Santa's Little Workshop

Cloverdale’s Santa house sparks artist’s imagination

Gabrielle Greig's cozy painting of a snowed-in local landmark earns nod from Surrey Arts Council.

A cozy winter scene painted by a local artist has won second place in this year’s Surrey Arts Council’s annual Christmas card and verse competition.

Gabrielle Greig’s charming portrait of a snug, red-roofed cabin in the snowy woods was inspired by a real building in Cloverdale – Santa’s Workshop at Clover Square Village, a hive of activity in the lead-up to Christmas, as children wait for their chance to meet the Jolly Old Elf.

“There is just something whimsical about that little house,” she says. “I love houses, and their stories.”

The multifaceted artist is also a professional face painter and balloon artist.

“I have a split personality,” she confesses, explaining she’s a member of a clown troupe. Greig has created two clown personas: The electric blue-haired face painter, Mrs. Picasso, and Balloonia the clown, who sports a neon-pink fuchsia hairdo.

Both have made appearances in Cloverdale at various community events, from the annual Blueberry festival to Surrey’s Doors Open, which expanded to Cloverdale in 2014.

“It’s so rewarding – that moment when you hold that mirror up to that child’s face and they just go, ‘Oh, wow!’”

GabrielleGreig Vienna Rooftops

She started her Santa’s workshop painting last year, hoping to enter the Surrey Arts Council contest, but she put the project on the back burner; she wasn’t happy with the way the trees looked.

“This year, I thought, ‘Well, why not finish it?’” She changed the trees, and transformed the painting into a snowy, winter scene – complete with smoke curling out of the chimney – before submitting it.

It’s a location she knows well.

“I always liked that little house,” she says, recalling memories of setting up her colour palette and painting the faces of countless eager children. “I have sat in there many times.”

Formally trained in oils in her native Austria, where Greig grew up in a town near Vienna, she’s lived in Canada for 25 years. These days, she prefers working in acrylics and mixed media.

[Vienna Rooftops, by Gabrielle Greig.]

She turned to clowning more recently. It’s a job that takes her to everything from community festivals and schools to openings, fairs, company picnics and Christmas parties – from Cloverdale to as far away as 100 Mile House.

As a painter, she’s drawn to landscapes but also creates abstracts. “Monet is one of my biggest influences,” she says. House portraits are another favourite subject.

Her artist’s antennae are always buzzing with inspiration for her next creative subject.

“I can’t go anywhere without looking at things that I could possibly transform into something else,” she says.

The winners of the Christmas card and verse competition are published in this month’s Spotlight on the Arts, the Surrey Arts Council’s newsletter.

The entrants were on view at the Newton Cultural Centre Gallery until Dec. 15.

Greig’s other work is currently on view at Sunflower Cafe in Crescent Beach, where she has a solo exhibition running until the end of the month.

This weekend (Dec. 20-21), she’s at Royal City Centre in New Westminster, where she’ll be face painting kids waiting to see Santa Claus.

Santa’s Little Workshop is available as a Christmas card. Contact Greig via her website at www.MrsPicasso.com.

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