Posts tagged yyc artists
Citizens of Capitol Hill: John F. Gerrard
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By Maria Castillo-Stone


If you haven’t already heard - through our blasts on social media or e-newsletters, we have a bunch of new programs ready to launch for the Autumn season. In case you’re still scratching your head, I suggest you subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop, plus follow one of our three social media accounts!

Today, I’m introducing you to John F. Gerrard who will be the instructor for our “Seniors Art Class (55+)”.

I decided to have chat with John and hopefully this chat will entice those of you still on the fence about the course, and hopefully have you feeling excited and eager to give your hidden art skills a go.

As a teacher in art college once told me: “No one is born artistically talented, it takes lots of practice, and passion to appear that way.”

Links to purchase tickets and register will be at the bottom of this page. Hope to see you there!




To someone who’s never attended an art class - how would you describe what will happen under your instruction?

Each of the six sessions will be themed and students will be shown some “tricks of the trade” regarding drawing, landscapes, and conceptual art. That being said, if someone wants to work on portraiture, I won’t stop them! Foremost, I want to facilitate a space for people to feel free to experiment, and for people to explore how they want to express themselves visually.

How would you encourage someone who is curious but apprehensive due to skill set, expertise level etc?

You have to be patient with certain ways of making, as it takes time for us to learn certain skills. This can be frustrating, because our taste doesn’t match our ability in the beginning. We all have to start somewhere though! It can be hard to turn down our inner critic, but when we do we allow all sorts of discovery to take place. 

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What will an attendee gain by attending the course?

People who join us will gain a basic understanding of the different ways of making art as well as given the space to explore their own visual voice. What inspired your journey to becoming an artist? Art has been a part of my life in some way or another for a long time. With my visual practice, I am trying to make sense of my environment and my mind. As a kid, I was supported and inspired to pursue this creative life. I am inspired by the variety of ways there are to express yourself. The more I make, the more I’m starting to see themes and connections within the work. This is exciting!

What’s one tip you would dispense in approaching art for the first time?

Keep an open mind and be patient. It takes time for your skills to match your taste! Who or what has influenced your work? My biggest influences have come locally. From relationships at my studio or those when I was studying drawing at art college. Aesthetically, I really connect with the work of Basquiat. My life and journey with mental health inform my work, and I aim to be an ambassador for these issues.

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What has been a seminal experience for you artistically?

One of my favourite experiences as an artist was from a project I did with Branch Out Neurological foundation where I made work inspired by a neurological research assignment. It was fascinating to have access to a neuroscientists perspective. I am doing it again this year, and couldn’t be more excited. 

What’s the three or more essential tool(s) in art, you swear by?

Compositional sensibility, having space between sessions to refresh the eyes, perseverance, and constructive critique.


What is your artistic look on life?

Art is so versatile and wonderful. It can help us bridge unknowns, and serve as a fulcrum for understanding. It can also be a world free from concepts or words. Art for the sake of art is enough, and to me this a great metaphor for life. We don’t need to be useful to have purpose. We are all enough as we are.

Many thanks to John F. Gerrard for taking the time to provide us with this interview and also use of his images.

You can register for the course online or, download and print a form, and pay by cheque.


Citizens of Capitol Hill: Rachel Taylor-Fergusson
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*REPRODUCTION OF IMAGES ARE SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT. PERMISSION AND A PAYABLE FEE IS REQUIRED FOR PUBLIC OR PERSONAL USE. PLEASE CONTACT COMMUNICATIONS@CAPITOLHILLCOMMUNITY.CA FOR FURTHER DETAILS.

By Maria Castillo-Stone

Having spent most of my education hanging around art studios, art shops and visiting galleries, it was a real treat to be invited to the home of local artist, Rachel Taylor-Fergusson (who also fed me some yummy liquorice tea!).

There’s nothing like being in an eclectic studio space, surrounded by mood boards, materials, artwork and inspiration.

