I grew up in Cape-Breton, Nova Scotia on a small island known as Isle Madame. There were no ski hills and I did not love the winters. But I did love art.
When I was a kid, I submitted entries to just about every art contest I could, often taking the top prize. I absolutely loved drawing and colouring and was certain that one day, I would go to art school and become an artist.
But that was not in the cards.
When I left for university, reality set in. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for university, so if I was going to go, it would have to be funded solely by student loans. I knew that I would be accruing large debt load, and that eventually I would have to pay for it. I wasn’t confident that I could do that in a competitive art world, especially one known for its “starving” members. My dream of becoming an artist was curbed. Instead, I studied science and eventually became a physiotherapist.
I practiced at a sports clinic for several years. That’s where I met my future husband. Maybe I would have found my way back to the arts, but he was a key player in accelerating this journey. When we started dating, he learned that I loved art, so he bought me an easel that he gifted to me our first Christmas in Fernie. For the very first time, I dabbled with paints. I started with acrylics, and a few years later when we got married in Fernie, I painted a piece for him, of him and his buddies, ski touring in the Bonnington Range of the Selkirks. His wedding present was my first fully completed work with paints.
Life got busy. I learned how to ski, worked at a busy practice, had babies, left the practice, did some health promotions, and pursuing art was pushed to the very back burner. I did, however, take sporadic art courses here and there, including figure drawing and an introduction to oils. I found that I absolutely loved working with oils, but like most busy moms, finding time for my craft was my biggest challenge.
It was a few months before COVID, that I really started to paint. I painted a few paintings that I shared on social media, the paintings were scooped up, and people reached out for commissions. That support provided confidence in my abilities. When COVID hit, my health promotion contracts were wrapping up, and suddenly I had more time. My kids were at an age that I could manage doing more of what I loved. And so, in COVID, I painted just about every day.
Over the years, I also learned to love the winters. We have been coming to Fernie for the past 20+ years. It is where I learned to ski and where I watched my kids learn to ski. As a family, we have had so many great experiences in Fernie, and it has heavily influenced what I create. I am drawn to paintings with thick brush strokes, bright colours, and whimsical scenes that elicit happiness. I love seeing girls in sports, particularly confident and fierce on their skis, and that shows in my pieces. I also like to add some “funny” in my work because I think we could all use laughs in our lives. With the explosion of digital art, I believe that there is value in one of a kind original art, where you can find perfection in the imperfections.
Every day, when I pick up my brushes, I feel this immense gratitude for the support I have received from friends, family, and clients, but also for organizations like the Fernie Arts Station. The Arts Station, a true gem in Fernie, supports emerging artists, by providing a venue for exposure. I cannot think of a better way to kickstart 2022 than having my pieces displayed there, diving into this new art world, and enjoying everything about the ride.
To learn more about Van Colden, visit vancoldenart.com. Her exhibit, Shredding with the Littles opens at the Arts Station on December 20, 2021 and will be on display most of January.