Top 5 Canadian photographers you should follow on Instagram right now

By Anastasia Barbuzzi

Luckily for photographers, all millennial eyes are glued to one photo-sharing app: Instagram. So far in 2019, it seems that Canadian photographers are racking up major followings for their talents. From one curated grid to the next, their feeds are a limitless display of colour, style, and adventure inspiration. Not only are some of the most popular Canadian photographers mustering up the imaginations of people across the globe with ultra-stimulating content, they’re also killing it off the ‘gram with side businesses and charitable movements. Here’s five accounts that you should be stalking right now.

Callum Snape - 793k followers

With one of the largest digital audiences within the outdoor and travel industry, Callum Snape treats his native British Columbia as a natural playground. His vibrant shots of Canada’s landscapes and wildlife make the North seem otherworldly.

Photo courtesy Callum Snape via calsnape on Instagram

Angela Liddon - 625k followers

Angela Liddon pioneered the healthy vegan lifestyle movement back in 2008 when she was living in Toronto, where she kickstarted her blog, Oh She Glows. She’s amassed her 625,000 followers by photographing all of her own recipes and talking about her health and wellness journey. She now has two cookbooks: The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out and Oh She Glows Everyday: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant Based Recipes.

Photo courtesy Angela Liddon via ohsheglows on Instagram

The First Mess - 248k followers

Hailing from St. Catharines, Ont., Laura Wright is a professionally trained cook and vegan chef. As well as the author of The First Mess Cookbook and food photographer of all her own content. The pictures on Wright’s blog, also called The First Mess, look good enough to eat themselves.

Photo courtesy Laura Wright via thefirstmess on Instagram

Jamal Burger - 184k followers

Based in Toronto, Jamal Burger photographs sports and lifestyle subjects in the downtown area with an emphasis on street style. He also helped found The Kickback - an initiative that puts brand new and lightly worn sneakers into the hands of adolescents who can use them. Burger has also worked with big-name clients such as Nike and HYPEBEAST.

Photo courtesy Jamal Burger via jayscale on Instagram

Chris Smart - 48.3k followers

Famed for his fashion week street style photos, Chris Smart is an internationally published photographer that masterfully captures the subtleties of a candid photo. Smart shoots in a clean, crisp and editorial style and his Insta-posts will have you coming back for outfit inspo on the daily.

Photo courtesy Chris Smart via csmartfx on Instagram

How Bettina Bogar is provoking skin cancer awareness and empowerment through photos

By Anastasia Barbuzzi

Creative Director Katherine Murdick chats with a visitor about the  skinwork  exhibition. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Creative Director Katherine Murdick chats with a visitor about the skinwork exhibition. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

In a new photo exhibition called skinwork, Toronto-based photographer Bettina Bogar managed to highlight the female form, raise awareness for skin cancer, and pay tribute to a late friend, Heather Mundle, with a humble grace unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

At the exhibit launch event on International Women’s Day, a teary eyed Bogar stood before an audience ready to listen to a panel discussion about skin cancer prevention. She thanked friends and family for their attendance and took almost no credit for the alluringly curated, completely unedited collection of photos she put together with creative director Katherine Murdick.

“Heather was so passionate about skinwork and making it something bigger than us,” Bogar said. “We want to honour her life and her goal by doing as much as we can to encourage everyone to be aware of their skin’s health.”

The finer details

Featuring 60 Canadian women who have a special connection to the cause, Bogar’s exhibition took a unique approach to advocating for cancer prevention by focusing on skin markings left by melanoma. And for every skinwork print that’s sold, all profits go straight to the Melanoma Network of Canada – the movement’s official charitable partner.

Bettina Bogar shoots a close-up photo of a  skinwork  model. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Bettina Bogar shoots a close-up photo of a skinwork model. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

Bogar initiated skinwork last year with a select group of women including Heather Mundle. It was Mundle who passionately advocated for the project to be about skin cancer prevention having personally experienced melanoma earlier in her life. Unfortunately, Mundle’s cancer returned shortly after the project started and she sadly lost her battle to a metastatic melanoma in September of 2018.

While walking down the long hallway of wall to wall prints inside Artscape Youngplace with Murdick, skinwork’s creative director, a silence hung in the air as she described the last few months of working on the project with Mundle. Mundle never told anyone involved in the exhibition that her cancer came back.

“Being on-set, working with over 60 women was very emotional and empowering,” said Murdick. “This project has already touched so many people, myself included, and it feels incredible.”

A personal and sensory experience

As we watched launch party-goers and influencers float throughout the room, I was surprised to have recognized some of them in the photos displayed. With the slightest clue, like a strand of blonde hair, a freckled shoulder, or pair of sun-spotted cheekbones, I was able to match a person to a photo. It became easier for me to understand how every women that bared all for Bogar’s camera felt more confident about themselves afterward. Thanks to the direction of her and Murdick, they were able to see parts of themselves that they never appreciated before as truly beautiful.

Bettina Bogar (center) and Katherine Murdick (right) on set of the  skinwork  photo shoot .  ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

Bettina Bogar (center) and Katherine Murdick (right) on set of the skinwork photo shoot. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

That’s when viewing skinwork became a very sensory experience for me. I came across a print that emphasized a woman’s midsection and hips. She had a small scar on her side that was shaped like an irregular circle and it reminded me so much of one of my own - an imprint from a recent kidney surgery. Without knowing what I was really doing, my hand moved to touch that scar on my side. I then quietly reminded myself to love that little part of me even harder and get my skin checked for cancerous spots this year.

The girl with the scar in "SWG65", a print included in the  skinwork  exhibition at Artscape Youngplace. ( skinwork /Bettina Bogar)

The girl with the scar in "SWG65", a print included in the skinwork exhibition at Artscape Youngplace. (skinwork/Bettina Bogar)

Over the course of the two-day photoshoot that Murdick and Bogar orchestrated to capture skinwork, they became overwhelmed by the amount of generosity that local businesses showed them once they learned about the project’s mission.

“My dream is that skinwork becomes a movement. That this project emotionally connects with people so deeply that they take action – make a doctor’s appointment – get themselves checked and start taking care of their skin’s health,” said Bogar.

