ArtLuck Plumbs the Depths

Our first ArtLuck of 2017 is filled with new faces alongside familiar friends. The food is delicious, conversations run deep and we are sent off with a serenade. 

ArtLuck is our every-six-weeks-or-so night of creative sharing. Show and tell for grown ups. A potluck for the eyes and ears, as well as the stomach. Creative community at its best. 

Here is a recap of our evening together on February 9, 2017. 

Chynna Howard

I choose the order of the night with inspiration from the car parked outside. A hearse (an ex-hearse I suppose?) The person who has owned the coolest car will go first. The hearse belongs to Chynna Howard. 

Chynna is a regular volunteer at Bleeding Heart who has just returned from a year in Vancouver. It is great to see her at an ArtLuck for the first time. 


Chynna has brought a painting to show. It’s called “Elephant In The Room” because, as Chynna tells us, she loves puns. 

There is a lightness to the title and the approach (the elephant is decidedly cartoonish, though very well painted).  The subject matter is darker–heavy as the elephant sitting in the corner of the mostly dark, mostly unfurnished room. There are boxes. One is empty.  The elephant is downcast. 

Chynna has worked with the homeless and impoverished. She currently runs a group home for women in transition.  She has watched people receive housing only to feel the lonely weight of that responsibility fully on their shoulders. A house is not necessarily a home.

Chynna tempers the weight of her work with grace and wit. You can see more of her paintings on website - yet another pun -


Esther Moore

Esther is another first-time ArtLucker, and has brought along some killer baked mac and cheese. She tells us she wasn’t sure if she would share, and wanted to get a feel for the vibe first. It feels safe and Esther shares something she’s never shared before. 

Moments like this are a blessing. It is a special thing when an artist trusts you with new work. It is an act of soul-baring. I feel honoured. 

Esther reads an essay called “Smoke and Rain”.  It takes us into a darker time in her past, where the weight of depression had her “swimming through molasses” just to go through the motions of an ordinary day. She was living in a city that “sat sweating under a cloud of smoke”.

The room goes quiet. We understand this is a sacred space where we can open up to one another. A space we can hear and be heard; see and be seen.

Esther’s words are beautiful, and she has opened a door.


Bridget Gryschuk

Bridget brings a lightness with her brightly coloured crocheted circles. She is working towards a baby blanket, some day in the future when the circles have accumulated. 

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Bridget likes the slow build of crochet. The patience required. The ritual. She beams with joy as she tells us about choosing the yarn. Materials can be such an inspiration. 

Bridget already contributes so much to the Bleeding Heart as our Hospitality Coordinator. She’s the reason we have a tablecloth and plates tonight. She feeds us at gallery openings. Those gifts are such ablessing to others, so it is nice to see her working in a way that so clearly blesses her. And others, of course, as she is crafting this blanket as a gift for some lucky baby.

You can find more of Bridget’s creations, with co-conspirator Heather Ritz, at their Club Kitsch Instagram feed .


Pam Baergen

Speaking of babies, mother of two Pam Baergen is just now able to get out and about, her second child demanding less of her. 

Pam Baergen is our new Artistic Director at Bleeding Heart, and certainly no stranger to ArtLuck. I’m used to seeing her thoughtful shadowboxed collage of found photographs, paper and ink.  That is not what she’s brought us tonight.

Pam reads us a piece she has written reflecting on the darkness and disorienting lack of schedule that comes from being a breastfeeding mom with a needy newborn. Lack of sleep exacerbates exhaustion. There are resonances with the weighty depression we heard in Esther’s reading. 

“A night is just a day without light”, Pam reads. 

She’s in a better headspace now, and we are glad to hear it, but also glad for her honesty. It takes guts to share something so personal. 

Find Pam’s work online at


Janet Sutanto

Janet Sutanto shares next, jumping into the conversation about motherhood and the artists’ life. Janet’s youngest is just a couple of weeks old, so this is all fresh for her. 

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Janet tells us that sometimes the only creative input she can get is to flip through paintings-in-progress on her phone during a feeding session. She likes to keep a painting out in the open to look at it at times throughout the day. “Seeing the progress of the painting rejuvenates me”, she says.  We piece together the creative lives we can, sometimes from fragments scattered through our schedule, or lack thereof.

It’d be a shame not to mention the beautiful work Janet Sutanto has brought tonight. I love the style of her abstracts–full of motion and grace at once. There is a lot of texture at play, and we all take in tiny cracks in the paint as she passes the small canvas around the circle.

