It might not be an overstatement to suggest that Lois Dierlam was born to paint. Her father and first art instructor, the late painter Howard C. Dierlam, was the first director of art for the Toronto school board in the 1940s and worked with some of the later members of the Group of Seven. This weekend, The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto is holding a retrospective of Ms. Dierlam’s work (From Here and Beyond) in tandem with the launch of her first book, Painting with Passion, a full-colour collection of work dating as early as the artist’s childhood. She spoke with The Globe about the show, the book and her process.
Why did you decide to put on this show?
I guess the reason behind doing that show was that I finally got this book done, which is quite important to me. I started on it in 2008 and a lot of people warned me, “You’ll never get the colours right.” They were slides, because they’re older works from the time I was a child up to 2003, so they had to be redone as digital images. I had a terrible time. Finally, about a month ago, I got a proof and showed it to my son. He was furious, and he took it on to redo the whole thing. I’m so happy he finally got it done. The colours are fantastic.
What can people expect to find in the book?
The main part of the book is a commission that I got to go to the Arctic. There’s two paintings from that period – that was back in 1985, actually – in the [original] show that I had left and decided I wanted to keep. Everything else was sold. So, they’re in the show.
You still feel deeply connected to the Arctic.
I find that people go travelling all over the world, but we’ve got a great country here that people don’t explore enough. Especially the wilderness that we have. Between 1985 and now, that whole [Arctic] area has changed so much with global warming and pipelines going through. When I was there, there were icebergs and seals sitting on the icebergs. What I saw then was so different than what I’m seeing on the TV of the area now. It’s just a crime what we’ve done.
What draws you most to landscapes?
I like watching other people and what they like, and exploring it myself. I never did use photographs. I like to start at least on location, just because you get a feeling for the people and the scene and the lighting, just the mood, when you’re sitting there.
Do you plan on holding more shows after this one?
I don’t know. I’m 80! I took on a lot to get this together, which included the book. But yeah, I’ll probably have more shows. As I was working on the show, I thought: “Oh jeez, this is going to be the last one.” But now that it’s coming to an end I think, yeah. I’d do it.