Local painter Jean Kiegerl has put together a book of her paintings showcasing the beauty of Merritt and the countryside that surrounds it. 

“It’s a book of paintings that I’ve done over the last 30 years,” explained Kiegerl, whose first book was created at that time three decades ago. 

“I originally made one for my sister, kind of as a joke, because back then I was just kind of amazed that the pictures turned out. My first book was called ‘Jean’s Secret Talent Exposed’ and it looked so good that I printed a few more copies for my family and one for me.” 

Kiegerl was featured last year at a show at the Nicola Valley Arts Gallery called ‘Art for the Love of It’, in which her work was displayed alongside stained glass from Twin Willows Glass. It was heading into this show that Kiegerl thought her original book of art could be dusted off and brought out for others to see. 

“When I had the show in October, I thought that would be a place to show it off,” said Kiegerl.

“But then I realized it was out of date, so I updated it and then somebody actually wanted to buy one, which totally surprised me.” 

Kiegerl asked her new customer what it was about the book that she liked, and the woman told her that she loved the local aspect, and how many places she recognized. Feeling that the woman had made an excellent point, Kiegerl went to work creating a book that featured nearly all paintings of Merritt and the Nicola Valley. 

“I focused this one on local pictures, rather than my travel photos and my personal story, so that it was more about painting in the Nicola Valley and in Merritt,” said Kiegerl, who has always been inspired by the beauty of the area. 

“It’s a beautiful part of the world. It has so many different landscapes and so many different lights, sunrises and sunsets and light on different sides of the hills, it’s just beautiful.” 

The book features paintings from several mediums, as Kiegerl has enjoyed experimenting and changing up her technique over the years. 

“I do black and white sketches and sometimes I add water colour to them,” said Kiegerl.

“Sometimes I do just straight pencil and watercolour and erase the pencil. Sometimes the pencil enhances it and sometimes it’s just in the way, but it can be erased. And then nobody knows if you painted outside of the lines,” she joked. 

After embracing acrylics for a while, Kiegerl finally got “brave enough” and made the leap to oil painting, something she had wanted to do for quite some time. 

“It’s a real challenge but it’s a beautiful medium, and it has been for 500 years,” said Kiegerl. 

“All of the old medieval paintings are crackled, and that’s a quality of the oil paint. Over time it will crackle, and if you don’t handle it correctly it will crackle much sooner, like within a couple years. And it will crackle and fall off if you don’t do things properly. One of the interesting things is that with the really old oil paintings, is that because they are crackled, they can carbon date the dust in the cracks and know whether or not it’s a fake.

“Museums do that if people are trying to sell them a newly-found Leonardo DaVinci, it might be newly painted as well,” Kiegerl laughed. 

At this time, Kiegerl’s latest book ‘Just a Local Artist’, is available on order by prepay only through the artist. 

If you would like to view the book or more of Kiegerl’s work, as well as the work of other talented Nicola Valley artists, you are encouraged to head down to the Nicola Valley Arts Gallery on Voght St. A copy of ‘Just a Local Artist’ is also available at the Merritt Library.