ArtLuck: Origin Stories

Every ArtLuck takes on a different character. The people who attend and share give each gatherings a unique flavour. A theme often emerges to define an ArtLuck–a thread to tie each offering together. 

March 30 landed in the middle of spring break, which meant five kids joined their parents for ArtLuck. Five, where there are usually none. I love it when kids share their work. Their unfiltered comments are refreshing. 

As I look back, the kids helped define this ArtLuck’s theme. This outing was all about origin stories. What inspires and shapes us. How we become artists, if we are willing to call ourselves artists at all.

Edward van Vliet

Edward van Vliet is no stranger to ArtLuck. He starts off the night with two poems, and the sad news that one of his favourite poets, Derek Walcott, is now dead. Amid a year that has shed so many creative icons, Walcott is the sucker punch for Edward. 

He reads us one of Walcott’s poems, and then reads us his own poem in response to Walcott’s death. He asks for our feelings and feedback and we offer those, but conversation shifts toward the meaning of a loss like this. 

How do our creative heroes shape us? What does it mean when a singular voice goes silent? How far do those reverberations spread? How many lives does one person touch, and can that voice–Derek Walcott’s voice–ever be replaced?

Edward van Vliet wrote a new poem every day for #napowrimo (National Poetry Writing Month). You can discover his treasure trove of works at

Aden van Vliet

Edward’s son Aden shares next. He’s brought a sketchbook full of Manga-inspired characters and gestural figure studies. Many of these have been done in the free hours a spring break provides in youth. Remember the way a week seemed to last a month? The way you could have built a working rocket if you just had the right materials?

Adan is 12, but his drawing skill exceeds many of us in the room. We ask him how he’s learned. The answer should come as no surprise. YouTube, that great creative mentor of our age. We learn that YouTube offers a series of live model videos with time limits to practice quick gesture sketches without having to hone in on small details. 

Kaye Li

Kaye Li is next, and this is her first time at an ArtLuck. She’s brought us some examples of her street photography. Kaye is a leader of the Edmonton Shutterbugs, a MeetUp group of over 700 local hobbyist photographers who gather for practice shoots, workshops, or to use their photographer superpowers to serve others (like they did for our recent Pictures of Pictures event). 

Of all the photographic styles Kaye has explored, street photography is her favourite. For Kaye, street photography is about searching the world around for interesting things, or moments, and capturing those. It requires attentiveness, and a little bit of stealth and bravery, we learn. 

One particular photo is a favourite of Kaye’s. It shows two strangers on a subway, visibly different in so many ways, yet willing to cuddle up as subways sometimes require. It’s a beautiful, hopeful image. 

Esther Moore

Esther Moore is back with us for her second ArtLuck, and this time she’s brought drawings. She’s quick to tell us she is not an artist–not a ‘real artist’ anyways–which just begs a sprawling conversation about what an artist is, and who gets to use the term. Kerry Donahue recently wrestled with this in her post on our blog, ‘Are You An Artist?’.

As Esther’s drawings make the rounds, and I remember her beautiful words from the last ArtLuck, I have no doubts the word ‘artist’ is hers to use, should she want it. 

Esther is just returning to drawing after a very long break, and she’s not sure which direction to go. She shows us many portraits, obviously laboured over with shading and detail. One sketch in her book is less considered, but it draws us all in. There is a wildness there–a personality–that shows us something more true about the man she is drawing than we might get even from a photograph. Something is revealed about the way Esther sees this man. That is interesting. That is art.

We encourage Esther to free herself to make more of these drawings–to let go of the impulse to capture a subject with ‘perfection’. Especially since she’s set herself a goal to draw a large number of images before she can reward herself with new materials. Just burn through those drawings and go treat yourself, Esther! 

Tianna Mapstone

Tianna Mapstone shares next, because her daughter Cassidy is not yet ready. Cassidy is working on her project right now, but she’s ready to nudge her mother forward. Tianna has brought paintings and poetry, and since I had no idea Tianna even writes poetry, that’s my vote.

Tianna’s poems are full of sound–nails clanging around inside a washing machine, for example. They are wonderful to listen to, and Tianna reads them well. 

I’m surprised to learn later one that Tianna hasn’t read these aloud before. Perhaps tonight was an origin story for Tianna Mapstone, the poet. 

