Virginia Ronning

Layering colours, shapes, and often words, Ronning’s paintings are a portrayal of her everyday internal and external worlds.

Curiosity, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 X 48
Waiting in Paradise, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 X 30
McKenzie Bight, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 X 30


Virginia Ronning grew up outside of Toronto, amongst a family of artists in which her creativity had been encouraged from a young age. It wasn’t until 2006 though, that she chose to pursue art professionally after an encounter with Victoria artist, Michelle Miller’s work. Mostly self-taught, Ronning strives to strengthen her work by taking lessons regularly from different artists within her community of Victoria. These lessons have taken her as far as Europe to learn and create.

Ronning’s artistic work is predominately abstract, and her subject matter, she says, is rooted in her own therapeutic approach to dealing with emotions and inspirations. This comes from an inner desire to explore something more, whether it be a sudden interest in a particular subject or something she has been dealing with internally. By layering colours, shapes, and often words, Ronning’s paintings are a portrayal of her everyday internal and external worlds. 

Alongside art, Ronning works as a full-time counselor which interplays with her painting as they ebb and flow amongst one another in a variety of ways.

Ronning has been living and creating in Victoria, British Columbia for the past two decades. She says that her two daughters are her greatest critics and inspiration.

More on Ronning’s work can be found at: 

Selected Excerpts

“I face so many challenges that we face in life on the canvas. Because we get stuck. We were moving forward and our little egos start saying, “Woo, this is good, I’m onto something here.” And then wham, I put another colour on or I do something else that completely ruins it or changes it so much, it alters it, that then I have to go back to, “No wait a minute, okay, you’re stuck again, you’re facing this truth or this perception. So go back and add more paint. Do some more drips. Add some more colour.””

“I see painting as a very holistic thing. And it’s body, mind, and spirit. It’s not just me going on there with paint. It’s something more, it’s something, it’s a bit of my soul, it’s a bit of my emotion, it’s a few of my thoughts.”

“And what I believe is that it is really part of a holistic process. You know, it resonates with us. It’s like music and dance. And nature walks. And good communication. You know, they all kind of resonate and almost on an energetic level.”

“I think there’s energy in colour and there’s energy in the paint. And one of the things that I love is when people see my paintings, they tell me, usually, there’s so much movement in your painting. They resonate somehow with the energy in that.”

“If somebody has the goal and desire, is go. Go for it. And if they’re stuck, find inspiration or people that will help them get unstuck, like teachers or mentors or coaches or anything else. And pictures. And nature.”

In Conversation with Virginia Ronning

Full Interview

by Virginia Ronning | Oral Histories AHVS 593, Fall 2018, Maria Buhne

Full Interview Transcription

Edited and transcribed by Maria Buhne in consultation with Virginia Ronning


Maria Buhne: Okay. So I am joined today by artist Virginia … Is it Ronning or Ronning?

Virginia Ronning: Ronning.

Buhne: Ronning. On October 19, 2018, it’s just after 10:00. We’re in Virginia’s home located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. And this interview will be used for the Pacific Northwest Oral History Women’s Initiative, conducted in collaboration between the University of Victoria’s Art History and Visual Studies department and the Victoria Arts Council.

All right, so … I looked on your website and did some digging so I’d know what to ask. Like, background questions. You mention on your website that you’ve been creating art since you were a child. When was it that you chose to follow the path as a professional artist?

Ronning: Would be … about 12 years ago. Very part-time. Started off as really wanting to have a healthier life balance and pursue a passion. And one of my passions was art. It’s always weaved in, you know, sketching, but very, very informally. But it was about 12 years ago that it started really as a healthy life balance choice and then evolved, morphed into something bigger.

Buhne: Wonderful. And did you have any formal training or would you consider yourself mostly self-taught?

Ronning: Self-taught. And training, I have had some wonderful teachers here in the city.

Buhne: Yeah, that’s one of my next questions, too.

Ronning: Good. Good.

Buhne: And was pursuing art encouraged within your community and your family as you evolved as an artist?

Ronning: Yep. Yep. Definitely my daughters are incredible, they are 24 and 35-

And they, every time … In fact, I’ll just tell you this funny little story, though. If I’m working on a painting, it’s on the easel, they decide it’s finished. Because I work mostly in abstract, they decide it’s finished. They will take it out of the house before I do anything more to it, because I have been known to ruin paintings and paint right over, so …

Buhne: That’s wonderful.

