Paula Love has always had a creative bone. She drew constantly as a child, the Andes her backdrop growing up in South America. As a teenager she photographed rock bands, then spent much of her twenties crafting and baking in the Caribbean. Painting from her Bowen Island home is her most recent artistic venture.
“It was about six years ago that I started. I just painted as if I was drawing. Every piece I’ve done since has been like an experiment, and it’s been an incredible process.” Paula’s artwork embodies her connection to the natural world. Coastal forests, mushrooms, constellations and animals make frequent appearances in her work. “My paintings don’t always turn out the way I think, they take their own route. It happens because they’re from my intuition, mind and dreams, and I just have to trust that.”
Paula was raised in Chile until age four, living in Santiago then in a small coastal fishing town. Her love for the Pacific Ocean is rooted in her early upbringing by water, she says. Paula and her family relocated to Mexico City in 1973 due to the political situation in her birth country. During her schooling she took a particular interest in film photography, and at 16 was contributing work to an underground culture magazine in Mexico City. “It was music and art that wasn’t necessarily commercial, it was more of the real stuff.”
Graduating high school early, she packed a bag and headed for the Caribbean. Living on the beach in Puerto Morelos, (which had a population of 700 at the time) she met Monica, a woman who Paula says changed her life. “She was absolutely out of the box, with the most incredible mind and ideas. She was a hyper-creative– constantly creating, planting and recycling just about everything for art. She changed me."
Paula says her work in the Caribbean was spontaneous. She tie-dyed t-shirts and sarongs to sell at reggae music festivals and beaches, and baking banana bread became her main source of income. “I’d make massive batches every morning, I was an early bird up at 5am. I’d leave it at the general store and coffee shops, then by 10 I’d be free to go to the beach.” It was hot work in 38 degree-plus temperatures. Around 20 cats kept her company, who perched on bench tops and rolled in the sun while she baked.
Paula has always had an affinity for rescuing animals– there were five tropical parrots she housed too.
“That was my life when I was younger, and it lasted a long time. All my friends there were artists in different ways– sculptors and dancers, we did flamenco too. We’d make costumes and get together on the beach and dance.”
She wrote about her experience living in Puerto Morelos and started interviewing locals, which were picked up by a newspaper in Cancun. A relocation to the southeast Mexico city followed as Paula pursued journalism. She took on work as a news writer, radio host and television broadcast reporter, interviewing a range of people– from Nobel Prize winners, to Miss Universe, environmental activists and The Rolling Stones.
“The amazing part of the job was being able to connect with people. It left something precious in me: that it doesn’t matter what people do for a living or what they look like, everyone has an incredible story behind them.”
But in the back of her mind Paula says she was dreaming about returning to her life on the beach making banana bread. Eventually she did just that, and met her (former) Canadian partner. They relocated to Canada’s Bowen Island together. “I fell in love with Bowen straight away. I think I walked around Killarney Lake everyday for the first five years, and I probably know every tree now.”
Between her work tending to gardens across Bowen (she studied permaculture on the Sunshine Coast), she began drawing more than ever before. Paula’s husband saw her illustrating and encouraged her to paint.
“My paintings are a way to express myself through visions I get of nature. But I think that we are all artists. Creating art is embedded in our nature, and there’s no right or wrong way to express it. It’s an expression of ourselves and whatever is happening in our lives.
“Sometimes it’s hard to judge one artist by one piece- you don’t know everything that’s happened behind it for that piece to come into existence.”
Paula paints from a cabin built from recycled wood on her forested property. Her British Columbian surroundings and two children Juliet and Kan Ek are her main sources of inspiration. “My kids are the core of my life.” She paints predominantly with acrylics, and has started experimenting with watercolours. There’s an illustrated book on mushrooms currently in the works.
Human figures are also making appearances in her work. “I’ve been mainly focused on animals and trees, and not so much focusing on the interaction between nature and people. But I’m exploring that now, and the energies and magic that are there.”
Find Paula’s work: Catching Stars Gallery, #1-479 Bowen Island Trunk Rd