tubes her dad had given her.
She isn’t very good at following directions, she said.
“I didn’t want to follow other habits. I wanted my own technique.”
Through trial and error, Bamberger has found Windsor paints to be her favourite. The cheaper paints are watery, she said.
“The best I like, of course, is most expensive.”
While at work, painting was all she could think about but knew that she needed to gain some business from her paintings first.
Now, she’s been selling her artwork from her home in Stratford for two years.
She began with sharing photos of her pieces on her Facebook page, then created a business page called Redisle Reflections last January, she said.
“If one of my friends shares something with one of their friends, it blows up.”
She pulls inspiration from the Island, the red rocks, the beaches and the lighthouses which is reflected in her paintings.
She also does custom work for customers who often ask for portraits of their pets.
It’s common for art customers to request paintings of their pets. So common that Amy Van Hee Wells has made it the focus of her business.
She posted a few random paintings on her Facebook page and was contacted to do custom pieces of pets. It’s what they want more than anything else, she said.
“Once you start painting pets, you can’t stop.”
She now lives in Halifax but was born and raised in P.E.I.
Westisle Composite high school has many trade courses which is where she learned to paint, said the 27-year-old.
“I took everything I could in high school.”
Van Hee Wells then took fundamental arts and graphic design at Holland College. It was in the February of 2015 when she began painting and posting her work online.
Her paintings start at $50, most made with acrylic paints but she sometimes uses watercolour or oil paints.
She had toyed with names for her business but noticed other similar artists stuck to going by their own name. She finds it to be more personal when she works with customers one-on-one, she said.
“I like them to know my name and address me as that.”
For now, customers can contact her through her social media accounts but she’d love to open up a studio at some point to display her work, she said.
“I could see myself selling at a market or have a few paintings in shops.”
Bamberger wanted to do the same but has made do with an extra bedroom in her house.
She renovated an old bedroom into her studio to display her artwork for customers who visit but would love to have her own store.
She tries to keep her artwork below $100 with the frame included. Some artists are charging higher based on how much time and effort but she enjoys what she does too much to put up the price, she said.
“I find my pieces are in a lot of homes because of the price of them.”
Her artwork sells in stores across P.E.I. including East Point Lighthouse because she loves to hear feedback from local and tourist customers, she said.
“There is a big broad market for us here.”

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