Ronning: And then I’ll go to the easel and it’s gone and they’re like, nope. We decided you didn’t need to do any more on that painting.

Buhne: Lovely. That’s wonderful.

Ronning: Yeah. So they’re wonderful and my mother is wonderful. She’s dabbled in some art and my dad was an artist, so …

Buhne: Wonderful. You’ve also mentioned on your website that you take lessons from local artists like Michelle Miller, Nicolas Pearce, Bill Porteous, Marion Avamy, Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon, and Carole Thompson.

Ronning: Yeah.

Buhne: How does learning from other local artists help to shape your own body of work?

Ronning: So it’s really interesting because of every … What I usually do is I find an art teacher whose art I love. Which probably makes sense. And what I’ve found is not only do I love their work, but I love the philosophy and the guidance they have that guides them, that leads them to the work they do.

So some of them will, for instance, do exercises before we even get started of reflecting on some piece of our own lives or the way something felt. And this may be common in most practices, but some of them will even be understanding how a shape moves us. Or how a colour moves us and what does it mean and how we can continue adding shapes and texture and so on onto the canvas.

So I think that’s been almost like a holistic perspective, it’s not just been about the art, but it’s been about the philosophy and the integrity of the artist. So I’ve really enjoyed those teachers and what they have stood for and what’s important to them. Their ethics, you know. What guides them.

Buhne: And would you consider it important to stay active within the local artist community?

Ronning: Yes. Yeah. I’m a member of the VAC, Victoria Arts Council. For sure.

Buhne: And do you have any artists … you’ve just explained about, kind of how they structure their lessons with you. But how would you describe the community of artists within Victoria? In your words.

Ronning: Yeah. So I think there are several different pockets and groups. And as you know, there are many different art shows in communities, which I love. Because it’s really bringing art into communities. Art in coffee shops, people talking about art in coffee shops.

I mean one of the greatest joys I had was when I first started showing my work. Which was a courageous step, was to put it in coffee shops, Moka House. Both Moka Houses. And what gave me so much joy was just even seeing people sitting there talking about a piece. You know, and what it meant to them and whether they liked it or whether they didn’t like it. I mean that’s the one benefit of showing is getting really used to the fact that some of your pieces aren’t gonna be liked by people and that’s okay. You know. Even the constructive criticism can be really helpful.

So, sorry, I’ll go back to the community. One of the things I’ve appreciated is that there are several different pockets of community. So the Victoria Arts Council’s one. You know, when you go to functions with them, there’s a certain group. And then the community events. When certain teachers have an event, like Michelle Miller, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken any classes with her. But there’s almost like a bit of a following with her. So one of the things I’ve done with her is she does trips to Europe every year where you go to Italy or Portugal or I think she’s planning one in Tunisia or somewhere like that, Morocco. And you go and you spend a week studying and it’s sort of an art adventure. Tourism.

And so that’s created another community. There are members all through the city that many have gone on this trip with Michelle. So if we connect, “Oh, you go to Michelle. Did you go to Europe? Did you go to Italy? Did you go to Portugal?” Wherever. And so that’s sort of another part of the community.

There’s also the different schools that I’m aware of and I’ve been to a couple of them for courses. And I’ve really enjoyed those. And I think that’s an important part of the community, like the school on BanksStreet, they’ve got a sketching class every Thursday night.

Buhne: I love that building.

Ronning: It’s a beautiful building. I wouldn’t wanna be in it in an earthquake.

Buhne: Oh no.

Ronning: That’s for sure.

Buhne: I went to elementary school at South Park and for the first grade, up until grade three, and I was that group of children whose parents made them leave because they were terrified of it crumbling down on us. But, beautiful building.

Ronning: And it was sized …

Buhne: It was sized eventually.

Ronning: It was sized, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And that’s the same as in there. I think that communication is, like the way people … The things that are important to people.

And this is just my own opinion, of course, but the kinds of conversations like when you’ve been accepted in a show and you go to a show. I’ve been in a Sooke Fine Arts show for a couple of years now. And when you go to the open house receptions and you’re talking to people and it’s just lovely … It’s very much oriented towards art and the focus on the culture of art.

Did I answer your question enough?

Buhne: You definitely did.

Ronning: Okay.

