The little rescue dog named Gracie barked from inside the door at Judy Nygren's studio on Billy Brown Road in Fort Langley.
"My saving Grace," said Nygren as she opened the door.
Gracie shares Nygren's live/work space in the Flat Iron building. They are next door neighbours to Floralista, a local florist, and block neighbours to two other artists who will also be in the Langley Art Studio Tour, Pat Barker of the Pencil Studio and Elaine Brewer White of Sculpture Studio.
"I've always been an artist," she said, turning down CBC Radio 2. "I've always drawn. I got my first camera at age six and became the family photographer."
Her career was as a wedding photographer for a while.
"I started to paint later in life," she added. "I started to take myself seriously about 10 years ago."
It was then that Nygren was invited to join the Fort Gallery, an artists' collective, as a board member. That step gave Nygren the "permission to call myself a painter," she said.
Even with her association with the Fort Gallery, she was a bit of a "closet painter" not showing anywhere but in the gallery.
Then life threw her a curve ball - as life sometimes does - and Nygren found herself living somewhere other than Fort Langley. "I'd lived in Fort Langley since 1994," she noted sadly of the time she didn't live in the area.
When the spaces in the Flat Iron building opened up, Nygren got herself into unit number four and hasn't looked back for a second.
"I've come home," she said. "To Fort Langley. I closed the book on the most difficult chapter in my life and now I've opened a new book and am totally content."
With her studio on the ground floor, large windows allow Nygren to watch the world go by on Billy Brown Road as she paints, but also allow others to look in at her creations.
"People will say, 'when are you going to open [today]', but I'm just enjoying the process [of painting] so much," she commented.
The process currently is translating a wide range of complex, sometimes painful and emotional, thoughts into paintings through little girls' dresses.
The first in the series is called When I Grow Up... there will be no breast cancer and features Nygren's daughter-in-law's wedding dress with her granddaughter's flower girl dress from the same wedding.
The message is made bolder and stronger when one learns that Nygren's daughter-in-law, Tricia, died of the disease in 2007.
"I want to address little girls," she said frankly. "They all become women and let's get rid of this damn disease so they can grow up without fear."
The first of eight paintings of dresses to date, Nygren hopes to complete 12.
"I'm in a space of doing little girl's dresses," she said.
"They're suspended in hope. There's something about little girls' dresses. I was compelled to paint them."
Her subjects are the actual dresses, backlit and hanging in her studio. Nygren doesn't paint them from pictures.
"It gives me way more satisfaction to know the story and paint that dress," she noted.
It is Nygren's first time participating in the Langley Art Studio Tour and she couldn't hide her excited smile.
"This is my first time because it's my first time having a studio."
@ Copyright 2013