Norma Jackson Lives a Creative Life

Norma Jackson Lives a Creative Life

When we planned a trip to Vancouver Island in April our intention was to meet with some of the artists we didn’t catch up with the first time around. One of those artists was Norma Jackson. Norma lives in Duncan, B.C. with her husband Rodney and their cute little pooch. She is an award winning, eclectic, acrylic painter who often incorporates sculpture into her pieces. When she is not working on her own projects she spends time sharing her knowledge and inspiring others to discover their creative potential in various workshops she holds in her studio or takes on the road.

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It was wonderful talking with Norma as she reminded me that when you have an intention for your life you must pursue it no matter how scary it may seem at first. Norma started out like many of us, myself included, speeding down the life long job highway only to discover; “this is not for me!” Not to say that a job doesn’t serve a financial purpose and is even sometimes fulfilling, but this route, from beginning to end, doesn’t suit everyone. I can’t say exactly how Norma came to this crossroads in her life, but perhaps it happened because she was open to the possibilities of what might, and did, cross her path. One day she found herself playing the role of a business executive with little opportunity for creative potential, and the next she was living a creative life painting and sculpting for a marionette company. With the help of a wonderful lady who became her mentor, Norma discovered many things that lay dormant within her and so put herself through many firsts such as painting, sculpting, set design, public speaking, puppeteering, writing, directing and performing to name just a few.

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Eventually Norma found herself in the field of healing, and she discovered the healing properties of creativity, whether from creating for oneself or sharing one’s creativity with others. Norma discovered that it doesn’t matter if we are at the beginning of our life or coming to its end, the power of creativity can heal the smallest or biggest wounds. Her experience and her desire to help others led her and her band of marionette’s to visit people in hospice care, and later she developed a highly effective marionette program for youth contemplating suicide. In her video interview Norma shared with us some heart wrenching stories that left a lump in my throat.

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Click on the thumbnails below to see the larger image.

Often we think of art and creativity in such a limited way; something to be admired or something that only people with excess disposable income can enjoy, either to pay for art school, lessons or just to purchase someone’s creative accomplishments. Norma is one artist, of many I’m sure, who have taken the merits of art to another dimension in society and as Norma says, “art is the life’s blood of our society.” Although her hospice work and the youth suicide program have been dismantled because of government funding cuts, her creative endeavours have changed the path of those who were dying by giving them comfort and peace, and to those who wanted to die by giving them a reason to live.

Today, Norma works on her own art and with great insight and a deep connection to her surroundings wherever she finds herself and with whomever she meets. She is interested in people, rituals, nature, abstract and just about anything that her open mind welcomes in. I was fascinated to hear her story and what led her to where she is today. These are the stories that keep me going in my life when the demon of doubt sometimes shows up unexpectedly. Perhaps they may do the same for you.

Please join us as Norma shares her journey by way of living a creative life. We love to hear from you so please leave a comment and share on social media. Thanks.

Mixed Media Artist Evelyn M

Mixed Media Artist Evelyn M

Our first impression of mixed media artist Evelyn M happened two weeks before we had even met her! We had sent out a call to artists for interviews to the Campbell River Arts Council; they had put it in their newsletter and Evelyn had responded to us on April 8th. On April 9th she had posted a very thoughtful and detailed account of our journey and her upcoming interview with us in her Local Home Spot.com Blog. We were quite impressed by her take-charge attitude and could see that she is a proactive contributor in the art world and likes to make things happen. It is no wonder then that in addition to her fine art endeavours Evelyn also contributes to multiple blogs as well as working with her husband Bruce in their interior design and renovation business, Design House.

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As we arrived at Evelyn`s home we were greeted outside by Evelyn and Bruce and the exuberant canine greeters Xena and Dax, their Golden Retrievers. Entering the house we were also greeted by the mouth-watering smells of fresh homemade cinnamon buns. Yummm! Evelyn said that when we had mentioned on Facebook the wonderful homemade bread and muffins we received from Terry Phillips, she thought that to keep in the spirit of things some of Bruce`s to-die-for cinnamon buns were in order. Corinne and I emphatically agreed! Could this be a pattern? We’re thinking that we could be on to yet another perk to the myriad of benefits we have realized in this joyous adventure; and grateful for every one of them!