Though skinwork is no longer on display at Artscape Youngplace, I’m so happy to have seen it in the flesh while it was. You can now follow the movement on Instagram, purchase a print, or visit the website for more information. Hopefully we’ll be able to see skinwork travel to other Canadian cities soon.

5 Canadian books to look for in March

By Bree Duwyn

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

By Alicia Elliott

Release Date: March 26, 2019


A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott is an important and personal reflection on racism, oppression and trauma.

Alicia Elliott offers raw insight on the treatment of Indigenous people in North America and comprehension to the continuance of colonialism and its legacy. She explores the ties between both emotional, spiritual, and cultural loss in both figurative and literal perspectives by making pivotal connections between past and present. Elliott also attempts to answer questions behind the most pressing Indigenous issues faced in today’s society to forge a welcoming tool for a better future filled with respect.

Alicia Elliot is a Tuscarora author from Brantford, Ont., from Six Nations of the Grand River and lives with her husband and child. She has had work published by The Globe and Mail, Vice, Maclean’s, CBC and Reader’s Digest, among many more. She works at The Fiddlehead as the Creative Nonfiction Editor, is an Associate Nonfiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths, and works as a consulting editor for The New Quarterly. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground won gold at the 2017 National Magazine Awards.

We All Fall Down

By Daniel Kalla

Release Date: March 26, 2019


We All Fall Down by Daniel Kalla is about a woman named Alana Vaughn, who is an infectious diseases expert with NATO. Alana is urgently requested by an ex-lover to travel to Genoa, Italy to examine an unusually ill patient in critical need. She’s shocked to find out that the illness is a recurrence of the Black Death, also known as the Great Plague. Alana suspects bioterrorism but Byron Menke, who works for WHO, disagrees. In a chaotic hunt to track down Patient Zero, they come across a near century old monastery and an old medieval journal that might hold the secret to the outbreak. As the deadly disease rapidly spreads, it’s a dash to uncover the truth before countless lives are lost.

Daniel Kalla resides in Vancouver and works as an Emergency Room Physician in a major teaching hospital. He received his B.Sc. in mathematics and his MD from the University of British Columbia. Kalla also doubles as a writer, managing a dual career. He has written a total of 11 books and his Shanghai trilogy has been optioned for feature films. He pairs his job as a physician to the themes and concepts of his novels. This includes Kalla’s first medical thriller, Pandemic, which was inspired by his experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003. Kalla has appeared on ABC, FoxNews, NBC, CNN, CBC Radio, The National Post, City TV, The Vancouver Sun and many more. Kalla now works as a clinical associate professor and the department head of St. Paul’s Hospital ER.


By Amy Spurway

Release Date: March 26, 2019


Crow is about Stacey Fortune, known to most as Crow, who is diagnosed with three inoperable brain tumours that send her running from her glamorous life in Toronto to her mother’s trailer home in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Everyone in her hometown believes that Crow’s family is cursed. Crow decides to write a memoir to stun all. She’ll dig into her family’s past, investigate the alleged curse and uncover the mystery of her father, who vanished before she was born. Crow contends with an electric bunch of characters that add more flavour and spice to her memoir and her life. Crow by Amy Spurway is a witty, energetic and humorous tale of twists, drama and soul.

Amy Spurway was raised in Cape Breton, which influenced the setting of Crow. At the young age of 11, Spurway landed her first writing and performing jobs with CBC Radio. From there, she worked as a communications consultant, editor, performer and speech-writer. Spurway’s work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Babble, and Elephant Journal, as well as Today’s Parent. She currently resides in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

This One Looks Like a Boy

By Lorimer Shenher

Release Date: March 31, 2019


Lorimer Shenher’s This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man is an honest memoir of his gender transition. It is an inspiring coming-of-age story that embraces identity.

This memoir is thoughtful as Shenher shares his life experience of his gender journey from his childhood to adolescent experimentation to early adulthood denial of his gender identity.  This One Looks Like a Boy brings the reader on Shenher’s journey of self discovery and finding acceptance.

Shenher is an author, the former head of the Missing Persons Unit in Vancouver, and is also an influential public speaker. He speaks on a large spectrum of topics, including police culture and its impact on society in relation to the fight for human rights of marginalized people. Shenher is recently retired and the recipient of a MA in Professional Communication (2017). He is now a full-time writer in multiple media and has experience as a reporter and photographer, as well as a film extra and a TV technical consultant.

Immigrant City

By David Bezmozgis

Release Date: March 12, 2019


Immigrant City is a collection of short stories written by David Bezmozgis that all focus on the lives of immigrants. Immigrant City, the titular tale, tells the story of a father and daughter duo who find themselves in an unusual version of his immigrant childhood. These tales create a sense of wonder and journey as the underlying themes play with self-discovery and following one’s heart. Within these enriched stories, Bezmozgis presents complex immigrant characters in a heartfelt demonstration.

An award-winning writer and filmmaker, David Bezmozgis has had his work published in The New Yorker, Harpers, Zoetrope All-Story and The Walrus. Bezmozgis has also written Natasha and Other Stories, a story collection and novels such as The Free World and The Betrayers.

Bezmozgis’ first feature film, Victoria Day, premiered in competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has received a Genie Award nomination (Canada) for Best Original Screenplay.

He graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and now lives in Toronto.

Mickalene Thomas' Femmes Noires highlights Black femininity and inequality in the modern era

By Will Lofsky

Mickalene Thomas, an African American artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., has outdone herself with her first major solo exhibition in Canada, Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

While managing to address the complexity of African femininity, Thomas highlights powerful black celebrities and the struggle for representation and inequality in the modern era.

Known for her multifaceted contemporary work, Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires, features collage, silk-screen work, photography, installations and videography pushing the boundaries of modern art. The living rooms are interactive, and art fans can sit down and take in the films and paintings while exploring the exhibit.

Two living room installations at either end of the showcase feature HD videos with silk-screen paintings along the surrounding walls for her Los Angelitos Negros piece and the Groundbreaking Black Women section, which includes many abstract portraits of celebrities and the highlight reel titled Do I Look Like a Lady? (Comedians & Singers).