How would you describe the community of Capitol Hill to an outsider?

It’s a small town that’s like it’s own little island, in the big city! I love it here. I grew up here, went to the local schools. I love that when you walk down the street, you can meet or get to know your neighbours. I have friends that live in communities and they don’t have the same experience.


I believe Pub Nights have had a lot to do with that - or being at the park. You chat with a parent and say: “Come along to Pub Night!”


So you’re an artist, what is your background?

I did a lot of art in school, and took part in an art program at Queen Elizabeth High School, as it had one of the better art curriculums in the city. I was thinking about going into art school but I was still undecided in where I was heading. I did Art 10-20-30 and Portfolio Art but felt unprepared at the time. So I decided to step away from art for bit, and went to university to study other subjects instead.


After the passing of dad two and a half years ago, I fell back into art - he was an artist. Processing the loss, I did a lot of family portraits. I discovered that I really enjoyed art and that I was actually good at it.

What has been a seminal experience for you artistically?

I love that question. So I was struggling with the medium of watercolours (when I started art again),  - the lack of control. I couldn’t get skin tones down, I was having a hard time with colour theory, and in the end, I realised that I was going to have to redirect my whole style.

When my son Fin was little, I got him doing some painting. It lead to an epiphany: I had to start over, I have to start playing with the materials again and being more exploratory. I looked at his art, copied his use of colour, and it lead to free-flow, dripping effects. I then superimposed portraits over top of the painting, using pen and ink.

I let go of the need to have the finished picture visualised in my head, as it would be represented on the page. Instead I let it become what it would become. Seeing what my son was making, completely changed my approach to art - it made me 100,000 times better!

How do you work best?

Probably in directed periods of time. I’ll spend a lot of time in the thinking process, such as the Canadian Wilds for example. About the animals, and what they mean to me, what do they represent? I do a lot of art that represents a specific time - I’m very present in this moment, what is going on for me, emotionally, what things are representing me right now, what am I trying to express? Also, if I have time away from my son, I like to spend plenty of time immersed in a project! So I’ll end up getting a whole piece done in one day.

I also love it when I’m motivated from an experience, such as one piece I did as a gift for an instructor, for the end of class. This piece was a perfect example of being present in this moment.

Who are your influences?

Just Fin. I don’t observe a lot of art. Fin has been really inspirational for me, especially his use of colour. And also my dad - his use of lines and portraits.

What are your essential tools for working?

The tool I could not live without is this easel [points] I went into the art store and asked them to show me what easels they have. The easel that caught my attention ended up being the most expensive one! Yet my justification for getting was: I want an easel that will meet my needs, a good investment piece.

I also have a favourite brush - I’m very particular about materials, it’s very funny you asked me that! It’s a No.12 and there are smaller ones for detail work. Also the Pilot Fineliners - they’re the cheapest pens. I bought $50 worth of pens to do testing and honestly the Pilot is my favourite one - I love how it bleeds and I love to use a monochromatic black, so I use Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to make my black. I also love using water soluble crayons [shows me an array of crayons!]  - I bought them on a whim for Fin. Yellow is my favourite to work with, I love Yellow!

What is an artistic look on life?

I would say it’s a couple of things: truly being present - in the moment, because you have to be, when you’re drawing or painting, You have to use your eyes, not your mind. You have to look, not think. You can’t be evaluating and judging, and not thinking: “Where’s the future going to take me?”

And looking for deeper meaning and metaphor in life. For example, wolves from my Canadian Wilds pieces, they’re big on metaphor - to represent the things that eat at you. Anxiety is a “big wolf” in my life because it’s that fear of something that can get at you. Being able to represent those concepts in metaphor is an artistic life.

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Lastly, What is your favourite spot in Capitol Hill?

I really like this tree area at the St. Pius school - we call it the Peace Garden. It’s just trees surrounding large tree trunks you can sit on. It’s very grounding.