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Evelyn started off as an artist painting in watercolour and acrylic but in time yearned for another level of creativity and individuality within her art. From a trip to Mexico in the mid ’80s she was inspired to create a unique, raised sketch technique that she uses in her paintings and it has literally given her art-work another dimension. (Watch her video interview to better glimpse this distinct perspective)

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Unlike some artists, Evelyn’s artistic process is a solitary one; preferring to be alone within her creative moments. She also uses whichever venue around her house that will deliver her artistic needs; be it using the dining room table for her sketches, seeking artistic direction within her “muse” room with all her stuff, or finishing her painting from behind a locked door in the bathroom with the right counter height, lighting and sink close at hand.

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Evelyn notes that there is a collaboration of ideas and inspirations between her art-work and her home interior design business; sometimes the new home project with it’s colours and layout inspires her art, and other times it’s her art that inspires a new feature in the home. Evelyn says, “I consider interior design a three dimensional installation of art; the room is just a large art piece that we live inside.” So from her earliest years drawing as a young girl, to her adult (and still young) years creating dream homes for other people, Evelyn’s lifelong passion for creativity has created the perfect marriage between her essential need for personal expression and a business that can reap success from that.

Welcome to Evelyn M’s interview! Please feel free to comment below and share with social media!

The Grumpy Goat Gallery – Art and Antics

The Grumpy Goat Gallery – Art and Antics

“…then wind your way along a cliff-side road that drops precipitously down to the Atlantic Ocean, take a few more hair pin turns, and then just as you are about to go flying off into oblivion turn left at the yellow vehicle into the driveway of the lime green house and park in front of the yellow piano!” Huh? Yesiree, I definitely embellished the directions from that email, but that (more or less) was one of our first introductions to Cara and Pam and a glimpse into their world of colour and whimsy. Truth be told, it is a scenic route to The Grumpy Goat Gallery that overlooks the vast Atlantic Ocean with breathtaking views that have caught not only whales and porpoises cruising by but also ice bergs at one time or another, all to be seen from their panoramic porch.

After our loud Arty Farty van pulled up in front of the yellow piano, we got out and strode up their front porch expecting to see them. They were nowhere to be seen. Hmmm, what’s this sign? “Hi! Please Honk the Horn For the Studio” So we did. Honk! Honk! And then like magic, there they appeared! I can’t help but feel that we were the lab rats of the day, observing us to see if we would go back to our vehicle to honk Arty’s horn. Preposterous you say? It is a fate befallen by more than one unsuspecting gallery visitor as you will read in Cara’s blog (play dark and scary music).

I will let you in on a little secret! Maybe this shouldn’t get out! Am I jeopardizing their business? Well, here it goes anyway! We found absolutely NO grumpiness at The Grumpy Goat Gallery in Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador! Gasp! There, I said it! On the contrary, although we did meet their pygmy goats Rose and Sophia (and they aren’t grumpy either!), our meeting with affable artists Cara and Pam was filled with laughs, puns and hilarious stories of the lovely people that they encounter coming through the doors of their gallery. As a matter of fact, most of the gallery visitors are incited to smile, chuckle, or outright laugh as they notice the colourful and creative creations with often comical connotations displayed on the walls, floors, tables, or hanging from the ceiling. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Peruse the blog stories for The Grumpy Goat Gallery and you will see not only their wonderful mixed media creations, but also the creative comedic writing that is another forte complimenting the award winning mixed media work of Cara and Pam.

Cara is the self-taught artist that walks hand-in-hand with the child within her, looking at life with the curiousity, wonder and humour of a little girl and expressing it in her paintings. This gives her the gift of uninhibited expression. Pam is the self-taught carver and woodworker extraordinaire. We were stunned to learn that not only was she an incredible carver, but also built the woodworking shop, painting studio, goat barn and the house extension for the gallery all without a stick of training. The colourful fusion of the union between Cara’s historical and whimsical look at Newfoundland’s people, places and events and the three dimensional effect of Pam’s woodworking is nothing less than magical.