Los Angelitos Negros combines Eartha Kitt singing her 1953 track of the same name with a collage of Thomas and two other women split into different screens emphasizing eyes and lips to a song about Western Christian art’s lack of black angels throughout history. The 23 minute, 8-channel, coloured short film split between four video monitors is both amazing and painful as Kitt’s passionate voice echoes around the large room in a performance sure to give you chills.

Mickalene Thomas.  Los Angelitos Negros , 2016. Courtesy of the artist. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Los Angelitos Negros, 2016. Courtesy of the artist. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Thomas uses 12 minutes worth of discussions on vulnerability, sexuality, femininity and passion in Do I Look Like a Lady? to explore the theme of inequality that exists in and out of the art world. Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Adele Givens, Whitney Houston and Nina Simone are amongst some of the icons Thomas showcases through a combination of monologues, short clips, songs and performances.

On the wall opposite to the short film, the silk screened acrylic mirror work called Diahann Carroll shot with a Polaroid and touched up on Photoshop reflects light around the room as part of a stunning series on black presentation, representation and female identity.  

Mickalene Thomas.  Diahann Carroll #2 , 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Diahann Carroll #2, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Another long, beautiful silkscreen on an acrylic mirror in the Groundbreaking Black Women area called Naomi Sims mounted on wood is split into multiple pieces and features a large colour spectrum with Sims looking proudly off into the distance.

Mickalene Thomas.  Naomi Sims #2 , 2016. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Mickalene Thomas. Naomi Sims #2, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. © Mickalene Thomas / SOCAN (2018).

Spanning the entire fifth floor of the AGO, minutes can turn into hours staring at Thomas’ amazing body of work. The more you look, the more you appreciate the scrupulous attention to detail in every piece.

Fortunately, the breathtaking exhibit will be open until March 24 at the AGO. Do yourself a favour and check it out. You will not be able to find anything like this in Toronto.

Winter weather got you down? Warm up at #The7TO

By Chloe Cook

The7 is a brand new installation in the heart of downtown Toronto aimed at curing cabin fever and sprucing up Instagram feeds across the city.


The7 is open to public until the end of the season. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

When’s the last time you were able to dive straight into a ball pit? For most of us, it was at a first grade birthday party, but for me, it was just a few weeks ago.

Severina Chu, CanCulture Food Editor, in The7’s ball pit room. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Severina Chu, CanCulture Food Editor, in The7’s ball pit room. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

A couple CanCulture editors and I took a trip to see the highly talked about exhibit, The7, an installation geared towards Torontonians who are battling cabin fever during the cold winter months. We weren’t disappointed with the bright backdrops or giant props and we were snapping insta-worthy pictures in no time.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Hidden away on the seventh floor of the Hudson’s Bay on Queen St., The7 consists of eight wildly wacky rooms, each with a different joyful theme, for anyone to come and have a fun mid-winter photoshoot. The rooms range from the absurd to the trippy, but all of them are sure to give you some great content for your Instagram feed.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

With so much variation, there is sure to be a room that fits even the most rigid Instagram theme. There are unicorns, dinosaurs, giant cake, flamingo legs coming out of the ceiling and much, much more.

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

(CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

While our trip was fun, you’ll have to be prepared for crowded rooms and patiently waiting for strangers to walk through your shot, which can be a little frustrating. Once you claim your stake though, you’ll be on your way to some picture perfect shots.

5 Black Canadian authors you should be reading right now

By Chloe Cook

February is Black History Month, and there’s no time like the present to start reading some of Canada’s most celebrated black authors.

Dionne Brand

Photo courtesy Pearl Pirie/Flickr

Photo courtesy Pearl Pirie/Flickr

Dionne Brand is an award winning poet, novelist and documentarian. Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1953, Brand moved to Canada after high school to attend the University of Toronto. In 2017, she was admitted to the Order of Canada. Brand is also an outspoken activist for women’s and immigrant issues in Canada.

Dionne Brand’s must read: What We All Long For. This is a story of a group of friends who are learning to balance the difficulties that young adulthood and life throw their way. Based in Toronto, this novel shares stories of people from all different backgrounds and shows a true representation of Toronto’s diversity.

Esi Edugyan

Photo courtesy Daniel Harasymchuk/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Daniel Harasymchuk/Wikimedia Commons

Esi Edugyan is a black fiction novelist from Alberta, Canada. She wrote her first book, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which gained critical acclaim at just 24-years-old. She often writes about the black experience from a historical perspective, showing that the themes from yesterday still hold true today.

Esi Edugyan’s must read: Washington Black. In the latest novel by Edugyan, Washington Black is an 11 year old boy who is born and raised on a plantation in Barbados until his master’s brother chooses him to become his personal manservant. Washington Black explores the complexities of relationships and freedom in this deeply moving tale.

Dany Laferrière

Photo courtesy Nemo Perier Stefanovitch/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Nemo Perier Stefanovitch/Wikimedia Commons

Dany Laferrière is a French Canadian author whose many literary works have garnered a lot of attention throughout the years. He was born in Haiti and moved to Canada in 1978 where he began a career as a journalist. Shortly thereafter, he made the jump into fiction writing in 1985. While his works are written in French, they are mostly all translated into English for us anglophones to enjoy.

Dany Laferrière’s must read: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired. Published in 1985, this novel launched Laferrière’s career. Provocative, witty and charming, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, gives a biting look into the life of a Black man living in Montreal.

Lawrence Hill

Photo courtesy Nigel Dickson/Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Nigel Dickson/Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Hill is a wildly popular novelist from Newmarket, Ont. In his youth, Hill sought to be an Olympic athlete but turned to writing as a teenager. He started his career in journalism and eventually became the parliamentary bureau chief for a newspaper in Ottawa where he covered Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court before moving to Spain to write fiction full time.

