Tag Archives: emily carr

Imitating Emily

emily's art grade fours winnipegI was visiting a grade three and four class in one of Winnipeg’s inner city schools as part of my job as a university faculty advisor and I saw these marvelous paintings on the wall in a classroom where one of my students is doing her practicum. The classroom teacher had introduced the children to the work of the great Canadian artist Emily Carr and then led them through a step by step process to create their own artworks in Emily’s style. emily carr winnipeg school grade 3:4The display in the classroom included photos to show how the children had experimented with color mixing, learned about contour drawing and looked very carefully at Emily’s paintings of trees. They experimented with layering shades of the same color and thought carefully about every brush stroke. emily carr grade 3:4The children had also written stories about what it might be like to spend time alone in a British Columbia forest the way Emily Carr did. imitating emily carrEmily is always a favorite subject for children when I take them on tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  I tell them about her menangerie of animals that included a pet monkey.  Her animals accompained her into the forest when she went out in her little trailer she called The Elephant to camp amongst the trees and do her artwork.   emily carr display winnipeg classroom

A writer in Macleans magazine who eulogized Emily Carr after she died entitled her obituary She Made Trees Dance.  So did the amazing students in a grade three four classroom in inner city Winnipeg who inspired by Emily and guided by a creative and enthusiastic teacher made trees come to life just like Emily did. 

The photos of the students’ work have been posted here with their teacher’s permission. 

Other posts……..

Talk About Defying Convention

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Klee Wyck- May Your Spirit Dance


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Filed under Art, Childhood, Education

Talk About Defying Convention

“I don’t want to trickle out. I want to pour until the pail is empty- the last going out in a gush, not in drops.”

Emily Carr said that to her family and friends who tried to stop her from going to paint in the forests of British Columbia in the last years of her life.  Dealing with ongoing mental and physical health challenges Emily was determined to continue painting.  She said to a friend, “I must go into the forest again.  The forest still has something to say to me and I must hear it.” 

tree movement emily carr 1937-1938

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 1937-1938- Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection

An article in Maclean’s magazine written a few years after Emily’s death in 1945 says “trees danced for her and she made them dance in her paintings. Gangling treetops were ballet dancers bowing to nature.”

emily carr in her caravan

Emily Carr and her animals in her caravan -Photo from the British Columbia Archives

Never one to bow to the conventions of society Emily would camp out in the woods later in her life in a large caravan she dubbed “The Elephant” with her menagerie of animals-  her dogs- she raised sheepdogs and had many other canine pets. She also had cats, a pet monkey Woo, a white rat, a parrot, canaries and chickens. 

emily carr -cove- winnipeg art gallery

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Emily is one of the artists featured in a current exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention.  Emily snubbed convention in so many ways. She was a troublesome child who tore her clothes climbing trees and fences. She talked to cows and embarrassed her sisters with her outspokenness. She studied in Europe in 1900 and again in 1910 but her paintings didn’t sell when she returned to her home in Victoria British Columbia.  They were too unconventional. 

totem and trees 1912

Totem and Trees by Emily Carr 1912

Spending time in First Nations communities in British Columbia was certainly an unconventional thing for a single unaccompanied  woman to do in the early 1900s, especially traveling there in a dugout canoe and by horseback. But Emily did just that. She forged many important relationships in these communities and her First Nations friends nicknamed her Kleewyck- ‘The Laughing One.’ Emily documented the totem poles and scenes of daily life in the villages she visited. 

Silver gelatin print of Emily Carr in her studio in 1939 by Harold Mortimer-Lamb

Photograph of Emily Carr by Harold Mortimer Lamb 1939 

Even Emily’s appearance was unconventional.  Defying the fashion trends of the day she dressed in loose-fitting smocks, wore orthopedic stockings and covered her hair with a net cap. 

Emily Carr with her pets in the backyard of her boarding house on Simcoe Street in Victoria BC. -Photo from the archives of the British Columbia Royal Museum

Emily made a living by running a boarding house and was known by her tenants for her eccentricities and her quick temper. She only had time to paint after a busy day of tending to her house and boarders and pets. 

klee wyckEmily’s statement at the beginning of this blog post that she didn’t want to trickle out of life certainly came true. In the last five years of her life her career as a writer flourished and ‘gushed’. Her first book Klee Wyck won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1941 and her second novel The Book of Small was named Book of the Year in Canada in 1942.  Just before her death in 1945 she completed her autobiography Growing Pains.

Even after her death Emily defied convention by becoming a success when many people thought she never would. Sadly she did not live long enough to witness the eventual popularity of her artwork. Emily usually sold her paintings for $35-$50.  In 2013 a painting of Emily’s sold for over $3 million. 

The Defying Convention exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery includes work by Emily Carr and many other women who defied convention in various ways as they tried to find a place for themselves in the male-dominated art world of the early 1900s.  

