About Artists Illuminated

Artists Illuminated is a place where we share stories of the people who make up ELAN. Our goal is to shed light on the intimate processes behind art-making and to connect artists with audiences on a variety of platforms, more specifically on our blog and on Instagram. These platforms are dedicated to artists (ELAN members), and serve as a firsthand introduction of ELAN members to the wider public. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Newsletter mentions, Artists Illuminated delves a little deeper into the unique artistic and creative lives of ELAN’s members.

See guidelines for more information on how to be featured.

Follow ELAN on Instagram at @elanqc

A new Artists Illuminated feature is published at the beginning of every month.

About Artists Illuminated Shorts!

Artists Illuminated Shorts! is a variation of the Artists Illuminated project, and provides the general public with a snippet of an ELAN Member’s artistic life.

2-3 Artists Illuminated Shorts! are published per month.

We want to feature you! Contact communications@quebec-elan.org to learn how!

Featured Artists

Elegant Orchids by Sharon Smith.
Painted at her family cottage by Lake Magog.

Infinite curiosity; infinite creativity.

By: Sufia Duez

After two phones calls with Sharon Smith, I asked her if we could meet in-person for an interview. Somehow, our long cellular conversations could not give justice to the stories that Sharon eagerly shared with me.

And so we met, and Sharon was ready. Her artwork and documented memories sprawled across the room. The abundance of vibrant paintings of plants and flowers inspired by her travels could transport you to the most majestic of landscapes: India, Bali, and Japan just to name a few of her journeys. The colours almost emitting an odour of rich plant life.

She picks out one of her paintings: mushrooms grown and prepared by her nephew. She says, “They were so good, I just had to paint them!” And I don’t doubt it. Her brush strokes do more than a photograph, they seize your senses as if, for a moment, you can taste the mushrooms too. Whether a painting of wild mushrooms, a bouquet of flowers, or a landscape, Sharon Smith’s paintings are homages to life. She honours what she loves, and the stories behind her artwork affirms her values of being present.

On the other hand, Sharon Smith never forgets. Her artworks are relics of her life. Born and bred in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Smith has been painting since she was 5-years-old and has continued painting ever since. Her earliest of muses continues to inspire her to this day: the family cottage overlooking Lake Magog. She notes: “The cottage is a sacred place to paint” – a family sanctuary that has endured through generations.

However, after foraging through Smith’s immense collection of paintings, it is clear that her artwork is not limited to scenes from her cottage, her travels, or even her own experiences. Rather, her paintings are inspired by human connection. Sharon draws inspiration from a variety of places including books and photos sent to her by family members and friends from their homes and their travels. “Often I take something I like and make it mine.”

Smith has an undeniable zest for life. I ask her if she ever feels frustration or anger when she works on a project. She tells me that she can’t allow herself to indulge in frustration. Instead, she concentrates on the process: “Try to remain positive to keep going.” Sharon admits that she frequently does not get it right the first time, but she works on it persistently until it feels complete. She imparts a personal wisdom: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest ‘til the good is better and the better is best.”

As art has been a lifelong passion, so has education. Sharon Smith studied Fine Arts at McGill University, Education at Concordia University, and received a Teaching Degree from Berkeley University. Moreover, she studied under renowned artists such as Rita Briansky and Ming Ma. Smith actively seeks new challenges and new forms of art making. Her appetite for learning conjointly cultivates with her passion for sharing and teaching. Smith has been teaching children and adults in Quebec and abroad for many years, and she continues to teach today — often teaching multiple generations of a family. She shows me photos of her students’ artworks, documented over the course of decades, many of which she is still in contact with now.

Sharon Smith’s artwork immortalizes the connections she has made in her lifetime. All of her journeys aligning with her passion for learning, teaching, and creating art. Presently, Sharon Smith is involved with NRTEA (National Roundtable for Teacher Education in the Arts). You can learn more about NRTEA here.

“It’s the message that I’m getting from the universe, stay positive, stay grateful, stay hopeful, and that’s what I do.” – Sharon Smith

Discover more!

Sharon Smith’s Website

Follow us on our new Instagram account to see more of Sharon Smith’s artwork.

A new photo or video will become available everyday from June 15 – 21, 2018.

See Previous Features and Shorts!
Laurence Dea Dionne (Shorts!)
Avy Loftus (Feature)

Universe by Comic Artist & ELAN member Laurence Dea Dionne

What attracted you to your artistic discipline?

The need to develop well-being in youth through a creative outlet such as comics!

Where do you find your inspiration?

People! People and their struggles. And overcoming struggles. And passing on that wisdom.

Do you have any practical advice for fellow professional artists?