Lawrence Hill’s must read: The Book of Negroes. Easily Hill’s most popular book, The Book of Negroes tells the story of Aminata Diallo, a young woman who escapes her slave owner after being abducted from her village. She goes on to work for the British Army, creating The Book of Negroes, a ledger with all of the names of slaves that were freed by the British side during the Revolutionary War. The Book of Negroes is a real document that can been seen in the National Archives in London, England.

André Alexis

Photo courtesy vabookfest via Instagram

André Alexis has gained a lot of buzz recently for his fictional works. He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1957 and moved to Ottawa where he started a career in theatre. Throughout his stage career and up until present day, he wrote novels and short stories. Alexis now lives in Toronto where he continues writing while also teaching english and creative writing at the University of Toronto.

André Alexis’ must read: Fifteen Dogs. This follows the story of 15 dogs who are given human consciousness after Greek gods, Hermes and Apollo, make a wager in a Toronto bar one night. Fifteen Dogs studies the human condition and its many complexities as the dogs adapt to their newfound capabilities. Make sure to keep an eye out for all of the Toronto landmarks named in this novel, too!

Valentine’s Day poetry event at Union Station intrigues local commuters

By Alexander Sowa

‘Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines’ lets travellers get a personalized love poem written by one of seven professional Toronto poets

Union Station passersby were encouraged to engage in early Valentine’s Day festivities by allowing Toronto poets to personalize a poem for them.

Commuters and visitors were invited to sit down, enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate and doughnuts while the poets did their work.

“You sit with a person in an intimate space, at a desk. Not across the desk, but together. And you just ask them questions. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart? What do you think of when you think of train travel?” said Kate Marshall Flaherty, organizer of the event.

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Flaherty continued to explain what the participants could expect at the end of their session with their Toronto poet.

“Eventually, as any poet will tell you, you get an image or a spark or an idea, and then you write for a minute or two. And then you read it to the traveller. Even amongst ourselves when we did it, it was very powerful. I can only imagine what it must be like for an unsuspecting traveller,” she said.

Hannah Martin, a marketing company owner, said that it was interesting to have someone attentively listen to what they had to say, as well having questions posed to them that people would not normally ask.

“(The poets) ask you questions … like ‘What is it in your life that’s going on that you need this for?’ And then you have to think about it,” said Martin.

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, one of the poets, described the writing process as wonderful and intimate.

“It feels like you create a space very quickly where people aren’t strangers anymore, very fast. But it’s tough because with only a couple of questions, you have to get a whole bunch of images to put in the poem,” he said.

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Chloe Catan, the public art program manager for Waterfront Toronto, said that she gained a great admiration for the poets.

“I decided that I wanted to give my husband a poem for Valentine’s Day. I told Dominique the story of how we met in Mexico City. He listened to me for a few minutes, and then wrote a beautiful poem. I’m really happy,” said Catan.

‘A big first step’

The event, “Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines” was presented by the League of Canadian Poets.

According to Ayesha Chatterjee, the league’s former president, they are a “non-profit organization whose mandate is to encourage and promote poetry in Canada, as well as Canadian poets.”

This event is the first of its sort to be held by the league. “We usually don’t do events. Usually what we do is we’re in the background, we help to provide funding, we tweet, we use social media, we do stuff like that. We have an annual lecture at a conference, but this is the first time we’ve done anything quite like this. It’s a big first step,” said Chatterjee.

Flaherty emphasized that it was important for the poets involved to be from Toronto and showcase diversity.

“We really tried to have a cross-section of Toronto, which I think is the most multicultural, most diverse population in the world. It’s really important that we covered a microcosm of the world in Toronto,” said Flaherty.

The seven poets involved are all Toronto residents - Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Ronna Bloom, Michael Fraser, Suparna Ghosh, Jessica Hiemstra, Rajinderpal Pal and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

The Right Time

Flaherty said that she was inspired to create the event in 2017 after being sent a video of “The Poet Is In,” a similar event that was held at Grand Central Station in New York.

Since Union Station had just been renovated, she said that they were working hard in order to make it accessible, arts friendly and community wide.

Flaherty said that she hopes to make this an annual event and that they are working with Union Station to make it happen.

If you are interested in more events like this at Union Station, you can view a full calendar of all the free activities they offer at

Gods in My Home gives an in-depth look at Chinese Lunar New Year traditions

By Chloe Cook

A shrine meant for holding spirit tablets or tablets of ancestors used for worship, 1644 - 1911. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

A shrine meant for holding spirit tablets or tablets of ancestors used for worship, 1644 - 1911. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

With the 2019 Chinese Lunar New Year festivities just beginning, the Royal Ontario Museum has installed a new exhibit that looks at the long-standing traditions of the festival.

Gods in My Home displays many different paintings, prints and artifacts from the 1900s, and beyond that shows the joyous time that is the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Traditionally, artworks like prints and paintings were hung in the main hall of a home to bring good fortune to the family in the new year. Gods in My Home showcases the kinds of art that families hung to create a festive atmosphere. The exhibit is on from now until Sept. 29.

The exhibit showcases everything from traditional art, to games, to instruments. It is intended to bring Chinese ancestral paintings and traditional popular prints together to explore and examine. There are also interactive activities throughout the exhibit as well as informative videos on display.

All images in this gallery were taken by Chloe Cook.

What Exactly is Chinese Lunar New Year?

The Chinese Lunar New Year is the day of the first new moon cycle of the year which typically falls around the beginning of February or late January.

It is one of the most important holidays in China, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and many other Asian countries. The celebrations typically last for about 15 days.

Every year is represented by a different animal from the Chinese zodiac. Each animal symbolizes different traits for people born in that year, as well as predicts what the year holds for us all. 2019 is the  year of the pig, that symbolizes luck, good fortune, wealth and honesty.

Artscape creative hubs allow Toronto artists to flourish through creative expression

By Serena Lopez

If you’re not an up and coming artist in the Toronto area, you probably haven’t heard of or used a space in the city called a creative hub. Creative hubs, also known as cultural hubs, are on the rise in the arts community in Toronto and have become staple additions to the city’s established art scene.

A creative hub is a facility that is specifically dedicated to providing space and support for networking, business, development and community engagement for individuals within the creative, cultural and tech industries.