I think because I work, too, full-time, I’m not as involved in … Like I’m involved in my art community at the church and the VAC and going to the sketching classes every now and then. But it’s more-

Buhne: You seem pretty involved to me.

Ronning: Okay, good.

Buhne: So what does your personal process look like? Where do you begin and how do you get going with paintings? You mentioned that your daughters definitely decide when it’s finished.

Ronning: Can I show you a picture?

Buhne: Yeah, totally.

Ronning: Okay, just give me one second.

Buhne: Of course.

Ronning: Because I actually also-ran, did a demo at Opus on my process.

Buhne: Okay. Wonderful.

Ronning: So I’ll just show you, just have to grab it.

Buhne: Yup.

Ronning: So the demo I did at Opus was on the underpainting because every … because I paint an abstract, every one of my paintings has probably 10 or 20 paintings underneath.

Buhne: Oh, wow.

Ronning: This is a good example. And so what I do is I just keep building up. And when I get frustrated … because it’s a very frustrating process. Especially abstract. ‘Cause I don’t have a template to follow, you know.

Here’s an example of an unfinished one. And I have no idea where to go next. But I love him. You know, it’s a bull. Raging bull.

And then this is where I get worried about ruining it. So what I often will do is I will just keep adding paint. And I’ll hear some of my teachers’ instructions in my head of just add more paint, add more water, turn the canvas around, and just keep going, don’t stop. You know. And so then I end up with paintings that I’m quite happy with.

And I’ll just show you a process here. So this is an underpainting I was working on. This is already probably after about five layers of paint. And then … and the other thing that I do, Maria, is I often …

Because I see painting as a very holistic thing. And it’s body, mind, and spirit. It’s not just me going on there with paint. It’s something more, it’s something, it’s a bit of my soul, it’s a bit of my emotion, it’s a few of my thoughts. And so what I’ll do, often if I’m really stuck, is I’ll go onto a big canvas and I’ll write in big words what I’m stuck with. Or what I would like to have come out of the painting session. And this is what I shared in my demo at Opus.

And so sometimes they’re … Like this one I was actually going through some grief. To me it’s quite a dark painting. When you compare it to something like that. And so then what I do is I keep … You can see there’s some words written underneath. And what I’ll do … At this point, I will start doing the play of light and dark. You know. Then I’ll start getting a bit more technical with I need more light in there, this is too dark. It’s not gonna end up being a good end product if I keep going down this road. So it switches a bit from a psychological process to more of a art, creative, coming back into art.

So here I’m starting to add more light and then I had to go back in and do some more writing. I still had some more … Little bit more grieving that I wanted to get out. And I see this as a transformative process. And then I did … I love dripping.

Buhne: I love the look of drips.

Ronning: There’s another one with drips, there. So I do a lot of dripping. It just, to me, when I’m really stuck or not sure where to go, that’s … You know, I’ll come back in with a lot of that.

I do paint a lot with my hands gloved. Gloved hands. So I did the dripping and I’m starting to be adding some more colours. You can see. And some more. It’s gone from I’m not writing words anymore, now I’m starting to get into the technical piece around the colour.

And then that’s the end of all that. Which I sold at my last show. Yeah.

Buhne: That’s so neat.

I love the idea of the words of how you’re feeling and just letting that evolve.

Ronning: Yeah, isn’t that neat?

Anyway, that’s really my process. And honestly, I face so many challenges that we face in life on the canvas. Because we get stuck. We were moving forward and our little egos start saying, “Woo, this is good, I’m onto something here.” And then wham, I put another colour on or I do something else that completely ruins it or changes it so much, it alters it, that then I have to go back to, “No wait a minute, okay, you’re stuck again, you’re facing this truth or this perception. So go back and add more paint. Do some more drips. Add some more colour.” I do tend to paint with a lot of colour, as you can see.

So, yeah. So then I just … Often I don’t know when I’m finished. And that’s why the girls when they’re in the house, they just say, that’s it. This one’s going.

Buhne: This one is done.

Ronning: Yeah. And then I don’t get them back, usually. That’s the problem.

Buhne: Hope you have photos of them at least.

Ronning: Yeah, yeah.

Buhne: Or like the process is in your memory.

Ronning: Well, I’m having a show in November and my elder daughter has about four of my paintings. I said, “Sweetie, I would really like to have a couple of them in my show.” She said, “That’s fine. As long as you put NFS on them.” Not for sale. Okay. So anyway.

