My Story

Here is the expanded (very expanded) version of my story and how I got here.

I was born in Vancouver to a Chinese immigrant mother from Hong Kong and a Caucasian father in the 80’s, a proper Vancouverite of the time. Some of my earliest memories are at the art table in a corner of my parents house with a million crayons and an unlimited supply of one-side blank office recycling that I was given to draw on to my hearts content, which was almost always.

When I was about 5, I remember bragging to my grandma that I could draw ANYTHING (she was an exceptional and accomplished artist herself). She actually challenged me, like ‘ok, show me’ and handed me a book of oil painting techniques for painting portraits. I tried to copy a portrait from the book, but it was terrible and I knew I hadn’t lived up to my gloating. I don’t remember exactly what my grandma’s response was, but she really taught me a lesson in humility. Looking back I’m so grateful for that, I don’t think most people would challenge a child like that today and would only offer praise. Her challenge inspired me to really learn how to draw anything so I would be nimble the next time I was put on the spot, and also to actually live up to my big mouth or keep it shut (I am still working on the latter part).

During my extra awkward phases (ok all of my phases) in school, art class was always where I was at my best and the only place I was ever comfortable. My high school had some great creative art classes and teachers, but didn’t really prioritize the arts and I didn’t come out with any clear direction or confidence on what I should do or where I should go.

So I just went snowboarding and worked at ski hills for a couple of years after graduation. That time in my life was directionless and it motivated me to to get myself somewhere so I started looking into my options. I landed on the IDEA Progam at Capilano College, a three-year diploma in illustration and graphic design. I put everything into getting in, spent an entire winter preparing my portfolio because it was very competitive, at that time it averaged 150 applicants for 28 spaces. All of my hopes were set on getting in, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was on edge for days waiting for my acceptance call, everything was riding on it and thankfully, I did get accepted.

Three intensive years followed, it was a time where I spent all day, every day creating. Some of it was easy but some was so, so hard; a time filled with very high, highs and very low, lows. IDEA ran with a group of 28 students in the same classes for the entire run of the program. During the program, my very awkward socials skills made me feel that I didn’t fit in, but I did find my people and made some lifelong friends there. The IDEA program was absolutely exceptional and gave me enough of everything to work as a creative, I still use skills from this program every day in so many things I do, I completed the program in 2006.

I worked as a designer for many years in different industries: municipal government, print production, retail and healthcare, but after a short time I would always hit a wall of complete loss of interest and motivation in my job while daydreaming of doing ANYTHING else. Security of having a job has drawn me back in over and over but I finally feel like I can take the terrifying leap into a full-time art career.

In my personal life, I met a partner around 2011. Within 6 months we lived together, after a little over a year we were pregnant and our baby boy arrived in 2013. Having a baby is the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever experienced, for me there hasn’t been any other experience like it, it’s everything at once, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. (In sharing my experience as a mother, I do not mean to be insensitive to those who can’t have children and I am very sorry for your struggles. I am also not trying to convince those who don’t want kids to have them. This is my experience and a big part of my personal story.)

We bought a townhouse in Canmore, then bought another pre-construction townhouse in a small new development outside of town, I got pregnant again and moved into the new house just in time for baby 2 to arrive. It was picture perfect from the outside, so much so that the Calgary Herald Real Estate section featured our family to help the developer sell more townhouses. But in reality I was so lost, I wasn’t me, I was a fake version trying to be polished and smiling at neighbourhood parties with a pretty house and social media photos that are perfectly curated with just a hint of realness. It all happened in less than 5 years, but it fell apart just as fast, faster actually.

I was clawing the walls for something else, working with a life coach because I was told all my life that this is the ultimate destination. I had two beautiful babies, a beautiful new house in the suburbs, a good network and a decent career, so why was I so unhappy? Babies challenge every aspect of your life and becoming parents made it obvious that we were ill-suited partners, we both adore our kids and continue to work together to try to give them a good life. Ultimately he coped with our incompatibility by cheating with a complete scumbag, this ended up being a gift–it gave me a free pass to leave, which I would never have done without a really good reason, I didn’t want to disrupt my kids just because I was discontent. All I have ever wanted in life is freedom and to be inspired; but offices, marriage and suburbs can not give me that.

So I moved back into our first home, which had been a rental. I was at rock bottom while trying to gather myself and meet the needs of my kids. I felt very alone, this is a culture that doesn’t want to be aligned with single moms, we and our kids are stigmatized, there’s a big loss in status and truly cowardly people seem to think you’re fair game and use your weakened position to try to hurt you, there was immense hurt for me caused mostly by the people who had been my community. I dropped out of my career and social scene while I picked up the pieces of my personal life. Within a year of moving out on my own, COVID lockdowns began.

COVID was my awakening, so with some perspective now I see that lockdowns ended up being an huge blessing. I had time to process and take time to do meaningful things with my kids (but I also had so many meltdowns with two small kids at home that I still feel horrible about).

With shared custody I suddenly had a lot of time to myself and visited places I only dreamt of seeing (Lake O’Hara!), normally crowded destinations were deserted and belonged to me and my cohort, it was truly a magical time. I was more fit than I’d even been from running, hiking, biking and paddleboarding all the time. COVID also forced me process my separation, loss of my home, and re-establishing my family. I was diagnosed with ADHD during this time, which was a relief, it put so many past experiences into perspective and helped me understand how to manage parts of my life that I’d always struggled with. I also returned to my painting practice during lockdowns, the art market went crazy during this time and helped me get my career started.

As things started to open up again I was invited to do a live painting event at the Banff Gondola, with an offer to sell my goods during the event. I only had a handful of prints and originals so I quickly ordered some postcard so that I would have something that was accessible to everyone. The postcards sold out at the event and with encouragement and guidance from a friend (Mountain Adornment) I walked down Main Street in Canmore and approached shops to sell my postcards. A few kind souls gave me a shot and this has proven to be a good channel to share my art and earn income.

At the end of 2022, I started practising every night by doing very fast acrylic paintings mainly by intuition, no reference. This practice has helped me to loosen my style and gain new skills and perspectives. I had a painting teacher in college who always said you’d have to make 1000 mistakes before you know how to paint and these practice paintings gave me so much liberty to make mistakes, lots of them. The aren’t carefully planned or sketched, I just let them flow, some are great, some are not. This series seems to resonate and allows me to tune into a different part of my creative practice.

I am writing this about half way through 2024, which has been another year marked with big changes. I am optimistic as I work to advance in my art career and pursue a life that nurtures my family and my soul.