Chilliwack’s Laura Levitsky is a happy little cloud in a vibrant sky: with wavy chestnut hair framing a bright smile and dazzling eyes, Levitsky herself isn’t much bigger than a brushstroke, but her creativity is mountainous.
A painter with a precise eye for realism, Levitsky has been drawing and painting the world around her since falling in love as a young child with a small, hued painting of a sunset done by her father. However, it wasn’t until late 1999, when her children were a bit older and she had more free time, that she really began devoting time to her art, and by 2005, she had enough artwork for her first solo exhibition.
|Laura Levitsky poses in front of her latest painting. (Submitted)|
Now, Levitsky’s talents are being recognized by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) as one of her paintings, The Suitors, has been selected as DUC’s Waterfowl Stamp and Print artist in their annual National Art Portfolio for the second time. Hundreds of paintings were submitted by artists across the country, with Levitsky’s being one of 11 selected for the portfolio.
“The National Art Portfolio is a unique program that not only promotes our country’s outstanding nature artists, but the growing need to conserve the natural areas that inspire their work,” says Michaela Bell, DUC’s national manager of retail operations.
The works selected for DUC’s 2018 National Art Portfolio are used during fundraising initiatives to help support wetland conservation work, scientific research, and education programs. The continuous expansion of our cities and towns into nature is putting our wetlands at risk: Canada has 25 per cent of the globe’s wetlands, more than any other nation, but they’re becoming increasingly endangered. Wetlands aren’t just water basins, or swamps; they are vitally important to our environment, store and clean water, prevent floods and droughts, store large amounts of carbon, and are home to a multitude of insect, plant, and animal species.
Being a lover of the outdoors, a lot of Levitsky’s artwork is suitable for competitions such as DUC’s National Art Portfolio. “I paint in nature, and for (competitions) like this, so it fits naturally,” says the artist. “But it’s also handy to have the artwork be suitable for other things as well,” she adds. The Suitors was also listed as a finalist in a 2016 Wildlife Habitat of Canada art contest.
Armed with sketchbook and camera where ever she goes, Levitsky is constantly taking pictures, collecting specimens of nature, and writing studies down in notebooks to ensure her portraits are as close to life as she can make them. She says unless you’re extremely familiar with the subject, there’s no way you can imagine all those intricate details.
For example, she explains how when documenting hummingbirds for Tiny Treasures, she learned the birds harvest spiderwebs to build their nests with. “Without the photos, I’d never have known to include that.”
“Being a realism artist, you’ve got to be damn good to pull out all that detail,” says the painter while in her studio. “So I have to do it that way (because) I am firm on referring to my own reference material. That way, it guarantees the authenticity of my work being original.”
And even though she paints based on reference photos she’s taken, Levitsky is careful to point out she’s not just painting a photo. “I create the composition right down to the size of the canvas,” she says standing next to a nearly-finished owl portrait.
The photo composition she created for the owl comprised 29 different layers in Photoshop, with photos from around the province: the background is Cultus lake, the main trees are from a different location, the branch the owl’s perched upon is from a random tree, and the owl was photographed at a bird sanctuary. The vision didn’t exist before Levitsky imagined it. And she never misses a detail: if you look at the owl closely enough, you can see sky and trees reflected in his eyes.
“I love my job,” says Levitsky with a huge smile. “I get to personally learn about every subject I’m interested in.”
And not that Levitsky needed any more confirmation that her work is amongst the ranks of Robert Bateman, who she aspired to be like as a youngster, but on the heels of The Suitors’ exceptional reception, she received an email asking if she’d like join Artists for Conservation as a Signature Member, which is by invitation only.
“That was like a Bucket List item,” Levitsky said happily. “I love how it’s all just coming together.”