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International Women’s Day: SHE is in ART

ARTworks by Tom Beckett

March – the month that marks International Women’s Day.

I could write about famous women celebrated in art – Whistler’s Mother? Mona Lisa? No – too obvious and who knows who those women were anyway!

Instead, I’m going to share a few stories about local artists: women in the art world I admire and a young girl as an example of how we can all encourage young budding artists.

Maggie Shepherd – SHE paints

Maggie walked into Beckett Fine Art two years ago and showed me a sample of her work. I was captivated by the depth and quality of her paintings. When I saw her works in person, I immediately knew her art was very special – in the way she builds a painting, her compositions, texture, and sense of light and colour.

Maggie is now retired as an ICU nurse at McMaster Children’s Hospital. A high-paced, at times stressful work environment that she loved. She was able to contribute and make a difference in the lives of children and their families.

Contrasting the intense world of children’s health care in the ICU, her art can be described as abstract and expressionist. She works in oil to express her unique interpretation of the subject resulting in stunning pleine aire landscapes of many local Hamilton scenes, northern Ontario wilderness, still life and studio paintings.  You may find her capturing the moment on one of Hamilton’s trails or Bayfront capturing the freshness, grit and beauty.

Seasoned and painting for over 20 years, studied at the Dundas Valley School Art, Maggie’s paintings are stunning and have appeared at many galleries and private and corporate collections.

I admire Maggie’s spirit, the contribution she has made to the health of our community, her passion as an artist and the joy she takes in her family.

Courtney Downman – SHE is a glass artist

Fire! Heat! Beauty!

Glass artistry – creating sculptural works with exciting shapes, textures and colours is intriguing. If it is a glass ball catching the colours of the art and reflecting them in the room, a functional vessel, or a creative architectural wonder – it has always fascinated me.

The process is so industrial, so can we say primitive.  Open flames, molten glass to create such beauty.

Courtney has been working with glass for over a decade, first in the Craft and Design program at Sheridan College as a student and teaching assistant, and later as artist in residence at the Living Arts Centre glass studio in Mississauga and in the Glass studio at Sheridan College.  She’s now a Hamilton resident and a new mother.

I admire Courtney’s glass works, her dedication to her art and the fact that she found her craft early in her life and will only continue to make her mark in the art world as her work evolves and her audience of collectors continues to grow.

Courtney Downman – Hand Blown Saw Carved Art Glass

Suzanne Beckett, 94 – SHE can sell art

Let me first tell you about my aunt Sue Beckett. Sue will be 94 on April 1st. She lives on her own, drives wherever she needs to go and even takes her friends to their appointments deftly parallel parking on busy city streets.  She’s a night hawk, movie lover, tablet-savvy marvel.

Sue is a positive force and a great storyteller as anyone she has met knows!

On a recent visit to my home, she hopped up on the kitchen stool and cheered on Sunday brunch with a glass of bubbly.   That’s the spirit!

Sue was one of my first co-workers in the art world.  I’m sure my dad couldn’t say no to hiring his dynamic sister.  For many years, visitors to Beckett Gallery on James Street South were disarmed by this charming, diminutive force of nature.  She knew her art and artists. She knew all our customers.  They knew and loved her.

Although her time at Beckett Gallery ended many years ago, to this day I have people drop in who recall the James Street South gallery and Sue.

I admire Sue for being one of my mentors in selling art, creating her own journey through life – sometimes an unexpected path, full of adventure, fun, engaging everyone she has met along the way but most of all being a true and honest spirit of joy.

Tom Beckett and his aunt Suzanne Beckett

Lucille Beckett, 21 – SHE studies art history

Okay, you’ve now seen two Becketts in a row.  Please indulge me, there is a point in all of this!

My daughter Lucy has been surrounded by art her whole life.  She’s been exposed to pubic and private galleries, met artists, and has experienced some stunning pieces of original art.

Lucy is almost finished her 4-year art history program at Concordia University in Montreal.   Who knows where her career will take her!

The future of the art world is unknown. Knowing that we have students like Lucy around the globe studying the rich history of art, cultural and historical significance, artists who shaped our times is so important.  Art is at the heart of who we are as people from the earliest days of civilization.

To appreciate and understand the significance of where we’ve been as we forge into where we’re going in the art world is paramount to the preservation of our archives and mapping out the future.

I admire Lucy for making this solo decision to pursue a formal education in art history, for her dedication to the art world and … for being a daughter every dad would be proud of! Love you Lu!

Tom and Lucille Beckett

Hannah, 8 – SHE is young and she draws

Hannah, Christa, Megan, Isabelle – many of us have young girls (and boys) in our lives who love to draw and paint.  Some show an impressive understanding of form and proportion at a very young age. Some master colour, probably quite unintended guided by the box of 64 Crayola crayons, creating rich tapestries of their interpretation of the world.

Hannah, in her 8 years, has always been passionate about drawing – always committed to doing the best possible artwork.    Her work at 4 years old – an ink drawing on computer paper of a group of people is framed in my kitchen. No one asks – perhaps they think it’s someone famous!

When I opened my gallery, of course she felt her artwork would be a top seller – after all art is her thing!  We scotch taped her art on the wall one day for a personal private “show” – she made it to the gallery wall!

If it’s my Hannah or the young girl in your life – let’s encourage them to continuously work on their craft. Art is such a pure expression of the soul of a being. Let there be creativity and colour!  You never know where their art will take them – for their own enjoyment or perhaps… The National Gallery!

I admire Hannah for her free spirit and zest for life, the way she dives in to the computer paper stash when she arrives and does her utmost to fill every page with delightful drawings and how she has me sit down with her so she can teach me how to draw just like her!

Hannah – Her First Private Gallery Art Showing


Cheers to the women in our lives! The ones who raised us and the ones that make each day special.

In my art world there are mentors, second career talents, early adapters, future leaders and potential stars.   An art dealer couldn’t ask for anything more!

Tom Beckett is the owner/director of Beckett Fine Art, est. 1966, 196 Locke Street South, Hamilton, ON., Canada 416-922-5582

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