When we moved off the farm I gave away the old cream cans to family. One daughter suggested that a scene or two reminiscent of the farm painted on hers, would make a great memento of the past 50 years. She recommended a painter in our area who was well known for her artistic skills in preserving memories on a variety of antique objects.
“Just bring some photos of what you have in mind,” we were told by the artist. So with pictures in hand, we drove out to the farm home of Betty and Lloyd Shapka. On entering the house we were greeted by many beautiful paintings of nature scenes, all done by Betty.
Taking us downstairs to her workshop and gallery, she showed us an amazing variety of her work. Betty paints on canvas, metal, wood and stone — everything from benches to saw blades to rocks. She has a special room sealed off from the main area, where she sands and cuts objects in preparation for painting.
Betty and Lloyd have five sons and seven grandchildren. She has been painting for most of her adult life, but had little time for developing her art while the boys were young.
“I always wanted to paint, so as a young married woman I enrolled in a correspondence course from an American college. It gave me an overall view of different ways of painting but no actual ‘hands on’ lessons in using a brush.
“So I bought myself some supplies and tried various methods, using acrylics, watercolours and oil-based paints. I prefer using acrylics as they’re more controllable, dry quicker and cleanup is easy with soap and water. I realized I needed more instruction so I took courses at North Battleford, Saskatoon and Lloydminster and continued to learn more techniques.”
As her talents developed, her painting became more than a hobby. She even takes her supplies along on holidays, where she paints from the actual subjects or takes photos for later reference.
“Lloyd encouraged me and helped by sawing wood for frames and I build some myself. He also cuts metal pieces with the acetylene torch to make a metal surface on which I can paint.”
Betty is often asked to produce art for gifts, such as the deacon’s bench which has removable panels that can be changed with the seasons. Her detailed landscapes often reflecting local scenery and animals painted on rocks make great presents. She rarely paints the same scene twice and says, “I find that repeating is boring and love the challenge of creating something new.”
Betty also does commissioned work and paintings for charity, and every year donates an item to the local chapter of the Wildlife Federation for its silent auction. At the 100th anniversary of the pioneer community, she donated a painting of the historic St. Anthony’s Church in the rural area of Grosswerder, Saskatchewan. It was sold at a silent auction with the funds used for maintenance of the building. She also donates a prize of artwork to the local health foundation for its charity golf tournament.
Betty shares her love of painting and teaches the art to interested students ranging in age from children to grandparents. She has been holding classes for almost 15 years in her basement studio and lessons are held twice a week over the winter months.
Betty Shapka can be reached at (306) 753-2593.
Naden Hewko writes from Macklin, Sask.