You can find some of Tianna’s paintings at . For her poetry, for now, you might just need to come to an ArtLuck.

Pat Hidson

Pat Hidson is with us for the first time and she bursts out of the gate with a dynamic story about her life, as told through her art. She has come prepared with several pieces which she lays out on the floor for us, as she tells us the hardships she’s faced, and overcome, in her life. 

Pat has moved from a space of repression towards freedom, and the work she shows us opens up over time with new colour and articulation. We begin in a grey fog, but end in a collection of delicate, colourful flowers. 

I’ve never experienced art-as-storytelling in this way before, and I’m grateful that Pat feels this is a safe space to reveal her story to us, although we’ve never met. 

I hope this is not the last time we see Pat, and that we continue to watch her story, and her art, unfold. 

Bridget Gryschuk

Bridget Gryschuk has brought us her adorable little crocheted cacti. 

Bridget is half of Club Kitsch, a new duo crafting crocheted sculptural pieces for the home. At this point they focus on cacti. These succulents won’t die, and who wouldn’t want a cactus you can hug? There is plenty of fawning as Bridget passes her work around the room. 

It’s been great to watch Bridget develop as a creator, diving into something she loves and now sharing it with the wide world. Or at least a circle of a dozen. 

Find Club Kitsch online at

Julianna Christensen

Julianna Christensen is back with us tonight after a hiatus. She shares what that break was all about, and it’s a bit hard to hear. 

I take pride in the feedback offered at ArtLuck. People are kind and well-meaning. We try to be constructive, and feedback isn’t even required. ArtLuck is not a critique session. 


We all come to the table from different places, and even the most well-meaning critique can land on ground that is not ready for the impact. Art can be so revealing. So deep. So personally. Opening up to others is risky business.

All this to say, some number of ArtLucks back, Julianna got discouraged. She received some feedback on her work that she wasn’t sure how to take. It didn’t sit well with her. She couldn’t brush it off. 

Even so, here she is. It took courage to return to this community, but it takes real guts to admit the whole story I just told you. We labour away alone in our studios and by the time we bring forth something to the world we are just too close to it. But to get better at what we do–to bring forth the the best work we are gifted to bring forth–we need to see through the eyes of others. 

We view some new works from Julianna–works using new mediums inspired by Janet Sutanto, another ArtLuck artist. It’s apparent that Julianna takes great joy in painting, and she is having fun experimenting. 

I’m grateful she hasn’t lost that joy, or the open heart to share it. I’m grateful she’s back with us, and it seems that she is, too.

Samuel van Vliet

Samuel van Vliet is the second of Edward van Vliet’s sons to share drawings with us. 

Samuel introduces us to One Punch Man. This superhero (find his cartoon on Netflix) apparently defeats any enemy with a single punch, which leads to an existential crisis when he finds no worthy challengers.

Samuel reminds us how fun art can be, and the importance of a sharp sense of humour. He also reminds us that not all kids are playing video games or on their phones during every minute of their free time. They still stay up late drawing pictures. The world is still a good place. 

Edith Sinnema


Edith Sinnema is with us for the first time, with pottery, also an ArtLuck first. She was not sure she’d share this evening, but as I warned her, she decides the room is a welcoming space and we win her over with our desire to see (and in this case touch) her work.

We learn about grief and loss in her past, and how those things have driven her to create ‘beauty from ashes’. Perhaps working with clay is about as close to ashes as an artist can get. 

Edith has brought us ‘rejected’ pieces–those she will not sell for one reason or another. There’s something beautiful about their imperfections. Some pieces were made on the road to new skills and knowledge. Some have become personal treasures for Edith. 

I hope to see Edith back at ArtLuck very soon.

Cassidy Mapstone

As I start my closing remarks for the evening, Cassidy Mapstone, Tianna’s daughter, pipes up from across the room. We’ve forgotten her piece! She’s been working on it all night, this event becoming the origin story for a new drawing. 

Here we are, a room full of adults with some reservations about showing our work to each other. And here is Cassidy, feverishly finishing a piece so she can show if off before she has to leave. Weren’t we all like this at some point–unashamed to call ourselves artists? Unconcerned that someone my not accept our work, because we know–we KNOW–it is beautiful? 

May we find that quiet confidence again.

Our final ArtLuck of the season is coming up June 20. Come and share with us


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