Gary Kurtz photo The natural beauty of Sunnybrae inspires artist Maureen Howard just as it has her mother and grandmother.

Finding inspiration in natural beauty

Sunnybrae artist follows artistic path set by mother and grandmother

Leah Blain


The natural beauty of Sunnybrae has inspired three generations of Howard women – Senia Howard, Lois Howard McLean and now Maureen Howard.

“We’d spend all summer at the lake. My grandmother lived on the same road I’m on now,” says Howard. “I have tons of her paintings on my wall, and my mom’s, and my own. It’s just that whole feeling of being surrounded by family.”

Now a successful artist in her own right, Howard remembers her first painting lessons with her grandmother, Senia (nee Laitinen).

“The first time I painted, I used her oil paints. We were on the beach. It was wonderful. My grandmother taught me to be observant of the world around me, to the shadows and the light.”

This lesson has played an integral role of her artistic style, especially as it has evolved over the years.

“The colours are what attracts me. I don’t try to do a representational because it is the colour that captures my interest, that’s what draws me and makes me stop and pay attention. I’m trying to develop a place where I can walk between abstract and real.”

Howard uses acrylic and mixed media but, like many artists, she has expressed her talent in various ways, including watercolour and pottery.

Art had to take a backseat during the years she was working full time as a psychologist. Her job took her from BC to Alberta, but she returned to the Shuswap five years ago when she retired.

Now her days are filled with painting, gardening, hiking, and spending time with her mother.

Last year, her work was featured in the Salmon Arm Art Gallery’s Trail Mix exhibition.

Retirement was a relaxing life until she received an invitation for a solo show at the Studio Connexion Gallery in Nakusp.

“Anne [Beliveau] followed my Facebook page and she asked asked me I would be interested in exhibiting in the summertime. Like a fool I said yes,” Howard says laughing. “I didn’t know really how much effort that would be. Before the show, five paintings out of my stash sold so it left a big hole. I had to paint like a mad fiend.”

Her two-week show, “Out My Front Door” opened on June 13. It has been a successful show with nine more paintings sold.

The Shuswap offers a “never-ending supply” of inspiring scenes for Howard. She takes sketching material, watercolours, or a camera when she is hiking because “every square inch” is worth a painting.

“What I try to do in my work is celebrate the beauty of the natural world. Every day I get to enjoy a fabulous range of colour and texture that the Shuswap presents to me – talk about 50 shades of blue.

I’m so thankful to my mother and my extended family that I have this inspiring view out my front door.”

You can view Maureen Howard’s art on her Facebook page: Maureen Howard – Sunnybrae Studios.