Click on the images below for a full view:

Join us with the voices of Cara and Pam as they tell us their story. Don’t be shy to leave a comment!

Jamie-Lee Cormier – Painting in Her Corner of the World

Jamie-Lee Cormier – Painting in Her Corner of the World

Corner Brook, Newfoundland is located on the west side of the island and is the first larger center we came upon after embarking off the ferry in Port Aux Basques. It is nestled among a rocky landscape right at the edge of the water. It has a breathtaking view, an extremely helpful tourist information center, all the amenities a person would need and a young painter by the name of Jamie-Lee Cormier.

Jamie-Lee in her gallery in downtown Corner Brook.

Jamie-Lee graduated with a degree in fine arts from Memorial University in Corner Brook in 2007. I remember when I was younger and fresh out of school my imagination about the future seemed boundless and fruitful and this was the impression I got upon meeting Jamie-Lee. She has a youthful exuberance that so many of us lose or ignore because we think it isn’t “appropriate” as we get older. It is refreshing to meet people like her.

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After graduating from school there wasn’t a place for Jamie-Lee to show her work. The art school turned out an artist but left no place for her to go. She didn’t let that stop her. She went into business for herself, opened her own gallery in the downtown corridor by the name of JL Gallery, and invited other local artists as well. Jamie-Lee has always wanted to be an artist since she was a child and she has held a steadfast commitment to it ever since. Consequently, with a supportive family and lots of encouragement, she has worked hard and it has paid off. Her gallery has been contributing to Corner Brook’s economy for almost 5 years.

Jamie-Lee works primarily in mixed media but lately has been stretching her wings and working more on realistic paintings with oils. Although her art career is just getting started she has had commissions and requests from the people in her community for her mixed media art as well as her oil paintings. Most of her work incorporates some aspect of nature taking on a more abstract interpretation of it or sometimes a realistic impression.

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Gary and I have interviewed many veteran artists and some emerging as well and found with life experience there is usually an evolution, and sometimes the art becomes a message or a story for a personal philosophy. After talking to Jamie-Lee, I didn’t get the impression that there is some kind of deeper meaning when she paints; she just loves to do it and that is all there needs to be. Her work is alive and full of energy, just like her, and as time goes by, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Jamie-Lee Cormier and her art.

Please join us with Jamie-Lee as she talks about her passion. Comments are always appreciated. Thanks.

Indigenous Expressionist Haisla Collins

Indigenous Expressionist Haisla Collins

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We traveled down East Hastings to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in search of Raven’s Eye Studio and to meet with Haisla Collins. Haisla (pronounced H-eyes-la) is an accomplished mixed media artist in the mediums of painting, screen printing and drawing, and she is also a blues musician and bead worker. She wanted to share with us a mural which is painted on the side of the building where the Raven’s Eye Studio is located. She and several other artists were commissioned to do “Through the Eye of the Raven” in 2010. The mural is epic and left Gary and I awestruck in its presence. For the people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside it represents a beautifully orchestrated community effort. Although Haisla and her painting peers collaborated on the subject of the urban aboriginal experience, they also drew ideas from the people living in the community and their personal interpretation of it. The cement canvas consists of all the different parts that make up the whole First Nations community; the people, the neighbourhood, the buildings, nature, animals, traditions, culture and history. It represents pride, hope and unity. If you ever find yourself in the 400 block on the south side of East Hastings be sure to look up, way up as you won’t want to miss it; nor can you.

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Self Portrait

After leaving Raven’s Eye Studio, we walked down a couple of blocks to the Carnegie Community Center which is located on the corner of Main and Hastings in Downtown’s Eastside. The community center was built in the 1800’s and is an incredible piece of historical architecture. It was likely occupied by various other organizations and perhaps businesses in its past but I wonder if it was ever bustling with as much life and activity as it is now. Haisla recently started a job there doing what she loves; art. She teaches people in the community how to paint while researching and strengthening her own skills and giving strength to others at the same time.

Click the thumbnails below to see a larger image of Haisla’s work.

