Growing Up Together: A Tribute to Artists & Art Forms

August 6, 2019

In celebration of our 45th anniversary at Opus, we connected with eight artists who have grown with Opus over the years, and got a look into their lives as artists.

Images will expand when clicked on. 


Joe Coffey | Oil Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

Well, it was a gradual process spanning a number of years. Originally I worked in graphite pencil exclusively. Then I started to experiment with tinting the drawings with a shellac to give it a warmer vintage feel.That eventually led to mounting the paper onto board and covering it in a thin layer of molding paste, which is semi-translucent when it dries–then actually using a glaze of paint and medium so essentially it became a painting. The next logical step was to try just doing a painting on canvas. It was a bit of a steep learning curve as it was all new. A few friends suggested I stick with graphite, but I really loved the challenge and just the whole process of painting. It uses more of my grey matter, I think it totally engaged me and that remains true to this day.

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

As a customer it is really quite special, truth be told. No hyperbole here–I have gotten to know many of the staff over the years both in their staff capacity and as wonderful fellow artists whom I respect. They have become friends. It really feels like a social visit when I shop at the Victoria Opus. More importantly though, they are knowledgeable and professional and I am always confident that I can ask any technical question and someone will know the answer. That has given me the confidence to try new things over the years so in a way Opus has been part of my evolution as an artist.

Where do you see yourself going with oils in the future?

I am starting to explore  more abstract compositions –at least as far as the backgrounds and how the incongruousness of that with my representational subject matter changes the feel of work, both in an  intellectual way and visceral one. I realize I am not re-inventing the wheel in doing this of course but I am really enjoying exploring this new direction. It’s like I am discovering alternate realities with a dog, or horse, or more recently wild turkeys. This has meant working with spray paint, oil-based markers and oil sticks as well as my trusty graphite pencil. Great fun!

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

Well I am all about the Gamblin products 🙂 Their galkyd, cold wax, and their great selection of oil paints as well as their Gamsol. I also use the Pebeo and Sharpie oil markers. And I go through a lot of the Gold Sable brush series-  I find they serve my purpose best-I do lots of fine glazing work-building up layers – and the softness of them and as well how they very thinly lay the glaze down works best for me.  


Susanna Blunt | Sculpture & Oil Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

By chance, I moved to a location with a garden that begged for fountains or sculptures and I began to design those with great enthusiasm. This led me immediately into the sculptural world of 3/D forms and it seemed to come very naturally to me. I loved it and at once decided to go back to art school if I could find one that would have me. Capilano University was my next great adventure and the rest, yes it is history.

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

Opus has been part of my life since it opened on the first day. It has been my major resource for many years of all my art supplies and I always found the staff most friendly, courteous and helpful at all times.

Where do you see yourself going with your work in the future?

I continue to and always will incorporate sculpture into my art production along with all the other aspects of art that I practice.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

I use Winsor & Newton art supplies because I always have, for oils and brushes and varnish but, also any other like GOLDEN or Opus or other supplies for brushes or thinners and soaps depending on what I need them for, a variety of bristles, artificial or natural. All the supplies are excellent quality, canvas too, tape, and frames.

About Susanna:

Of British descent, Susanna Blunt was born in China but grew up in British Columbia, Canada.  Starting with drawing at the age of 3 , her decision was made at that tine to become an artist. During three summers as a teenager, Susanna attended the Banff School of Fine Arts under Francoise Stegemann, in painting. One of her paintings was bought by the School and subsequently travelled across Canada in a group show.  She took private lessons in Victoria with Frances Goward for a year before moving to London England where she attended the Hammersmith School of Art and Architecture for one year in drawing and in basic sculpture, before starting a three year course the Byam Shaw School. Following this she received a scholarship to the Royal Academy where she studied for a further 4 years in post graduate work, and won several more prizes , scholarships ,and a silver medal, for drawings, portrait paintings and landscapes.  The year before she graduated she had her first one- woman show in Calgary, Alberta. Back in England, she was invited with David Hockney to jury a national competition, the London Print Gallery bought one of her prints, and she worked with Yoko Ono for 6 months helping her with art projects and exhibitions. After moving to California  she taught part time at the College of Marin in adult education , and during the next two years she came to know and be influenced by the artists Gordon Onslow Ford, John Anderson and J.B.Blunk. Returning after that to Canada she spent several years teaching at the University of British Columbia, and other institutions, while developing her career as a muralist, designer, portrait painter, and eventually traveling widely in other countries for her portrait commissions. She has exhibited in group and one woman shows in England, France, Italy, Hong Kong, the U.S.A. and across Canada. She has worked for several publishers and reproductions in poster format are sold internationally. Since the early 1990’s she has been working in sculpture full time along with paintings and installations in mixed media.