Many of the creative hubs that currently exist in the city are built under the Toronto Artscape Foundation. According to the Artscape Foundation’s mission statement, they are made up “of a group of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to creating spaces for creatives and expanding arts development in communities.” They currently have 15 developments in multiple locations in downtown Toronto.

Here’s a breakdown of some of Artscape cultural hubs that are already supporting local artists in the community:

Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw St.)

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/ Jeff Hitchcock /Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/Jeff Hitchcock/Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 2013, Artscape Youngplace is located in the West Queen West neighbourhood. It offers studio spaces for both artists and organizations for rent and hosts artistics programs and events for all ages. They offer various opportunities for artists to show off their work in their space whilst collaborating and networking with other artists both big and small.The facility also features a centre for Indigenous theatre and exhibitions that showcase underground artists’ works that are free and open to the public right in Toronto’s strongest artistic community.

Artscape Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East)

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

While most creative hubs in the city require membership, this Regent Park facility is completely open to the public and hosts a number of arts programs for youth. This facility hosts a wide range of arts related programs including dancing, art-making, singing and music with various cultural spaces open to the public and organizations. Artscape Daniels Spectrum encourages not only creative expression but to promote community building and a greater appreciation for the arts in the neighbourhood.

Artscape Daniels Launchpad (130 Queens Quay East, East Wing; 4th Floor)

Courtesy of Artscape (artscapeto) via Instagram

This 30,000 square-foot facility opened last fall on Toronto’s Waterfront and specializes in providing programs and entrepreneurial opportunities for artists. With co-working spaces, workshops and innovative creative studios equipped with the latest technology, Artscape Daniels Launchpad inspires and gives artists a way to expand on their work.

Toronto-based filmmaker, Qais Pasha, got a first-hand experience of what Daniels Launchpad had to offer through a program the hub launched in the summer of 2017 before it opened.

“I hadn’t even thought about a plan to make profit off of my work before starting the program at Daniels Launchpad,” said Pasha.

Having no prior professional experience through Daniels Launchpad, Pasha said he was given a grant to support the funding of his feature film project. In addition, he was also provided the tools to expand his skills and teach him how to sustain himself as an upcoming artist. Memberships are required in order to access the space and range from $50-125 per month. Artscape Daniels Launchpad also shares a joint talent space within their facilities called HXOUSE x Launchpad (a Toronto-based creative hub started by The Weeknd and his team), which also commits itself to providing creatives with the resources they need to successfully develop their ideas.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio: Embracing Indigenous art and culture through tattoos

By Bree Duwyn

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio offers a safe place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to share their passion for art.

Métis activist and tattoo artist, Toby Sicks, created the Toronto-based studio in 2017 with the aim to promote Indigenous artists while raising awareness and breaking down the stigmas that surround their communities.

“We have a beautiful place where people can come in, get together and share stories,” said Sicks.

Sicks felt like he never got the opportunity to fully express himself while working for other people or while completing apprenticeships. This kick-started his motivation to pursue a different path.

The path led Sicks to attending George Brown College where he enrolled in a community worker program in order to gain experience working with the community, as well as learn more about his culture and traditions, including anti-oppressive practices.

After getting in touch with his roots and involving himself with community events to fight against the inequality of Indigenous people, Sicks took up tattooing professionally.

A  custom chest piece  designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this  video  by APTN. (Photo courtesy of   Toby Sicks   via Instagram)

A custom chest piece designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this video by APTN. (Photo courtesy of Toby Sicks via Instagram)

In addition, he participates in charity events to raise awareness for Indigenous issues such as  fundraising events to raise awareness of youth suicide prevention in Indigenous communities, as well as missing and murdered Indigenous women and The Pipeline Project.

Sicks explained there is a lack of Indigenous tattoo studios and that by opening up his own, he could promote culture as he was influenced by his community work and the time he spent dabbling in tattoos.

“It's not just for myself per se, it's also for other Indigenous artists,” said Sicks. “I’m looking for different mediums, different designs that I’m able to put in my studio. So, I could be looking for designs from different nations across Canada, not just a specific style or person.”

Sicks exhibits a variety of Indigenous art styles inside his studio to promote diversity of culture. He displays art pieces such as paintings, handmade jewelry, custom-made merchandise and even plays Indigenous music in the studio to encourage others to appreciate different forms of Indigenous culture and art.


(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Sicks also explained the importance of giving homage to art or artists that inspire him to create tattoos and through this, gaining the appreciation for the artwork and acknowledging its origin.

“This is a way of crossing out the cultural appropriation factor, to show the appreciation for the different arts out there,” said Sicks.

There is also a chance to be educated on the origin of the tattoo, in order to put more value into the significance of tattoos as art.

“It’s a little more than just getting an Indigenous art piece on you … you’re also getting an education behind it, stories and meaning,” said Sicks. “It is very important not to lose concept of who you are as a person, the loss of identity is like forgetting who you are. You lose place in society. Once you do know your traditions, culture and place in society it's easier for you to build within your community and help the members within the community.”

Sicks believes in discovering yourself and your culture to find yourself in a positive manner within society.

A Unique Experience

While in Inkdigenous Tattoo, I found myself admiring the room with its compelling art pieces and welcoming atmosphere, making it easy to start a conversation. You can find an abundance of snacks and a comfortable waiting area within the studio which gives off a homey vibe.

Sicks enthusiasm about tattooing is contagious as he feels passion and pride in his work while exuding confidence. Sicks was also very humorous and charismatic in nature, which is excellent for making his clients feel at ease.

When a client came into the studio I found myself having the opportunity to watch Sicks, for an entire afternoon, do a cover up tattoo.

Not having seen a tattoo been done before, I took up the offer in order to benefit from the learning experience and see Sicks’ art come to life.

After deciding on a design of a three-eyed raven, inspired by Game of Thrones, Sicks drew up the piece and began the transformation.


(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

I was also able to aid in small things such as folding paper towels or helping him to use a numbing spray on the tattoo. Getting a chance to be involved and watch the process of the creation of art was a great learning experience and I felt very welcomed. I quickly came to understand Sicks’ meaning of a safe place for community to come together and share stories.

