The Beach Guild of Fine Art will be holding the 17th annual Art Down by the Bay Show and Sale Sept. 24 and 25, at the Beaches Lions’ Club on Ashbridges Bay (foot of Coxwell). This is the popular fall show by the guild showcasing the work of more than 40 of its members. New this year, the show will feature a special abstract and contemporary gallery.

Along with the many examples of original art work, the Down by the Bay show features a gift card and boutique shop on the main floor of the clubhouse. Here you can purchase small original works as well as prints, and gift cards. There will be a lucky draw – usually of a group painting – and refreshments. Admission is free, and the show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. For more information visit

Joyce Nelson inhabits the perfect Beach artist’s garret. It’s a small studio/apartment with an enormous outdoor deck on the second floor above a store on Queen Street near Woodbine. It faces south so she gets plenty of sunlight all year, and it overlooks the street in such a way that she can people watch through the trees.

“And Dufflet’s is right across the street!,” she says. Nelson is a member of the Beach Guild of Fine Art and will be participating in this year’s Down by the Bay Show and Sale. Nelson paints large abstract acrylics, and is excited by this year’s Down by the Bay show since there will be a special abstract and contemporary gallery as part of the exhibition.

Nelson is originally from the United States, but came to Canada – Kingston to be specific – back in the 1970s. She lived in another part of Toronto from 1976 through to 1990 before moving out to British Columbia. It was while out west that she became interested in art, studying watercolour technique at a school there.

“The teacher said I showed some promise,” she said. “He really encouraged me.” When she came back to Toronto a friend told her about the art program at Central Tech High School. “It was a full time, three-year program for adults, from 8 [a.m.] to 4 [p.m.] daily. And it was free! It was a terrific program for getting the basics in place.” While at Central Tech she majored in sculpture, and still has a few around her studio.

Nelson moved into the Beach in 2004, and discovered the Beach Guild of Fine Art while attending one of the spring shows at Kew (Gardener’s) Cottage in 2005.

“There are some really great people in the Guild,” Nelson said. “It’s such a great community.” Since joining the Guild she has participated in three of its exhibitions, as well as about 20 other group and solo shows locally.

While sipping herb tea and eating Dufflet’s cookies on her deck, we took the time to talk about the creative process. Nelson’s studio apartment is very tiny so I asked her where she painted her large canvases.

“I move the furniture out of the room and roll up the rug,” she said. “It’s part of my ritual of starting and ending.” Nelson’s early artistic expression was landscape painting, and she says that even now, “I fight the tendency to turn everything into landscapes.” But her current work is anything but landscape-like. “I enjoy playing with colour and texture,” she says. And the bold colours, vivid shapes, large canvases that dominate the walls of her studio space are a testament to that play.

Nelson is also an accomplished figure drawer who keeps her talents in that medium sharp by regularly attending the Toronto School of Art, where she can drop in and sketch the models without someone peering over her shoulder in judgment. She’d like to be able to combine the two styles. “I’d like to find a way to marry fine drawing with my abstract work,” she says.

At university, before turning to art, Nelson majored in English and became a writer who now specializes in environmental writing for such publications as the Watershed Sentinel, The Internationalist, and The Monitor, a publication of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Shifting gears between the two disciplines is not difficult for Nelson.

“When I’m tired of being in my left brain hemisphere,” she says, “I try to make the leap over to my right hemisphere.”

Painting, for Nelson is almost a Zen experience. “Often I don’t know where I’m going when I start a work,” she says. “But doing the work helps keep me in the moment. I find, though, I sometimes have to get out of the way.” I tell her, I completely understand what she is saying, that I have heard similar thoughts from other artists. I ask if she finds painting a struggle; is she a tortured artist?

Nelson smiles and says, “Painting is total pleasure... and total play!”