Yeah, so that’s my processes. The other thing is I have a collection of amazing, inspiring pictures from magazines. That is inspiring for me. So what I’ll do is I will … I don’t think I’ve got any of them here, but I will … If I’m really not wondering what route I’ll go. Like the ones with the horses back there. I took from a photo from Santa Fe. And it’s my own colours, it’s my own rendition. And it just emerged. I often don’t go in with a plan.

Buhne: Okay.

Ronning: The plan comes as I go. The only thing is I went through my bull period and I did wanna do bulls. So I … Those I drew, you know … not drew. I’m not a good drawer. I’m not a good sketcher. I don’t have a lot of technical training, which I find very frustrating sometimes. Like getting things looking in the distance, foreground, and background. Often just happens by accident for me. I find that a little frustrating.

So when I think I have time in my life, that’s what I’d like to do, is a little more formal training in some of the technical pieces. I’ve done this kind of technical training. You know, the colour wheel and things like that. But there’s more. There’s always lots more to learn.

Buhne: Is that how you came upon, like, the abstract style that you’re working in? Or more just based off of what you felt that you could put onto canvas, like with your emotions and whatnot, or …

Ronning: You know, no it didn’t really start with that. That came a little bit later. What it started with was finding Michelle Miller’s paintings and absolutely loving them. I don’t know if you’ve seen them.

Buhne: I’ve seen a few.

Ronning: A few of them. And I thought I wanna learn how to paint like that. And I’ve got my own style completely. I’m not like her at all. But the technique she taught us, has taught us over the years, has just been incredible. And Kate, this is Kate here, one of my other teachers. She’s not on the list, but that’s a painting she did where again, there’s lots of layering and texturing and getting sort of … almost a third dimension in there. 3D. Yeah.

Buhne: And do you … So I guess you say you just start but do you ever … open to like commissioned work, have you done a commissioned work before? Or is it more just for sale afterward?

Ronning: Yup. So my preference is to sell afterward. Because I’m not always sure how things are going to end up. If somebody were to … I do a commission. I have done commissions. And people have been very happy with them.

One of them I have to … I will explain and I’d love to show you a picture. It was about that size and it was a man who wanted me to paint a picture of his wife on their honeymoon. It was an anniversary gift. And I said … He said, she’s on the beach. So I thought okay, I can do a beach. Right? I can do this. And when I took a look at the painting or the photo, I thought okay, I can still do this. But I’m gonna have to get out of my left brain.

That’s been one of the most important tools that I’ve learned, is to turn your painting and your picture upside down, so that you’re not referencing what you think is a hand, but more line, and shape, and colour. And that, to me, was invaluable. So I painted this whole painting upside down. And I did it in two hours. And when I turned it back around it was done.

Buhne: Amazing.

Ronning: Which blew me away. ‘Cause not having the technical training, I thought that it was … Trying to find it quickly. Sorry.

[Ronning searches her phone for a photo of the painting]

I keep trying to discard paint pictures that I don’t need and … But I’ll find it. So yeah, so that’s another part of sort of a process that was really …

Buhne: And for those, are there typically deadlines for things like that? Like how often have you had to work with deadlines?

Ronning: Yeah. I’ve done that … I’ve done it five times. And so to answer your question, I find it a little bit more stressful because I’m not sure they’re gonna be happy with the outcome. And that’s important to me. And that’s why I love when I’m at a show or just at a coffee shop, is that people, if they just see it and love it, that’s different.

[Ronning finds the photos and shows it to Buhne]

Buhne: Oh, I love it.

Ronning: Isn’t it beautiful?

Buhne: Oh, that’s so good. Yeah.

Ronning: So I painted the whole thing upside down.

Buhne: Upside down.

Ronning: And then what I did was I didn’t have her on it, and then what I did was I actually did a cutout… I did several different cutouts of different sizes to make sure I had the proportion of her size properly. And then I painted her in.

Buhne: Oh, it’s beautiful.

Ronning: Thank you.

Buhne: I love that.

Ronning: So yeah, so to answer your question. I do prefer it when they just buy something they see and love. However, if somebody said to me, paint me a wonderful abstract that is something like that, that’s got these colours, I would have no trouble with that at all.

Buhne: Yeah, does that often … Does that happen?