Mandy Boursicot | Drawing & Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

After spending 4 years in Florence, Italy, learning and mastering the Academic Method, I discovered that drawing is really the foundation stone of all visual art. Drawing is so varied and so versatile, it can be used to quickly note down ideas, convey a storyboard narrative to others, capture expression and emotion, or developed into a beautiful and sensitive art form in itself. 

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

I have been a customer at Opus since my first day at Emily Carr, back in 1996.The original store, on Granville Island, continues to be my favourite go-to place for all my art needs. All Opus’s are well stocked, and the staff are friendly, and on those rare occasions that the store doesn’t have what I need, the staff have always gone the extra mile to locate and order in even the most obscure items!

Where do you see yourself going with drawing in the future?

My vision of my art practice is to merge drawing with painting, in a simple and direct manner, and combine this with some elements of pattern and gilding, to produce art that touches the viewer.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

A few of my favourite things are Stonehenge print-making paper, Staedtler Lumograph pencils, General’s charcoal pencils, Factis pencil erasers, Winsor & Newton Artist grade oil paints, and M.Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium.

About Mandy:

Mandy Boursicot heralds from the old British colony of Hong Kong, where she was born and attended high school.  Early years were spent variously in Vietnam and Switzerland.  As a child she excelled at art, but parental concerns sent her in a different direction, leading to a 17-year hiatus from any art-making.  She rediscovered drawing, painting, sculpting and decorative art with a passion, culminating in a BFA from Emily Carr and 10 years of gallery representation in highly reputable galleries in Canada and UK.  In 2008, she sought out more training in Florence, Italy, where she mastered the methods of Classical Realism. Mandy now teaches at Capilano University and in her own private atelier, whilst also finding the time to make her own art, based in drawing, painting and gilding.


Aaron Metz | Mixed Media

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

As long as I can remember, creating art has been an integral part of me. It started with crayons as a little kid, moved into charcoal and conté in my youth, and blossomed into making and selling acrylic paintings throughout my 20s and onwards. It was all fun and full of experimentation. However, due to a “waking up” of my spirit 6 years ago, my creativity was guided deep into the world of mixed media. I use acrylics, resin, alcohol inks, gemstones and crystals to create one of a kind art pieces that not only appeal to the eye, but work in cleansing and harmonizing you and your space. Connecting you, the viewer, to a new and beneficial way of experiencing art is now my full time passion.

As an employee and customer, what was your experience with Opus?

From an employee standpoint, I worked for Opus for just over 15 years. In the majority of that time, I was manager of the Kelowna store. Through Opus, I learned a lot about the art business, gained vast product knowledge, and I was able to connect with the community and local art scene through our many hosted Opus events. Opus has grown into having a very strong presence in the city and I was proud to be a part of that process. As a customer, simply put, it has everything I need. From products, to product knowledge, to inspiration, Opus is my go-to place to shop for art supplies.

Where do you see yourself going with your work in the future?

The beginning of 2019 has made a huge impact on my future as an artist. While living abroad with my family in Mexico for 6 months, I was able to source out large quantities of the main crystal that I use in my works, called selenite, directly from the mine. This connection led me to launch an online store and sister-site ( to my art business, whereby I gain more access to this healing form of gypsum. In the near future, I will be evolving my mixed media toolbox and adding more sculptural interior design pieces to my art portfolio. This will be an exciting next stage in showcasing the use of crystals in art with the function for cleansing you and your space.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

Golden Acrylic Paints, Mastercast Resin, Opus Legato Brushes, Jacquard Pinata Alcohol Inks, Pebeo Prisme Inks

About Aaron:

Aaron K. Metz was born and raised in Kelowna; the centerpiece of the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. He spent his youth close to the earth, playing and working in his family’s orchard. From this environment, he learned the fundamental stages required to enjoy the fruit of one’s labour and this acts as a foundation of the various steps that he goes through in creating his current works. Early on, Aaron’s creativity streamed from a masculine perspective with concise repetition of hard lines, bold colours and geometric patterns. Later in his evolution, he immersed himself into laying down paint with more of a feminine quality, fluidity, and blended brushstrokes. Currently, he has found a way to unify both ends of this spectrum. He has fused Mother Earth and Father Sky in structured, yet organic paintings of the cosmos that imbue the healing properties of crystals and minerals. Aaron K. Metz is truly a pioneer that has brought forth a new and exciting way of creating fine art which also works to cleanse you and your space. His paintings can be found at various establishments in Kelowna and in private collections around the world.