After the day was done, I felt a genuine appreciation for the patience, skill and positivity that tattooing requires.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio is located at 124 Jarvis Street in Toronto and is open 7 days a week.

Museum of Illusions offers picture-perfect educational experience

By: Severina Chu

Ready to have your mind blown? The newly established Museum of Illusions offers intriguing exhibits and installations that you have to see to believe.

With 13 other locations across the globe, the famous museum’s first Canadian location opened on Nov. 7 and is located in Toronto (132 Front Street). The museum invites visitors to immerse themselves in an interactive environment that is fit for all ages.

Described as a “fitness centre for the brain,” the museum aims to provide a fun, yet educational experience. Guests will learn about the theories of perception, vision and the human brain through a series of sensory-stimulating rooms and installations. In addition, before departing the museum, visitors can challenge themselves to puzzles and games found in the museum’s playroom.

If you plan to check out this unique and spontaneous attraction, make sure to bring your camera with you. The museum’s exhibits provide opportunities for one-of-a-kind pictures that are sure to trick the eye as well as draw attention on your Instagram feed. Even if you come alone, the museum’s staff is more than happy to help you get the perfect picture.

Here’s a look at some of the Museum of Illusions’ most mind-boggling exhibits.

Clone Table

Feeling a little lonely? Then take a seat at the Clone Table. A section of a table is wedged in between two mirrors to create multiple versions of you. Whether you want to play a round of cards or just take a break, you’ll always have a bit of company.

clone table.jpg

(CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Infinity Room

If you missed out on the Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the AGO earlier this year, the Museum of Illusions’ Infinity Room provides a similar experience. In this room, full-length mirrors cover every wall. This installation makes this room seem endless and is brightened with colourful lights on the ceiling that provide a beautiful illusion of infinite space.

infinity room.jpeg

(CanCulture/Nuha Khan)

Rotated Room

It may seem like your average furnished living room, but take a step into the Rotated Room and you’ll suddenly find yourself walking on the ceiling. The secret to this gravity-defying picture? You’ll have to come and find out the trick yourself.

rotated room.jpg

(CanCulture/Severina Chu)


Remember that kaleidoscope toy you had as a kid? The fun of it was the endless possibilities of patterns you could create. Now at this exhibit, you act as the pattern as angled mirrors turn you into your very own large-scale kaleidoscope.


(CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The Vortex Tunnel

The Vortex Tunnel is seemingly innocent at first. It may just seem like a bridge through a room of lights, but take one step into the tunnel and you’ll be in for a dizzying experience. Though the bridge never moves, the flashy lights create an illusion of rotating walls that will have your feet trembling and head spinning.

vortex tunnel.jpeg

(CanCulture/Nuha Khan)

Ames Room

Though this may just seem like a regular room from the outside, a slanted floor plays with your sense of perception to create this funny illusion. Stand in either corner of the room and the Ames Room makes it possible to grow or shrink in a matter of seconds.

ames room.jpg

(CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Colour Room

Perhaps you’ve seen this room on your feed because this exhibit might be the museum’s most Instagram-worthy. This room plays with the science of colour and light to provide a vibrant background. Take a step inside and you’ll be sure to get the perfect aesthetic shot.

colour room.jpg

(CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Want to get the full experience? The Museum of Illusions is open seven days a week from 10 a.m to 8 p.m, with adult tickets priced at $23.50. Indulge yourself with the trippy and unique rooms the museum has to offer.

The Power Plant’s fall exhibition features engaging multi-medium art

By Natalie Michie

The Power Plant is known for their seasonal exhibitions of Canadian contemporary art. This fall, they featured five artists who presented a variety of unique multi-medium art.

Visitors were lined up around the building at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 19 for the Fall 2018 Opening Party.

Each of the gallery’s season exhibitions includes an opening party where admission is free and anyone is welcome.

This season, the gallery featured five artists: Abbas Akhavan, Vivian Suter, Elizabeth Wild, Karla Black and Beth Stuart.

With the intent of making visitors more aware of their bodies and the space they take up in a room, much of the work was created by the artists with the exact intent to be experienced in The Power Plant’s gallery.

As visitors entered the gallery, they were first introduced to Akhavan’s piece, an abstract exhibit with the theme of changing seasons.

Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

His exhibit consisted of green TV screens on each side of the room, a fountain wrapped in a tarp, a stick, and a non-working iPhone charger plugged into the wall.

“His work is left open to interpretation,” said Emily Peltier, a gallery assistant at the Power Plant.

Although there was little information about Akhavan's piece, he included a written component where he asked a group of writers to write about what came to mind when hearing the word “fountain.” Their contributions were featured in booklets available for visitors to take home.

According to Melissa Gerkup, an art enthusiast and event volunteer, the way in which art is displayed here is through one panel that gives little information and another that lists all of the materials that were used.

“The rest is left up to your imagination. It’s up to you,” said Gerkup.

In the next room of the gallery, visitors admired clusters of painted canvases that were hung from the ceiling by artist Vivian Suter.

Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Gerkup said that she felt like she was in nature by the set-up of how the canvases were hung. Canvases were painted with a wide variety of colours and marks left from elements of nature, such as visible flood stains. This, paired with visitors needing to navigate the paintings to see them all, created a forest-like feeling.

In fact, a large part of Suter’s creative process is her collaboration with nature. It all started after a hurricane flooded her studio and damaged her work. From then on, she began leaving her canvases out to allow them to be altered by the outdoor elements.

“Sometimes it is hard to focus on the individual paintings, but because everything is put so closely together it makes me think that the intent was for the work to be shown as one big piece, rather than looking at each painting individually,” Gerkup said.

As opposed to some art galleries where patrons admire pieces from afar, guests at The Power Plant were invited to walk through the pieces in order to experience them in the way the artists intended them to.

This includes the site-specific piece created by artist Karla Black, who used household items such as eyeshadow, lipstick and blush to create her aesthetics influenced piece. She included her daughter in the making of the piece by having her put her handprints on the walls around the room.

