Every visual arts graduate would love to be able to claim that they've spent every waking minute since convocation working on their chosen craft. Most realize soon after graduating, however, that this will not be the case.
Take Joanne Snook-Hann, 34, graduate of the first class of the fine arts (visual) program at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in 1992. While her job as a graphic designer at Robinson Blackmore is certainly visual arts related, it's not what she set out to be.
"I'd like to be able to make a living at my work," she says. "Not off commissions and freelance, but off my own paintings because that's where you find the most satisfaction."
In her fourth year at Grenfell, Joanne focused on painting - watercolours for the most part, featuring florals, glass and crystal.
She remembers Grenfell as a "really classical school, a really good experience."
"I met all sorts of interesting people, friendships I still have now," she says.
Joanne devotes two to three days a week and some nights on her artwork - "as much time free time as I can find on painting."
"Really, I would like to only paint," she says, adding that, in the meantime, she puts her skills to work through layout and design at RB. "Knowing how to draw and knowing colours has helped. I draw a theme character for RB's flyers…so it's somewhat related."
Over the past five years she's illustrated a series of children's books by author Katherine Simpson. The result is four books with beautiful illustrations that capture the minds and hearts of all who read them: There are no Polar Bears Here, A Viking Ship for Brendan, Sailor, the Hangashore Newfoundland Dog and The Turnip Top Pony.
She admits that it can be tough for fine arts graduates when they first come out of school. But she says the hard work is worth it.
"It's worthwhile to do what I want," she says. "It's good for students to see what people can do. The bottom line is that it's difficult to live on painting until you get established. Most people I know are working."
Chris Bennett, 28, a visual arts graduate of the class of '96, has decided to work on his own terms. He opened his custom framing business and art gallery, State of the Arts, not long after convocation.
At Grenfell, he dabbled in many art forms: sculpture and painting, printmaking and oils.
"Grenfell opened doors to be creative and make a living for myself," he says. "The small class size had a lot to do with it. In a lot of schools you're just a number. At Grenfell the professors are really top notch, there's a lot of one-on-one help."
His business has two components - the art gallery and custom picture-framing. He caters mostly to artists who are just starting their careers, whether graduates from the college or commercial crafters in the community.
Chris says his time at Grenfell prepared him well for the creative part of his business.
"It's a great creative outlet," he says of the framing component. "It's definitely related to my studies, from the perspective of the principles behind art: colour, shape and form. That understanding gave me a head start."
With respect to the art gallery component, his studies have made him more confident in talking about the process, concepts, and techniques involved in the artwork. He understands what the artist has accomplished, and is able to communicate that to potential buyers.
Chris looks forward to expanding his business, which has been extremely successful so far. In five years, he hopes to be a leader in the framing industry on the west coast with a larger staff to help him. And, he reasons, he'll have more time to get back into painting and print making.
"I'm not doing anything in the way of painting now - the business takes up all my time, but I want to get back to it now more than ever. In the past I've done well with artwork - I've sold just about everything I've done. I just have to find the time, and that'll happen. I'm not giving up, that's for sure."
© Copyright 2002 Memorial University of Newfoundland
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