“Up Close” is an All Habs Hockey Magazine feature that gives readers a back-stage pass to athletes, management and sports personalities via our exclusive interviews. Previous guests have included HNIC’s Steve Porter, NASCAR’s Andrew Ranger, Habs prospect Mark MacMillan , Canadiens assistant captain Josh Gorges, and Montreal’s Annakin Slayd. This week the spotlight is on Canadian artist Brandy Saturley.
CURITIBA, BR –The work of the Canadian artist Brandy Saturley, is colorful, full of elements, shapes and meanings. Brandy describes her work as a Pop Surrealism Narrative. It’s impossible not to stop and appreciate them; the paintings catch your attention and more importantly makes you want to talk about it. She believes in using elements from pop culture to engage her audience, to make them feel comfortable and as a result, raise their interest in art. One of the pop cultural elements she uses in her work is Canada’s number one sport, hockey.
The first piece of the “Iconic” collection is currently on display with Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. The piece brings Ken Dryden’s “pretzel” mask on top of the Canadian flag. On it’s description the artist says she left the interpretation to the audience, according to Brandy the piece has so many meanings and it all depends on the person and how much you know about the sport, the man and Canada.
“This piece marks the first in a series titled, ‘Iconic’, which I have been working on for the past two years. It is my love letter to Canada.” ~ Brandy Saturley
I had the pleasure to talk to this wonderful artist and learn more about her, her work and her love for the sport.
Brandy, I read an article about you in the Frederick’s Artwork Blogspot where you mention that your passion for drawing started at a really young age, but you also say you didn’t want to grow up to be an visual artist. What made you change your mind?
I did begin drawing at a very young age, beginning with copying cartoons I saw in the newspaper or on TV, in my teen years it evolved into drawing portraits and I remain fascinated by the face and expression. I do not recall saying I did not want to grow up to be an artist. People always ask, when did you begin calling yourself an artist or when do you believe you became an artist. My answer, is always, it was not a conscious decision, in my mind I was always an artist, I was always making art. I suppose if you look at it as a profession, meaning paid, I began selling my work in my mid 20′s and almost six years ago I was able to drop the day job and make art my full-time profession.
In that article you say you were lucky to be able to dedicate yourself full-time to your art, and you made 150 paintings in 5 years. That’s quite impressive. Where to you find inspiration to do all those paintings?
I can’t believe it is almost six years full-time now in my studio, about 11 part-time before that. 150 paintings sounds like so little, but about half of those are more than 4 feet by 3 feet in size. Inspiration is all around, it is in everything. It is in the tastes, smells, sounds and visuals that surround me…so my environment is what inspires. The greatest influences on my work have been art, music, film, nature and dreams. I always paint to a soundtrack, whether it be music, a documentary film, or audiobook. I have even painted while listening to a hockey game. I understand why Picasso locked himself away in his studio, limiting outside influences. Being an artist is like being a sensitive tooth, you know the kind where when you drink a hot or cold beverage and it causes you to jump, that is how I feel walking out in the world everyday, things make me jump and those things end up influencing my art.
It’s impossible not to notice that hockey is a constant theme in your pieces. Especially in the Iconic Canada collection. I know that hockey is the most popular sport in Canada, but where does your passion for hockey come from?
Well, I am Canadian so I am supposed to be a hockey fan. When you live in Canada it is hard to ignore the fact that there is this, almost religion, called Hockey. I have a few old photos of me sitting on my father’s lap when I was just a little kid. My father raising my arms and hands into the air over my head each time a goal was scored, almost like he was training me to be a fan. My father was responsible for my interest in sports of all
kind. My true passion, connection and appreciation for hockey came much later in life. I am too young to have experienced the famed ’72 series with Dryden in goal. My true passion and connection to the game, to the point of it bleeding into my art, came during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a city that is a ferry ride away from Vancouver Island where I live. The passion, enthusiasm, pride and energy that came from a Canadian Hockey gold, took hold of my heart and I began filling my head with old hockey footage and history, thanks to YouTube. Sport is the only event where you sing your national anthem, shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors. It is a memorable experience on all levels.
