All during Sylva Sroujian’s school years, she enjoyed drawing and sketching. Then life intervened.
Most of her early married life involved a series of moves, as she and her husband travelled across Europe before settling in Montreal – where, as new Canadians, there were new challenges and adjustments.
Sroujian’s educational background was in business, but she wanted to work from home while her three children were young.
Almost by accident, she was introduced to her first job: hand-painting high-end moulded ducks and wildlife collectible sculptures, an occupation she could do from her own home in her own time.
“It was just pure luck,” said Sroujian; her husband met a woman who worked for the company, and it seemed a good fit.
Sroujian started with loons, “and then the ducks got bigger and bigger.” She moved on to more complex pieces as she mastered the techniques and brushstrokes. Handing in her work weekly, she had to achieve perfection, or she wouldn’t get the promised bonus.
It was only when her children were older that she applied for an office job, in customer service. Fifteen years ago, her husband was offered a good job in Toronto, and the Sroujians moved again.
Sylva worked in accounting, then supply chain management. But it wasn’t until her husband’s employer abruptly closed its doors, and he started his own company, that art re-entered her life.
“In my heart and mind, I knew that I could paint,” she said.
Six years ago, Sroujian joined the Mill Pond Gallery in Richmond Hill, and took classes.
“Through the gallery, I made friends. We started working together. I was learning, because my education is not in art,” Sroujian said. “I started developing my own style.”
She first started in pastels, but it “wasn’t my thing,” she said. “Acrylic made me happier – the freedom of the strokes, the bright colour.”
Growing up, she had always loved nature. It was only natural that she should begin by painting landscapes, working both in plein air and from photographs she took of local scenes and on her travels.
At first, she admitted, “I was very detail-oriented. I painted every leaf, I painted every brick in the wall.” It was almost a throwback to the detailed work of hand-painting collectible sculptures. “I said, I have to loosen up!”
Sroujian’s art became more impressionistic, especially after she took a workshop on oil and cold wax – a technique that builds up translucent layers of color, and lends itself to more abstract images, that evoke mood and emotion.
It was exactly what she had been looking for. She began by using squeegees and knives to apply the wax and paint, but then “I started using everything, my gloves, my hands.”
Even her most impressionistic works are not abstracts. Although she appreciates abstract paintings, Sroujian said, “To me, a painting should look like something.”
Her works range from detailed botanical paintings, to her “whimsicals” – fun landscapes, filled with color and odd shapes that she painted when she first began exploring different styles – to her most recent impressionistic landscapes.
It’s a remarkable evolution, especially since it has taken only six years.
“I surprise myself, too, when I go back and look at my beginning. I look back and say, was that me?” she said.
Sroujian has joined a number of different arts groups in Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Markham, including Society of York Region Artists (SOYRA). Her works have been shown in a range of venues, from the Art Square Gallery Café in Toronto, to Sabella Restaurant in Bradford, and Uxbridge’s Art in the Park.
She’ll be bringing her work, including her floral greeting cards, to the BWG PASSION MADE Artisans Tour, Sept. 21 and 22, at the BWG Public Library.
Sroujian paints out of her home in Richmond Hill. “It takes forever to go into my studio and paint – but when I start something, I can’t stop,” she said. “I’m just into it. When I go into my room and get started, I’m really, really happy… I’m having fun.”
Right now, her interests are divided. Once a week, she and her husband help a daughter’s new business venture, making and marketing vegan cheese in a commercial kitchen – but art remains her key focus, and her passion.
“I believe in destiny. What comes up guides you,” Sroujian said. “I’m happy, because this is where the path brought me to. Everything is leading somewhere. We have to be thankful.”