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Valorie Preston "Extraordinaire"
Special Guest Artist
Colveyco Newsletter, September 2004

Web connects artists and art lovers
Some art lovers will buy after seeing only Internet images
Paul Gessell / The Ottawa Citizen, Thursday November 25, 2004


The Art in Valorie
Local Talent with a World of Experience
Kelly Buell / Capital Xtra! Jun 19 2003


Sales Soar with Virtual Gallery

Laura Grice / Charlatan November 2000


Glebe Painter Balances Art and Commerce

Steven Fouchard / The News. Thursday April 27, 2000


Web connects artists and art lovers
Some art lovers will buy after seeing only Internet images
Paul Gessell / The Ottawa Citizen, Thursday November 25, 2004


Rod Macivor, The Ottawa Citizen

Christine Christianson, a high school English teacher in Wytheville, Virginia, decided last June to honour the memory of her late husband, Scott, by acquiring a painting for the den of the couple's home. It could not be just any painting, but a painting somehow linked to the American-English poet T. S. Eliot, creator of such classics as The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Scott Christianson had been a professor of literature. He had done graduate studies on T. S. Eliot and quoted the poet frequently. Scott and Christine had even engraved a line from Eliot's Four Quartets inside their wedding bands: "The fire and the rose are one."

To find the perfect painting, Christine went to the Internet and did a search on "T.S. Eliot and art." Within moments, Christine landed on the website of Ottawa artist Valorie Preston.

Preston has done an entire series of paintings inspired by Eliot. She paints in many styles, everything from calligraphy to complex abstracts and ethereal portraits. Images of Preston's work are on her website.

A full-time artist since 1992, Preston is a former English teacher. She also served as chief of staff to Allan Blakeney when he was Saskatchewan premier. And, of course, she is a disciple of Eliot.

Christine Christianson was bowled over by Preston's work. "I couldn't believe I had stumbled upon such wonderfully real and beautiful work, and upon an artist for whom Eliot was just as meaningful as he was to Scott," Christianson writes in a testimonial now posted on Preston's website, www.valoriepreston.com. "I felt like I'd found a gold mine. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. looking at Valorie's paintings. After e-mailing a friend in California for her opinion on the quality of the work and the sanity of such a purchase, I e-mailed Valorie.”

Christianson bought a painting called Still Point, a minimalistic work inspired by a line from Eliot's Four Quartets. She also bought three giclée prints (high-quality digital reproductions), one of which has the Eliot-themed title of Wasteland.

Preston is not well-known beyond Ottawa. She does not show regularly in any one gallery, although her work frequently appears everywhere from Ottawa bookstores to charity auctions. Without the Internet, the chances of Preston and Christianson connecting from such a great distance were almost nil.

Generally, Preston has tended to think of her website more as a promotional tool than as an on-line boutique. It is a way of notifying customers about exhibitions in real galleries or to lure them to her studio at 145 Loretta for an open house, such as the one planned for Dec. 4 and 5.

But art-lovers, she notes, are increasingly buying art simply from spying images on websites or from receiving images in e-mails.

The story is the same throughout the art world. High-end galleries, auction houses and independent artists like Preston are increasingly doing online sales. "..."

Preston is somewhat wary of Internet-based galleries. She has been invited to join some. But she notes some charge high fees to post an artist's work. And like any sector of the business community, some operators are more honest than others.

As well, there are still limitations to the Internet. Despite Preston's successes with her website, e-mails and studio tours, Preston would still love to be selling her work regularly in a real bricks-and-mortar gallery.

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The Art in Valorie
Local Talent with a World of Experience
Kelly Buell / Capital Xtra! Jun 19 2003

She has been an experimental artist for 16 years. Model for youth in the GLBT community, mother and partner, Valorie Preston is excited that she now has an expansive new studio and display space in which to work and show her art. Preston’s new studio is the culmination of her artistic and life experiences.

“I have played with colour. With line as energy, motion and as figure to create a new way of looking at energy and life force,” says Preston. “I began a trek when I started playing with circle, then Chinese calligraphy, then into line. What I have now is my own line concept.”

Ten series and about 500 paintings later, Preston continues to hone her passion, occasionally mixing business with pleasure. Traveling the world, she shares the impact of her experiences when her paint brush hits the canvas.

“In 1999 or 2000, I went to the Yukon and attended an aboriginal healing circle,” Preston says. “That had a profound influence on my life. It reinforced my sense of community and circle as community. My work takes a look at that and how life force wanders until it can form its complete circle, which of course is its end,” she explains.

“When the circle is complete, we are finished. As long as we keep the circle strong by adding elements of strength to it then we have one of the strongest shapes on the world.”

Preston’s artistic strengths and outstanding contributions to the community have proven to be both empowering and thought-provoking. “Aside from attending shows that were sponsored and part of the funds donated to gay projects, I have donated pictures to auctions, for example, Egale,” Preston says. “I can give my art to charities and they make money from it. That’s good.”

Preston’s next philanthropic contribution will be to the Aids Committee of Ottawa’s Stage for Aids gala. “I’m thrilled about her donation,” says Brent Oliver, executive director of the Aids Committee of Ottawa. “Without people like Valorie these fundraisers just wouldn’t be as successful.”

The corporate world has embraced Preston’s art with open arms as well. “The first time I saw her work I was moved,” collector Dr Monique Andrews says. “Her work draws you in. Whether in your home or corporate space, it has a dramatic, striking effect. It goes beyond the colour and texture of her work. There’s something extra special about it.” Andrews adds that many offices and prominent places are decorated with Preston’s work. She feels they are drawn to Preston’s art because she has something for everyone and everything.

