A Splash of Color!

I set foot inside the Happy Canvas Art Gallery on a frosty October afternoon. A gust of wind hit me as I climbed the stairs, but as soon as I set foot in the door, the warm smile of Tama VandenBurg (known to her students as Tama Peck) put me right at ease.


As I petted her “cuddle-bug” of a dog and stood in the midst of her small gallery, stuffed with an assortment of original paintings (everything from rodeo watercolors to faux guitars decorated with bottle caps), she told me all about her shop and herself. Tama has been working as a professional artist in the Elizabeth area since 1996, but never had a retail space of her own until earlier this year.


“I had the privilege of partnering with Suzy Sadak, another local artist,” she says, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “We decided to try to start an Elizabeth art gallery and began looking for space. Long story short, my husband and I purchased the Main St. property (selling our place in the country!) so that we could live and work in town, and have a commercial space for the gallery. This would not have come about except for the support, ideas, energy and collaboration with Suzy!”


Her enthusiasm for her business partner, for their collaborative art classes, and for supporting local artists is evident. Tama focuses primarily on having a place for local artists to display and sell their work. Her dream is that someday, the gallery will be known as a “mini arts center.”


“On any given day,” she says, “there may be a painting class going on, or impromptu live music.” Their focus is mostly on art, but they also carry fine art and crafts, and also an assortment of locally handmade gift items.


Standing next to Tama, it’s not hard to tell she’s an artist. Her face lights up whenever she talks about her work, and her art is so widely diverse it’s hard to believe it all originates from the same person. “I am definitely the epitome of an artsy-fartsy person!” she laughs. “I typically work in watercolor, so this is what people have come to recognize. But I’m also starting to work in acrylics on canvas and wood. I do lots of portraits of people, their families, and pets too!”


Eying a stunning Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo print, I ask what she does when she’s not painting, designing, drawing, or teaching. That’s rough, since she always has at least several works in progress, but she admits, with a twinkle in her eye, “I like gardening and working on our old house! It was built in 1900 and is in need of some TLC! I also play bass and guitar in a cover band and love to learn new songs and hang out and jam with my musical friends!”


As it turns out, I caught her preparing for a concert and decked out in her stage makeup. “So this is your rocker chick look,” I said, and she laughed. Shifting our conversation back to the gallery, I ask what she wants our readers to know about her business.


“We want the gallery to be a place where people can show and share their artwork,” she answers. “We plan to be involved with the Elizabeth public arts committee and support the arts in Elizabeth as much as possible, especially when it comes to the annual arts and music festival (held in August). We will have our painting classes on a regular schedule now that school has started. I’m an art teacher in a local public school and must schedule gallery hours and events accordingly.” In addition to supporting local artists through buying their art, you can also participate in painting classes and painting parties – where you invite Tama and/or Suzy to your home, to instruct your party guests in finishing a painting. The process usually only takes a couple of hours, and is a great way to build memories.


Suzy and Tama also love to do custom artwork, so if you have something in mind for a surprise Christmas present for a loved one, contact them, or drop in at their gallery on Main Street in Elizabeth. You can peruse their paintings, find out about their classes, and learn more at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blondies-Art/391066544241396 or at http://www.happycanvasgallery.com. —CB