Colleen Gray – artist, teacher, Governor General of Canada Volunteer award winner. Her technique uses ground mineral watercolour on synthetic paper. Colleen’s unique visionary art is self taught.
In Colleen’s own words:
I decided some time ago that my art would serve a higher purpose. When I discovered my Indigenous heritage, I discovered the purpose. The medium I work in comes with its share of challenges, but even those are fun.
It’s a serene process and when taken seriously, this medium has the ability to calm and soothe the mind and heart. When I paint, I often find that peace within me that a busy world forbids. I could spend hours watching the ebb and flow of the paint and water on the surface of the page, marveling in the ever-shifting and moody patterns and the expanding pathways of iridescent water. This is a very unusual medium that has a way of separating mind and body to create a beautiful disconnect that leaves one feeling rested and creative, regardless of skill level. My “studio” is our dining room table, complete with insufficient lighting and canine foot warmer, a wall of drums, and pictures of my Elders living and gone, who watch over my work and inspire me to live in a good way.
In the quiet time of creation, I often feel subtle messages whispered through the ether and I do my best to tell the story of the piece being created. Over twenty years of Indigenous teachings, ceremony and of living the way of the Good Red Road has been a dependable vehicle that has carried me to this place as a visual storyteller. I have been pioneering techniques in this craft because none have been pioneered before. There are only a very small number of artists working with ground mineral watercolour on synthetic paper and I’ve taught most of them.
I hope to teach this painting technique to students in Pikangikum First Nation (Ontario) at the beginning of April 2020. It will be the first time in Canada that Indigenous students will be learning this medium in their school. These communities are isolated places, many of which are riddled with 3rd world conditions of poverty and hopelessness. They are also blessed with stunning scenery, the warmth of community and the strength of their culture.
I have always felt that art is a powerful form of healing bringing self-awareness, and creative engagement. It breaks boredom from isolation and ignites the imagination. Indigenous youth on a reserve receive 30% less funding than all other students in Canada making access to quality art supplies nearly impossible. 100% of the proceeds that I earn from the sales of my work go into Art For Aid. Running this project is hard work that requires personal sacrifice from my family, but they do it happily, knowing the difference this small effort makes when boxes of art supplies roll into a school.
June 2019 saw my efforts reaching new heights of recognition when I was awarded a Governor General of Canada Award for Volunteers. Words can’t describe an honour like that and I have every intention of using that honour to further my efforts to put quality art supplies into more schools.