The actor behind the Planet of the Apes’ Maurice visited the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery Arts Centre earlier this month to talk about her career and a recent children’s book as well as donate a painting for auction.
Karin Konoval’s character ‘Jeffrey’ in Jeffrey Takes a Walk in December was born in 2009 in the Pacific Centre Mall after being asked by a friend over lunch to create art prints as well as cards for an independent theatre fundraiser.
“I thought why not create something that celebrates life in show business and so Jeffrey, a small stuffed toy with a tiny drum, became the subject of my first painting in the auditions 2day! series,” she said.
A few years later in 2012, Konoval challenged herself to create a painting a day “and set Jeffrey out on a walk.”
“I literally sent him out on this walk and all I can say is I had no idea where his adventure was leading him the whole time until I got to New Years Eve and I suddenly saw he was coming home,” she said.
“A story existed underneath there that was not just a painting a day, there was a whole journey that was inside that and that’s what I brought into words a few years later.”
Jeffrey Takes a Walk in December was published in 2015 through Friesen Press and is Konoval’s first book.
The 56-year-old’s acting resume, however, is extensive and most notably includes the role of Maurice in the Planet of the Apes Trilogy, as well as acting in Step Up Five, Black Christmas and Cable Beach.
She also has numerous television credits including reoccurring roles on the series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Exorcist, Beyond, and many other performances on stage.
As part of her visit to the gallery, Konoval generously donated an original painting called Peace Boats that’s being auctioned off until Dec. 31.
There are also several cards created by Konoval available at the gift shop with all proceeds directly benefiting the gallery.
Konoval described how her paintings are all done in stories, or series, which have been the focus of her gallery exhibits since she first started in the medium back in 1999.
“It allows me to express something that I can’t really do in any other way,” she said. “It certainly is ‘all mine’ as opposed to as an actor you’re part of an ensemble, which I also love doing, but being able to tell a story on my own and through the writing and paintings coming together as a single unit, it seems to have a life of its own in a way.”
Konoval describes her painting style as “simple” and generally “figurative.”
“There’s also just something very enjoyable about paint moving onto a canvas. Compared to running around on film sets and all of that, it’s a lovely, quiet, solitary exploration,” she said.
With Jeffrey Takes a Walk in December, she’s received letters from fans of all ages who’ve enjoyed flipping through the 56 pages.
“I had no intention for it to be a genre driven thing but ultimately I recognized it as a children’s book,” she said.
Many in attendance at the gallery talk were intrigued to know more about her preparation for the part of Maurice.
“I read every book and watched every video I could find in the beginning,” she said.
Add to that the challenge of learning to move quadrupedally and long call.
Konoval would then find a video online of Towan, an orangutan living at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle who had learned to paint, and take a trip to observe him.
She’s now an advocate for conservation and currently fosters eight orangutans and one chimpanzee in Borneo, Sumatra and Florida.
“I consider myself mostly a student of orangutans – I go to orangutan conservation conferences to learn as much as I can in whatever way,” she said. “It’s been continuous – the research and the practice has been really in depth over the last seven years …it become a profound interest of mine that I’ll follow for the rest of my life.”
All of the proceeds from the sale of her books will be shared between the gallery and One To One Literacy Society, Vancouver Island.