The owner of After Stonewall, David Rimmer, proudly displays Preston’s work in his store. What attracts him to her art work is the variety of its forms and her use of color. “She is an extremely intelligent woman with a strong social conscience,” says Rimmer.

Although she has never entered competitions for her artwork, Preston sees the rewards of her work in creating the art itself. “I do art because I love what it does for me, what I feel when I look at it, and love what I feel when I do it. I believe that all of us have artistic talent. Most of us just don’t allow it to develop. Artistic talent can be in words, painting, designing a great table. It’s the ability to see beauty and life through words and color.”


Sales Soar with Virtual Gallery
Laura Grice / Charlatan November 2000

Painter Valorie Preston can create a work of art with just a few brushstrokes. And with her virtual gallery, art lovers can enjoy her work with just a few keystrokes.


Preston, a Glebe artist whose art is displayed at several Centretown locations, started her virtual gallery about a year ago. (www.valoriepreston.com). Along with images of her paintings, the Web site has information about how to buy her work and where it’s being exhibited. She says her sales have jumped, because people can see much of her work in one place.


“I wanted to maximize my promotional ability,” says Preston. “People can see some of my work at a show, and then they can go to my Web site to see my other work.” David Rimmer, owner of After Stonewall, a Bank Street bookstore that displays Preston’s paintings, says he often directs interested customers to her Web site to see more. “I think it’s quite marvellous,” he says.


Adrian Göllner is a Centretown artist on the board of directors for Artengine (http:// artengine.ca), a publicly funded, Ottawa-based virtual gallery that receives grants from sources such as the Canada Council for the Arts and the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. Göllner says virtual galleries allow artists to display their work on an ongoing basis. “Keeping what you do out there is very important,” says Göllner.


But ongoing publicity means ongoing costs and most virtual galleries can’t rely on public funding.
James Brunton, co-owner of Gamma Ray Productions, a small, private art gallery on Somerset Street West, says although he and his partners “love the idea of a virtual gallery,” it would be too costly to turn their modest Web site into an extensive virtual gallery. He says they’re operating the gallery “by the seat of our pants” and can’t afford to pay for extra space on their Internet server. “We can’t spend all this money on virtual galleries,” he says. “Are we willing to pay another $50 a month?” Brunton says no.


Preston says her biggest costs came from setup and registration fees. Now, she pays $40 a month to keep her site going, plus the cost of getting new works scanned so she can add them to the gallery. But she says it’s a worthwhile investment. “It’s an interesting and ongoing way (for artists) to show their work to the public.”


The virtual gallery also exposes Preston’s work to a much wider audience. Preston says that although all her customers want to see the real paintings before buying, they’ll often use the virtual gallery as a starting point to find something that catches their eye. She thinks that will change.


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Glebe Painter Balances Art and Commerce
Steven Fouchard / The News. Thursday April 27, 2000

Valorie Preston says she wasn’t exposed to a lot of culture growing up in rural Saskatchewan; a painting on the wall was an outrageous indulgence under the circumstances. “The money that we had went to my father’s machinery.” Ms. Preston’s mother, however, enjoyed various handicrafts and decorated the family home with them.

Ms. Preston went on to a relatively unartistic career path as a high school English teacher, Chief of Staff to former Saskatchewan Premier Allan Blakeney, and campaign manager to then NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin. But still, her mother’s influence did not go unheeded.

“My work in politics was extremely demanding so, in 1987, I decided I needed a change. I decided I wanted to explore my creative side.” Together with her son, Ms. Preston began to paint with watercolours; a relatively inexpensive introduction to the medium. A professional break came in the form of an offer to exhibit at a local restaurant which attracted 80 viewers to the 100-person capacity space. “That started me framing and seriously working at it. It was rewarding, if not wildly financially rewarding.”

Currently, Ms. Preston’s work explores her experiences with Aboriginal spirituality. A pair of excursions to northern British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and participation in a traditional native healing circle and sweat lodge, were influential. “It was like going back and getting rid of 45 years of pollution and encumbrances that society puts on us and starting fresh. You could just walk a few minutes and sit beside a huge lake and look up at the mountains. It was profoundly influential.”

Ms. Preston is looking for new ways to show her work and recently launched her own website (www.valoriepreston.com) to promote her work. “It’s just another medium,” she says. “And yes, it is a product of the ‘hurly burly’ to a certain extent, but it is there. (To not use it) is like saying you’re not going to use a telephone anymore.”

Ms. Preston will be taking another plunge into non-artistic waters as the only artist with a booth at .commerce 2000 (pronounced “dot commerce”) – a technology and e-business show at Lansdowne Park. There she will unveil her art rental program. She explains her motives with characteristic modesty and humour.

She counts on the pleasure art brings to people’s lives. “I surround myself with things I love,” Ms. Preston says, “I have art, music, books. I think that most of us ignore the impact environment has on our lives. And I think it’s one of those things we’re just now starting to understand a little more about. If you create a positive and rewarding work environment employees will respond. Art provides some of the balance needed in our too-busy lives and I want to make art more available for more people."

Valorie Preston’s work will be on display April 28, 29 and 30 at the National Capital Fine Art Festival in the Aberdeen Pavilion of Lansdowne Park. Her virtual gallery is available at www.valoriepreston.com.

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