WHO I AM WHO I WAS
I was born in the Netherlands, so I can say I'm from "back East" when somebody asks ... wa-a-a-a-y back East. I immigrated with my family to Canada in 1950 as a very young child, and settled first in Ontario. It was apparent that I would be “an artist” as early as grade 2. One day, during the art session, my teacher suddenly picked my work up off the desk, stared at it with an odd expression on her face, and marched me down to the Principal's office. I was terrified of the Principal, and I thought I was in deep doo doo. Turns out, I was "an Artist", and both teacher and Principal were impressed! It defined who I was for the rest of my life.
In 1961 my dad re-located us all to BC, where we settled in North Vancouver. By then I was a teenager, and with the added encouragement from Saturday morning lessons at the Vancouver School of Art (now named Emily Carr) oils became my medium of preference. Now I was a "real artist"!
A high school friendship finally flung me headlong into the cartoon world, when I chummed with a fellow artist classmate who later became a world renown syndicated cartoonist. With very little persuasion, my friend, Lynn Johnston enticed me into the crazy world of caricaturing. It wasn’t hard, considering I already had an addiction to Disney cartoons and comics in general, but never tried seriously drawing them myself. That friendship changed everything, and it is now finally being put to good use.
To my surprise, work from high school was award-winning. One piece, unbeknownst to me, was submitted by my art teacher to become part of a 1968 Children's Art Exhibit hosted by the Japanese Government and sponsored by Sakura Art Supplies. This art exhibit was sent on display around the world. I didn't learn of this award until three years after high school graduation, when my mother received a gold medal, a certificate and a gift - a magnificent set of oil pastels from Sakura, in the mail.
I'm pretty much self-taught. There were no finances for further education of any kind, and I had to go work in the real world to earn my keep. But, there was always something new to explore in the name of Art, some technique to master and more subject matter that inspired. The beauty of details, light and shadow and the subtle nuances of colour became the focus of my paintings. I specialized in portraiture and taught classes in Art Clubs and in adult night classes for a number of years. It was only a side-line. I was a wife, a mom. Life got in the way. Reality ruled the day, and "art" was only the thing that softened the hard edges of the real world.
An unhappy marriage and a divorce finally pushed me into the life I was meant to live. My art slowly took over. Slowly. From that point on up to now, it's still been a 30 year journey.
In this second life of mine, among other things, I worked for a number of years as an Editorial Cartoonist, first with The Chemainus Valley Courier once a month. Over a 10 year period that work grew into 3 local weekly newspapers in the Cowichan Valley, plus one in Lloydminster, AB/SK. In 2018 and in 2019 - again, much to my surprise - I garnered Second Place in the National Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Editorial Cartoons - Local Humour Category - two years in a row. The 2020 Covid 19 pandemic brought that work to an end, unfortunately, but since then I've developed my own comic stories called “Grampa Was an Alien”.
Several family members serve as models for a few of the characters, my dad is represented in the older Grampy, and my second grandson Erik is the model for Ethan (young Grampy). My dad never met Erik, or any of his other great-grandchildren. In a small way, this modeling might serve to correct that. The rest of the characters are a blend of people I know, including me. This work can be viewed at www.grampawasanalien.com. That's right where you are now, in case you'd forgotten!
The body of serious art work reflects my travels around the world that include Thailand, Cuba, Honduras, the USA, The Netherlands and of course, cross-country Canada. My oil paintings hang in homes in Canada, The Netherlands and Shanghai. ... I miss them, as I have very serious attachment issues with my paintings. Some of the examples you see on the "SERIOUS STUFF" page, are ones I can't bring myself to sell.
Currently I'm VERY excited and honoured to be teamed up with Teresa Schapansky, illustrating her series of 12 informative children’s books, collectively called “Along the Way”. She is also the author of such books as “The Coinkeeper” Series, for young reluctant readers, as well as “Imogene of the Pacific Kingdom” and “Dagar of the Tasman Empire”. There is a link to her page under the book cover illustrations done for Teresa. Take a look. A link to her work is on this page.
I've written/illustrated various books of my own, which in the near future, are set to be published through Amazon. Watch for them here. (Not "here" here, but on the "other stuff" page)
I live in North Cowichan with husband, Bill and cat, Bebe. Bill is my muse, and Bebe is ... well, she's a cat! Figure it out.
I am a wife. I am a mom (although now the kids are grown-up, but as long as they call me "mom", I'm a mom). I am "Nana Elly". I am a cancer survivor. And now, I am an artist/cartoonist/illustrator/writer. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
On board the Holland America Line's ship "Volendam". Upon entering Canada, we disembarked at Quebec City, and were promptly put into a hospital because my older brother was ill with something. It was probably the flu or a cold, something innocuous, but they weren't taking any chances. Later, before we left, Mom snapped a picture of us outside, with other hospitalized children. At the time, I never thought twice about the darker skin colour, but years later, realized they were indigenous children, possibly from a residential school.
my very first oil painting... ...And an Improvement
On the left is my first attempt using oils, while taking lessons at the Vancouver School of Art. I was 16.
Notice the improvement between the glass bottle on the left, (yes, they were glass) to the ones on the right.