5 Canadian films to get you in the holiday spirit

By Nadia Brophy

It’s that time of year again - the one that gets you seated by a warm fireplace, curled up in a blanket with hot cocoa in hand, eyes glued to the TV screen. Ladies and gentleman, it’s Christmas time, and I’d like to gift you with a curated list of some Canadian holiday favourites to get you in the mood for celebrating this special season.

1.     Coming Home for Christmas (2017)

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Nothing quite beats the feeling of flicking on the Hallmark Channel at this time of year and immersing oneself in a feel-good Christmas romance. In doing so, you may come across Coming Home for Christmas, a romantic comedy following the complicated love life of Lizzie Richfield, a house manager for an estate in Virginia. The film focuses on Lizzie’s task in planning a Christmas Eve gala before the estate is sold. During this time, she finds herself caught up in the life of Robert Marley, a member of the family who owns the estate, as she begins to fall for him while also being pursued by Robert’s brother Kip. If you’re not a huge fan of keeping up with complicated love triangles, I urge you to still give the film a chance simply for its beautiful Canadian scenery. Despite being a dual American-Canadian production, all of the scenes in Coming Home for Christmas were filmed in picturesque British Columbia. Canadians from the west will recognize the towns and landscapes of Abbotsford and Langley, B.C., which bear striking resemblance to the intricate Christmas village sets that occupy our mantles during this season.

2.     The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

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Romance is all good and fun, but perhaps you’d prefer to indulge in a bit of Christmas history. How about a biopic drama about one of the season’s most beloved authors, Charles Dickens, portrayed by Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens in the Irish-Canadian production The Man Who Invented Christmas. This film chronicles the author’s true story of emergence from financial difficulty after he publishes three novels that fail to gain success in England’s literary scene. After gaining some new-found inspiration, Dickens sets his focus on writing the renowned story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, A Christmas Carol. What arguably makes the film most intriguing is watching Dickens’ characters come to life as he writes them into existence. The audience is treated to humorous interactions between the author and the infamous humbug played by Canada’s own Christopher Plummer. The film’s score was written by Canadian composer Mychael Danna and features a series of ambient orchestral works that emulate the feeling of waking up on a snowy Christmas morning.

3. The Nutcracker Prince (1990)

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I think we can all agree that there’s something very special about watching animated films during this season. Perhaps it’s the giddy child in us that grew up watching The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas on repeat leading up to Christmas day. If you’re looking to feel that childlike excitement again, The Nutcracker Prince will surely fulfill that desire. Based on the classic story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, the Canadian animated fantasy tells the tale of a young man - voiced by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland - who has been cursed to live his life as a nutcracker doll gifted to a girl named Clara on Christmas Eve. When Clara finds out that the curse can be broken if the Nutcracker defeats the sinister Mouse King responsible for the curse and wins the heart of a maiden, she embarks on a fantastical journey to help her special toy become his true self once more. Part of her journey leads her to be shrunken down and transported through the Land of Dolls where Christmas is brought to life on screen through images of elegant white swans, massive evergreen forests and a towering candy palace. If you haven’t already been convinced to add this enchanting film to your Christmas to-watch list, it is also accompanied by the famed music from The Nutcracker ballet, a classic seasonal production that follows the same story.

4. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005)

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Yes, you did read that right - the ever-classic The Legend of Frosty the Snowman does indeed fall under the category of Canadiana Christmas. While the film was, in fact, a co-production between America and Canada, part of the animated tale was created by former Vancouver-based animation company Studio B Productions. The film also features the voice talents of Tara Strong, a Toronto native whose work includes Rugrats, Powerpuff Girls and Fairly Odd Parents. This classic animated fantasy is set in the fictional town of Evergreen, where children are forced to abide by a strict curfew and told not to participate in any fun activities. But that all begins to change when a black top hat escapes from a mysterious trunk that has been locked away in an attic for years and gives life to the most fun-filled presence of all - Frosty the Snowman. The magical character quickly wins over the hearts of the children in Evergreen as he encourages them to enjoy the winter season while it lasts. The plot begins to take a wicked turn when an antagonizing force leads Frosty to his demise and steals his hat in an effort to keep the town absent of fun. But that doesn’t stop the children of Evergreen from embarking on a quest to reclaim their snowy companion’s hat in an effort to restore the spirit of magic in their somber town.

