No matter what career path she has been on, Airdrie’s Veronica Funk has always been an artist. Now 46, the mother of two has been focusing mainly on her art – and her family – for the past decade and has found great success.
Funk, who has been in 100 art exhibits and also works at the Airdrie Public Library as an art programmer, is modest about her increasing renown. “If you commit to something and you do it regularly, whether you are getting it out there or not, people respond to it,” she said. “Don’t paint because you think it might sell, paint it because (you love it).”
Funk grew up in northern Manitoba, in a community rich in Cree culture. As a youngster, she was exposed to the First Nations arts of weaving and beading and spent hours outside, learning to canoe and soaking up the pleasures found in the forests and streams of the province. Funk took up a pencil at a very young age, drawing Archie comics as young as Grade 2.
As a youth, she had many art influences, from the work of Robert Bateman to studying with Lynn Johnson, the artist behind For Better or For Worse comics. At 17, Funk and her family moved to Alberta, giving her new inspiration – the
prairie and mountains – images that are seen in her later works.
Funk’s portrait-drawing skills earned her a place in the art and design department at Red Deer College in the mid-1980s, where she says she “learned a freedom” in her technique that she loved.
Despite her creativity, clearly exhibited not only in her paintings, but also in her writing and hobbies of knitting, crocheting and gardening, Funk’s focus has not always been on art. Rather, her logical side was at the forefront in her job as a dental office manager and financial manager at the Airdrie Alliance Church. Despite her abilities in the areas of organization and accounting, Funk said a career in those areas just didn’t suit her.
“I like balancing books and (managing), but it doesn’t stretch me enough,” she said. “I almost fell into a depression.”
Putting away her calculator was a tough decision, but Funk hasn’t looked back. She has become internationally renowned for many paintings depicting furniture, a subject she pursued for 10 years, with muted colours and homey
feeling. Funk said those paintings were influenced by the fact she stayed home with her children for many years.
In the past two years, Funk’s paintings have taken on a distinctly different feeling. Vibrantly coloured, her mixed-media, layered paintings, with their First Nation imagery, harken back to Funk’s childhood. Funk said she creates her paintings with abstract techniques, include mark-making – scratching layers off, creating shapes with objects, using her hands as stamps and dripping paint onto her pieces. The results are rich and uniquely Funk.
“I feel like I am breaking out of my box,” said Funk of her latest series, which she plans to exhibit at the Inglewood Art Gallery this fall. “I am so excited.”
Over the years, Funk has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles and her work has been published in a number of art books. She has also taken up writing, penning how-to magazine articles, the most
recent of which is the September-October issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors. Despite her forays into mixed media, altered books and pottery, Funk always returns to the medium that got her career in art started: painting. Funk has sold hundreds of prints and original paintings and is still excited that people connect to her work.
“It is an honour that someone wants to live with what I create,” she said. “A piece of me travels all over the place.”
Funk’s newest undertaking will give Airdrie residents and visitors the opportunity to view her work. On Sept. 4, Funk, who was one of the founders of the AIRdirondack project and a former Creative Airdrie board member, will begin painting the City-owned utility box on the corner of First Ave. and Main Street. The piece will be painted in her colourful new style with animal and arrowheads depicted, as well as images referencing Nose Creek.
“I have been (in Airdrie) for 15 years,” said Funk. “I want public art in town and I want to be a part of it. I am really excited about the (project).”