Ross den Otter | Photography & Mixed Media

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

I’ve always been fascinated with processes and that’s probably why I gravitated to the camera as a tool. I’ve been a photographic printer longer than I’d consider myself a photographer; going back to my mid teens when I was a darkroom technician for one of the newspapers in my hometown of Courtenay.

The process, for me, is as important as the finished piece. That importance of process shapes the work I produce, in so much as I will work within a process for a period, and through experimentation and variation with either the implementation of technique or application of material, the subsequent work is prodded in a different direction. Early works of mine were primarily acrylic and photo based, while my more recent mixed media work is a blend of transferred images, watercolour washes, pigments and encaustic media.

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

Two of the best things about Opus is the variety of materials under one roof and the staff’s willingness to share information on processes that they have had successes with. Because my work evolves with process, it isn’t uncommon for me to wander the aisles almost aimlessly looking at materials in an effort to cue some inspiration.

Where do you see yourself going with photography in the future?

 have a few photographic projects that are more traditional in nature. Traditional in that I’m not blending paint, wax or resin with the prints.

The first series I’m working on is called “In Development”. It’s an offshoot of a photo series that looked at the building that line both Main and Hastings streets in Vancouver that I undertook a few years ago. This new series looks at life cycle. I’ve been collecting cameras from thrift stores for a number of years. This series has me using film that has passed its best before date, in those cameras that have been disposed of by their previous owners, to record real estate that has either development permit or rezoning application signs in front of them. The images record what we rapidly forget; what stood there before.   

The second of these projects is an ongoing portrait series where I’m constructing large format cameras and attaching lenses scavenged from machines that have been rendered obsolete due to changes in technology. Some of the lenses were used in slide or opaque projectors, some were taken from military aerial reconnaissance cameras that used large sheets of film, and others were pulled from large copy cameras that created very large negatives that were used in the offset printing process that magazines and newspapers were produced with before going to a more digital process.

There isn’t any purpose to this series that is immediately obvious, but it’s been a good deal of fun… which I guess is a purpose in itself.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

Five products that have become invaluable for me that Opus offers are:

Opus Acrylic Gloss medium. It has the perfect viscosity to use as both an adhesive and as a finishing coat. I don’t think I’ve made a piece in the past 10 years where I didn’t use this product. Encastikos XD Encaustic Medium. I love this mix of equal Damar resin and beeswax. The finished surface it provides can be polished with a nylon stocking to give a gloss that other encaustic media can’t match.  Jacquard Pearl Ex Silver Pigment. I blend a little of this with my encaustic medium to give the final coat a bit of a reflective sheen. Golden Gesso. I’ve used other gesso, but for some of my transfer processes where water is used, this gesso stands up the best. Buzz student grade acrylics. I prefer to use student grade acrylics because they have a longer open time than the artist grade equivalents, and I use them more as a glaze than as an opaque cover.

About Ross:

Ross is a mixed media artist. He was born in Port Alberni BC in 1969, and was raised in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Ross currently lives and works in Vancouver where he studied photography at Langara College in 1990. His photographic work has appeared in publications across North America. His work follows unrelated lines that frequently intersect. His pieces are fundamentally based on the his photographic experience that spans over three decades; having his first work published as a teenaged photojournalist with a camera, a bicycle and a newspaper editor who would feed him assignments. In form, his works are a hybridization of traditional art technique, printmaking and photographic process where he blends paint, wax, and resins with modern and historical photographic processes. His artwork is held in private collections in North America, Europe and Asia. He has work in the UBC/Vancouver General Hospital Foundation collection. Walking parallel threads, Ross is a photographer, imaging technician, artist, and a teacher. He instructs in the digital photography program at The Vancouver Institute of Media Arts (VanArts).