5. Silent Night (2002)

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When looking for films to get us ready for this joyful holiday, we traditionally wouldn’t reach for a dark flick with intense subject matter. But for those of us who are looking for a little more depth and substance in our films - still keeping with the spirit of Christmas, of course - can turn to Silent Night, a fact-based story set on Christmas Eve during World War II. The film follows a German woman and her son who attempt to escape the dangers of war by fleeing to an isolated cabin in the Ardennes forest. It is not long before their cabin is invaded by groups of American soldiers and their German enemies. The interaction would have ended in a bloodbath if it weren’t for the mother who, after much struggle, is able to convince the German soldiers to set aside their contentions with the Americans and partake in a Christmas Eve dinner together. The soldiers eventually build unlikely friendships that supersede the tension that once existed between them. While I wouldn’t list Silent Night under the ‘feel-good’ category we’re all familiar with during the holidays, I would nevertheless label it a film that captures the spirit of Christmas in bringing people together to celebrate the season.

Thanksgiving traditions across Canada

By: Sukaina Jamil

Although Thanksgiving enjoys a celebrated history  in Canada spanning hundreds of years, what’s often lost is how this festive holiday is observed from coast to coast. It’s an official statutory holiday in every province and territory, but it may come as a surprise that in four provinces, namely, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Thanksgiving does not hold that statutory holiday status. What’s more, not every region chooses to serve the seemingly requisite turkey and mashed potatoes as the main dish.

Now that the long weekend has come to an end, let’s talk about the different spreads on tables across Canada, and try not to salivate as we go.

Let’s be real, the year-long hype that comes with Thanksgiving season is largely due to its staple fare: turkey, roasted season vegetables, some variant of potatoes and of course, pumpkin spice and everything nice.

Although you might assume that these dishes are executed in the same way across the country, most Thanksgiving dinner spreads contain some features that are unique to their region.

Residents of Prince Edward Island often spruce up their Thanksgiving starches with some lobster mashed potatoes, infusing two of the province’s most beloved ingredients. Nova Scotians opt to not mash their potatoes, but rather throw them in a stew with a bunch of other vegetables to create Nova Scotian Hodge Podge (most intriguing name ever - a must try).  

Taking a sweeter turn, pumpkin pie has become the lifeblood  of the Thanksgiving season. After all, it is fall, and what feature speaks more to our country’s love of the harvest season than the delectably saccharine pumpkin? However, no Thanksgiving spread is complete with just one dessert, which is where each province’s character emerges. Ontarians delve into decadent butter tarts, while Nanaimo bars are spruced up and served by the dozens in British Columbia. Ever heard of Saskatoon Berry Pie? It competes fiercely with its pumpkin counterpart on dessert tables across Saskatchewan.

You didn’t think we’d forget about the bread, did you? While American Thanksgiving feasts are traditionally served with cornbread, Canadians in Manitoba and Yukon combat with their bannock and sourdough bread, providing a variety tastes and textures for your palette.

Bannock can be served in many different forms, and is a traditional Métis food. Thanksgiving traditions in Canada trace back to long before European settlers came to the land to when Indigenous people would hold feasts in celebration of the fall harvest. Manitobans still include traditional Aboriginal foods in their Thanksgiving meals as a way to honour this piece of history.  

From stews and starches to pies of all kinds, no two tables in Canada are likely to look the same on Thanksgiving.

