My late father was a full-time landscape painter when I grew up, Richard (Dick) Ferrier. To be raised in an artist environment seemed terribly normal, tedious even. Art a part of life. I was shouted at for knocking over frames and stacks of paintings, I was required to attend and be on my absolute best behavior at gallery openings, and having to constantly tiptoe around the house because Dad was working. I remember the first time I had someone asked me what the point of art was. I literally didn’t understand the question.
The entire family created, but we didn’t always get praise for our work. Sometimes it was an art lesson you really hadn’t asked for or an admonishment for not practicing our sketching. Out I would be sent with a sketchbook and a task. I think I have drawn about enough trees for one lifetime.
My father once said to me, you could be better than me, but the implication was that I simply did not practice enough. n fact, I was not allowed to go to an art camp I was invited to when I was in grade eight, even on a scholarship because I did not practice enough. Looking back on it I wonder if there was a touch of the obsessive-compulsive to him. I can only imagine what a great disappointment it might have been to have seen a talent in me that I appeared not to make the most of.
These were not easy times. My father was a difficult, complex man, highly self-disciplined, and a disciplinarian. To grow up never earn the praise of your parents for a petty picture drawn, but instead only earning the criticism, took the joy of that craft away. And then to grow up with the entire world telling me that my talent was because of who my father was like the talent was somehow my father’s, instead of being proud, I felt that it invalidated my own efforts. Drawing and painting as never going to be for me. The praise would never be mine to have.
Yet there is no real escaping what you truly inherit. I don’t know what drives a creative person to create, to spend energy on something that doesn’t appear to directly impact our chances of survival, and yet history has told us that our desires to create is a uniquely human thing.
As much as I sometimes wished it otherwise, I keep looking for meaning, for purpose, and always that drive toward tapping into creativity, to make and express, to let that art flow through me, to be the vessel for a “Greater Power”, whatever that is not truly ours that expresses itself through us. Ironic given that I wanted praise for my efforts, and yet discovering creativity is not mine to own.
But it’s hard to find yourself if you are living in response to someone else.
As a young adult, I traveled and lived in England for a few years without bringing with me any evidence of my work. I did however bring an enormous amount of baggage, read into that what you will. I was somewhere where no one knew of my so-called art talents, where no one expected me to be something great or really, anything at all. There was no internet to keep you connected. Just letters punctuated by time and phone calls that costed.
I was adrift and stripped of my identity without it. I searched but I was often plagued with creative blocks, paralyzed with the pressure to make something truly outstanding. Writing because I could not paint, painting because I could not write. I created. But never what I wanted to.
I might never have found my love for film if I hadn’t been influenced by European cinema while I was there and hadn’t had this pressure of who I was supposed to be lifted. After repeated blocks and disappointment in myself, I gave up on the idea I would ever amount to anything as an artist. The opportunity would never fall on my lap, and I didn’t have what it took to make it grow.
But did I, at least, want it to be a hobby? It was here where a division between all the shoulds and what was inside of me started to grow. It was then when I bought some cameras, and I started taking film classes and immersing myself in film theory. Film seemed to me to be the perfect blend of so many of my interests in art, design, photography, storytelling and so on. But I could not be content to work in an office all my life, and having proved to myself that I had the self-discipline to master education, I set out to create a photographic portfolio in order that I could return home to earn a degree in film.
I graduated from Ryerson University with an Applied Arts honours degree in Image Arts specializing in film. Following this I worked in the film and video industry for several years after this, before branching in web and digital work (which I still continue to do) while I raised my family. Life took a turn when my husband, documentary cameraman Peter Walker eventually succumbed to cancer when my eldest was barely out of diapers and the youngest still a baby. Providing for my children as the sole parent now became my priority. With its unpredictable hours, I could never truly live that life.
But you cannot escape what you inherited. I was never completely content to stop searching for meaning and purpose beyond that of a mother. Photography was just a personal project of mine, film was still in my heart, but over time I grew more and more involved in it, attending a few art markets, selling a few of my landscapes, or producing a few product shots, and doing some food photography. It suited my temperament. My landscape photography is a reverence for the mysteries, magic, and beauty of the Universe. My food photography is a love affair with mood. My pet photography a pure love for animals.
2020 afforded me the opportunity to reflect and look inward. And so I started exploring more personal themes of my life in some of my work, influenced and informed by my love of film and story.
While influenced by film, I have also been influenced by a few literary sources – thinking of a book by Steinbeck in particular (Cannery Row it might have been) where some of his writing was so spare but the meaning so loaded. Also from some very short story (vss or twitfic) writers, a Canadian Writer, Arjun Basu comes to mind – he used to write these amazing short Twitter “stories“ back when Twitter still had 140 character limit. Inspired I tried my own hand at it challenged to make something in the 140 character limit that could move someone in some way.
I felt my best work started with a feeling, a piece of honesty and the creativity grew around it. Moments of realization, turning points, loaded drama that spoke to a bigger story. The main question I started to think about this year was; how do I do this using photography? Not all my recent work aims for this, but recently this is what excites me the most.
In the process of creating I sometimes discover other things in the work. I look at the characters I have created, the stories that are there. I see isolation, anxiety, fear, determination, perseverance, strength and weakness.
These are themes of 2020 for many people, maybe. It’s certainly been a year denied of options and mental health struggles, and yet we see the ever-present drive and desire to thrive.
I could tell you stories about those characters in my work. Where they come from, where they might be going. But they might tell you a different story.