Ronning: No. It doesn’t happen. It’s more like I really love your style and your colours, can you paint … I’ve got one of somebody’s son. And fortunately, it’s his back in the water, so that’s a little bit easier for me. Not having that technical training and the drawing training. But I still, I’m not a hundred percent happy with the … but she says she loves it and she paid for it.

Buhne: Wonderful.

Ronning: Have to let it go.

Buhne: Yeah. And I mean, when you were explaining the words on the canvas that, to me, seems like a very therapeutic way to deal with things. How does your work as a counselor impact your work as an artist or vice versa?

Ronning: Very much so. Very much so. And I often, I’ll use colour and paint as a metaphor. But the other thing is, if clients are interested, I will have them here for art counseling. I’m not gonna call it art therapy because I’m not a trained art therapist.

But we will use … and what I’ll do … What I did with the demo at Opus, is I’ll have people put gloves on and pick three colours they love. One they don’t like at all. And then … no sorry. Two colours they love, one colour they don’t like at all. And then I’ll put a little black and white on their palette as well.

And then just have them write the words down on their canvas and then just start moving, paint around with their hands. Almost like fingerprinting when we’re a child. And what I believe is that it is really part of a holistic process. You know, it resonates with us. It’s like music and dance. And nature walks. And good communication. You know, they all kind of resonate and almost on an energetic level. I hope I’m not sounding too woo-woo here.

Buhne: No, no. I totally believe in all of this.

Ronning: Okay, good. And I think there’s energy in colour and there’s energy in the paint. And one of the things that I love is when people see my paintings, they tell me, usually, there’s so much movement in your painting. They resonate somehow with the energy in that. So it’s … I think there’s a direct … in my world, right? That’s the world that I’m familiar with. So it’s something that I think is directly connected.

Buhne: And so how would you describe your place as a female artist within Victoria, even throughout the Pacific Northwest? I guess mostly Victoria. Is it great, are there struggles, difficulties?

Ronning: So coming from not an art community world, I have felt very blessed to have been accepted into this world. Into this community. I think it’s very competitive. I think there are a lot of us here. Which is lovely, too. People have lots of choice and selection.

I think that … I’m a life-long learner. And so what I see is when I go and look at somebody else’s art, I have something to learn. I can be inspired by somebody else’s art. It can move me in ways that I don’t … You wouldn’t necessarily think would even move you, you know. Like those horses. I just felt so moved by the original picture that I saw of that, and then wanted to put those down.

So I feel blessed to be welcomed into this community and growing in this community. I certainly feel a big part of it. I feel welcomed. I do feel welcomed. To be accepted at the Sooke Fine Arts Show two years in a row was such an honour. And both years my paintings sold. And that in itself was sort of that real check mark of to be in a juried show was a real sort of acknowledgment that I was on a good path.

And one of the things that I don’t know if you mind me bringing up, but I have this really interesting relationship with the fees we charge for paintings. And so that’s something I still have to grow and learn with. Is how much are people willing to pay, but also, I’ve been known to give paintings away.

You know, if I see, if I meet somebody who loves a painting and I know they … they’re a secretary or they’re … you know, they just aren’t … They’re working in a coffee shop and they can’t afford to pay for it, I’ve just tucked it in behind the counter and I love being able to do that. And I think that’s something that may be because there are so many of us here and it is quite a community it’s easy to do that.

So as a woman, everywhere I go there are women artists. I’d love to see more men in art. I don’t know if men come to these community events, but if there’s a function or a class, there’s usually … Except for the drawing, the nude drawing class. They’re all men.

Buhne: I have a friend who used to model for that.

Ronning: Oh, did they?

Buhne: Hannah.

Ronning: The artists are amazing. The artists are amazing. You know they’re there for serious sketching. But the models are incredible.

Buhne: Yeah. I’m going to the opera with her later this week.

Ronning: Oh, are you. Well please, which is her name, do you know?

Buhne: Hannah.

Ronning: Oh, Hannah. She’s still doing it?

Buhne: She’s not doing it anymore. She moved to Montreal to go to school.

Ronning: Must be another Hannah.

Buhne: And now she’s taking a semester off and then she’s living with her family in Duncan right now.

Ronning: Oh, okay. Must be another Hannah.

Well anyway, I love the … so that’s another community that … But for women … and I …

So I’ll talk for a minute about my Zebra art group.

