In art school I was told that a professional artist could not have a family, but I have found that my children have given me the courage to experiment, to be bold, and to be fully true to myself.
This past weekend my family took me to spend the day in Canmore, which is always a treat. We ate well (The Grizzly Paw is a family favorite), and walked and saw so much beautiful art. Our final stop before heading home was the library at Elevation Place. It's a beautiful facility which contains Good Earth Café, the gym, pool and climbing wall, as well as the new Public Library. I love visiting libraries and this one was a real treat as, first of all the complete complex is reminiscent of the Town Centre where I grew up in Northern Manitoba which housed everything including our school, arena, restaurants, library, theatre and healthcare and beautifully completed with the rustic and natural touches of stone and wood...and secondly, because I finally got to see the collaborative project I was involved in many years ago.
Several years ago I was asked by Pascale Oulet (Bigoudi) how having children has changed my work. In my case, as difficult as it was to balance work and family, it was certainly the catalyst to be bold and vibrant and to remember what it was that was most important to me. Wherever we lived, I brought a bed or playpen into my studio space so that I could nurse and the girls and then put them down for a nap. I found they both relaxed when I played jazz - Billie Holiday, Etta James, Louis Armstrong - or folk music...especially Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Plus it was nice to paint and still be able to stop and watch them. As they grew, I created a play area for them so we could both 'play' at the same time.
I made a point of getting up especially early, around 5.30 or 6.00, as I knew they'd sleep until 7 or 8 every morning. I did nothing else in the mornings but head straight to my studio. It's a practice that I continue to this day. As well as physical changes to my environment, my daughters began to teach me to wonder once again. They noticed everything, every shape and colour, and really had a simple view on life. I began to appreciate my immediate surroundings and so began my first series of chair paintings which spanned into a ten year project and produced over 500 pieces.
As my children grew, I began to think back to my youth in the north...I had always missed the north, leaving when I was sixteen, and so I began painting a series of canoes, which then began to overlap with the abstraction I had been playing with throughout my career while become more loose and free in my colour choice and mark making. I attribute this to the growth of my children and their need for their own freedom, which also granted me mine.
The influence of children has not left me, and I assume it will continue to spark new ideas as I get to communicate and share their experiences with them. I was told I would never have children and they have been one of life's greatest blessings to me.
AIRdirondack Art Project