I met Bev Tosh in the early 90′s as a student in her figure drawing class at the University of Calgary. Later I attended her figure painting workshop at Series in Red Deer – twice. When I left my design business to pursue my art career full time an opportunity came available for studio space with Burns Visual Arts Society. Bev is one of the founding members of BVAS and I was honoured to have my studio space in the same building as her’s.
My tenure at BVAS was 4 1/2 years during which time I met some pretty amazing artists and made some great friends. I would still be there today if I hadn’t moved away from Calgary. I miss the creative energy of BVAS.
In 2007 I had the privilege of showing with Bev and our dear friend Elizabeth Clark (1947-2008), in our exhibition “Home Bodies” at Profiles Public Art Gallery in St Albert.
For me as emerging artist, this was a milestone and an exhibition that I will always be proud of.
Bev also provided me with the opportunity to work on her first WarBrides.com website when I was just starting Artbiz.ca. We recently converted the old HTML site over to WordPress so that Bev could add and maintain her content. But more than that – At the time I was developing the WordPress Help site for artists and Bev generously acted as my editor, going through each tutorial one by one and offering feedback and telling me where to insert my commas (I’m really bad with commas).
Bev was very generous with her time; in fact Bev is simply a very generous person, period. Her work with the war brides is nothing short of profound. Collecting the stories and painting portraits about these amazing women who gave up life as they knew it to venture forth to a new country, Bev has captured the essence of a generation.
As a documenter and artist, Bev has single handedly become a historian and lecturer about war brides. Her exhibition “One Way Passage” has been shown as far away as New Zealand and she is currently working on a Dutch War Bride exhibition. For little or no monetary gain other than honorariums, Bev funds the travel, insurance and crating of her work.
Passion is just one of the best words that I can use to describe Bev. That and modest; she achieved R.C.A designation with little fanfair. R.C.A. is an acronym for Royal Canadian Academy, one of the highest honours for a Canadian Artist.
I once heard someone in the arts community say that Bev’s pursuit of the War Brides work was a career killer. I was shocked because I have always been under the impression that success as an artist wasn’t about the money but truth. Truth of concept, truth in passion, truth of self. If you sit and talk with Bev you will experience what passion is, what it looks like in someone that has it and aspire to reach that level of belief in yourself and your work.
So while we are all pondering where our next sale is going to come from, perhaps we could define what it is to be an artist. When I moan and groan over my lack of commercial sales I think about what Bev has accomplished and ask myself what does my success as an artist really mean?