Buhne: Yeah, totally.

Ronning: Which is an absolutely amazing group of women, there are about … I think there are about 20 of us. We pay monthly to belong to this … It’s the annex at the church. So it’s not a very pretty spot. But it’s got a tiny basement window and they’ve put in fans for us because we were freezing in the winter, concrete floor.

But we’ve got, you know, 12 easels set up. Lots of tables. All our art supplies can be stored there. Those of us who aren’t painting at home, we can store our art supplies there.

And what’s really beautiful about it is that we encourage each other. We inspire each other. It’s probably a bit like a quilting bee. You know, that we get together. And there are groups of us who get together on specific nights. And so, you know, two of our members are going through rough times right now, so the rest of us come and we support and, “How are things going?” We check in and even texting during the week. We sometimes bring wine and you know-

Buhne: That sounds lovely.

Ronning: Yeah. We have dinners. We have annual, bi-annual dinners during the year. And we have Christmas exchange. You know the Mexican exchange, where you buy a gift. But they have to be art supplies. And they have to be under $30.

Buhne: Yeah, we do like Secret Santas.

Ronning: Well this is one where you can trade. So it’s something-

Buhne: Oh, I have done that before. Yeah.

Ronning: And so some people end up with wonderful things and other people end up with things they’re sort of like, hm. ‘Cause they got traded out, you know.

Buhne: It’s a fun game.

Ronning: Yeah. So I think bottom line, to answer your question, I feel very blessed to be part of a … be a woman in this community and part of the art world.

I have studied, I did take an art appreciation course at UVic. And I loved that, it was … I didn’t like all the art we had to study, but that’s what it’s all about, right?

So I learned a lot about being able to value other people’s work and look at it from different, fresh lens, fresh eyes.

Buhne: And then, what would you say are your goals or prospects that you have with your art? Like are there any significant messages or lessons that you want people to get from them, or is it more for you?

Ronning: Well I would say go. Always go. If one … Especially with art or music. If somebody has the goal and desire, is go. Go for it. And if they’re stuck, find inspiration or people that will help them get unstuck, like teachers or mentors or coaches or anything else. And pictures. And nature. I mean we can be inspired by nature. But go. Don’t … Like I would hate to think of somebody on their deathbed thinking, “Oh my gosh, I wish I had.” And partly because I do see it as such a healing process, you know. It’s not just painting, it’s … The kind of painting I do, maybe. It’s more a healing process.

So can you read that question again, I just wanna make sure I answered it.

Buhne: Yeah. What goals or prospects do you have for your art?

Ronning: So one of my goals is right now, this is on a very concrete level. And I actually work with a coach myself to help me keep my vision in order. Is to get to a point where I’m earning a little bit more than just covering my supplies.

I would like to be able to get to a point where I could pay for maybe a trip to Europe or South America once a year to work with an artist. That’s one of my bucket list things, is maybe once every two years, go to Europe, go to Prague. Paint in Prague for a week. Paint in Germany or Vietnam. You know, to go and learn from other teachers. I think there’s just so much richness from that. And right now it’s tough financially. Those trips are about five, six thousand dollars. So for a fairly short period of time. So it’s something … But I am making enough to pay for supplies, and that’s awesome. But just my objective is to maybe raise my income up to 10,000 a year, would be lovely, would be great. I’m probably making about 2,500 a year now. Part of the challenge is working full-time. It’s hard to devote.

Buhne: I bet. And how far would you, like your art particularly, do you want it … Could you see it or would you like it to go geographically or like in cultures?

Ronning: I would love that. I would love that. One of my pieces at Sooke got sold to a couple from Colorado. And what I was thrilled about was one of my paintings was in the States, you know. I just … That made me very happy.

And you know, talk about affirmation. If nobody ever bought your work, I think it would be hard to move forward because, unless you have tons of storage room, too. Unless you really, just really painting for your process and just enjoy. Which some people do. You know, several women in the Zebra art group just paint because they love painting.

But I’m also very prolific. I’m often working on five paintings at one time. I might have two paintings here and one over there and if I’m at the studio I’ll have them standing around me like this and then I’ve got one finished or one that needs to dry a bit and I’ll pop another on the canvas.

Can I also add one thing to your last question?

Buhne: Totally.