Haisla describes her work as indigenous expressionism. She is facinated by the connections between people and the interconnectedness of their internal and external environments. Her influences include Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh as well as more traditional artists like Bill Reid and Lyle Wilson. Her paintings are such that your eyes are drawn to them even if your gaze was elsewhere. When I asked her where her ideas came from she simply stated that she focuses on themes and what attracts her interest at the time. As well, she has a system in place for managing her creativity; when she is feeling creative, she sketches her images one by one and when she is not feeling particularly creative she finishes them. For Haisla, visual art and music have been her outlets for expressing herself in regards to her own experiences as well as her interpretation of other peoples experiences. Having said that, she is also very pragmatic about it and realizes that hard work and hours put in are what you do to become a strong artist. I have no doubt she instills this philosophy in her students as well.

Check out our interview with Haisla Collins as she talks more about her art and the “Through the Eye of the Raven” mural. We invite you to leave comments as well.

Eliza Fry Mixing It Up in Kaslo

Eliza Fry Mixing It Up in Kaslo

If you ever find yourself traveling north on B.C.’s hwy 31, rather than pass through Kaslo, stop and spend some time, it will be well worth it. You will likely find yourself on Front Street along the water where you can park your car for as long as you like and keep your change for coffee and a sweet treat.

The morning after our stay in the Kaslo Municipal campground we headed to Front Street looking for The Live Art Shop where we would meet co-founder and mixed media artist Eliza Fry. Just after 9am we spotted Eliza heading into The Live Art Shop with a Dachshund named Wobbles in tow. The Live Art Shop was fashioned from a building that once served as someone’s home and is now home to an eclectic array of art works from local artists. Eliza gave us a tour and short intro to some of the local art that is displayed there.

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Eliza is a mixed media artist who is compelled to create her work based on some of today’s social issues. She enjoys using images from old magazines and materials that she has found lying about when ever and where ever she comes across them. Geographic maps tend to be a staple with many of her creative endeavours and she continues to discover new angles and ways to incorporate them into her art pieces. Her latest project is a paper sculpture of a life size raven clutching a shiny ball in its beak. Eliza even granted her bird life, in a manner of speaking, and gave it the mechanics to flap its wings. The raven is made out of black postcards that were left behind by another artist who had an art showing in Kaslo and there were a little too many. Rather than throw them out or recycle them, Eliza found them to be the perfect material for her bird. The bird fosters flight through existential people power and will happily flap its wings fast or slow depending on how energetic one might feel. It currently lives in a room full of other haphazard “stuff” silently waiting to be pieced together from the imagination and creative spectacles of one Eliza Fry.

Kinetic sculpture of a raven

Check out Eliza’s interview and the demo of her rad raven below.

Mixed Media Artist Rielle Oswald

Mixed Media Artist Rielle Oswald

It has been a long time since I have walked through the doors of a grade school other than to vote. Except for the obvious technological advances not much has changed over the years with the kids themselves. There were still some of the older ones lingering in the hallways trying to avoid the inevitable, and still others who had stopped to pick up late slips at the office.

School was in session when we met up with Rielle Oswald. She teaches art and music at J.V. Humpheries Elementary-Secondary School in Kaslo, B.C. As we followed a student down the hallway to her class room, we could hear her setting up her students to begin a 5 minute sketch of a boy who happily volunteered to be the model; that left us with less than 5 minutes to talk to Rielle as we didn’t want to interrupt the kids’ creative flow. I think approaching anything we do in life should be like the 5 minute sketches. It forces us to use our time wisely, stop placing so much importance on the minor details and stop imprisoning our minds.

In regards to talking with Rielle, we would have liked a little more time but like she said in her interview, “It is about circumstance and what you do with it at that moment”. I think this speaks pages about Rielle’s approach to guiding her students down the creative process path as well as her approach to her own art. The more I learn about mixed media, the more fascinated I become. The possibilities are infinite. It must be so liberating to create something from whatever is within one’s proximity at the time. Something I’m not sure about is the thought process but perhaps that is the point, there isn’t one. I imagine it to be more like a chain reaction. Rielle’s work is definitely not demure and reminds me of someone who doesn’t stumble after trends but rather, is bold enough to wear lime green or yellow in the winter. Her work is independent and confident, much like the artist her self I would imagine.

Check out her interview with Gary and me below.