Sketching Away From Home

Sketching Away From Home

Sketching home away from home
Heather Wood, Lifestyle Editor

In Barb Freda’s handbag, a tiny sketchbook, a set of watercolours and a paintbrush have replaced the camera that was once always there.

The art that covers the pages of the journal she is carrying is a record of memories created while here and on holiday in England and France, a lot of it done while waiting on airplanes and in airports.

She has Bermuda to blame for her habit.

Ms Freda rediscovered her love of art shortly after she moved here from Pennsylvania in 2011.

Eager to meet new friends, she joined the International Women’s Club of Bermuda. An organisation with more than 200 members ranging in age from 20 to 70, it has helped make the island “a home away from home” for female expatriates since 1981.

“IWC is a group of expat and Bermudian women,” she said. “I often say its sole purpose is philanthropy — most of its membership fees go to philanthropic endeavours — but it’s also social. I met an IWC member at a party and I said I would join and that was it. IWC keeps people as busy as they want to be. When you’re new somewhere, it’s lonely when you’re not working, when you don’t have kids in school it’s a [great network].

“About 20 years ago, I’d dabbled in art. I started playing with watercolours at the IWC Friday morning art group and then about a year later I worked up the nerve to go to the Sunday morning Plein Air group — I actually chickened out once. But that group has been welcoming on so many of all levels; I have great friends because of both IWC and Sunday Plein Air. ”

It is not just expatriates who benefit from being a part of IWC, she said. For Bermudians who have never lived abroad it offers an opportunity to “meet people from other countries, a way to be exposed to their world”.

Meanwhile, local members who have lived elsewhere understand what it feels like to be in a new place without a support system and are happy to help people integrate into the community.

IWC held its first charity art exhibit in 2013. It has raised $73,688 over the past seven years, with the funds given to 11 different charities. The cancer charity Pals will benefit this year through the sale of 50 pieces of art by IWC members and 20 by artists outside the group. Ms Freda was thrilled to be able to contribute to the effort.

“The annual charity art show has turned into our biggest fundraiser,” she said.

“A lot of fun art comes from painters, from photographers, jewellery makers, quilters, mosaics and sculptors and from people who want to support the cause or the recipients. There’s some really wonderful art that comes into the show in addition to our amateur efforts.”

She has donated about 20 pieces of her own art over the years; pieces that “now live mostly in homes I don’t know”.

For this present exhibit, she created two: Storm Clouds Over Elbow Beach and a painting of a photograph she took of St David’s Lighthouse from the water.

“It’s not an invitational show. The organisers ask for art and people can submit as many as they want. We rely purely on donations. When you’re a new artist, it’s quite rewarding to have people buy your work, and opening night is a lot of fun. I’ve contributed every year since I started, always watercolours. I do travel sketching. I almost always have watercolours, papers and a brush with me.

“In my opinion, watercolour is a faster way to paint than oils — but it’s a very subjective opinion. I like it because, for me, it allows happy accidents. The medium means that sometimes the paints will mix and I love seeing that, how the pigments merge into each other.

“The best watercolours have a glow that I like very much. I’m OK with all the accidents. I welcome them. I like that unpredictability about them. It’s a nice part of the painting.”

• The International Women’s Club of Bermuda’s annual charity art exhibition is on at The Gallery in the Chubb Building until March 20. Viewing hours are 10am to 4pm. For more on the IWC visit

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