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:

Facebook
Instagram


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

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)


Photo Credit: Denise Truscello – co-founder of Wire Image Singer/Song-Writer, Agent, and ELAN Member: Kathryn Berry


What attracted you to your artistic discipline?

Madonna! My mother died of brain cancer and through research and then working with the NGO, International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), I learned the many benefits of music and learning an instrument. In fact, the arts in general are an avenue to longevity and improved quality of life.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in my family, the books I read, and everyday struggles, the arts or just an unexpected night out.

Do you have any practical advice for fellow professional artists?

Invest in your art just as you would in any education, give it time and know that failure is just another word for “you are not ready yet” but most important do it because you love it.

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

I’m currently working on my next album, Misdemeanors. The song, So You’re Goin’ to California, is the lead single off this album, slated for release in early 2019. I also manage the Mexican artist Shiadanni and we are working on some pretty exciting things for her new album. It is really rewarding to help another artist realize their vision. It is both inspiring and challenging.

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

Yes, check out the new single, So You’re Goin’ the California, on Spotify and Youtube.

If you like what you hear, please follow me and spread the word. Success is determined by the people you touch. They are the ones who will carry you forward.


Discover more!

Ways to listen to Kathryn Berry’s music:

YouTube
Spotify
Kathryn on iTunes
Webpage (official website)

Connect with Kathryn Berry through social media:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram


Follow us on our new Instagram account to see more of Kathryn Berry’s life as a singer-songwriter (@kathrynberryca)

Fuat Tuaç – Jazz vocalist —- Photo credit: Peter Graham

 

Finding Connection in the Montreal Jazz Scene
By: Erika Serodio

Fuat Tuaç was waiting at the bar when I arrived at Café Parvis. “I usually go to places like this,” he tells me a few minutes later. He motions around the room as if his hands could fill the space with sound. He tells me that he often enquires with staff members at the local eateries he visits, “Is there live music on any night? Would you like some? Would you like jazz? Wouldn’t it be nice? And I convince them.

Fuat’s entrepreneurial spirit comes as no surprise. Before pursuing jazz full-time, he worked as a corporate lawyer in Turkey. Fuat recognizes both the importance and the difficulty of marketing yourself as a musician in Montreal. “That’s where most of the musicians fail actually, even myself,” he explains. “You called the bar one time, twice, three times. You stop by – they don’t have time. Rejection, rejection, rejection. We have to deal with that. And sometimes, I see frustration in my colleagues, which is something I constantly battle as well because the market is not so big.”

And yet, despite these challenges, Fuat says “it’s the Montreal live music scene that I find so inspiring.” When asked to describe his inspirations, Fuat returned to the people around him: “I must say most of my colleagues are my inspiration. Because we’re so lucky. Any given day we can go out. And just like in New York, you can go to a live venue – it doesn’t need to be jazz… There’s just amazing music.”

Fuat is a jazz vocalist who enjoys singing many different styles of jazz. “I think that as a musician, and as a person as well, you have to be open. You cannot say I can’t do that, because that kills your inspiration.” He understands that jazz music is not approachable for everyone, but he’s thinking about ways that he can incorporate new sounds into his music. “You can go eclectic… Why not mix the genres of music and make something new, fresh?” Fuat has been thinking about how “even the noise of the city sounds like hip-hop.” At the moment, he’s considering shaping his story as an immigrant into urban poetry and to use instrumentals that combine hip-hop, jazz, and eastern influences. On his upcoming album, he’s looking to collaborate with other immigrants and musicians who have mastered Middle Eastern instruments.

Fuat has never been a fan of what he calls “the elite hashtag on jazz.” He discovered jazz later in his life, a theme he explores on his first album, Late Bloomer. The improvisational aspect of jazz intrigued Fuat, who appreciates the ability to reinvent a song each time he is on stage. The encouragement that he received from his teachers and the welcoming disposition of the local jazz community also drew him in.

Fuat’s passion for jazz is deeply entwined with his desire to bring people together. When he attends a dinner or a house party, he says “I always ask – Can I bring a friend?” Sometimes they say no, but Fuat is not defeated by this. “In our culture, in Turkish culture, you mix your friends. Whereas I realize here in Montreal people seem to not blend so much.” But he continues to hold this Turkish value close, nourishing it with his music. “I find it so fascinating and inspiring, actually. The interaction. And I think that there must be more interactions between the immigrants and the Quebecois living here.” Fuat feels that there are open-minded people in Quebec, “especially in the music world… People are curious about different cultures.” Through his music, Fuat aims to encourage people to be open to new sounds and to be curious about other cultures – music as a catalyst for change.

As Fuat begins work on his next album, he turns to themes that have deeply influenced his life. “Immigration, living in Montreal, the realities, I’d like to derive from the realities of being an immigrant and the reality of being a real Quebecois.” When asked about including political and social themes like immigration and belonging into his music, Fuat’s response is candid: “I guess when you’re an immigrant you have no choice… you have to.”

Discover more!

Fuat Tuaç’s webpage

Follow us on our new Instagram account to see more of Fuat Tuaç’s (#fuattuac) life as a jazz musician and performer!


A new photo or video will become available everyday from April 3 – April 10, 2018.