The Artist and her Male Muse: the 13th Canadian Portrait

painting of brandy saturley

A muse’s job is to penetrate the male artist and bring forth a work from the womb of his mind, right? Historically speaking, the artists muse is a woman, who is a great source of artistic inspiration. In mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized the arts and sciences. There have been many famous traditional artist/muse relationships over the years such as Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol’s poor little rich girl, or Dora Maar who inspired several of Picasso’s most famous paintings. For women throughout art history, the relationship between female artist and male muse has often been more subtle, hidden behind the canvas, rarely depicted.

Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol on the set of Ciao! Manhattan (1972)

In today’s world, a muse is a person who serves as an artist’s inspiration, and there are more female artists painting their male muses. Traditionally male artist’s, and men in many professions provided, and women raised the family and took care of the household. Gendered expectations of women as primary caretakers of others, would get in the way of women pursuing cultural production.

My grandmother was one of these women, as she was busy raising a family and helping run a business on the Canadian prairies. Recently I discovered my grandmothers hand written recipe book, with about twenty blank pages at the end. Thinking there was nothing more most would just close the book and toss to the side. I thought it was strange and flipped to the back of the book where I found lists. These lists were ideas, and information, perhaps read in newspapers or seen on TV and heard on radio. The lists included a budget for art supplies and painting lessons. It seemed in later years my grandmother found a way to save her pennies and put this money towards making art, mostly in secret. My grandmother owned and ran a gas station, ran a restaurant and nightclub, sewed and weaved traditional Ukrainian textiles. My mother was very close with my grandmother and she also began cooking, and enjoying creative pursuits such as drawing and painting. These women instilled a love for the arts in my life. I did not take to the domestic side of life, I dreamed of grander pursuits and envisioned a wildly creative life.

Ukrainianweaving

Fast-forward to 2014, I began creating a body of work that would rely on collaboration with everyday Canadians, and people not necessarily connected to the arts or near major art centers. I suppose looking back now, it is like I am reaching back in time and trying to bring art to those that did not have access or see the value of artistic pursuits, or perhaps it is that I am reaching out to everyone in hopes to touch their lives through art, to speak to them through painting. This project, the ‘People of Canada Portrait Project’ relies on Canadians to send me a photo of themselves, in their authentic clothing, central to their identities. Through the process of interview questions, I decide on a background for the painting and then paint the subjects into the background, in many cases.

Now five years in and 13 paintings, the project has grown organically and at a much slower pace than I had originally anticipated. As the project has been a side-bar to my core work as an artist, I give it what time I can as I work on several projects concurrently, including running my business as an independent artist. As such I have been able to watch my work grow as my technical abilities for portraiture mature.

As I am coming into my 13th year working as a full-time professional artist, it seemed appropriate to paint a self portrait and the person who is integral to my life. Not only is he my greatest muse, he is my greatest supporter and sometimes collaborator. He is my husband and as I write this I realize that we will also be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary this December. Seems like the number 13 is our lucky number.

In numerology the number 13 tends to accomplish most things without the need of others or relying on them to make the decisions. Most of the goals are about building the foundation for the future. 13’s are very determined and tend to go after their goals with persistence. The basic meaning of 13 is composed of the ideas of focus, pragmatism, secure foundation, independence, and creative self-expression.

Referenced as #ICONICCANUCK and the #KILTPIPER on the People of Canada Portrait Project website, we are a couple of gregarious and life loving Canadians who live for the moment, and road trips in our ruby red JEEP.

As with the previous portraits we will participate in answering questions about ourselves and our thoughts about being Canadian, through grilling one another. For now here is the portrait; The Artist and The Muse. More to follow…

Brandy Saturley Canadian artist

An entrepreneurial mother, and a meritorious Canadian son.

What does it feel like to receive a Meritorious Service Medal from the governor General of Canada, with your mother and family at your side? In creating the most recent portrait for the People of Canada Portrait Project, I had the privilege of expressing the answer to this question, on canvas.

This story began in Empress, Alberta where Alice Rinker was born in 1932. An only child, Alice was observant and curious, which is likely what drove her to explore her options and further her education. She later settled in Medicine Hat where she married, started a family business with her husband and raised seven children. She survived the loss of two husbands and the raising of seven children, no small feat for a woman of such petite stature.

So, put yourself in Alice’s shoes. You are a hard-working, homesteading, entrepreneurial, and proud prairie woman. One of your sons, Aaron Gyorkos, earns a degree in Biology/Oceanography from University of Victoria, joins the Armed Forces and becomes a career Naval Officer. He serves his country all over the world, from combat to commandment of school projects, to project management. You receive word that your son is going to receive a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General at Rideau Hall in our nations capital city, Ottawa, in Ontario Canada.