Rebecca Black, a student at the Toronto Film School, said she had a hard time visualizing the planning behind such a large-scale sculptural piece.

“I love it,” said Black, “It has me thinking, did (she) do it in (her) living room first? How does someone come up with this?”

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Beth Stuart’s work was displayed all around the Power Plant, including outdoors. Her piece had multiple aspects, such as video, and perhaps provided the most context out of any of the other exhibits.

Visitors saw the first piece of Stuart’s installation while waiting outside, where a traditional 18th-century bathing machine was installed. Guests were welcomed to enter the bathing machine, which was used in the Victorian era by high-class members of society to enter bodies of water.  

Upstairs, Stuart’s take on traditional bathing costumes were hung, and visitors could proceed through a hallway featuring sculptures that symbolize microorganisms found in the sand.

“There is a lot of elements but they are all connected,” said Nadia Nardine, a volunteer and fan of Stuart, “Altogether, it is a feminist view on the 18th century.”

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Featuring exhibits since 1987, the gallery has been popular amongst visitors and art lovers for its seasonal exhibits that are always uniquely designed and different each time.

Harry Clarke, a Ryerson journalism student, said going to The Power Plant is one of his favourite things to do. He explained that he tends to go there whenever he feels anxious.

“It is a great place for me to centre myself and remind myself of my existence because for one, the artists always have such an eloquent way of describing existence,” said Clarke, “I always cry here, but it is a good release.”

The Power Plant’s Fall Exhibition will be featured at the gallery until Dec. 20, 2018.

The Walls That Tell Stories

By Madison Wong

De Araujo’s Queen Street West Mural Project tells the history behind Queen Street West. His mural consists of real musicians, magicians, artists and more who have performed and roamed the street. (Photo courtesy of christiano_artist via Instagram)

De Araujo’s Queen Street West Mural Project tells the history behind Queen Street West. His mural consists of real musicians, magicians, artists and more who have performed and roamed the street. (Photo courtesy of christiano_artist via Instagram)

Mural art illuminates buildings, alleys, and public spaces in Toronto. They are unique in their ability to engage communities by storytelling, portraying messages and honouring remarkable people through vibrant paintings.

Mural artist Christiano De Araujo and his company have completed several eye-catching murals around the city. His most recent one tells the history and culture of Queen Street West. It consists of real artists, musicians, buskers, and others who have performed on the street.

“I love being able to express myself and who I am,” De Araujo said. “I go about my day in a constant high because I’m doing what I love.”

De Araujo said the great part about mural artists having their work displayed in public is the attention they receive from bystanders. Those who take and post pictures, ask questions and compliment their work also promote it.

Adrian Hayles’ Reggae Lane Mural at Eglinton and Oakwood.. (via  Adrian Hayles )

Adrian Hayles’ Reggae Lane Mural at Eglinton and Oakwood.. (via Adrian Hayles)

Adrian Hayles, mural artist and painter, said he enjoys the community engagement process where he gets to have open discussions with clients about what they want him to paint.

He says that it gives him insight for coming up with sketches, colour concepts and feedback from the community. “Those discussions force me out of my box and allow for extraordinary creative possibilities,” Hayles said.

Standing twenty feet tall and one-hundred feet wide, Reggae Lane is a mural at Eglinton and Oakwood avenues that Hayles takes immense pride in. It features Canadian Reggae legends from that community.

Hayles emphasizes his love for the production process and how close it was to the heart of the community. “The fact that we get to help shape communities by telling their stories and creating pieces that hopefully outlast us is very special,” said Hayles.

Nick Sweetman.jpg

Like Hayles and De Araujo, artist Nick Sweetman has also completed projects that engage the community. He has partnered with StreetART Toronto, youth groups and other painters to create vibrant paintings and community engaging mural projects.

For one particular work, he created a monumental-sized mural with STEPS Initiative, titled “In Our Hands.” Working with a group of emerging high-school artists, they were able to complete a series of four pieces on the outside of Valley Park Middle School in Don Mills.

“It was a really rewarding experience working with girls who had never done a ton of art, let alone paint a huge mural … we really bonded,” Sweetman said.

Sweetman is also proud of a wall that was dedicated to a friend who passed away in September 2017. The project was originally started by himself and another artist, but it soon evolved into a bigger community project, bringing more people involved.

“We took up an entrance of graffiti alley (in downtown Toronto) and made the mural super tall so he’s looking down,” said Sweetman.

“Mike Kennedy: Remembered in Paint” at Portland and Queen streets. Completed by Sweetman in collaboration with Wales, Tensoe2, Braes, Sight, Getso, Poser, CTR. (Photo by: Patrick Cummins)

“Mike Kennedy: Remembered in Paint” at Portland and Queen streets. Completed by Sweetman in collaboration with Wales, Tensoe2, Braes, Sight, Getso, Poser, CTR. (Photo by: Patrick Cummins)

In the early stages of his career, Sweetman was proactive in chasing jobs. Now, after gaining recognition and partnerships from past clients, he has the jobs coming to him.

Sweetman says he has always kept three main principles in his mind; First to be a nice person, second, to deliver on his word and third to work extremely hard on every project.

“Potentially everything you make is the first and possibly only thing that someone will see, so you might as well make it kickass,” Sweetman said.

This piece was edited by Jacklyn Gilmor

Rachel Rawlins: painting a passion

By: Madi Wong

Toronto artist and illustrator, Rachel Natalie Rawlins (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Toronto artist and illustrator, Rachel Natalie Rawlins (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Rachel Natalie Rawlins is a Toronto artist and illustrator who brings life to music and her muses with her paintbrush.

Inspired heavily by photography and music, Rawlins has created many unique portraits of singers and other pop culture figures.

She says that collecting ideas through photographs is similar to someone covering a song today that came out in the ‘80s. The cover is out of love for the song and a desire to interpret it in their own way.

“Different songs can evoke for me a certain mood, vibe, memory and even colour. I am inspired to visually represent what I hear and feel, to make my painting move,” Rawlins says.

“I get inspired by the mood of the subjects in photographs, the contrast, and the angles at which they are taken, to tell that story in my own way,” she says .

