Kath Stroman paints the window at the former site of Barb’s Kitchen on First Avenue. The local artist was commissioned by the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association to bring new life to the building in advance of this week’s 30th annual Festival of Lights celebration. (Mike Gregory Photo).

Ladysmith artist creates eye-catching wintry window wonderlands

Kath Stroman has done work for the Nanaimo Airport, Chemainus Theatre and dozens of local businesses

The soothing sounds of Enya flowing into her ear buds, Ladysmith artist Kath Stroman presses her brush against the huge glass window of a building up for sale on First Avenue as she paints a cascading white waterfall.

“I’m working with white so it’s positive and negative space. It’s learning how to do so it fits for the outside but also for the inside,” she said.

“Every year I try and do something a bit different- this year it’s waterfalls.”

The artist has been kept busy painting eye-catching designs in storefronts and businesses all across Ladysmith and the surrounding area, including 49th Parallel Grocery, where she works in the garden centre each summer, Ladysmith & District Credit Union, Pharmasave, Chemainus Theatre, and Nanaimo Airport just to name a few.

As of last week she had another dozen or so to finish before Light Up, bringing her total to 40.

Stroman was commissioned by the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, and given free artistic reign, to paint two giant panes in the building that once was home to Barb’s Kitchen.

“I love this kind of space, the bigger the better,” she said.

The building has been on the market several years with brown paper up in the windows.

LDBA president Andrea-Rosato Taylor said part of the organization’s mandate is to create a “healthy downtown core.”

“We felt that the old Barb’s Kitchen building needed a bit of sprucing up so we contacted the realtor and asked if the LDBA could pay to have the windows painted,” she said. “The results have been very positive and Kath did an amazing job of giving the old building back a festive winter scene.”

Stroman’s background is in graphic design and she enjoys working in detail with acrylic paints as well as on a large scale, such as the stage design she’s done for Ladysmith Little Theatre as well as a mural at the Ladysmith Maritime Society’s Harbour Heritage Centre.

Her inspiration for the windows is drawn from a Victoria artist but she’s added her own flare.

“I have a house that has lots of windows so I just started to paint on them and then I came up with my style,” she said.

About five years ago it was the Ladysmith & District Credit Union gave her her first break.

CEO John de Leeuw said supporting arts and culture helps promotes the town as one of the best places to live and play.

“We were happy to give Kath a chance many years ago to draw a winter scene for Light Up night. She did a beautiful job, and we have been thrilled that her talent is being recognized all around the community,” he said.

The brushes Stroman uses to apply the interior exterior latex paint are like good wine and have often become better with age.

“I only use two fan brushes to do everything,” she said, holding up one with paint caked on. “There’s something when you put it on the window that it does all this magic.”

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