By Will McGuirk
Whilst driving along Taunton in north Oshawa last week I noticed an artist painting on a Bell box just east of Ritson. I suspected this was the outcome of the project created by the city’s Public Art Task Force. I am a member but my recent work schedules conflicted with meetings and I regret to say I have not been involved in this project and its subsequent activation.
So much to the chagrin of my child travelling with me that day, I stopped, introduced myself and found out Lindsay Hill is the artist and yes, she is one of the artists chosen by the PATF for this mural project sponsored by the City of Oshawa. The Bell Box Murals Project is an independent community-engaged art program of Community Matters Toronto.
We agreed to follow up the conversation by email.
Q: What is your background in art?
“Art has always been something I use to bring joy and a sense of flow into my life. Ever since I was young I enjoyed making illustrations for friends and family with the sole purpose to make them laugh or smile. Likewise, if I had a bad day, I would draw to make myself feel better. I took art throughout high school but never understood are as a viable career path. At the time I didn't know any professional artists, and I didn't know the available career paths for artists. For a brief moment I considered graphic design, but a friend of mine told me ‘graphic design is a dying field’ and that was the end of that. I remember seventeen-year-old me crying in my guidance counsellor's office about how art was the only thing I enjoyed doing but there were no job prospects (again, at age seventeen. . . the pressure we put on our youth is ridiculous). He helped me sort through some options, and I landed on interior design as it seemed like the most sensible option. I applied and got into Ryerson University for interior design.
“My favourite class while at RSID was by far my first year drawing class. Along with other assignments, we had this weekly assignment called "emotive spaces" where we would have to convey emotion through our drawings. While most of my classmates dreaded the weekly assignment and much preferred working on their design work, I relished the time I dedicated to my emotive spaces. I clawed my way through school and soon enough I had four years and an internship under my belt. I began to have a funny feeling that this was simply not for me, but I continued on working in the field for years. In my last year of university I experienced a tragic lost. While this loss put things into perspective, it also shined a light on how serious and cruel the world can be, and I spent a few years after that quite depressed.
“A little over a year ago I got back into drawing for fun. The tragic loss I had experience paired with my rekindled passion turned my depression into motivation, and I decided that life is simply too short to not take chances and do the things you love. With this new outlook, I quit my full-time interior design job to pursue illustration head-on. Now, I create things that make me smile. I think to myself ‘gee, it would be hilarious to see some pancakes dancing around with a jar of maple syrup’, then draw it. It's a bonus if other people enjoy them too. Since starting to illustrate professionally, I've illustrated a series of children's books for a non-profit, opened an Etsy shop and created a variety of consumer goods and painted two murals.”
Q: how did you hear about and get involved in this project?
“I saw a call for submissions two days before the deadline through Project Bellbox (I have followed that project for some time now, it's been a great way to discover new artists). With a limited amount of time, I planned on sketching something up that evening to submit. Luckily, out of the blue, my boss gave me the Friday off, so I was able to spend a little bit more time refining it.”
Q: what was the inspiration for your piece and what are you hoping it will bring to the area?
“Because of my upbringing, my work is heavily inspired by nature and community. Growing up in North-East Whitby I reaped the benefits of the many nature reserves in Oshawa that often go overlooked, from exploring Camp Samac as a young Girl Guide to school trips to the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve. These quiet oases are often overlooked when outsiders, even residents for that matter, think about Oshawa. We tend to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our growing city that we forget to pause and appreciate what nature has already gifted us. My Bellbox is a gentle and playful reminder that nature is right in our backyard. The illustration itself is busy, revealing new things at every glance. My intent with this was to replicate the feeling of being in nature, that there's always more to see if you take a second, third or fourth glance.”
So there you go, the city of Oshawa just got a little more interesting. There’s art to be discovered, to be seen. But take more than a glance, take a good look, take the time to really appreciate Lindsay’s work.