Jill Janvier on becoming an artist


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The name Janvier is familiar to many, especially in the arts community. You can find the name carefully scribbled under the brightly colored styles of famous native artist Alex Janvier. But it is also found on the canvases of Jill Janvier, Alex’s daughter.


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41-year-old Lakeland resident Jill Janvier grew up outside of Cold Lake on the Cold Lake 149B First Nations Reserve. As a child, Janvier found herself surrounded by art, of course. But it wasn’t just his father’s work that Janvier admired.

“The bush was all around us when we were growing up, and it was a lot of fun,” January said.

From an early age, she felt a deep connection and a deep respect for the land around her. “There is a natural connection to all the places I have been, and to this day it is not just the memory of my childhood, I always go there, I always go out and walk,” he said. -she adds.

When not exploring the Alberta wilderness, Janvier was a dedicated student. Determined to refute negative stereotypes associated with her Indigenous heritage, she studied hard throughout middle and high school.

Looking back, Janvier can see glimpses of his creativity surfacing. She remembers going all out for homemade gingerbread houses, splurging on her own candy decorations every holiday season. Even in academics, her inner artist took a peek when she spent 20 hours creating a detailed depiction of the Great Wall of China for a project title page.

“I’ve always loved beautiful designs,” she says. “I love the color. I liked doing something aesthetically pretty.

Despite these inclinations and her father’s work, Janvier said she did not consider being an artist a viable career option. It wasn’t until she enrolled at the University of Alberta after graduating from high school that Janvier created what she considered her first work of art.


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For one project, Janvier drew on more than a simple appreciation of color.

“There is a feeling I had about my nephew and I wanted to represent him… and recognize him for the gift he had to come to our family,” she said. “[Art is] realizing that you can translate that feeling, idea and connection that you have, and I’ve never really tried to do that before.

Janvier received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alberta in 2002 and a major in Native Studies. She took her diploma back to her own First Nation and used it to plan cultural events in the community and manage studies in the same land she explored as a child.

In 2011, Janvier also started working for his parents, Alex and Jacqueline Janvier, at their studio outside of Cold Lake. As director curator, alongside her father, she decided to enroll in an online photography course.

“What surprised me a little is that I got up at 5:30 am to go and capture the sun[rises]. And I’m not the person who gets up very early every morning, ”she said.

“I caught myself a little bit like ‘I like that, it’s a natural motivation for me, and I don’t have to force it anyway.'”

Over the next four years, Janvier wondered if art was a profession worth pursuing. In 2015, she jumped straight into the deep end – Janvier applied to the University of British Columbia for a fine arts degree.

At first, she was reluctant to leave her full-time job in her parents’ studio. But the desire to finally embrace her inner artist triumphed over the guilt, and Janvier moved nearly 2,000 km from home with her two young children.


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Suddenly, art was January’s job. Do not look at or be surrounded by art. Do not assess or categorize s. His job was to create. To finish.

And creating she did. Completing a four-year-in-three program, Janvier said his studio classes allowed him to find his own style and artistic voice. As a young girl, Janvier remembers attending exhibitions and meeting artisans like Bill Reid, a Haida painter and jewelry maker. But through dedicated study and practice, Janvier has captured his own unique style.

She remembers a classmate saying that his paintings floated between the real and the abstract, never quite either. Janvier was not impressed with the comments, but she has since grown to embrace the dichotomy.

“Nobody says you have to do realism, or nobody says you have to do 100% abstract. I like to think that if I’m doing 50/50 but it’s still my job, I’m comfortable with it. Because to me that’s what it looks like at the end of the day, if I like what it looks like.

Graduating from her second degree in 2018, she moved home and returned to work at the Janvier studios, happy to be surrounded by her family again. But this time, Janvier was looking for more.

“I have my day job… but I dream of this freedom that I’m not going to work for someone and my day just creates,” she said. “It’s the bridge I’ve been dreaming of lately. And it’s soon, I think it’s coming for me.

January is preparing to publish his recent oil paintings on his website for purchase. Besides selling original artwork and prints, she is also eager to impart her skills through her own art classes.


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No specific plan has yet been made, but after being approached by a local woman seeking a mentor for her granddaughter, Janvier said she always came back to teaching the children. others.

“I’m really interested in what people want to create, naturally. What are they inclined to do, even if it’s just cutting up pieces of cardboard and sculpting something. It’s art to me, ”said Janvier. “We should open our minds to the creativity that is so unexplored right now, and I think it is in all of us,” she added.

In addition to painting and photography, Janvier is also a 3D artist and has created multi-room installations celebrating her diverse heritage. A descendant of the Denesulines and Saulteaux First Nations on her father’s side, and of the Irish, Welsh and Ukrainian lines on her mother’s side, Janvier is no stranger to the march between worlds.

The different facets of his heritage have often clashed; white and non-white, native and non-native. But by hand-sewing and braiding recycled fabric, Janvier was able to reconcile the different sides of herself, and her intention is to do the same for Canadian communities amid the ongoing finds of collective graves at residential schools. Indians.

“Empathy is a good word. It’s a good thing to feel when you know your relative or neighbor is going through a difficult time. They are stuck in grief. They are stuck in trauma. They are triggered, ”said Janvier.

She says being informed and supporting injured communities is an important part of healing. “And the same way I approach my art, I think there is a lot of good in having a good intention, and even a prayer,” she added.

January’s work can be found on her website and instagram page.



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