Leah Pipe | Acrylic Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

During the early years of my art career, I largely focused on drawing-on-paper. My day job was working as a Display Designer for a museum and I was asked to include two painted portraits of Gitxsan Chiefs to include into the museum’s presentation. They were large paintings and they opened me up to painting with acrylics and capturing northern themes and subject matters. I went from painting many mountainscapes on canvas, to a chapter of totem studies, to portraits of Ravens and Wolves. Last year, I was commissioned to merge these ideas into one work of art – a woman, a black bear, a crow and a fireweed blossom – all standing together, merged into one portrait. This commission has changed my direction yet again and I am currently completing a collection of “Wild” Portraits to be on display at the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver in September.

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

Opus’ staff and services are amazing! I’ve been ordering products and working with them for years and I’ve always been extremely impressed by their exemplary service. They go out of their way to make sure that orders are filled efficiently. If there are any backorders or issues, they do whatever it takes to help out and provide what I’ve needed. For an artist in a remote northern location, having a team at the other end of the phone that is experienced, enthusiastic and supportive is worth everything.

Where do you see yourself going with acrylics in the future?

I’m beginning to experiment with satin glazes and new colours, including quinacridone magenta and dioxazine purple and sap green. It’s been fascinating to see how they enhance the perception of depth in my paintings and how they intensify the level of emotional content in my portraits. Also, I’ve been planning to work on round canvases and panels moving forward mixing portraiture and wildlife together in many translucent layers.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

 My favourite art supplies from Opus are Golden Fluid Acrylics, Golden Glazing Mediums, Liquitex brushes, pre-cut framing kits, pre-stretched deep profile canvases and custom-made linen canvases that are coated with clear-gesso. The quality and care that goes into the making of these custom-made canvases is incredible. They’re made perfectly and meticulously and they’re affordable as well. These canvases are the greatest product and service for me as an artist. Also, I’m about to start the very first art mural in our community and I’m super pleased that Opus offers the Montana line of spray paints; I’m looking forward to using the intense pigments on an 80 foot wall! 

About Leah:

For over 25 years, Leah Pipe has lived in the coastal mountain ranges of northern BC :: in a small town called Hazelton. The community is located in the heart of Gitxsan territory with an incredible river running through it, the Skeena River. By day, she works as the Communications Director for Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and by night, as a professional artist + freelance graphic designer. Leah grew up as an army brat (a gypsy of sorts), her family moving to different military postings in Ontario, Alberta, The Netherlands and Vancouver Island. Art was a large part of her childhood, having taught herself how to draw a photographic likeness at age 12. Her application to the Fine Art Program at the Ontario College of Art was rejected on the basis that she was “unteachable” – meaning, her work was so set in realism that the Applications Jury felt she would not be open to other techniques. This was 30 years ago when realism was not considered fine art but “mere illustration.” Despite being utterly crushed by this rejection, she submitted a late application to a community college and was accepted. Years later, Leah is still inspired and thrilled to work in art-realism and sometimes considers herself more of a technician as opposed to an artist (considered debatable by her supportive friends and community). After college, she taught herself graphic design and began freelancing (while working several retail jobs) and joined a variety of art councils. When she was 20 years old, she visited Hazelton (her dad’s hometown) to attend a family reunion. She fell in love with the town, the mountains, the wildness of the landscape (and the people!). She never left and became part of the fourth generation of Pipes to live in the Hazelton area, finding work at the local Gitxsan cultural centre: ‘Ksan Historical Village + Museum as the Display Designer and Comms gal. She also continued her freelance graphic design work and opened her own gallery for a while. Her current job at SWCC involves media campaigns that incorporate art to raise awareness regarding the declining stocks of wild Skeena salmon, climate change and sustainable community economic development.  Leah has the “Heart of a Raven” – creative, curious and drawn to beauty. Her work is both simple and detailed :: capturing natural elements and portraying them in a striking, yet minimalistic layout. She guides her viewers to truly examine the micro-amazing details of a feather, a raven’s beak, snow-capped mountains, salmon tails and the shapes of wolves’ ears. And to hear and feel the heartbeat in a portrait. She is currently working on a new series of portraits she calls Wild Portraits – a collection of approximately 10 paintings that will be featured at The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver in Gastown, BC., starting early September. The collection is entitled “I Hide In Your Skin” these new works feature different women in portrait-poses with a Wild creature or having wildness running through her in some way. Leah Pipe’s work can be viewed at The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver in Gastown (, Two Sisters Cafe (Smithers), Mountainside Gallery (Terrace) and online at Her most current works are often posted on Facebook (LeahPipe Artist) and Instagram (@leah.pipe)


