I come from a long line of artists. My mother is a highly creative soul and watercolour artist, as is my grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. As a small child, I remember watching my mother paint, in awe of her creativity. As I grew older, I would often gaze with bewilderment at my great-grandfather’s paintings that adorned several walls of our house. Even at a young age, I loved the feeling of creating “something from nothing”. I would spend countless hours sketching my favourite super-heroes and dreaming up new characters of my own. I can still recall the excitement that I felt when I completed a drawing. That feeling is addictive and is one that I still crave to this day.
As a teenager, growing up in Barrie, Ontario, I continued to enroll in my high school art classes, but the time I spent sketching and drawing was replaced by afterschool workouts as well as football or rugby practice. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the whirlwind of university life. I studied health science at the University of Western Ontario and indulged in the student lifestyle – late nights, spending time with friends, working out, and studying. The thought of creating anything but an essay or research paper was a distant memory.
After completing my first degree, my wife Nicole (girlfriend at the time) and I decided that we needed an adventure. At the advice of my grandfather who said, “Education is something that no one can take away from you”, we enrolled in teacher’s college at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. My experience in New Zealand was nothing short of amazing. The culture and pristine beauty of this country cannot be compared. When I wasn’t attending classes, I was taking full advantage of the warm climate and my beautiful surrounds by spending time outdoors.
Upon returning from New Zealand with my teaching degree, I soon found myself in a major dilemma – not only were teaching jobs scarce in Ontario, but I desperately craved adventure and an escape from the ordinary, mundane lifestyle I found myself in. When searching the Internet one evening, I came across an advertisement for teaching jobs in the North. Without hesitation, I completed the necessary forms and submitted my CV.
A few months later, I received a phone call about a potential teaching job opportunity. Two days and two interviews later, Nicole and I myself agreed to move to a small remote community in the Northwest Territories. I was soon to be principal and K-3 teacher at Alexis Arrowmaker School in Weweet’i.
Needless to say, I instantly feel in love with my new home. I was drawn to the rugged landscape, tundra, and crooked “Seuss-like” trees. A professor of mine once said: “You will know when you find your ‘home'”. Well, for the first time in my life I could relate to that comment… I knew that I had finally found my ‘home’.
During my first year in the North, I found myself in an art store purchasing a sketchpad and some pencils. It had been a long time since I had sketched or drawn anything. I’m not sure what made me purchase these materials after so many years. Perhaps it was the childlike voice inside my head urging me to regain my former creativity… or maybe it was that the untouched landscape that surrounded me was simply begging to be revealed… Either way, the beauty of the North inspired me to connect with my creative side and passion for art.