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Deb Menken’s “thing” is she has no one thing

Interview with an artist

A New Creation gets its title from 2 Cor. 5:17. In it we see the new growth but behind the scenes is my return to more abstract work and a desire to reveal more of God and my faith in my work and art practice.”


Deb Menken and her husband Jim live in the town of Mono, Ontario, where she works in her own home studio.

“It is a very picturesque area on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and has a vibrant arts community of which we both have surprisingly become members! I say surprisingly because it is not something that either of us had planned. God works in mysterious ways as they say!”

Through her work Deb hopes to glorify God and add beauty and joy to others’ lives.

Deb is a curious artist. Her painting process is spontaneous and imaginative and flows intuitively from the one question she’s always asking herself: “What happens if I do this…?” Deb has answered this question in many surprising and delightful ways but always in a way that reflects her love of color and texture.

Menken has had a passion for creative arts her whole life but it wasn’t until 2015 that she decided to pursue the dream of learning to paint.

Lapping It Up is my impression of the area around Dorset and Lake of Bays in the Muskokas. The title is a play on words combining the water lapping up on the rocks and the viewer lapping up the beautiful scenery to be found in that area.”

Deb then spent the next several years experimenting as she searched for her “thing” – that elusive style or subject matter which she could claim as her own. Instead she discovered “having one ‘thing’ is not my thing!” Deb continues to explore the possibilities of what she can make paint do. This means mixing interesting color combinations and then layering color, shape and line on a canvas or panel until it results in something she is happy with.

Deb is quick to point out “It’s possible to fiddle with these kinds of pieces forever and end up losing the initial spontaneity!”

Her thing, if there is such a thing, is finding joy in the process of creating art, not the subject matter itself.  While she considers herself an abstract artist, she also loves to paint florals and landscapes with varying degrees of abstraction.

Menken, who is now considered “mid-career,” wants to move her work in the direction of being inspired by the landscape without portraying it in a representational way. “I want to learn how to immerse myself in a landscape, examine how I respond to it, how it makes me feel and how to capture that feeling with expressive abstract artwork.”

Menken’s work has caught the attention of a local arts council. Earlier this year, the Dufferin Arts Council awarded Menken a bursary to help her develop her skills. In 2024 Deb plans to travel to Newfoundland, alone, to spend at least 2 weeks exploring the beauty of the “raw landscape” there. Her goal with this retreat is to learn how to capture the feeling of the rocky maritime landscape in an abstract way and then apply this approach to other landscapes and subjects.

True to form, Menken anticipates the painting done in Newfoundland will be mostly experimental in nature. It will be taken back to Deb’s home studio where it will form the basis for the creation of a new body of work.

You can follow Deb and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram @debmenkenart. You can view more of her work on her website

If you have a suggestion for an artist you’d like to see profiled in RP please email Jason Bouwman at [email protected]. The title picture is of the artist in the Headwaters Gallery at the Alton Mill in Alton, ON and the painting beside her is “Mossy Morning.”

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Interview with an artist

Jim Menken transforms tree trunks!

Interview with an artist ***** An 8-foot tall grizzly! When you think of a sculptor, the image of a chainsaw does not immediately come to mind. But for Ontario sculptor and carver Jim Menken, the chainsaw is the tool of choice for creating his masterpieces large and small. Menken has had a lifelong interest in art. But in 2003, while still working as a teacher, Jim saw a chainsaw carver at a local festival and became so enthralled with the process that upon arriving home later that day he carved a heron! And he literally has been carving ever since – transforming old trees, stumps and logs into beautiful works of art for a wide range of clients. Jim took up this new passion full time in 2005. He now lives and carves in the town of Mono in beautiful Dufferin County (about 1 hour north west of Toronto) on a property that is perfect for a chainsaw carver; isolated, and with no neighbors within earshot. He has never advertised once and the phone calls and emails have never stopped since. Jim considers this a gift – an answer to prayer. Jim is inspired by God’s creation and uses his God-given talents, a chainsaw and a few other tools to depict animals, people, and select objects as realistically as possible. Jim’s portfolio includes bears, beavers, birds of prey, critters and pets. Living close to the Bruce Trail and the breath-taking Hockley Valley, provides Jim with an endless stream of inspiration and interesting subjects to draw from. This commission was of a grandfather who'd played lacrosse in his younger days. Interestingly, Jim does not title his pieces! This is partly because Jim’s work is almost 100% commissioned. He does not create pieces and then try to sell them. Rather, Menken enjoys the challenge of commissioned works where the client picks the subject. Menken says his clients often have memories attached to their trees and will ask him to carve something to help preserve those memories. In this way Jim meets many different people from different backgrounds and his life and work intersect with many interesting stories. In 2005 Jim was commissioned to carve the veteran for Gage Park in Brampton. It was an existing tree in the park. The legion is close by and veteran Bill Bettridge was used as a model. Unfortunately, the tree had a bit of a seam in it, so it began to decay over time. In 2013 a replacement carving was commissioned. Last year the city commissioned a bronze sculpture modeled after Jim’s original carving which was returned to Jim who then passed it on to Bill's family. Jim has never set foot back in the classroom but he is available for chainsaw carving demonstrations throughout the year. In the winter he demonstrates ice carving and sculpture. Perhaps he’ll inspire the next budding sculptor to lay down the traditional tools and pick up a chainsaw instead. It appears you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. Jim is married to artist Deb Menken, and has 3 grown children who are all artistic as well! He is a member of the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church. Visit Jim’s website,, to learn more about his work and you can also follow him on Facebook (@JimMenkenCarving) and Instagram (@jimmenken). If you have a suggestion for an artist you’d like to see profiled in RP please email Jason Bouwman at [email protected]....