After I left college in the mid-80's and moved to Winnipeg, one of the first things I did was begin attending painting sessions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the evenings after work. I love the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it was a special treat to work in the well-lit basement for many months under the tutelage of Craig Wells. He became a wonderful mentor, not only encouraging me in my work but in pushing me farther away from the realistic work that I had focused on for so long, teaching me to change form slightly and add strong marks and vivid colour.
Then I began working with Aboriginal sculptor Michael ManyEagles. He reminded me to pay attention to my past, my youth in a Cree community, and to honour it. At that point I thought I would become a sculptor but found that I kept being drawn back to paint on canvas and now, after many years, have remembered to include my past in my work.
When we moved to Alberta, local artist Audrey Mabee became a wonderful mentor and guide. Not only have I always admired her for her quality of work, but also her contribution to the arts in Calgary initially as a gallery owner and then in many other ways, including bringing Udderly Art to the city. I used to draw with charcoal on a stained ground and spray it with a fixative before painting but one day she suggested I let go of the charcoal drawing and go directly to paint and a brush instead. I found that my work became looser, much more free after that and I haven't turned back. She also discussed the business of art and said if I focus on the work and then share it my audience would find me. After all these years I have definitely found that to be true.
Throughout my career as an artist I have always asked many questions, speaking to artists and visiting their studios and galleries as often as I can in order to learn from them. I am fascinated by the variety and scope of not only the art, but the approach to art as a career. I have learned so much about the value of this creative life, even though most of mine has been lived in the solitude of my studio. Plus, in having mentors to guide me, I believe my work has improved and I have continued to grow.
AIRdirondack Art Project