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Artists at Saanich retirement community reflect on a lifetime of inspiration

Dorothy Wing and Myrtle Peters have been painting since childhood
Dorothy Wing, left, and Myrtle Peters, residents at Revera Parkwood Place on Shelbourne Street, stand with some of theirs and other resident artworks. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Two people with different backgrounds, hailing from different parts of the country, have a shared interest in creating art and wound up living in the same Greater Victoria retirement community.

Dorothy Wing and Myrtle Peters began drawing and painting as pre-teens, the former in her hometown of St. Lambert, Que. near Montreal, the latter in Calgary. Each had plenty of inspiration for creating works of art over the years, primarily life experiences that prompted them to pause for reflection.

Their works are among many pieces on display in the common spaces around Revera Parkwood Place on Shelbourne Street.

Peters, who moved with her husband to Victoria two years ago to be close to their daughter and family, remembers actively creating art during her school days. Born in southwest Saskatchewan, she lived most of her life in Calgary. She recalled one teacher would let her do artwork when other students were still busy with academics.

“Some people can really change your life, or guide you to different things in your life,” she said. Her mother was one, always telling young Myrtle there was nothing she couldn’t do. “She never interfered, she’d let you plan your own life. That’s probably the greatest gift you can give your family.”

In a sitting room at Parkwood is a large painting featuring a snowy scene at night, with light streaming out of a workshop. One of Peters’ first large pieces, it has never been for sale, largely for the memories it rekindles.

“I used to babysit a lot and I’d have to walk home in the dark on snowy nights. There were no streetlights and I’d have to practically feel my way home. I think that’s why I think so much of it,” she said. “The winters were hard.”

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Once she began working as a registered nurse in a Calgary hospital, she used painting as a form of therapy, finding it a good way to relax on her days off. “It was a good way to feel free, to take things out of your mind.”

Her talent for her craft became apparent as she worked further at it.

“I could see the vision of what I wanted to paint in my head,” she said. “I was surprised when people would say they wanted one of my paintings.”

Her husband, a former banker, was her marketer and together they sold a number of Peters’ works.

While the busyness of family activities on the West Coast leaves her little time these days for creating art, she is grateful for what it has given her in life.

Wing is another of the many talented residents at the bustling Parkwood complex, and also has fond memories of experiences that fed into her desire to recreate scenes and paint people.

She remembers as a child jumping on the streetcar coming from Montreal and riding with her friends into the countryside past her home.

“(The driver would) drop us off where the pussy willows were and we’d have great fun catching them. It was a lovely time,” she said.

Long retired from a career in social work and gerontology, Wing enjoys a range of subjects and mediums, with her collected works at Parkwood encompassing everything from breezy watercolours of flowers to a dark-toned portrait of a woman in a frame that gives the work the feel of an old master.

A B.C. resident for the past 20 years or so, she’s experienced life on the Pacific and the Maritimes, as well as a stint in Europe, where she gained new appreciation for the trials of people there who went through war.

Wing enjoys painting faces and extracting more than simply their features. One of her favourites included 22 different faces.

“There is negative and positive and if you see the positive in the person, that’s like their soul, so I sometimes try to point in that direction,” she said, noting she enjoys bringing out the good in people.

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