Just do it!

What projects are you currently working on/just finished working on?

Always working on many projects. You never get bored! Homeward is almost finished, and we’re working on the second and third book to continue the adventure.

Any last notes you would like to share with the public?

If you like learning, well-being, fighting against bullying, youth, and comics, consider contributing to the crowdfunding campaign going on until the end of May. We’ll use the funds to print the books, and visit schools, scouts, and youth groups to open up a conversation about bullying and belonging. We’re hoping to make a better tomorrow, today!

Discover more!

Click here to learn more about Homeward.
Help Laurence Dea Dionne’s crowd-funding initiative here!

Connect with Laurence Dea Dionne through social media:


Follow us on our new Instagram (@elanqc) account
to see more of Laurence Dea Dionne’s art work

Finding Answers in Batik

By: Erika Serodio

Red Tulips, Batik on cotton, 2002 by Avy Loftus. This batik painting was exhibited in Ottawa during the Tulip festival, at the Indonesian Embassy pavilion at the Major Park. The painting was made not only for the Tulip festival but also for celebrating fifty years of Indonesian-Canadian Diplomatic Relations.|

Founding member of Festival Accès Asie, batik artist, workshop instructor at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montreal, ELAN Member, and soon to be graduate of Concordia’s MA in Art Education, Avy Loftus is a passionate artist dedicated to bridging arts and education and combating bullying in schools.

The table before us starts out perfectly vacant. As she speaks, Avy Loftus pulls out one piece of fabric after another, seamlessly weaving together the histories, struggles, politics and passions that have contributed to her body of work. It’s not long before detailed fabrics and vibrant stories are spilling over the sides of the table. “There are so many philosophical meanings behind one piece,” she tells me.

Avy first learned about batik when she was a young girl growing up in Indonesia. She was taught the technique by her Indonesian grandmother, and the art practice remained in her life as a medium for connecting to her heritage. In her early twenties, she realized that the younger generations in Indonesia were losing touch with this part of their heritage. Avy found herself explaining the regional origins of the pieces – Surakarta, Solo, Yogyakarta ­in central Java, where the art of batik is highly developed. “The colour itself is different from one city to the other city, and the cut, from left to right, or right to left, you know this is from different cities.” Avy says that most young people “only know how to wear it, they don’t really know the meaning behind the piece.” This realization spurred Avy into considering batik as a topic for education.

At that point, Avy was a young university graduate in Indonesia, working in business administration. She studied language, arts, and education for her bachelor degree, but speaking several languages made her valuable in the business sector. Language and the arts were elements of her job, but she says, “I really wanted to touch the art side of the work.” She describes coming to Canada as an “opportunity to go away from the business world.” She continues to make traditional batik artwork – some inspired by the geography of her current home in Quebec. “I’m living in Quebec now – I put the iris as the Quebec local flower, into the artwork. The flowers, as a batik artist, we adapt with the flora and fauna that we live in now.”

Throughout her career, Avy has rooted her batik in symbols and messages that she holds close to her heart, and has used her art as a mechanism for change. Her intent is to “not only create things; I would like to create something that could be useful. To have a meaning behind whatever I’m doing.” Ten years ago, Avy discovered that her daughter was being bullied in school. Concerned but also empathetic, Avy decided to channel her artistic energy into a benevolent mission: combat bullying in schools.

Her anti-bullying project, titled Peace, Love, and Hope, has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Avy describes the project as “a healing process in many ways.”

The message of non-violence behind the Peace, Love, and Hope project is deliberately local and contemporary and yet its reach has effortlessly transcended borders. It began in her own child’s school, but has since traveled through North America, Europe, and South Asia with over 150,000 child participants. She tells the children in her workshops “even though you cannot travel now, at such a young age, imagine your work is going to travel around the world with me. Just imagine that your positive words impact other kids in the world, in other provinces, other countries.” She encourages them to think globally, “but you act locally.” Avy always starts her workshops by gathering everyone in a circle. Then she says, “Tell your friends, beside you, just one or two words – the positive things that you like about them.” She asks the children to find inspiration for their work from positive things – to work on the three themes of peace, love, and hope. “Then I give them totally white cloth. Totally white, just imagine that.” Each of the students creates a small square batik masterpiece, which Avy brings together in quilts. These quilts have been displayed at museums, cultural centres, and schools around the world.

Discover more!

Avy Loftus’ webpage

Follow us on our new Instagram account to see more of Avy Loftus’ batik art!

A new photo or video will become available everyday from May 1 – May 7, 2018.

See Previous Features and Shorts!
Kathryn Berry (Shorts!)
Fuat Tuaç (Feature)