If you’re getting the urge to travel across the country and divulge in some Thanksgiving leftovers from different provinces and territories, we don’t blame you. In fact, let us know if you need some eating buddies!

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.

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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

22 Blockbusters You Never Knew Were Filmed in Canada

By Brent Smyth

While Canada may not have its own version of Hollywood, many blockbusters choose their northern neighbours to film key scenes and even entire movies! Whether to save money or the incredible scenery, here are the top 22 films to have been shot in Canada, and just wait for 16 and 21.

#1- Titanic (1997)

During the true sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Halifax was the closest port to the catastrophe, and the first to receive the distress signal. The ocean scenes in the film, which was in 1997 the most successful of all time- were shot near where the 1912 event occurred. In Halifax today over 100 victims of the sinking are buried near the port.

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#2- Twilight (2008)

Forks High School in the Twilight films in real life is the David Fraser Secondary School in Vancouver. Throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver play host to the setting in three of the four movies in the series.

(The Hollywood Reporter)

(The Hollywood Reporter)

#3- Good Will Hunting (1997)

Shot in only five months, this movie was created in Boston and Toronto, and all the movie’s famous classroom scenes were filmed at the University of Toronto and Central Technical School, not Harvard and MIT.

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#4- Interstellar (2014)

While a solid ¾ of the film is in space, the initial farm scenes and opening locations are all found in Alberta. Including Calgary, Canmore, Okotoks, Fort Macleod and outlying areas.

(MTV UK)

(MTV UK)

#5- Mean Girls (2004)

Set in Illinois, a majority of the movie was shot in Toronto at Malvern Collegiate Institute and Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, and the famous Jungle mall scene was shot in Etobicoke, in Sherway Gardens.

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#6- Inception (2010)

Truly a movie of international locations, inception takes place in England, Morocco and France. However the Fortress Mountain Ski Resort in the Canadian Rockies at Kananaskis, just outside of Calgary served as the snowy mountain fortress sequence, the deepest dream level.

(Rolling Stone)

(Rolling Stone)

#7- Billy Madison (1995)

Sandler’s character in the film progresses through all the grades of school, and the movie itself progresses through quite a few locations in Toronto, including Northern Secondary School, John Ross Robertson Junior Public School, the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa and several other locations around Toronto, Oshawa and Stouffville.

#8- Blades of Glory (2007)

Putting the city’s Olympic history to use, the film used the Montreal Olympic Stadium for the outdoor skating scenes, and the movie’s signature chase scene was shot in Montreal’s Olympic Village.

(El Parana)

(El Parana)

#9- IT (2017)

The remake of Stephen King’s clown horror finds its home in Port Hope, Ont. The local Queen Street Tattoo parlour was transformed to Derry Ice Cream for the film.

(Pop Geeks)

(Pop Geeks)

#10- The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Seemingly filmed in New York City, for four nights in downtown Toronto Yonge Street was closed for filming. And because of how accommodating Toronto’s mayor at the time had been, the Eaton Centre and the University of Toronto also play a role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#11- Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Instead of flying to France for the European scenes, film crews travelled to Montreal and Quebec City to avoid breaking the bank while still getting the european feel.

(Nerdist)

(Nerdist)

#12- The Neverending Story (1984)

Although most of the movie was shot in Germany, the alleyway Bastian finds himself chased into is Vancouver’s Blood Alley in Gastown. And at the very end of the movie, Flying Luck Dragon Falcor does a Vancouver fly-by.

(Time Out)

(Time Out)

#13- Capote (2005)

It may have been set in the flatlands of Kansas, but Capote was instead shot in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba. Some notable sites to see are the Manitoba Legislative Building, Gilbart’s Funeral Home and Stony Mountain Institution, which plays a prominent role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#14- My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Starring Canadian actress Nia Vardalos, the film may have been set in Chicago, but the filming didn't draw Vardalos far from home. A number of downtown spots including Toronto’s Greek Town played home to the film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#15- Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Although set in Wyoming, it is clear the Canadian Rockies are the breathtaking backdrop seen in the film. Sites where the filming actually took place include Calgary, Elbow Falls, Cowley and Fort Macleod.