Could you talk about the inspiration behind your Iconic Canada series?
The Iconic Canada series grew from one painting and one idea. The painting is Goalie’s Mask; red, white and Dryden where I depict Dryden’s rookie goalie mask on the Canadian flag. It is my comment on themes of Canadian stereotype and pop culture, it is my love letter to Canada. I call it my Canadian ‘pop art’ collection.
The Dryden mask painting: how did it end up in the Canadian Hall of Fame? Who came up with idea for this project?
The original painting hangs in the Canadian Sport’s Hall of Fame, which is located in Calgary, Alberta. The Hall recently completed construction on an impressive new building which houses a massive collection of the countries sports history. Every year, The Hall inducts new sports heroes at a nationally televised induction ceremony. I was contacted by the president after he found my paintings on-line and wanted to discuss ways that we could work together on raising money and increasing exposure of the event and the new location and building. The result of our brainstorming was loaning the original painting to The Hall and displaying it at the event and in The Hall. A print of the original and an original painting specifically created for the event were auctioned. The original remains at The Hall in the Hockey Gallery for people to view and we have produced a small print run of 29 limited edition prints, with a portion of the proceeds going to The Hall. A website was created for the prints, it can be found at www.goaliesmaskpainting.com
Ken Dryden is a multi-hyphenated man: NHL legend, lawyer, writer, politician, and also an artist. When you painted this piece what reaction were you expecting from the audience? And from Dryden? Have you met him?
When I paint a piece I hope to get a reaction, but I do not speculate on what that reaction will be. Everyone sees something different based on their experiences and intellect. People in the art world and with an understanding of art history see something different in it than hockey fans. Because the piece contains elements that would appeal to both groups, it has been somewhat of a social experiment and the comments I receive are extremely polarizing and have been so much fun for me to read. I never thought about Dryden seeing it, I have not met him. But I would be thrilled to get his reaction. Since painting it I have found out just how passionate people are about the man behind the mask. I have heard many stories of meetings with him, how he is an intensely private man, how his signature is one of the most valuable in hockey. It did push me to read his book, ‘The Game’
You chose Dryden’s first mask to paint. He only wore the “pretzel” mask in college and during his first professional season, yet it is iconic. Why did you choose this one to paint and why does it connect with fans in your opinion?
It is an iconic mask, one of the first. It resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame. When I came up with the idea for this piece I was reading about one of my favorite artists’ Georgia O’Keeffe, who not only became famous for painting seductive flowers but also skulls in the desert of New Mexico. I like the ‘human’ qualities of the mask, how it resembles a skull, how it resembles the man’s face who wore the mask. It connects with both hockey fans and art history fans, because it is such an iconic mask worn by such and iconic athlete and because it echoes a famous painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. It is a graphically striking painting in composition and because it is placed on the flag of Canada, it connects with people on many levels. Some people find it ‘haunting’ and others find it ‘moving.’
I see a lot of references to the Montreal Canadiens in your paintings; why are the Canadiens such a strong hockey influence in your work?
The Canadiens are one of the original six hockey teams. In painting hockey I wanted to
look back at it’s history and gain a true understanding of the sport and how it has changed over the years. I was also looking to keep my focus and comment on the Canadian theme. It began with researching Dryden and Plante and focusing on the goalie, as he presides over the game.
I’ve notice your pieces always have something, let’s say, hidden in them. You use a lot of references in your paintings. To interpret them you need to have a good repertoire not only about Canada, but also about hockey, arts and pop culture. Do you predetermine meaning or does it arrive later in your work?
Both. I begin with an idea, then I think of the message I am trying to communicate, I often research my subject and sometimes, where it may have appeared in art history or in popular culture. Sometimes I hear a song and just paint. I develop my idea on the canvas. Intuition is definitely a part of my work and I often find myself discovering what it is I am trying to say as I go. The canvas is where I work through things, it is my outlet, my therapist.
