I’ve been drawing portraits of activists I find inspiring to celebrate their efforts and shine a light on the work that they do. Initially, I had no goal in mind as to what I would do with the images. I was acting from a place of inspiration, working on what I considered to be a passion project.
I created a portrait of Indigenous activist, journalist and author, Tanya Talaga, whose work I greatly admire. I continued on with portraits of historical Métis activist Gabriel Dumont, Greta Thunberg, Vandana Shiva, Autumn Peltier, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Christina Mittermeier, Wangari Mathai, Freda Huson and David Suzuki. I kept on drawing portraits in my spare time until life interrupted and I was forced to focus on other matters.
Eventually I made my way back to the portraits, arranged the images into a short video, titled it Inspiring Activists, and posted it on my @ChicaDeeDesigns Instagram account to little fanfare. But I loved the project and wondered how I could keep creating portraits while simultaneously using them to uplift and inspire. I had the idea to create a new instagram account called @InspiringIndigenous that would focus on portraiture and also feature uplifting artists, activists and Elders from the Indigenous community.
Eventually I used the images I generated for @InspiringIndigenous to apply for the MNBC Nakaatchihtow Grant. The grant ultimately allowed me to create twenty-six portraits for an art exhibit at the Massy Arts Gallery and a zero carbon emission book titled Métis Now: Elders, Artists, and Activists that was printed by award winning, Hemlock Press. I was then invited to present the work at an international academic symposium, create further portraits for a PHD student living in the UK and was invited to apply for an artist residency, which I have always dreamed of doing.
Ahem. I share these details not to bathe myself in a glowing light of accomplishment, but to illustrate how following our creative nudges often leads to opportunities and events we never could have imagined. A case in point, yesterday Google Canada purchased this portrait of David Suzuki from me after being introduced to my work by a woman living in the Yukon who I have never met and do not know. Delightfully random, right?
This all started after I read Tanya Talaga’s seminal book, Seven Fallen Feathers and was inspired to draw her portrait. Thinking back on that time I am reminded of a famous speech by JFK. You can listen to it on Youtube https://youtu.be/MBTqE2OgMB4 and smile as he urges and sputters, “Don’t think, do!” As creators, it is often what is needed. You simply have to trust and listen to those seemingly weird ideas that appear to come from nowhere. That’s your own heart trying to talk to you! That’s the divine aching to speak through you! That’s the best most unedited part of you trying to communicate to the outside world! Listen closely, but don’t think, do!