Other posts………

Women Painting Men

Klee Wyck



Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Klee Wyck- May Your Spirit Run and Glide and Soar

Last Sunday I went to a concert that included a performance by the boys choir my daughter-in-law conducts.  One of the pieces they sang was written by Vancouver composer Brian Tate.  

Emily Carr

It  was about the famous Canadian artist Emily Carr.  I love Emily’s paintings and I have been fortunate enough to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery which has a rich treasure trove of her art. There are also several of Emily’s pieces in the collection at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work. 

Emily wasn’t just a painter she was also a writer and one of her books is called Klee Wyck.  Klee Wyck was the name the indigenous people of the west coast gave her when Emily came to their villages to paint.  Klee Wyck translated means  “Laughing One.” 

Blunden Harbour Emily Carr

Emily visited many First Nations communities and her paintings provide a record of the beauty she saw there.  The Vancouver Art Gallery website says Emily’s paintings express her profound identification with the landscape of her province and her belief that nature was a tangible expression of God.

Indian Church by Emily Carr

Here are the beautiful lyrics to Klee Wyck .  

Klee Wyck   by Brian Tate

Klee Wyck

mother of the earth

daughter of the river

sister of the sky

Klee Wyck

mother of the wind

daughter of the forest

sister of the sun

Like the wolf – your spirit runs

Like the whale – your spirit glides

Like the raven – your spirit soars

Green forest

gray waters

blue sky.

The light that strikes the eye

the eye that guides the hand

the hand that moves the brush

the brush that makes the canvas come alive

Like the wolf – your spirit runs

Like the whale – your spirit glides

Like the raven – your spirit soars

Green forest

gray waters

blue sky.

Other posts……….

Recognize This Raven?

 O Canada

Lineage Strong Women

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A Quick Dip Into the AGO

It looks like an overturned canoe! The Art Gallery of Ontario resembles a glass canoe that has been turned upside down. The facade of the building was designed by architect Frank Gehry and was completed in 2008. It has probably been nearly twenty years since we last visited the gallery. We managed to fit in about two and a half hours there Friday afternoon. It wasn’t nearly enough! 

We started with the Evan Penny exhibition. I had seen Penny’s work many years ago at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. I remember being impressed with his life -like enormous faces that showed every blemish, age spot and hair in such realistic fashion.

I watched a video and read an illustrated story board that explained the multi-stage process Penny uses to create his work. He gets his ideas and images from live models, photographs and his imagination.

The next step is for Penny to make a clay model and then he uses rubber, resin, glass fibre and plaster to create a silicon covering which he moulds over the clay model. 

He removes the inner clay model and then paints the silicon figure. He sculpts and paints the eyes and ears and implants every hair one by one onto his figures. Implanting the hair alone can take hundreds of hours. He uses a mixture of yak hair, horse hair, human hair and mohair.

Libby Faux, the model for this image is a friend of Penny’s. Faux is French for forgery. Are all images of ourselves manipulated? Are they a kind of forgery or false view of who we really are? 

I was particularly intrigued with Penny’s No One In Particular series. These images have titles like Old, Young, Fat and Female and while he calls them No One In Particular they each look like someone in particular, someone special and distinct whom Penny has created in minute detail. Penny composed the images from multiple sources taking details from magazine and newspaper photos, his imagination and people he may have seen on the street. So while they look like unique individuals they don’t really exist.

It was hard to leave the Penny exhibition but our time was limited so I moved on to the floor that featured Canadian artists. What a glut of pieces here. At the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work as a tour guide we have one Cornelius Krieghoff work on display. 

The Art Gallery of Ontario has four rooms filled with Krieghoff’s work. I didn’t count them but I’m sure there were over a hundred and fifty of his paintings on the walls.

We have a few Lawren Harris works on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery but at the Art Gallery of Ontario all four walls of a huge rectangular room are covered with his paintings. 

I liked the room where they had placed a large collection of works by Canadian artists during the 1920’s. Some sections of the room were painted light gray and these walls displayed works by the famous Group of Seven. However there were also dark gray sections of wall and they displayed works by other artists painting at the same time who were inspired by the Group of Seven or who painted very differently from the Group of Seven.  Emily Carr for example couldn’t be admitted to the Group of Seven because she was a woman. 

One thing that is different at the Art Gallery of Ontario from the Winnipeg Art Gallery is that in many of the galleries at the AGO the paintings don’t have title cards or labels. There are guide books in these  rooms that have diagrams showing you the names and artists. However if other patrons are using these books you are left without any knowledge of what a painting is called or who painted it. Sometimes this is good because it allows you to use your imagination to guess what the painting might be titled and who the artist is; but overall I found it frustrating. 

We really just got a chance to dip briefly into the Art Gallery of Ontario. I’d like to go back to see the rest of the work and take some guided tours to learn more about the huge collection. 

You might want to check out………

Two Diverse Members of the Group of Seven

Big Mother- An Unusual Sculpture

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Filed under Art, Canada, Culture, Toronto