Two life-long artists with very different mediums of expression are featured in the August Arts Mosaic display at the CPR Historic Centre. Both artists persevered through limitations in their early days.
At their reception on Aug. 7, oil and watercolour artist Iris Munchinsky and quilter Ruthy Pringle mingled with the many guests who came to admire their work.
Munchinsky was born in Scotland to a mother who loved to sketch. “I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. I was always sketching, and I was always sketching people,” she says.
Her talent for colour and story telling through art was developed years later when she and husband Karel were living in Kentucky. Munchinsky had the privilege of studying under the world-renowned impressionistic oil painter, Ilona Royce Smithkin. Two courses with Smithkin took Munchinsky from pencil to paint.
“That got me into not just colour, but also impressionism.” She explains, “It’s more than just looking at a picture, it’s looking at a story.” Titles on her work, such as “Walk by faith” or “Checking for change” also imply the story of the work. No surprise, she is also a published novelist.
Most of Munchinsky’s pieces are done in oils. However, watercolour classes in Brandon and Alexander also opened up the intrigue of that medium. Some of her work, such as the castles that she loves to paint and her grandmother’s portrait, are a reflection of her Scottish roots.
The Munchinskys have lived in Virden for many years now, longer than anywhere else, but she continues to paint with her first teacher looking over her shoulder. She says, “Even to this day when I’m painting a picture I’ll think, ‘Would Ilona approve of this?’”
Knowing her art show was coming up, Munchinsky rented a studio space with a long table, and got down to work to produce new pieces for the show.
“It was just like being in heaven. I went there, I had a goal and I focused on it. I finished eight paintings in just under four months.”
She said the pressure of a time limit and a goal spurred on her creativity and the learning process.
“I absolutely loved doing that many paintings.” At moments when she felt stuck, in order to finish the work, she says, “I actually prayed over [the piece] and got insight.”
Munchinsky’s work hangs in their home, and a half-dozen of her murals (some done with students) can be seen on the walls of Virden Junior High. Still others have been sold or were gifts for her family.
LABOUR OF LOVE
Eight of Ruthy Pringle’s quilts hang in the gallery. Quilting is, for her, a labour of love says this hobbyist.
Pringle has quilted from the time she was young. One of her very first finished quilts, done at the age of 14 became a gift to her parents for their 25th wedding anniversary. “It’s still in mint condition,” she says.
Growing up in Belize, Central America, she honed her skills by participating in weekly community sewing circles. A Mennonite tradition, her love of quilting was passed down to her by her grandmother and mother.
From the start, Pringle’s aptitude for quilting surprised her mother.
“While she was milking the cow, I happened to work on her pieces. She thought she was losing her mind,” Pringle smiles, remembering her mother’s surprise to find some of her sewing done.
“She didn’t trust me with the sewing.” However, that changed.
“And then, I surprised them (her parents) with their anniversary quilt. Their 25th anniversary. After that, I could work on anything I wanted.”
Some of her quilts on display are classic patterns. One, a baby quilt with classic teddy bears and such embroidered on each square. Though she does have some hand-quilted pieces, most of her work is now completed with the assistance of a long-arm quilting machine.
The Pringle family have been Virden residents for about four years. Ruthy is often seen at Virden Farmers’ Market with her baking. This is Pringle’s first quilt show in Virden. Before the reception was over someone had purchased a quilt.