Lesley White has an international reputation for her oil paintings. She has made a specialty of Western art, with strong sales and exhibition results on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to show for it.
She's a little taller in the saddle now that she has earned one of the county's most distinguished professional grades. White recently became the first from this city to ever attain the Associate Member level of the Federation Of Canadian Artists (FCA).
"It's arduous. It's long," she said of the hurdles she had to leap to get through those artistic gates. It isn't a lifetime achievement award or peer petition that gets you in. You have to hit quality benchmarks time after time.
The first requirement is to gain acceptance into seven official FCA shows within a four-year period. You can't even apply for consideration until that's done.
"It wasn't something I planned to do, but I got accepted into a few shows and I suddenly realized I only had to get three or four more and I'd have the seven," she said. "I wasn't deliberately applying for shows with any sort of goal, but now suddenly I was, I saw the possibilities, and I was so pleased to get the required number. That changed things for me."
Once the show numbers are attained, the next step for an artist is to go deeper to prove their consistent worth. A number of photographs of your work must be sent to a jury and three actual pieces must also be sent. A team of higher-ranked painters mulls the submissions and scores the work.
Once per year, those who are judged to be of associate member mettle are granted admission. This past year, 87 artists applied and only 16 were accepted, one of them being White.
There is yet another level to the FCA, the Senior Member designation, which, said White, requires almost constant perfection in the judges' scores, but for the moment she's basking in this rare enough moment.
"With the designation, it's not all fun and games," she said. "There is responsibility that comes with it. It's to inspire other artists to reach for a higher standard for themselves, and to inspire the arts community itself."
White was already a local leader in that regard. Few artists have her grasp of the business that goes along with commercial art success. She frequently gains exhibition acceptance into some of the highest profile shows in her genre. She has been a frequent contributor at the Calgary Stampede's official art show, she has been accepted more than once into the famed Charlie Russell annual memorial exhibition in Great Falls, Montana, and she has been such a star for the Ducks Unlimited art program that she was one of only four (the only Canadian and the only woman) inducted into their Canada 150 Legacy Collection.
"I'm always chasing my genre, my Western theme," White said. "Some artists are spread all over themes and mediums, and there is nothing particularly wrong with that, and I'm free to do that too, but I have interests and that provides me with a focus. It points me at a market."
She sells her paintings frequently via online portals, but the physical art exhibition is still her most effective marketing vector and none more so than her own annual open house at her home studio.
"My own show is still my favourite and I get to meet new people and thank those who have supported me and my art," she said.
The local chapter of the FCA is holding a group exhibition at the Prince George Public Library starting May 2. White urged the public to come see what the 16 members of the new chapter were doing in their homes and studios across the local region. She may have been the first to attain Associate Member status but "there will be more. There are already others in our chapter who have their eye on it, and some who have already tried, and if they keep trying they will get there."