Ronning: I always wanna be able to give paintings away. Always. I just … That gives me so much joy. I just sent two paintings on paper to dear family friends in Ontario for their birthdays. And the only reason I didn’t frame them as I didn’t wanna ship them framed. But I always wanna be able to do that.

Buhne: Lovely.

Ronning: Comes back to the dream list.

Buhne: And would you ever consider … I guess this would come down to having time, but consider showing your work elsewhere? Outside of the Vancouver Island Community?

Ronning: I’d love to. I’d love to. In fact, one of the things I did do in one of my gutsier moments … ‘Cause it takes a lot of courage, right? Like I … it takes a lot of confidence to be a … And I think that’s one thing as a woman, I don’t know if it’s different for a man, but that confidence to go into a gallery and say …

Like I’ve been rejected from several galleries in the city. I’ve even spoken to an appraiser, not an appraiser, but a … What do you call them? The art … evaluator? Or art painting … anyway.

She had a gallery and then sold the gallery and I had her over one day and I said, “I really want your honest opinion, do you think my work is worthy?” And I said, “I know this is a little bit hard to swallow, but I wanna know.” And she said, “Virginia, honestly, not here. Not in Victoria.” And it was hard to listen to that. And that’s why I have my own show. One of the reasons I have my own show here every year, in-house. I have musicians. You can come if you want.

Buhne: Oh, I’d love to.

Ronning: I have musicians in the corner on keyboard and guitar. We have wine and cheese and I set up a big platter of food and it’s just a lovely two-hour event. And you know, you can drop in and … Yeah, I’ll have to send you an invitation.

Buhne: That sounds wonderful. Yeah, please do.

Ronning: Yeah. So what I did do was … Because my family’s in Ontario, my mom. I went to a couple of galleries in Ontario. Very small galleries. And I said you know, what would be involved, and so on, and so on. And she said honestly, it’s not worth … I thought maybe because I was locally from there originally they might like to have some of my work back. And I went to galleries that were showing abstract work. And she said, honestly, it’s not worth it with the shipping. It’s just so brutal. And one of the artists I know … And she’s been actually one of my teachers, she’s not on the list, is Wendy Opheldt, who’s amazing.

What she does is she’ll paint a painting … She’s got clients in Palm Springs. She’ll paint a painting, take it off the canvas, roll it up, send it to Palm Springs to a framer in Palm Springs and have him re-frame it. And then the couple or the buyer gets it. And that’s just so much cheaper for her to do it that way.

So that’s what I was told in Ontario, is it’s just not worth it. And then the insurance to cover it when it’s being shipped. But I would love that. I mean if one gallery, in my lifetime, if one official gallery said they would love my work, you know, that would be wonderful. Europe would be amazing. I would love that. To go to a reception there and get all dolled up and … Yeah. That would be really wonderful.

And I think partly because I work. And the work I have on the side as a counselor and a coach, I’m so devoted to that, too. So, so much of my attention goes to that.

Buhne: It’s a big job.

Ronning: It’s a big job. Yeah. To promote yourself and I’m not great. I’m not a millennial, so I’m not great on the tech-savvy stuff.

Buhne: The generation below me, I think, are gonna be even better.

Ronning: Even better, I know. I know. And I know it’s probably one of those areas I need to grow in, but I don’t want to. I would rather paint and pay somebody to do all that work for me. But I’m not making enough money to do that.

Buhne: One day.

Ronning: One day. That would be another one on my add it to vision, dream list is somebody that can do all the tech stuff for me. ‘Cause I know that that’s … our social presence or our online presence is so important. My website, my art website is terrible. It’s not-

Buhne: It’s fine.

Ronning: Well thank you for saying that. But it doesn’t even have my recent stuff.

Buhne: It’s very informative.

Ronning: Oh, good. Good. Just doesn’t have all my recent material on it. But yeah.

Buhne: And I have one last question because it just popped into my head. But how do you see the local, like Victoria’s art community changing, especially in terms of the art of women, women’s artists, and overall as well?

Ronning: Well, being fairly new, I’ve only seen what I’ve … And I’ve really only been actively involved in the community part for the last six years.

But what I’ve seen, for instance, with VAC is, for instance, they’ll have a women’s show. And either that it will be women or it will be women’s … like I’ve submitted a couple of paintings that were … I’ve got one here I can show you that …

Buhne: Oh, wow. I love her skirt.

