Posts tagged yyc arts
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.

Citizens of Capitol Hill: The Friendly Edit
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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

Last Friday, I was lucky to spend a lovely afternoon at the home of Jess Voykin, one half of the blog: The Friendly Edit. Little did I know we were neighbours on the same block! (U.K me would say street but I wanted you to get my drift!)

As well as getting a peek at her lovely home, and getting my belly filled with delicious treats (mentioned below), I got to make a new friend. And that’s what I love about this little Citizens of Capitol Hill project - I get to meet all sorts of people in our community and make connections.


What makes Capitol Hill a great place to live?

It’s awesome! There’s such a good mix of people of all ages and stages of life. I believe that’s what makes an asset to our community.


How would you describe the community of Capitol Hill and it’s people to an outsider?

It’s something you have to experience! Before we came to live here, we were invited to the Pub Night by some of our friends that live in the area. It was great seeing kids running around, how safe it was, everyone knowing each other - that has been really special. Our life has been made better by living here. We are always trying to convince our friends to move here by telling them about our experiences here.

We are so lucky, we are so close to everything and it feels like a community.


What inspired your journey to becoming a blogger and starting The Friendly Edit?

My best friend is a registered dietician and I suggested that she should start a blog. After a few glasses of wine at a Wine Festival,  she said: “I’ll only do it, if you’ll do it with me” and that’s what started it all.

Since then, I’ve found it to be a passion of mine - food has always been something that we shared within our friendship, and cooking - cooking together. We don’t live in the same place, so this was another way to keep us connected, especially at different points in our life: getting married and kids, it was nice to tie our lives together.

I don’t think I would have done this on my own but because we were doing the blog together, it pushed us forward - you’d do anything for your best friend, despite our own fears.

When driving the blog, what’s your inspiration and influence, when you’re creating a post or cooking a recipe?

I try to think of it as a family recipe. A couple of years ago, my mum and dad brought us a recipe book with all our family recipes for Christmas. It’s those things that are so good - you have to share them with your family or your friends. It’s great when you’ve made something excellent and to be able to share it. It’s not about the fanciest food, it’s about things that everyone has in their house, that’s quick and tasty!. My passion lies in making food accessible to people.


Do you have a favourite family recipe?

It’s less about the recipe and more about the time when we have it. Before Christmas morning, my family does these Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, where you put everything in the Bundt pan the night before  - it’s a wife-saver cinnamon roll. It’s super tasty and it’s become a part of the holiday for me. It’s not a fancy recipe but because I have all those Christmas morning memories tied to it, and now I have my family, that’s why that’s my favourite family recipe.

What’s a favourite memory - travel or food related?

I grew up in Medicine Hat, and at the time I grew up, there weren’t a lot of diverse restaurants for example, there wasn’t a sushi restaurant until I was in Middle school. Also, my mum didn’t love cooking - she’ll admit that she needed to cook to serve us something healthy and good. It’s funny because I’m one of three sisters and we love to cook! Food in our household wasn’t a huge emphasis  - it was more about bringing people together.

When I went travelling in Middle school, I remember not liking the food, yet when I went back as an adult (just this last year), I went to London and to Austria, I was so passionate about the food!


So the part about bringing people together is part of the force behind your blog…

Yes for sure! The way I show love and care for people is making food and feeding them, which my husband really likes - it’s one of his love languages! But yes, it’s about bringing people together.

I’ve seen a lot of healthy eating recipes on your blog, what’s one healthy eating tip you would dispense?

Full disclosure, I’m not a healthy eating expert - my blog partner is the registered dietician, so she is really good! I’m more of a “cook with butter” girl, but we try to eat less meat - that’s an easy way to cut down on less fat and calories. We did try one month without meat and what I liked about doing that was that it challenged me to try out different recipes. Before I was in a rut: meat, veggie, side. So going meat-free for a month, made me think about food differently, and it therefore expands your palette.


What’s one recommended tool everyone should have in their kitchen?

A good chef’s knife - is really key. We got given one three moves ago by our realtor. When we got it I thought: “This is such a weird gift! Why would he give us a knife?” Yet here it is, the thing that I use every day. You can do things faster and easier - I remember once thinking “This is hard on my wrists, why can’t I chop this yam?” and it was down to a bad knife! I really love Le Creuset’s spatulas and they last forever. I especially like the Spatula Spoon  - it has this cut out that makes it handy for cooking.

Tell me 3-5 things you can’t live without?

My iPhone, my Dyson, my car, Borage Seed Oil by The Ordinary - it’s made my skin so much better! And sunglasses. I’m an Optician by trade so that’s something I really value.


Name your Desert Island books and/or music?

The Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify, it has become the soundtrack of our house. We’ve played it so much, I know every song! I sew - it promotes a busy-hands-clear-mind thing, and so I quilt specifically, so the quilt you’re sitting on, and the pillow - I made those! I also like listening to podcasts: The Stuff You Missed In History Class - that’s up my alley.


Lastly, What, as a community member, would you like to see in the future?

I think the community is heading in totally the right direction. It’s very inclusive and family-focused. The community centre is so awesome! For example on Tuesdays I was going there three times in one day: preschool, Tae kwon do and the dance classes. There are so many things happening at the centre, we’re very lucky, so adding more to the agenda would be great. I’m also excited to check out the Fibre Arts Club. Things like these are good to connect people and get you out of the house.


Now you may be curious (and hungry) about the treats Jess made prior to her interview. Thankfully, I also have the recipes courtesy of Jess and am sure you will find them amazingly tasty (the Blondies lasted two days in our household!).

Again, many thanks to Jess for inviting me in her home! If you would like to be featured in Citizen’s of Capitol Hill, contact me at: communication@capitolhillcommunity.ca




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Smoothie Bowl and Dijon and Parmesan Crusted Chicken (Stay tuned for the chicken recipe post - will be published on Friday!)






Fibre Arts Club
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In case the symptom of cabin fever is wearing thin, Tricia Hamilton has come to the rescue with her bi-weekly Fibre Arts club!

Any level of expertise is welcome to join, whether you’re a novice, and expert or just wanted to try a new skill. This is also a fantastic opportunity to meet your neighbours and make some new friends.

Bring along some snacks to share and keep cosy with a warm cup of tea.