Battle gate open for business

Art, in any form, has been my happy place for as long as I can remember. Cutting off most of my Barbie’s hair and colouring it green with a felt marker seems a far cry from artistic thought, however the urge to manipulate and create visual emotion is very much what I’ve always been drawn to. As a child, I can remember witnessing overwhelming experiences and dealing with it by re-drawing the event with as much (or as little) detail as I could. I suppose art became my simplified therapy in coping with new and challenging experiences and thus became a place of comfort in my life for years to come.

My childhood discovering art isn’t terribly interesting. I enjoyed my high school art classes but progressing my skills was never a priority nor did the opportunity really present itself. I remember going to my first day of high school and seeing all the murals on the walls in the hallways that were actually painted by students. “Wow, the teachers let them do that here? This place is awesome!”  But by the time I was a senior, the walls had all been painted, my art stayed in the classroom and in my mind, art would always just be “my favourite elective” and nothing more.

University: I pursue a career in business. The decision was pragmatic and though I hated accounting with a passion, business was a great path for me. In my mind, I rationalized that “commerce represents growth” and “growth” can never be a bad path now, can it?

Circa Photoshop CS2, I was hired for my first job out of university as the marketing co-ordinator at a ski resort in a rocky mountain national park. A decade plus of jobs later and I know I’m never going to get an office like that again but that job was so much more than a nice view and getting paid to ski. Finally, my years of experience using the 1991 update of Kid Pix has come into use!

The collision of my marketing training with new visual design tools was the best on-mountain accident I could have asked for. This was the first opportunity to develop my artistic skills and I was getting a pay check to do it. It may not have been a mural behind the girls washroom in a downtown high school in Prince George – but creating ads, tradeshow displays and brochures was my first chance to be a visual storyteller. 

More education dedicated to digital design, many more jobs practicing commercial design, a stint at WestJet and hundreds (thousands?) of dollars paid to Adobe to use their fun toys – I found myself with an entirely new skill set than when I graduated University – I was a graphic designer! 

As a graphic designer, I could create beautiful collateral and designs that are backed with persuasive reason. There is intentional, strategic thought in every pixel I designed and if I didn’t nail it on the first go, my familiar friend Ctrl+Alt+Delete will always forgive me, every time, and he won’t tell a soul how many times I’ve had to tap into him to get a project out the door. I could create a flawless reality with digital design. Kind of like Jack Deebs in Cool World, but minus Brad Pitt and the seductive cartoons. But still there was something missing. 

I had other ways to feed the creative beast inside of me. I was a DJ, producing some of my own tracks, remixing others and performing on stage. That gave me some brief moments of clarity in which I could tune into an energy deep within. But finally, I tapped back into my non-digital paintbrushes when I was expecting with my first son in 2012. Again, I was looking for a new way to tune into that clarity I felt when my creative beast was being fed a healthy steak dinner. I started with mixed media, admittedly making physical versions of my layered photoshopped creations. Then, I met pouring medium: A highly movable liquid that transforms vibrant colours into organic supernovas. I tried to use in so many different ways but it too fell flat.

For the next 5 years, I started collecting art supplies to get back to the roots of visuals arts, determined to develop my own art form. I played around with inks and acrylics and sought after 3 minute advice from strangers on Youtube. I painted while my son napped (and for a few minutes after he woke up) and when he went to bed at night.

My basement soon turned into my personal art studio and that studio was overloaded with one-night stands (or easels in my case). Yes, each canvas was totally unique, but none of the aesthetics could be replicated and none of them truly spoke to me or the emotion I wanted to convey. Of course, they whispered sweet nothings to me as I painted, but I never called them back for a second date (or was it the other way around?) My creative output was the greatest it had been, but my aesthetic, my art form, was still MIA.

Fast forward a few years of experimentation and finally, I was working with a medium I was drawn deep into. I’ve told many people that, for me, art is so much like love. You date (that’s a generous term in many cases) terrible guys for so long, giving them far too many attempts for a deep connection, but finally you meet one that clicks. Not like a mouse click, like the unlatching of steel, Sauron-strength locks on a giant Lord of the Rings type battle gate. You know, the kind that dragons fly over? Anyway, it shakes you. Ink was my battle gate, that that was waiting to open.

So here I am on a journey, for longer than I’m sure I’ve been aware of. And that journey is to develop my own art form into something magnetic. It sounds like a tall order but at the risk of sounding like an interlude to motivational self-help book, it’s calling.

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