Ronning: Isn’t that lovely?

Buhne: I saw that image somewhere online, I think.

Ronning: But I think that’s what I’m witnessing over this six years, is a lot of inclusion. There’s sort of, obviously, photography and different art. Modalities. But I just see …

Well, the inclusion part, I think, is really what I’m noticing. And again, I’ve only got six years of experience with it to be able to say. But, yeah. I’m not sure. I’m not sure what else to add to that. That’s a tough question.

Buhne: Wonderful. I guess it is, yeah.

Ronning: I think because I do … I mean art is a very personal process, right? We are … and there are some artists, it’s fascinating, at shows that are … and I guess it’s that introversion, extroversion thing, where they’re just standing there by themselves with their glass of wine or whatever. And then there are others who are busily, you know, circling the room and talking to people. And I think art tends to be quite a reflective … painting anyway, tends to be quite a personal, reflective process.

Buhne: Oh, definitely.

Ronning: Yeah. So maybe that’s part of the reason. But I feel I’ve been very included in the community and that’s a lovely … as a newcomer. You know, that’s a very lovely thing.

Buhne: Well that’s good. Yeah.

Ronning: Yeah. And my teachers, man, they rockin’. They’re just amazing. Yeah.

Buhne: I love that there are so many … and like just events and opportunities to meet artists in Victoria, like … The Moss Street Paint-In and things like that. I always end up having to work on those Saturdays so I don’t get to go.

Ronning: I’m always in Ontario. I just … the other one is the Bowker Creek. One of my friends went to the Bowker Creek. I think you’re going to be interviewing her or somebody else is going to … Leah. Leah.

Buhne: Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of other students in our class that are … We had a whole list of artists and you were my number one choice.

Ronning: I’m glad you picked me. Thank you.

Buhne: Yeah. And then, yeah. You’d mentioned Arden Rose, she’s being interviewed. I can’t remember who’s gonna be interviewing her, but …

Ronning: Leah. Apparently Leah.

Buhne: Yeah. Leah’s wonderful.

Ronning: She’s like, can you give me a heads up on the questions? I don’t even remember the questions.

Buhne: We’ve come up with our own questions.

Ronning: Oh, that’s good to know. Good. I’ll tell her that. Okay, good. Good.

Buhne: Leah’s great.

Ronning: Good. Good. Well, the questions have been wonderful and if this is your first interview, you did a great job.

Buhne: Oh, thank you so much!

Ronning: Yeah.

Buhne: Wonderful.

Ronning: Yeah.

Buhne: Are there, like, any last things that you wanna say or?

Ronning: Well, thank you.

Buhne: You’re welcome.

Ronning: For sure.

Buhne: Thank you.

Ronning: I just, I just feel so blessed to be part of this process. And you kind of, you’ve given me another little … little shining light in the being on the right path. And just keep going. You know, like you said, what would you encourage other people or … I can’t remember how you framed the question, but it’s just go. You know. Sometimes we need to go slow but go.

Buhne: Just go. I like that.

Ronning: Yeah, just go. Yeah. Yeah.

Buhne: Wonderful.

Ronning: Dig in, dive in. Yeah.


Arts Victoria. Event Archive – Zebra Art Collective / A Working Studio Art Show: Ann Connelly, Christine Harker, Virginia Roning, Doris Dungey, Susan Macdonald, Judy Taylor, Katharine Geddes, Marjorie Pine, Terri Walowmina, Megan Hill, Arden Rose. 2018.

Bill Porteous. Bill Porteous. 2018.

Carole Thompson. Carole Thompson: abstraction, colour, geometric symbolism. 2018.

Downtown Victoria. The Underpainting – A Subconscious Process with Many Metaphors! With Virginia Ronning. 2018.

Eleanor Lowdon. Eleanor Lowden: contemporary figurative and landscape painting. 2018.

Marion Evamy. Marion Evamy Fine Art. 2018.

Matilsky, Barbara C. Show of hands: Northwest women artists, 1880-2010. Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Museum, 2010.

Michelle Miller. Michelle Miller. 2018.

Nicholas Pearce. Nicholas Pearce: painting women and light. 2018.

Slatkin, Wendy. The voices of women artists. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Virginia Ronning. Virginia Ronning: Counsellor, Coach, Consultant. 2018.

Virginia Ronning. Virginia Ronning Fine Art. 2018.