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Experimenting with the News in Olds

Lorene Runham helped cofound the Wellspring Visual Art Network Association for rural artists north of Calgary and south of Red Deer.
(Photo credit: Noel West, Mountain View Publishing)

For this Olds artist, the past five years are all about change.
New technology, new techniques, new media. After years of traditional art, Lorene Runham is now focused on creating digital collages and printing them on various media. It’s “probably my main form of art now,” she says.
Runham has been devoted to art all her life, and has been teaching it fairly consistently since studying art and design at Red Deer College right after high school. As a teacher though, realistic, representational art dominated her work because that’s what students want to learn. She understands their desire; as a novice, she wanted to learn to make an apple look like an apple too. And it is a good place to begin.
“At the very beginning of my art career, all I did was very, very fine, black-and-white, Rapidograph pen-and-ink drawings. No colour whatsoever,” she chuckles.
Runham eventually allowed herself more freedom to explore her own artistic voice in her own studio work. About 15 years ago she started producing impressionistic, pastel landscapes. Collage, which was her childhood love, also worked its way into her main repertoire, and gave vent to her affinity for Van Gogh’s vibrant expressionism.
Both forms are highly tactile, she says. Smearing around pastels and manipulating the pieces of paper get her hands right into the work.
Her choice to stop teaching about five years ago provided time and energy for still more new ideas, which is when she discovered digital. Initially, Runham used her computer only as a means to create reference work – until she recognized the potential.
“I quite liked what I was getting,” she says.

Using her own photography, she manipulated and collaged the images on the computer. She realized she could print them not only on paper but other fabrics as well. She now sells all sorts of fabric pieces. Runham found an “ethical fashion” company in Montreal to manufacture the pieces. It handles the entire production from milling to the final seam, and doesn’t create a work until it’s ordered, so nothing ends up in the landfill.
“I’m very, very proud that I’m working with 100 per cent ethical fashion and Canadian-made,” she says.
The range of her artwork has put Runham in numerous solo and group shows. Her proudest moment so far was in 2017 when she was selected as one of the four Alberta artists to have their art in the Legislative Assembly’s retail store that year.

She isn’t settling into any niches, though. As much as Runham has appreciated the portability and cleanliness of working on a computer, she found she was missing the hands-on work of the studio. During the pandemic lockdown she had plenty of time to study and experiment, and is now finding herself creating abstract art. She laughs as she acknowledges the contrast with her early realist work.
“For a number of years I’ve been attracted to abstract,” she says “As (artists) evolve, it’s what we evolve to. We first must understand realism and representative art to begin with.”
For more information, visit lorenerunhamart.org

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