Janet Sutanto’s work is found online at


Janae Mercier

Janae Mercier is next, with a literal treasure chest filled with new work to show us. One by one, she takes colourful paintings of animals (both real and fantastic) and lays them across the wooden slats of our floor. Her rainbow menagerie fills the space with light and colour. 

It is obvious Janae loves creating. She hasn’t been painting for long, and we’ve watched her develop and share her work–first writing and now watercolours–over a couple of years of ArtLucks. At this showing, it’s clear Janae is hitting her stride. 

Some of the papers have curled as the paint has dried, and other artist in the room share their solutions to this pesky paper problem. This kind of practical knowledge always finds a way into these gatherings. 

Follow Janae’s journey online at The Little Things of Life | The things in life that make me smile!  :)


Cassie Rae Altheim

Cassie Rae Altheim is next. Another newcomer to ArtLuck, Cassie has shown work in our gallery during both of our annual OPEN WALLS shows. I’ve always been struck by the level of detail and dedication in the tree leaves that fill her canvases.

The painting Cassie has for us tonight presents the glowing purple of an evening glade. Light hits the tree from the left and draws us in towards a darkened path.


We share our thoughts on the piece and answer any some questions Cassie has. We comment on the quality of light. The meditative practice of painting so many leaves. 

Cassie reflects on her own experiences with depression and the way that painting draws her towards light and colour.  She shares the ways her feelings about a painting can change–how she can leave the canvas angry, then come back, when happy, and see a new picture revelealed. 

You can follow Cassie’s art on Instagram at


Dave Von Bieker

I’m next up, with a recent original song called “The Doorstep of Mercy”. I grab the blue ‘house guitar’ and it’s pointed out how perfectly it matches my dappled blue sweater. Not on purpose, I swear.

I play my song through and remember how nice this is–singing for a room full of people truly listening. Connections are made. The air stills. Well, at least that's how I remember it.

The last notes fade and I ask about ‘hangnail lines’. Lines that stick out in the song as either a good, strong image, or an awkward distraction. There is one, and most people catch it. It’s the lyric I was wondering about. Thankfully, the impact is not a distraction but a question that has listeners thinking. Probably because that lyric still has me thinking, too. It’s a lyric I toyed with taking out a few times. In the end, I feel brave for keeping it in. It’s been worth it.

You can find my music online at


Harry Abbink

Harry Abbink is here for his first ArtLuck, and he’s got a stunning watercolour to show, from his recent solo show called Crescendo. He explains how this painting is part of a larger narrative of a woman dealing with creative block and frustration. How she tears off her clothing in wild frustration. How she finds the freedom and release to hear her own inner song, returns to her piano, and finishes her masterpiece. How that process is so like many of our own creative struggles.

Harry tells us about his late-in-life development as an artist, and his somewhat awkward embrace of painting the nude human form. There is some religious baggage there, too. It’s a story all-too-familiar, and I’m very glad Harry feels at home enough here at Bleeding Heart to share it with us.

You can find more of Harry’s work on his Facebook page here.


Michelle Earl

Michelle Earl is next, sharing new work that fuses a couple of styles we’ve seen before. This is the beauty of ArtLuck–we watch threads weave together over time. Michelle is combining sketches of people with complex colouredpatterns that she has gotten positive feedback on. She likes the patterns, but missed her characters, so she’s found a way to bring them together., placing characters in patterned frames. 

Michelle is always bubbling with creative energy at ArtLuck, and its been fun to watch her work take shape. She recently got to illustrate a book with a local children’s author called “The Tale of the Runaway Toenail”.

You can read Michelle’s work on her blog, The King’s Poetry, at


Lora Jol

Lora Jol, another first at ArtLuck, finishes our evening in song. Lora creates an ambiance whenever she sings, so her original is the perfect send off into the winter dark. 

You can hear Lora’s music online at her Bandcamp profile .

We sit and listen. Finish off snacks. Soak in the beauty of everything shared. 

I leave reminded of how great things can grow from the simplest actions. Share some beauty. Share some snacks. That’s ArtLuck, and we’ll do it again soon. Like, March 30 soon.

And if this all sounds good to you, imagine four days of creative community like this, with a workshop and retreat thrown in. That’s coming up this summer. It’s called Small, Slow & Beautiful and you can register here .

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