Redeemed Artist

It dawned on me that very few artists that I know have been committed full time artists for their entire career. Most of us have put our art on hold for a part of our lives for various reasons. Whoever did this knows the many challenges of transition back to art, so I think that this is an important topic. I wish I could read stories by other artists describing how they dealt with this. I’ll share my experience here, and use the opportunity to mention some wonderful people with whom I have shared this journey.

When I immigrated to Canada in 1994, the first thing on the agenda was to make a home and  get the financial security in order, but in just a few years it became clear to me that unless I start establishing myself as an artist, this new life won’t make much sense at all. I am very fortunate to have a husband who has been interested in sharing this journey with me. Both of us made equal effort to earn our living, and we enjoyed equal support in exploring our other interests - so when I discovered the Vancouver Art Academy, I dived into it heads first! I took night and weekend classes whenever I possibly could, consequently with doing my day job. It wasn't ideal, but it sure was darn good to be able to afford the classes and art materials and to have a spare bedroom as a home studio. I had enough time to learn because apart from my job, I was fully dedicated to my art. If we had decided to have children, the story would of course have been different, but that’s someone else’s story to tell.

Vancouver Art Academy on Prior Street, Vancouver, BC

I have attended classes in the Vancouver Art Academy between 1998 and 2003, and those were some of the best years of my life. This small private school run by artist Michael Britton and his partner Carmel had amazing roaster of teachers and I took classes from most of them – watercolor classes by Zhu Zhu Mark and Linda Cameron, drawing by James Linfield, oil painting by Paul Chizik, acrylic painting by Lena Leszczynski and Thomas Anfield, anatomy by Gordon Finley, egg tempera by Vladimir Blagonadezhdin, pastels by Natalia Vetrova, and finally the color theory, composition and narrative figurative watercolor painting by Michael Britton. The school itself was situated for most of its life in a dingy building behind Vancouver’s Chinatown on the Prior Street. 

The building was tiny and old, but I absolutely loved it. It was all about learning, absorbing and more learning and absorbing. Nobody worried about showing or selling art at that point. It was a sort of an innocent joyful art childhood, experienced by adults. Oh, we knew how lucky we were so we enjoyed every single minute of it. I will never forget the summer weekend lunch breaks that I spent sitting on the ancient roof overgrown with moss and ruled by a flock of crows. I could see down the Prior Street from there and up towards the Vancouver downtown - great memories! 

The classes were superb and I am forever grateful for every single one! I just regret that I didn't get to take a sculpture class by Mr. Santo Mignosa. I also wish I kept contact with many of the awesome people I met there; hopefully some of them will run into this blog and give me a shout! Incidentally Michael Britton is now running a hugely successful on line art school, and writing an amazing traveler's blog. I guess he approved of my progress since he wrote about me here.

The first chapter of my art education as a redeemed artist ended in 2003 when the Vancouver Art Academy closed its doors – I am still mourning that loss! My next step took me to the Federation of Canadian Artists that I will write about in one of my next blogs. 

Sketch of model Sonia from a drawing class

"Forgetmenot", example of my early figurative watercolor painting. It won couple of awards in national watercolor shows.