Still on the references in your paintings; it’s interesting to see the parody you made using Jacques-Louis David’s “La Mort de Marat” he is a neoclassical style painter and in the same painting you uses Roy Lichtenstein who is a pop culture icon (The death of a rookie –rise of a hero). This crossover is pretty interesting; can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? Are there any current artists who you really admire?
I have been experimenting lately with referencing popular works from different periods combined with sport. It has been fascinating, the reactions are so varied, from humorous to deep discussions on art history. I am having fun with it. My biggest influences are Georgia O’ Keeffe, Tamara de Lempicka, David Salle and Warhol. I really admire Laurie Papou, Tim Okamura and Charles Pachter.
You say you use your art as an “ice-breaker” to meet people. There are so many ways one can meet new people, but what motivates you to build relationships through an art-making process?
Well, when I was younger I was terribly shy, never knew how to start a conversation with someone new, so I would just grab a stool and begin to draw. People would engage me with questions about what I was drawing and I would learn about what moved them… It is still fascinating to me how people will gather, just to watch me do something that I do every day.
You have a vast body of work, painting and photography, is there a specific theme or concept you keep in all of your work or does it change from each piece?
There are many themes, pop culture, nature, sport, figurative, dreams – they change with each new series of paintings. Concept? with my art, I create a visual story, sometimes a dreamscape, that only the viewer can complete by using their experiences, imagination and sense of humor.
It’s nice to see art in unexpected places; you already had your art shown in an airport and now in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. How do you feel about taking the art from the museums and galleries to bring it out in front of the public? To reach people that wouldn’t otherwise go to an art exhibit. And do you think that by bringing these pop culture icons you will be able to reach the public?
I believe that it is important to show in galleries, museums and in unconventional spaces or ways. The more accessible art is, the easier it becomes to engage a new audience. We are curious by nature and if art appears in a setting where people feel comfortable, they are more likely to take interest and ask questions. The beauty of painting something recognized in popular culture or something that is commonplace is people often already have a connection to the object or person. Much like Andy Warhol did with Campbell’s Soup Cans. By painting the mask and representing it in a different way than it has been seen or experienced before, it ignites a new discussion. The more people that are talking about art, the better it is for the future of art. I am a big fan of unconventional approaches, it is how I have been able to survive on making art, without having to work a part-time job that distracts from my passion.
So Brandy, tell me about what you’re working on right now. I saw that you posted on your Twitter account a faceless hockey player. Can you tell me more about this piece?
I am currently working on painting three athletes for Canadian Tire Corporation – Jumpstart program. The faceless hockey player is a portrait of an NHL player in progress. The piece will be revealed late this year. Last year I painted three athletes for their Jumpstart calendar. Funds raised from the sale of these calendars support disadvantaged kids in paying for sports programs that they otherwise could not participate in such as hockey, soccer and even dance. The calendars are distributed through stores and fundraising events across Canada. I believe it is the ideal collaboration. As an artist, I have always found myself relating to the journey taken by an athlete. Art was something that came to me naturally, I had an internal drive and need to make art from a very early age, not unlike that for an athlete. Finding the funds to pursue my passion was a challenge, as it is for many athletes. As I grew with my art and became more educated about art my natural talent became more refined. Painting daily is much like hockey practice, each day you nurture and develop the natural talent that is underlying and only with this daily ‘practice’ can you grow as an athlete or as an artist.’
To wrap up this interview, could you describe yourself and your work?
I am an intermittent extrovert. I am a big geek with a sarcastic sense of humour. I love to laugh. I am consumed by my work, addicted to museums, music, films and travel. I love to golf, but rarely have time anymore. Absinthe and Fresca – I created it and you must try it. My style is defined by my use of vivid color and curved shapes, influenced by the principles of graphic design and POP art. My work is not ‘subtle’ I want it to grab you and make you pay attention. Surreal landscapes with figurative elements or still life, like a painted collage. Pop Surrealism Narratives.
Thank you Brandy for doing this interview for AllHabs.net and for allowing us to share a little bit of your work with our audience.
If you want to know more about Brandy Saturley’s work:
Goalie Mask Painting Project: www.goaliesmaskpainting.com