Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sketchbook Assignment #2 - My Art history

I am taking an online course about art history for animation - and it is proving to be exciting and engaging - I only wish I had more time in amidst the deadlines, teaching and family responsibilities I have right at this moment. I have, however, been thinking deeply about my journey, and how I came to be a professional artist and educator.

For me, it begins with family. My mom is the first artist I ever knew, and she filled our house with stories, art and whimsy. We searched for gnomes in the snow and fairies in the summer. She wrote books. She tried briefly to get published and still makes art today. My Opa, aunts, uncles are ALL creative (now my cousins too). They make art, tell stories, sew, craft etc. This was the old world dutch side I grew up with.

On the other side, my dad's - I had a Grandma Monkey, and Grandpa Butch (who looked a bit like Winston Churchill), and my uncle - and I can distinctly remember the sounds and smells of that basement where we slept when we visited. The house was always busy, it was a typical Windsor, ON house, with an alleyway behind that had an entire life all it's own. My grandmother had a scratchy voice and the softest skin on her back, and earlobes that hung LOW because of the heavy earrings she wore in her youth (the very reason I wear none). There is a Halfway house named after these two, because they were constantly looking after people that were hard-done by in many ways. My dad and uncle both grew up to play professional football.

I was always good at art.
I guess that is where it started - a recognition, a first award at school, pictures hanging in the hallway (back in the day when you had to be selected and not everyone got a spot), art enrichment. My son currently has a piece in a juried art show - and I can see in him, the same pride I felt my first time too.

I KNEW I wanted to be a children's illustrator and writer.

Then, I started summer classes at the local gallery. Every week, I descended the stairs to a dark, a bit dank and paint-splattered basement. Wheels whirring, the smell of tempera in the air and I was completely, and utterly hooked. I spent hours and hours in this place, creating, learning, sharing. We had shows and galas, and I won plaques and had pieces in the paper.

Art was also the thing that set me apart, and made some of my most awkward and painful years managable. I was hated at times, mocked, and dismissed. But through this gained empathy. Art was my light.

High school was amazing, incredible teachers and the opportunity for more exploration. A small-town school, with teachers who thought outside the box.

Sheridan College, Interpretice Illustration was my next stop - 3 years of BLISSFUL, HARD-ASS, WORK, CRITIQUE, FRIENDS and GROWTH. I cannot say enough about this.

During school and after, I tree planted, met hundreds of people and had an amazing time. I connected deeply with the environment, and spent hours and hours with myself. I also met my husband and traveled all over Canada and tree planted some more.

I got my first job on the ground floor of a magazine (then a newspaper) doing layout and illustration. It was interesting, due to the fact that I had SKIPPED almost all my college computers classes because i was an 'artist' who didn't need technology. I had done enough to get by, so I made up a portfolio at the library and got the job doing both. It's a good thing I was a good problem solver.

However, the lure of the big$$ treeplanting offered (and the fact that it is COMPLETELY opposite to sitting at a desk all day - which was killing me), we left again... for another season. My husband and I would buy a van after planting, drive it till we got somewhere, and get jobs till the next season rolled around.

In 2001, my mom sent me a link to a job at Loyalist College - a REAL graphic design job - we were pretty nomadic and I was working in a bakery in Calgary and doing some freelance work. I applied to appease her, knowing full well there was NO WAY I would get it. Well, they flew me back for an interview and I put together another portfolio on my own computer for the college - and I got it. I did that for 12 years and have recently started teaching drawing, sculpting and character design in the Animation Program at Loyalist College and I LOVE IT.

We regularly got visits from paper reps, and one day a rep from Fraser Papers (which is now Smart Papers) walked into my office and noticed a print of one of my paintings. He asked for a card, and a month later I had a GIANT gig illustrating a 3D paper zoo. I almost broke my hand on the ceiling when they told me what it was worth. This job won awards and started me on my next path - because I could afford to advertise, and felt like I COULD advertise something.

Starting with Scholastic (I had always said I wanted to have a book illustrated before my first child), I have illustrated over 20 books and 90+covers in the education market, and almost (10) trade picture books - two of which I wrote as well.

My kids, my family, my history seemingly point in one straight direction - but it took a lot of luck and hard work, and I am always working on that next journey of discovery and exploration - and the next thing I can be super proud of.

Oh, and my computer teacher can have the last laugh, because I am all digital these days - and teaching the stuff he taught us.

Not sure if I met the requirements here, it turned into a ramble...