Rawlins is currently working on a series that strays away from her usual portraits of people: she’s turned her focus to animals.

“I love the magic and the beauty of the animals in the wild like the lions and the giraffe,” she says. “The theme will be the title of soca songs … the one that I started is of elephants and the title is Stampede,” she explains.

Rawlins holding her painting of Andre 3000, an artist, musician and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong).

Rawlins holding her painting of Andre 3000, an artist, musician and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong).

Growing up

Rawlins found her passion for art as a teenager. While attending high school in Scarborough, Ont., she decided to pursue art as a career.

“I realized work was like a job if you didn’t enjoy it. But if you do enjoy it, it’s more like a feeling of accomplishment,” she says.

This decision led her to take a two year digital media arts program at Seneca College, where she was able to learn different artistic techniques, figure drawing, and even to sketch with her non-dominant hand.

Creative Beginnings

“It’s just in me to be an artist, by nature,” she says.

“I have always loved to draw, and from that came a love for painting. I love to see how a concept that I imagine turns out in real life. I also love seeing the ways that different artists interpret the same general idea. I love to see shapes, line work, and colours move and vibrate to draw you in, remind you of something, or make you feel a certain way.”

Michael Jackson and Mos Def, artist and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Michael Jackson and Mos Def, artist and actor (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

On labels

Though she doesn’t care for labels, Rawlins says, “I do identify as a black woman artist. I am an artist who is black, [and] a woman of West Indian heritage, and loves music. And all of those things contribute to and show up in how I am inspired and tell my story artistically,” Rawlins says.

Artistic journey

Rawlins’ first big show was in 2010 for the “From the Soul” exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Rawlins created a unique set of three paintings that portrayed the same woman wearing headphones. Each of the three paintings portrayed a different emotion.


Rawlins’ ‘From the Soul’ set, (from left to right) ‘Blame It On The Boogie,’ ‘Rhythms In The Sun,’ and ‘Innervisions: Songs Of Freedom.’ (via )

Rawlins’ ‘From the Soul’ set, (from left to right) ‘Blame It On The Boogie,’ ‘Rhythms In The Sun,’ and ‘Innervisions: Songs Of Freedom.’ (via


She has participated in multiple art shows and galleries where she showcases her pieces alongside of other artists.

“I love the feeling of accomplishment after I have completed a piece … and that other people also love and want my work,” she says.

In the past, Rawlins has also given back to the community by teaching art classes for kids. She believes that arts are very important in learning, especially for young children.

Her work is promoted online and on social media, as well as online sites such as Fine Art America that have enabled her to sell her pieces as mini prints and other accessories.

Rawlins’ painting of singer-songwriter Erykah Badu  (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Rawlins’ painting of singer-songwriter Erykah Badu  (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Painting of pianist Chloe Flower (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

Painting of pianist Chloe Flower (CanCulture/Madi Wong)

The best part

Rawlins’ favourite part about her work is seeing and feeling a piece come together.

“I always begin with black. And once the black is there I am more excited to continue, adding other colours and, in some cases, building texture. I also love stepping back and looking at my progress before I fill in the background of a piece,” she explains, “Depending on what my subject is at the time, it can look as though it will walk right off of the canvas.”

This piece was edited by Jacklyn Gilmor.

Wildlife Photography 2015

By: Noella Ovid The 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) exhibition featured three Canadian photographers – grand title-holder Don Gutoski, Rising Star Portfolio winner Connor Stefanison, and 10 Years and Under finalist Josiah Launstein.

Presented by Quark Expeditions, the WPY was on tour from the Natural History Museum of London, England, at the Royal Ontario Museum from Nov. 18 to March 20.

The exhibition is now in its 51st year and made its third appearance at the ROM, remaining to be the most prestigious wildlife photography competition in the world.

Attracting more than 42,000 entries, the display showcased 100 images from amateur and professional photographers of 96 countries.

“The exhibit is one of the nicest photo displays I’ve ever seen,” said Stefanison. “Even if there are people that aren’t too interested in nature and wildlife, I would still highly recommend going to see it just because it’s really quite an interesting display.”

Stefanison started pursuing photography in 2008 and this is his second time winning the Rising Star Portfolio award. Growing up in Vancouver, most of his photos have been taken locally in British Columbia.

“I think when you’re starting out, good things to do are just shoot locally because shooting locally allows you to really work the area that you’re in,” he said. “Also you’ll know the most about your area and you’ll be able to visit those spots frequently.”

Prior to doing photography, Stefanison said he had a large nature background and got interesting in taking photos after joining a nature-based camera club with his friend and his dad.

“My family’s always done a lot of things like camping and fishing and so I knew a lot about the outdoors,” he said. “So just from taking pictures of my friends going off jumps and stuff while we were mountain biking, that kind of got my interest started.”

Stefanison’s most memorable photograph is a wide-angle sunset picture of a loon on its nest, featured in 2013.

“That one I’m proud of just because I was able to find a loon that was tolerant enough to allow an image like that and I just got to spend so much time with the animal, kind of right beside the bird for so long,” he said.

This year, Stefanison has six images included at the exhibition including one called “Night of the mountain goats.” The image frames a mountain goat with a clear, starry night sky. In order to capture the perfect photograph, Stefanison camped outside for three days to allow the goats to get used to his presence.

His advice for young photographers is “not to worry too much about gear and focus more on technique and just learning photography. And also just shooting what you like to shoot instead of shooting what you think others want to see.”

The exhibition itself was displayed in a back lit room with hallways leading visitors through different categories. These included earth’s environments, earth’s design, first shoots, documentary and portfolio.

The tour ended with the two leading winners, Don Gutoski and Ondřej Pelánek. Gutoski visited the ROM to give visitors a tour of the exhibition himself.

“I just really like animals. I came two years ago,” said Morgan Cullen, a visitor who first came to the exhibition for a college assignment two years ago.  “I really love it. There are some great shots here.”

Another visitor, Barry Hart, visited the exhibition with his wife and two grandchildren. “We’re nature people,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll eventually be as interested as us. But we’re not photographers, we’re lookers.”