Interview by Ben Reeves
For many art students finding supplies at a reasonable price, or just that one specific thing no one seems to carry, can be difficult. Fortunately, small stores such as Colours Art, located at 7359-104 St. near Strathcona, can fulfill that need.
I myself found the place utterly indispensable to my fledgling years of artistic study, the little box building filled to burst with everything I could ever need for my classes, crowding up every surface and any available square inch of wall. I had the opportunity to speak to one of the owners of this humble dispensary, Ken Harcus, and ask a few questions about what its like running an art store in Edmonton.
Founded first in 1947 as a hand-drafted blueprint company by their parents, computers soon totally removed the human touch from the blueprint practice in 1984.
So, the two brothers shifted the focus of the store to art supplies. When asked why the name ‘colours’ was chosen he said this, “[My brother] thinks- no, lives! Keith really lives outside the box. So, when we registered the company, we wanted to drive home that this was a Canadian company, so we used the Canadian spelling. We put the ‘u’ in colours.”
The site listed a former location at Port Coquitlan BC, so naturally I was curious as to the reasoning for its closure. “The taxes were too high in Coquitlam, there was always some government guy or another telling us we needed to meet this regulation or that one, it just cost too much.”
In fact, the brothers once owned multiple stores from Winnipeg to Vancouver but as costs mounted and retirement slowly approached they began selling the stores to their employees in 2012, so that the stores could remain open and continue their staff’s employment. According to him, many of the stores are still owned by their old employees.
But they’ve “…always done well in Edmonton…” and have held hundreds of airbrushing classes every July over the years. These serve as a 2-and-a-half-hour introductory course:
“…while the students might not be masters yet, they still need practice, they now know how to keep their airbrush’s working which is one of the harder parts of the medium. We also have a permanent discount on parts if you buy your airbrushes from us.”
Online retailers often replace physical retailers in other industries, in the way that Amazon and Kindle have driven physical bookstores out of business, so I asked if he thought his industry would survive the ever-encroaching march of digital markets.
“Yes, I do think physical art stores will sill survive. Buying art supplies is a very sensory thing, people love to touch the bristles of a brush or the feel of a canvas. Other places like the dollar store just carry cheep stuff that falls apart easily, not us. We sell high quality stuff, not junk.”
The Christmas season is always their busiest so get yours while supplies last. This store was one hell of a life saver on many a project of mine through the semesters and will hopefully continue to do so until the end. You can purchase their products in store or online at https://www.artistsupplies.com/
Colours Art and Studio
7359-104 St. NW, Edmonton
(780) 433 4774