(The Ace Black Blog)

(The Ace Black Blog)

#16- Chicago (2002)

Iconic Toronto locales such as Osgoode Hall, Queen’s Park, Elgin Theatre and Union Station all had roles in the film, and Toronto has frequently played the part of Chicago in blockbuster films, and this musical was no exception.

(Addicted2Success)

(Addicted2Success)

#17- Cool Runnings (1993)

Loosely based on the 1988 Jamaican national bobsled team that competed in the Olympics in Calgary, this movie stays true to its real-life counterparts and had a majority of its filmign done in Calgary.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#18- Juno (2007)

Although set in Minnesota, Juno was actually shot in various locations throughout Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam and White Rock, and this American-Canadian comedy has gone down as a Canadian classic.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#19- The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The highest-grossing Hollywood movie ever to be filmed in Canada, this American action film finds its locations in Toronto and Montreal, as well as globally in places such as Tokyo, Hawaii and Scotland.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#20- Total Recall (2012)

Using the aid of CGI, Guelph, Ont. was converted into a post-apocalyptic London, and Toronto location such as the  University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus and Roy Thomson Hall stood in for stations within the planet’s internal transit system, The Fall. Total Recall remains one of the largest budget films shot in Toronto.

(PLay

(PLay

#21- American Psycho (2000)

Considering the word ‘American’ is in the title, don't be alarmed when it is revealed Bateman’s office is in the TD Centre, serving as a substitute for the Seagram Building in New York City, which were both designed by architect Mies Van der Rohe. Additionally, The Phoenix Concert Theatre, The King Edward Hotel’s Consort Bar, The Senator diner and several more of the city’s now-defunct restaurants and clubs played host to Patrick Bateman and his friends on film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#22- The Revenant (2015)

Shot in Alberta, the winter it was being filmed proved difficult for the crew, as the snow started to melt before production was complete. This forced the final fight scene in the film to be shot in Argentina. Also due to the odd winter, Burnaby, B.C. was used for a few scenes.

This piece was edited by Isabelle Kirkwood

Chicken Fingers of Toronto: Top 3 Con-Tenders

By Kelly Skjerven

You know that feeling you get when you go out to eat and hate almost everything on the menu? I have always been a picky eater, and I have a pro tip for you: chicken fingers are my holy grail (unless you’re vegetarian of course, in which tofu nuggets are great). I’ve always been a picky eater, so chances are I’m ordering chicken fingers almost any time I go out to a bar or restaurant. After my many travels as a chicken finger connoisseur, I've come up with a list of three bars and restaurants that have Toronto’s tastiest tenders!

1. Duke’s Refresher + Bar

Photo: Duke's Refresher + Bar

Photo: Duke's Refresher + Bar

The atmosphere of this bar is amazing. Great music is always blasting, the drinks are delicious and the chicken fingers are of the highest stature. One day, I told my friend I was craving greasy pub fingers and we set off on a journey. We were in the downtown core and I had always wanted to try Duke’s, as it was recommended to me on countless occasions. I was not disappointed, to say the least. The menu describes the meal as “fresh, never frozen and breaded to order” and I believe it. The breading was so flavourful, and the chicken is so tender that the breading fell off of the meat completely.

2. Fran’s Restaurant and Bar

You can never go wrong with Fran’s. Or chicken fingers. Fran’s serves up some classic deep-fried chicken fingers whose flavours are only amplified when dipped in tangy plum sauce. There’s also an option to have them tossed in different sauces such as barbeque, honey garlic, hot and extra hot, which are an awesome way to vamp up your meal!. Whatever your preferred eating approach, you’ll definitely be licking the plate clean.

