Location: Hartney

Janice McBrien: Vibrancy Grows in the Garden and on the Canvas

Janice McBrien: Vibrancy Grows in the Garden and on the Canvas

Our second interview in Hartney, Manitoba was actually just outside Hartney at a beautiful little acreage with some wonderful family history. After our overnight stay at the local campground we set out the next morning to go find Janice McBrien and her husband Bill. They live on a farm that was once homesteaded by Janice’s father. He built the original cinder block house they now call home. Although Janice and Bill are both retired, the land they love keeps them working hard but is also a simultaneous source of inspiration.

Janice McBrien

Upon the usual greetings, Janice invited us in to their home, kindly offered us coffee and a chance to get to know a little bit about her and Bill and their life together. They shared with us stories of their ten years of life together in the Northwest Territories. They once owned a gallery and framing store there which occupied much of their time, but all the while falling in love with the landscape, flora and fauna. Bill gave us a word of advice; if we ever find ourselves living there make sure we are equipped with a parka and a bug suit. Sounds like worthy advice to me!

These days Janice and Bill enjoy what they call “picking”. They go to garage sales and pick up all kinds of treasures which Bill sells on E-Bay. His favourite find is vintage cameras. Janice loves her garden and spends a significant amount of her summer there. She plants seeds that she saved from the summer before to grow both annual flowers and vegetables. Fall brings with it the harvest of sixty tomato plants and a whole lot of canning.

Landscape from the Northwest Territories


When I asked Janice how she got started painting she explained to me that many years ago her son was taking a painting class and she was so thrilled with what he had done that she really wanted to give it a try. This ignited a passion for painting that has carried on to this day. Many artists identify their interests through whatever medium they choose to use. Janice loves colour and the flowers in her garden are the inspiration for her paintings. Growing up as a little girl, her family always had beautiful blooms filling the gardens and the vases. Janice takes her delicate and vibrant subjects and creates wonderful watercolour paintings in their honour. She has done oil and acrylic but she loves the challenge watercolour presents to her. As she says, there is no messing around that can be done. It is what it is and you either commit or you start over.

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Watch the video interview below of Janice McBrien as she talks about her creative passion and we invite you to leave a comment for Janice as well.

Pat Jackson Reveals Small is Beautiful

Pat Jackson Reveals Small is Beautiful

Hartney, Manitoba was the first place we decided to try out our new artist finding strategy. This entailed asking the local folks if there are any fine artists or crafts people in town. In Hartney I went into the town office and inquired with a lady behind the front desk and also with Dawn the librarian. At first they had trouble coming up with anyone but soon names were rolling off their tongues and Dawn even volunteered to help by calling a few on my behalf. I should have clarified that we couldn’t interview all of them but we managed to arrange two interviews and one of them being Pat Jackson.

Pat is an artist who creates miniature porcelain dolls. She began working with standard sized dolls, but due to an unfortunate accident left her unable to manage the larger size and so she began working in miniature and as she says, became hooked. She pours her own porcelain into premade molds and she also does her own original castings which usually are one of a kind. The faces are hand painted and each layer of porcelain paint requires eight hours of time in the kiln. Upon completion, Pat then looks for the ideal fabric to make the dolls clothing, even the underwear is authentic to that period of time. As Pat was explaining to us what she does, I continued to be amazed at the patience this woman must have. She says this is one of the benefits of living in a small town where there are less distractions and in her case her dolls are a great way to occupy her time.

Pat designs and makes her own settings and accessories as well. Her Victorian and Edwardian dolls have the furniture appropriate for the period and accompanied by adornments of flowers. I was astounded to learn that a vase (which was a miniature brass candle holder) of paper iris’s were all painted and assembled by hand. Each bloom was the size of a lady bug. She even needed some camouflage material for a male doll she made to represent the soldiers coming home for Christmas. There is no fabic with the tiny camouflage pattern she required so it was hand painted on. It seems there is no limitation to Pat’s imagination when it comes to finding materials to suit her particular needs and she is constantly utilizing found things. One day while grooming her dog, she saw the need to create a miniature dog that resembled her pet and she used scraps of her pooches hair to get the job done. She also asked her daughter Niquie if she would donate a snippet of her hair to authenticate the original miniature Niquie baby doll. I must say that the resemblance of the dolls to their living counterparts is uncanny.

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The research, care and detail that Pat puts into these very tiny dolls is nothing less than astounding and from what I can see there isn’t anything she has left out. Some of the details are so small you would need a magnifying glass in order not to miss anything.

Watch Pat’s interview and see for yourself what I mean. We welcome you to leave a comment for Pat as well.