Imagine the emotions of this day, between mother and son and family. This photo was taken shortly after this momentous occasion, inside Rideau Hall, and those beaming smiles are undeniable. When I received this photo I was unaware of the occasion, as I reached out to the family for more information and additional photos I came to realize the full picture and weight of the day.

This is where my emotions kick-in and my mind begins to drift from the photos, to the locations expressed in my written interview with the family and the process behind this portrait project. With this project I have been taking the background from the submitted photos and replacing it with a Canadian landscape or location that I feel suits the personalities and emotions of the people in the portrait. I want the portrait to tell a complete story, without words. I’m not just creating portraits of Canadians, I am creating portraits of Canada. Figurative landscapes that will communicate stories for generations to come. I’m not sure if I am always ‘hitting the mark’, but I am working hard to honor the people and their stories, combined with my signature style of expression as a visual artist. I work from intuition mostly and rely on what I ‘feel’ about my subjects.

As with all the portraits in the series I am documenting the creative process behind painting the piece and sourcing unique music, that fits the tone of the piece as the soundtrack. As such I am searching for original music from young or historical Canadian artists.

Watch the creation of, ‘Golden Day’s here:

This story will continue to unfold on the People of Canada Portrait Project website in the months to come, for now you can enjoy the finished portrait here.

Golden Days – Original acrylic painting on canvas by Brandy Saturley, 2018

Vimy Jam – A Serendipitous Painting Experience

Serendipity is defined as; the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, meaning something beautiful coming together, that was not forced or planned in advance that put smiles on the faces of all affected and in doing so alters future events.

In the past few weeks, serendipity found it’s way into my art, through a portrait project I began over four years ago, thanks to a very enthusiastic Canadian.

The People of Canada Portrait Project is a crowd-sourced, collaborative art project, where I ask Canadians to send in photos of themselves and share a bit about their ‘Canadian’ perspective. Initially this project came with a very ambitious goal of completing 20-25 painted portraits for Canada 150. This could have happened had I not been called on to exhibit solo exhibitions in public galleries in Alberta for Canada150. As the project is completely self-funded, and with me being the only artist painting the portraits, I decided to extend my deadline and allow the project to unfold more authentically. I wanted to take my time to paint these portraits and honour the stories of the people who had taken the time to send me creative snapshots of themselves. A new plan emerged and I included one of the portraits in my travelling exhibitions in 2017, and used these shows as an opportunity to spread the word about the project.

Fast forward to June 2018, now ten portraits towards my goal. I had a window of time in my studio schedule, an opportunity to paint more People of Canada portraits. Feeling the energy of Canada Day coming around the corner I looked through the submitted photos and felt a good story, energy, and message emanating from one photo. Submitted by an enthusiastic piper hailing from Sherwood Park Alberta, RCMP Pipes & Drums ambassador Bridgette Hardy-Crytes. The photo features the piper caught by surprise by the brush of eagle feathers to the head by Jeff Ward, an Indigenous performer with the Sons of Membertou, from Cape Breton. The photo was taken at Vimy 100 celebrations in Vimy, France where the two were brought together by the events of the day and their musical talents.

I began to sketch out the painting and think about creating a unique background to capture the day and place. The painting began, I emailed Bridgette to let her know I was working on the piece and that I had some questions for her to answer, I also asked about the man in the photo and if I could contact him for his perspective on the day.

So, here comes the serendipity. Bridgette tracked down Jeff and spoke with him on the phone after not seeing him since Vimy. The call lead to Jeff sharing a video of the day that had been uploaded to YouTube, and Bridgette sharing this information with me, now I was able to enjoy the mood of the day and story behind the photo, as if I had been there myself. What happened that day the photo was taken was an impromptu ‘jam session’ while Indigenous performers and the RCMP Pipes & Drums band were waiting in the wings to perform. Vimy was a pivotal battle which saw Canada and the Allies, including Mi’kmaq soldiers, win an important battle of World War I. This video shows musical artists collaborating, it conveys the spirit of coming together. A coming together on what once was a battlefield, where many lost their lives. A coming together that symbolizes the spirit of reconciliation, likes and not differences, the spirit of love.

The tone of that day was the tone in my studio, and I listened to the ‘jam session’ on loop as I finished the painting. From my studio on Vancouver Island to Sherwood Park, to Cape Breton, to Vimy Ridge in France; thanks to the Internet and technology our miles apart were erased, allowing me to capture the emotion of the day on canvas.

There will be more to this serendipitous story as I work to compile the answers to my questions from both Bridgette and Jeff.

For now, you can enjoy the painting, a little video of my process in creating the painting

and this fantastic video of the ‘jam session’ that inspired ‘Vimy Jam’.

It was a celebratory Canada 151 indeed! And a great contrast to my experiences painting Canada over the last decade. A new chapter in this serendipitous story influenced by my travels across Canada. For more about the People of Canada Portrait Project visit http://www.peopleofcanada.ca