3. Imperial Pub

Photo: Kiara Julien

Photo: Kiara Julien

Last but not least, the ‘campus’ pub. Imperial is a great place to kick back after a long of day of lectures and labs. They’re known for offering up some of the best comfort food, such as burgers, nachos, fish and chips and much more. Their chicken fingers are the perfect amount of greasy that you’ll want to soak up after a long day. You can get them with golden-crisp fries or on a combo platter which also includes mozzarella sticks, onion rings, fries and a cheese quesadilla. You might want to bring a few friends to share with you if you’re going to opt for the platter, or eat it all on your own, no judgement here!

All three of these restaurants are perfect spots to satisfy any fried chicken craving. With individual elements that make each place’s chicken fingers unique to their menu, it’s hard to pick just one to go to! I hope you give all three of these diners and pubs a try, you’ll thank me when you’re fighting the urge to lick your fingers after.

This piece was edited by Sukaina Jamil.

Notable Canadian Oscar Winners throughout History

Oscar-season is officially over and this year brought Canada's fair share of homegrown nominees. Let's take a look back through the history of the Academy Awards to look at Canada's most notable winners. 

1. Mary Pickford

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Mary Pickford of Toronto won the second Best Actress award in Oscar history (however the first award for an actress in a talkie) for the 1929 film, Coquette. Although Pickford retired shortly after from acting in 1933, she would receive an honorary Oscar at the 1976 Academy Awards for her contributions to the world of film.

2. James Cameron

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For producing the (then) highest-grossing film of all-time, James Cameron won Best Picture, Best Director and Film Editing in 1997 for Titanic, which earned a record-breaking total of 11 Oscars.  

3. Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler

Complex.com

Complex.com

Continuing the trend of Canadian actresses dominating the early Oscars ceremonies, French-Canadian actress Norma Shearer won the Best Actress award at the third Academy Awards for the 1930 film, The Divorcee. Canada’s Marie Dressler then won the Best Actress award for her performance in the 1930 film, Min and Bill at the fourth Academy Awards.

4. Harold Russell

Complex.com

Complex.com

Despite being a disabled World War II veteran, Nova Scotia-born Harold Russell featured in the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, for which he claimed the Best Supporting Actor award. Russell lost both of his hands in combat, and received a second Oscar that night for ''bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans through the medium of motion pictures.''

5. Norman Jewison

Complex.com

Complex.com

Through the years, Jewsion’s films have won 12 Oscars- including Best Picture in 1967 for In the Heat of the Night, and have been nominated for a total of 45. He himself has been honoured as a seven-time Oscar nominee, and in 1999 received the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the Oscars.

6. Christopher Plummer

Complex.com

Complex.com

Known for his iconic role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer won his first Oscar in 2012. He received a standing ovation when he won Best Supporting Actor award in the independent film, Beginners. The then 82-year-old was the oldest person to have ever won an Oscar.

7. Walter Huston

Complex.com

Complex.com

Playing a wounded ship’s captain in Humphrey Bogart’s 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Toronto-born Walter Huston won the Best Supporting Actor award. His son John won Best Director that year for the same film.

8. Anna Paquin

Complex.com

Complex.com

Making her debut performance at just age 11, Winnipeg-born actress Anna Paquin picked up her Best Supporting Actress award for the 1993 film The Piano. That night Paquin became the second-youngest Oscar winner of all time.

9. Denys Arcand

Complex.com

Complex.com

Arcand is the only French-Canadian director in history to take home an Oscar, along with being nominated three times, all in the Best Foreign Film category. He was nominated for The Decline Of The American Empire in 1986, Jesus Of Montreal in 1989 and won in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions

10. Paul Haggis

Complex.com

Complex.com

Haggis became the first screenwriter to write two Best Film Oscars back-to-back- Million Dollar Baby and Crash in 2004 and 2005- the latter of which he directed. For Crash, he won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

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.

 

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

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

InnervisionsSongsOfFreedom-1.jpg

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.