THE ARTIST BEHIND THE PENCIL
"I believe in the artist journey behind the artwork. Life is full of highs and lows and I always want to know about why the artwork was created. An artist’s journey is an emotional one and the battles and joys we experience tend to be portrayed in the work. Back in 2021, I put a call out to the public to ask me some questions in a way to get to know me better. Thank you ahead of time for reading and following along with my journey as an artist."
WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN ARTIST?
I have always been drawn to a creative lifestyle, with a pencil in my hand at the age of 4. But it wasn’t until early 2012 when I made the challenging decision to sell professionally. It definitely was not an easy road and there was a 6 year gap where I left my drawing and painting skills behind, but hey, life isn’t easy. The difficult moments are what make up our stories and make us who we are.
WHAT DREW YOU TO YOUR ART FORM?
It may sound cliché for an artist but pain, trauma and joy simultaneously drove me back into the art world and to where I am now. Like I mentioned above, there was a 6 year hiatus which was between 2006 (when I completed my fine arts schooling) and 2012. I got incredibly “stuck” like a lot of people do in life. Back in 2005/2006 while I was studying photography, I used bugs as my models. That is when I truly fell in love with multiple subject matters in nature. In early 2011, I wound up in the hospital after contracting a horrible infection. The rest of the year was a write off with multiple medical tests which then led into a dark depression. I went looking for something to bring joy back into my life, and I chose to bring back drawing and painting. I selected the very first bee photograph I ever took back in 2006 to paint and the rest is history. My art form was made because of these events and even though it was one of the darkest moments in my life, happiness came out of it.
DO YOU FEEL YOUR ARTWORK REPRESENTS SOMETHING ABOUT YOU?
I believe my work 100% represents many aspects about me. First of all, I advocate for this planet in many ways but my work focuses on pollinators which humans need to survive. Second, my paintings are colourful and I am a very colourful person, either in physical features like clothing, or my personality. My illustrations are quirky and dive into my love of Halloween; I have always said I am very theme oriented. Thirdly, there is a deep emotional attachment that I share with bees; to me it is like bees “saved me.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ART MATERIAL TO WORK WITH?
Give me a pencil or pen and a sketchbook and I am completely content. The majority of people out there believe painting is my main love but drawing completes me. My favourite part of a painting is sketching out the design and composition, which is also one reason why I tend to have so many on the go!
HAS YOUR WORK CHANGED OVER TIME?
It most definitely has which I believe is a good thing. Being an artist, we should be experimenting with different ways to create our thoughts but I also think my health journey has contributed to some of these changes. If you look at my work from 2012 to now, there has been a major jump in style, details, techniques, mediums and ideas. The subject matter though has stayed the same but eventually I would like to branch out to portraying ALL pollinators, not just bees.
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND JOVIE THE BEE?
This question relates to the last two questions above. She was only supposed to be a one-time thing for the month of October in 2018. I was feeling quite stuck in my art practice and I realised I wanted to go back to what I loved the most, drawing. I had an absolute blast creating her, incorporating my love of bees with my love of Halloween, and she was able to fill this puzzle piece that was missing. It turned out that the public exploded with love for her and I realized that I personally needed her to stick around in my life. Jovie turned into a little sidekick for me and now we will have adventures together for life!
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
The main thing that inspires me is Mother Nature and the natural elements that we live among. The beauty found within her is poetic. She has been guiding me through my art journey and I strive to share the stories she creates. I am blessed to live in beautiful British Columbia and I am definitely a true west coaster. The rain fills my soul, just like how it keeps the ground fresh, green and growing.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BEE FACT?
There are so many cool facts about bees and every bee is unique in their own way, but if I had to choose a fact about bees as a whole, I’d say how fast they beat their wings. Bees can beat their wings over 200 times per second! When I did my first bee beard (with honeybees) back in 2012, I was in an enclosed cage and that is the one thing I remember: the sound of the wings and the wind being created around me. It was pretty magical.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A PERSON WHO WANTS TO BE AN ARTIST?
There are too many to list but here are my top 3 pieces of advice:
Find out your “why” and do it for the love of it, not for the money. You have to have a passion that is deep in your soul. If you do not have that drive, that focus on what you are creating, it will show. People buy artwork not only because they take pleasure in the art itself, but because they enjoy the artist and their story.
Be patient; nothing happens over night. An artist’s journey is long but incredibly rewarding.
You will NEVER please everyone, so have a good back bone (I lose mine sometimes, we are human); people can be mean. Being an artist is incredibly difficult with multiple highs and major lows. Remember to create what YOU want to create. As long as you are true to yourself, you will go far.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE TYPE OF BEE?
This is another difficult question as I tend to love them all, but Bumblebees are at the top of the list. I am a fan of all the fuzz and how big their butts are! They are like the tiny teddy bears of the skies, especially the queens. Going back to the favourite bee fact question, I would also add that when you get too close to a Bumble, they will warn you to bug off by raising their leg(s) up in the air. I feel like this is pretty nifty, letting others know you are in their personal space. I have been warned quite a few times and I apologize and leave them bee.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH EVERYONE KNEW ABOUT BEES?
I wish everyone knew that bees (in general) will not harm you unless they are protecting their nests or feel threatened. Most creatures want nothing to do with you, like us, we just want to be left alone. It is the same with them and the majority of bees are chill, they would never attack. If a bee is able to sting, it normally only happens when they feel threatened. For example, my spouse had a honeybee land on his head one day and he didn’t know what it was. He brushed it off and she thought it was being attacked and stung him on his hand. I mean, if you were hit by another human, you would protect yourself. If a creature is flying around you, even wasps, they are usually just smelling you.
ARE THERE SOME FACTS ABOUT YOU THAT SOME MIGHT FIND SURPRISING?
Guess what, I used to be terrified of bees and anything that stung back in my teenage and young adult years. This most likely stemmed from the fact I stepped on a ground wasp nest in a forest when I was a young teen. They went up my jeans, it wasn’t the best time and that definitely instilled some trauma. Now, I let them crawl all over me. Education, understanding, and perspective all went into my changing thoughts. We grow as humans and I see things in a different light now than I did back then.
Another fact that people tend to find surprising is that penguins are my favourite animal. This infatuation began very early on in my younger years. The amount of penguin stuffed animals from my childhood is large.
While my artwork tends to be vibrant and colourful, there is a side of me that truly enjoys the gloomy, shadowy, spooky, creepy side of autumn days. My artwork portrays how I view the natural world, strong and full of life. This probably stems from how bees pulled me out of a time that was very dark mentally. I have always said though that I am a true West Coaster, adoring the rain and the cooler temperatures. The love I have for Octobers is real, and this is when Jovie the Bee was born (Halloween Inktober). She has allowed me to showcase a different side of myself compared to my fine art. I plan to explore that darker side more in the future.
WHAT DO YOU FIND CHALLENGING AS AN ARTIST IN THIS DAY AND AGE?
1. When you are a solo entrepreneur, no one else is there to take some of the weight off. We basically wear 15+ hats so not only do we learn to do everything, competing with larger companies like shipping costs etc has been an issue.
2. Finding a balance in life. Social media has definitely made a huge impact in many lives and while it has been beneficial for creatives, it has been toxic at times. It can be hard to not compare yourself to others or just waste time. I enjoy taking long breaks now and focus on the little things that matter.
ARE BEES A FOREVER SUBJECT MATTER OR WILL YOU BRANCH OUT?
Bees and I do have a personal connection so they will be around forever, most likely. That being said, I have been saying for years that I would love to incorporate other pollinators like bats, moths, butterflies, beetles etc into my work. So it is in the works but there is no timeline in when they might pop up.