Carol McQuaid | Printmaking & Watercolour Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

I started out as a designer, doing renderings and working drawings. I enjoyed creating these drawings so much that watercolour renderings and cityscape paintings became my main focus. One day, while attending a life drawing class, the model didn’t show up. Our host pulled out some printmaking supplies instead, and I was instantly hooked!  I didn’t want to give up painting entirely, and I had a show coming up that was expecting a room full of watercolours, so I started experimenting with mixing relief print and watercolour. The combination is perfect for the cityscapes I like to capture. The printmaking element reflects the built world, and the watercolour adds the atmospheric temporary element, much the way light, time and mood affect how we see a place. 

As a customer, what was your experience with Opus?

I’ve been an Opus junkie ever since design school, where we experimented with loads of different mediums and had to find solutions to project challenges. The staff were always a great resource. They got me through, and I’ve been a dedicated customer ever since! 

Where do you see yourself going with printmaking in the future?

I’m starting to do a lot more plein air printmaking, which I really enjoy. I think there’s a perception that you need a press and a studio to be a printmaker, but it’s way more accessible than that.  I also love working big. I’ve done some prints that are up to 9’ long! I have plans for a series of bigger studio prints; an ode to the cities and places I’ve loved over the years.

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

I love recommending the Speedball Relief Printmaking Starter Kit whenever I’m teaching printmaking. Also, buying Stonehenge paper (the best for mixing watercolour and print) at the 100 sheet price is great, and I go through it!  The best though, is the annual garage sale. I’ve loaded up with so much fun stuff these past two years, which gets me experimenting and trying different approaches. This year it was inks and calligraphy sets, which I’m planning to start experimenting and working into my practice soon. Oh and the Opus Exhibition Frames!  I’ve bought hundreds over the past several years. I use them for every show I do; which makes it easy for me and creates great consistency for my collectors.

About Carol: 

Vancouver artist Carol McQuaid loves the contemplation involved in capturing a scene. She works on location, carrying her watercolour sketchbook journals on her travels around Vancouver and her frequent travel adventures further afield. Author of the book “On Keeping A Sketchbook Journal”, she is a huge proponent of sketching as a way to wake up and really see the world around us. After experimenting with printmaking, she was torn: continue with atmospheric watercolour that she loved or switch to this exciting, bolder medium. Instead, she decided to do some research and figure out a way to combine them both. “I love cities; the stories, the history, the energy. For me, the combination of relief printmaking and watercolour is a perfect way to capture them. The printmaking portion acts as the constructed environment, and the watercolour the more temporary, changeable element”. Carol is a Signature Member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, with her “Rooftops of Montmartre” linocut/watercolour winning first place in their 2015 Landscape Show. She’s a self-professed Artist in Residence junkie, and part of the Vancouver Collective “13 Feet Off The Ground”. Sign up for her newsletter for updates on her latest adventures.


Kristofer Parley | Watercolour Painting

How did you evolve into the art form you are doing now?

When I was 8 or 9 my mom put me in watercolour classes alongside my older brother. I’ve been painting for more than thirty years but only within the last 8-10 years have I found my style and cultivated it into the art I am creating now.

As a staff member / customer, what was your experience with Opus?

I have memories of the Granville Island Opus store when I was younger during elementary and high school trips into Vancouver. Before I moved to Victoria, almost 6 years ago now, I shopped at the Langley and the old North Vancouver store. Going to Opus was always an adventure and was never rushed.

Where do you see yourself going with watercolour in the future?

I have been painting very large watercolours lately, my latest has been 40” × 60”. I see myself doing even larger pieces in the future. In August I am heading to the Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts in New Brunswick where I hope that I am pushed to work outside of my current boundaries and try something new. 

What are your favourite art supplies to shop for at Opus?

Faber Castell Perfection Eraser (best all around product ever!); Golden’s QOR Indigo (the whole line is amazing, hard to choose just one colour!); Arches cold press 300lb watercolour paper;  Uniball Signo broad white pen; Pigma Micron Pens 01, 02 & 03.

About Kristofer: 

Kristofer Parley has been painting landscapes, cityscapes, florals and commissions with varying subject matter for more than thirty years. Upon moving to Victoria BC in 2013 his love for architecture blossomed and became his primary subject matter. “Parley’s incredibly vibrant watercolours take local scenes and imbue them with his love of his community”