"No Sunday painters here"

by Nikki Moir, Vancouver Sun - May 15 1960

     Some people call them Sunday painters, but Mrs. Bessie Fry Symons, who has been painting as long as she can remember, takes issue with that.
     Mrs. Symons whose home is on Read Island, off Campbell River, is the oldest living member of the B.C. Society of Artists which holds its 50th annual exhibition starting Sunday at Vancouver Art Gallery. It is to be opened by Governor-General Vanier at 9 p.m. on that day.
     She was elected to membership in 1928.
     You can't make a living at painting, she affirms, it isn't a "hobby" and they're not just the Sunday variety of artist.
     An Englishwoman, she came to Read Island in 1928. Her late husband also painted.
     Her specialty is lino color prints. Most of her life she has worked in water colors and pastels - never done portrait work.
     Has painting changed muchly through the years?
     "Oh yes," she says, "but I've never gone abstract."
     If you can't make a living at painting what about the young girl who has a bent that way? What can she do?
     "I've always thought if a girl wanted to take it up fabric design would be the best thing to do. Then, she might paint on the side and exhibit her work."
     Although she has painted all her life, teaching was her mainstay. She taught at the former Methodist college in New Westminster; Columbia College - all grades and did private teaching in sketching.
     That holds true with many of the Society members. Painting is more their joy - don't call it a hobby - than an economic standby.
     The Society was founded in 1909 while Vancouver was yet young. At the first exhibition, Emily Carr showed some of her work and she was made a life member in 1931.
     In the beginning, there were 24 members and today, there are 85.
     The fiftieth annual exhibition will be a showing of work done by members in the past 50 years from the representational to the abstract. The show is open to the public May 24 to June 12.