Sooke artist Sheila Thomas and her self-portrait of Emily Carr. (Contributed)

In the footsteps of Emily Carr

Following in a hero’s footsteps sometimes means filling some pretty big shoes.

Sooke artist and writer Sheila Thomas wants to fill those shoes as she prepares to live the life of Canadian art icon Emily Carr for a year.

It’s a project that’s been with Thomas for years. She’s always loved Emily Carr because the artist chose an authentic life for herself despite the ridicule she faced.

“I started to read Carr’s books and in them she talked about the drudgery of everyday life, and the necessity to run a bed and breakfast when all she wanted to do was paint. It painted a picture of me,” Thomas, 55, said.

Thomas’ idea germinated when she took an art class with Nicholas Pearce last year with the hopes of painting Carr. There was a problem, though. No colour photo of Carr existed.

So Thomas did what she does best: came up with a creative alternative. She would rent a costume, pose as Emily Carr, have a friend take photos, and paint from that. She succeeded and the piece was shown in the About Face art show in Sidney last spring.

RELATED: Sooke painter highlights Emily Carr at all-portrait show

Now Thomas is painting a canvas for her life and will live the life of Emily Carr for one year travelling B.C. in the artist’s footsteps.

Thomas is converting a small school bus into a home in the West Coast style of Emily Carr. She plans to hit the road with her easel, brushes, paint, and her 75-pound poodle, Stroodle, early next year. Meanwhile, she’s also working on a play about Emily Carr.

“I’ve never done anything like this in the past,” she said. “I don’t think I’m too crazy.”

“I think at the heart of every creative person, they want to have time to do what makes them happy. That’s what it’s all about.”

Jan Ross, curator of the Emily Carr House in Victoria, said it’s not unusual for people to follow in the steps of Carr, or at least make her a subject of intense study.

Over the years, artists have retraced Carr’s steps, written books, and in one case learned to read by studying the artist’s writings.

“There are so many points of contemporary connectivity with Emily Carr. She was an environmentalist, feminist, and her connection with Indigenous people is so deep,” Ross said.

Thomas is drawn to Carr not just through her artwork, but her eccentricity.

“She was her own woman in a time when you weren’t allowed to have a voice,” Thomas said. “She poo-pooed society and the social status.”

ALSO READ: Victoria author pens biography on Emily Carr’s monkey

Thomas hopes to hit the road in her refurbished school bus – nicknamed Klee Wyck after Carr’s book – complete with kitchen, bathroom, seating area, toilet, shower and solar panels – sometime in January.

She’ll visit communities, talk about Carr to anyone who will listen, visit schools, and teach art classes.

There’s one thing she won’t do: dress as Emily Carr.

“I’m not that crazy,” Thomas said.

Emily Carr at a glance

• Born Dec. 31, 1871 in Victoria, B.C.

• Studies at California School of Design at 18

• Visits several southern Kwakiutl villages in 1908

• Participates in National Gallery of Canada exhibition

• Klee Wyck published in 1941

• Died March 2, 1945 in Victoria, B.C.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

New top cop coming to Sooke in September

Sgt. Brett Sinden comes to Sooke from Sidney

Two VicPD officers injured during mental health arrest

The officers sustained non-life-threatening injuries early Sunday morning

Deep Cove Chalet set to re-open following fire

North Saanich eatery says July 24 will be ‘business as normal’ following rebuild

Traffic lights out on Highway 1 at McKenzie

Major delays are expected for the morning on the Trans-Canada Highway

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Cumberland memorial ride set for deceased Island mountain biker

A memorial ride is set for Tuesday evening for the mountain biker who died in the trails last week.

Health Canada revokes licences of B.C.-based pot producer Agrima Botanicals

The agency said it notified the company of a suspension in November due to non-compliance with regulations

Deals, protests during Amazon Prime Day

The Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth says it is offering more than a million deals

Canadian national softball team wins second straight Canada Cup

Team Canada defeats Texas-based Scrapyard International in gold-medal game Sunday in Surrey

Most Read