When I first began a career in the Arts I little realized the many doors it would open and the various avenues I would eventually follow. My first love as a youngster was drawing, mainly studies of people; this early experience helped me to enter the Ontario College of Art.
I graduated from four years of study in 1950 and found myself away from the familiar classroom–studio with an artist husband and a new son shortly thereafter. Now began an era where the “I” of dreams became the “we” of reality and any creativity thereafter was based around family. In an extended search for the ideal place to raise a family, work and remain true to artistic ambition we left Ontario and settled in British Columbia where we began building a home/studio overlooking Burrard Inlet.
Once our two sons Grant and Craig were on their own and the need to retain this property unnecessary, we looked for a place where we could become more independent and further our art career. We found it in the dry south central interior of BC where we managed to purchase a piece of property high in the mountains overlooking a beautiful lake. We began planning and building our second studio/home with the full intention of completing it within a year or two; however, Roy was offered a supervisory job upgrading the island hospital in Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii. So off we went for what was to become a two-year adventure, as Roy was asked to oversee building a twelve-bed hospital at the armed forces western most dew-line base in Masset the following year. We met many new and interesting people in this remote archipelago and my painting brushes were always busy. Meanwhile our lonely home waited for us back in the interior where we finally arrived late in a very cold and snowy December. We bundled up, took a deep breath, dug ourselves out and began where we had left off two years previously.
As our home neared completion we turned over ideas of how to make a living, we again followed past experience. Roy had worked several years in lithographic printing and had managed to acquire many artifacts of it’s beginnings, namely a number of limestone plates which was the basis for the new printing invention back in 1790, one aging calfskin inking roller, several cans of rollup ink and a smattering of how the original process worked. A key outline and all the planned colors are drawn directly on grained limestone each in direct register to the key, these are processed chemically to receive printer’s ink (a bit of magic) once proofed the transformed results are printed using a hand press onto fine printmaking papers. Later when we became confident in the quality of our hard won prints we began showing them across Canada and the United States. We acquired a new proofing press capable of printing large format prints, and several larger inking rollers. Our home with it open living area became a much needed gallery showplace and was opened to the public in 1980 where we have been able to show interested guests the wonders of printmaking from ancient limestone blocks. With our reputations as original printmakers established and a bit of breathing room available another artistic endeavor appeared to fill this space.
Both of our now adult sons had decided after research among the extensive collections in the great museums of Europe to begin building classical musical instruments; Grant with renaissance and baroque lutes and Craig with harpsichords. At the time very few builders of early instruments were working in Canada. Harpsichords with their extensive flat surfaces present a unique challenge to the decorator and skilled craftsmen had originally performed this task under a strict guild system. At Craig’s request, I began what was to become a long-standing career decorating his beautifully crafted harpsichords; I find each one a challenging experience as wood grains differ and can be affected by both temperature and humidity. Once solved and with Craig’s growing success as a builder of note, I gained confidence in my own ability to do his work justice. Both Grant and Craig’s expertise in their chosen fields has gained them international recognition.
All Images Are © Olga Kornavitch-Tomlinson
Olga Kornavitch-Tomlinson Artist Bio
Music, dance and the human figure have fascinated me since childhood and when I had to choose among the various mediums at my disposal I settled on the traditional mediums of Pastel and Oil Paints. Pastel has an immediacy about it that appeals to my love of drawing directly from the model, whether in motion or static poses, and with today’s broad range of rich colors there is a greater freedom of expression. Oils perhaps give me the most latitude in examining the depth and detail of a subject. Lithography was practiced after a pressroom was added to our home/studio; this printmaking medium is perhaps the greatest taskmaster. One has to acquire patience to firstly understand the possibilities of the medium, and to then remain creative while adhering to its rules. I have created some of the most pleasing and complex works using this medium.”
Blog / Website: Tomlinson Studio/Gallery