Bull elk visiting the Leighton Studios at The Banff Centre.

Bull elk vis­it­ing the Leighton Stu­dios at The Banff Centre.

Every­one gets in a rut. Hav­ing the oppor­tu­nity to take a vaca­tion, or a phys­i­cal break from your reg­u­lar work cycle enables you to have a new per­spec­tive on things. Yes, there is a sense of com­fort to hav­ing ‘every­thing in it’s place’ in your own home stu­dio, but there is some­thing to be said for shak­ing it up, expand­ing your hori­zons and get­ting into a new space to cre­ate and imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties pre­vi­ously unthought of.

For me, I lit­er­ally “get out­side” and paint when I can, tak­ing the oppor­tu­nity to explore the Rocky Moun­tains and Kananaskis Coun­try — lit­er­ally in my front and back yard. That’s an “ele­gant solu­tion” to a one-day res­i­dency.  A great way to observe and appre­ci­ate nature and cre­ate some­thing new.

For a more in-depth exam­i­na­tion of the process or project, there is noth­ing like leav­ing my comfy home stu­dio and dri­ving a half an hour down the road to the Leighton Artist’s Colony at The Banff Cen­tre. This January/February marks the fourth res­i­dency period I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to enjoy in this cadil­lac of artist’s res­i­den­cies. I feel very lucky.

Big Blank Canvas all prepped and ready to go in the Gerin-Lajoie Studio at The Banff Centre.

Big Blank Can­vas all prepped and ready to go in the Gerin-Lajoie Stu­dio at The Banff Centre.

Nes­tled in the woods, is my favourite visual arts stu­dio — the “Gerin-Lajoie”. Com­plete with a ket­tle, toaster, small fridge and microwave, it’s my favourite place to imag­ine the “new” in my prac­tice. It’s a quiet place, no dis­trac­tions — but with all the ameni­ties that you need for your own crea­ture com­fort a short walk away. Many artists choose to actu­ally reside at The Banff Cen­tre dur­ing their res­i­dency period, and for that, The Banff Cen­tre offers won­der­ful accom­mo­da­tion, a pool and exer­cise facil­ity, sev­eral places to dine and a library that you could get lost in for the rest of your life. To me — it’s heaven on earth, all located on the side of Buf­falo Moun­tain, a sacred place to many First Nations — a place for vision quests for over 14,000 years. Fit­ting for artists to con­gre­gate and exchange on this nat­ural place for cre­ation in con­tem­po­rary times. I travel back and forth from my home, as it’s impor­tant to me to be with my fam­ily every day.

Work In Progress - Gerin-Lajoie Studio at The Banff Centre.

Work In Progress — Gerin-Lajoie Stu­dio at The Banff Centre.

I’ve been plan­ning for this res­i­dency since May of last year, after receiv­ing the news that I’d be one of three artists in res­i­dence for Gwaii Haanas National Park. Know­ing full well that I’d need some incu­ba­tion time over the sum­mer, and fol­low it with some inten­sive cre­ation time, my plans were to work on some very large scale paint­ings at the “Leightons”. News just days before Christ­mas that I was diag­nosed with breast can­cer changed that, and for sev­eral weeks, I felt as though my entire life was askew. Every­one was sad…and so was I. Hmmm…no res­i­dency, what did the future look like? Chemother­apy? Radi­a­tion? Surgery?  Paint­ing might be a thing of the past for me for quite some time, and that was the sec­ond black­est thought I could imag­ine. I won’t enter­tain the first.

It took a cou­ple of weeks to work through these issues emo­tion­ally, until finally I was able to meet with my sur­geon and get some good ideas about what I might or might not be able to expect of life in the com­ing months (and years). The morn­ing fol­low­ing the surgeon’s meet­ing, after decid­ing that a mod­i­fied rad­i­cal mas­tec­tomy to remove my right breast and lymph nodes was the way to go, I also real­ized that I needn’t put my life on hold because of this. Every­thing didn’t have to stop — but things had to change. It was a com­plete “AHA” moment. Although I had found out that I had a life-threatening dis­ease and that the road to health may be long and dif­fi­cult, I came to the total real­iza­tion that can­cer didn’t affect ME…my soul, my art or my out­look on life and that I was the only one who could adversely affect that, if I con­tin­ued to dwell on the “what if’s” instead of deal­ing with the “Wow…what I’ve already gots”, so to speak.

Can­cer can’t kill your spirit, your soul, your love of life and fam­ily. You’re in con­trol of that one, entirely.

So, with some incred­i­ble encour­age­ment from my dear friend Jen Houck, Pro­gram Coör­di­na­tor at the Leighton Art Colony, I real­ized that I should con­tinue with my work and give myself the goal of return­ing to my res­i­dency two weeks after surgery. The two weeks were up on Mon­day, and I didn’t quite make it. Drains are still in — there’s some weird nerve pain that’s hold­ing me back, but that’s okay — I need to rest and take care of my spirit and my body. I’ll get there soon!

Work In Progress: Stage 2- Gerin-Lajoie Studio at The Banff Centre.

Work In Progress: Stage 2– Gerin-Lajoie Stu­dio at The Banff Centre.

Fam­ily and Friends To The Rescue!

In the mean­time, before the surgery, my fam­ily and friends pulled out all the stops to get my stu­dio set up and help me to get as much large-scale work on the go as I pos­si­bly could. My youngest brother David who lives in Cal­gary drove in and ges­soed over forty feet of can­vas in a day! Three coats PLUS sand­ing! (We won’t talk about poor Dave get­ting locked out of the stu­dio, though.) Kevin and the kids moved a moun­tain of prepped linens and paint into the stu­dio, and unselfishly granted me the time and space to draw and get as much work done as I could before my surgery.

Friends and col­leagues came to visit and lend sup­port. I’ll never EVER for­get your kind­ness, and you know who you are…Tab, Jen, Wanda, Sarah, Lisa, Donna et al.

With the type of surgery I have, there is a dan­ger of not hav­ing full mobil­ity in one’s arm, shoul­der or mus­cles for some time. This was the biggest fear I had going into my surgery — that I would not be able to paint the way that I wanted. Nerves are del­i­cate things, and tak­ing care of how every­thing inter­con­nects requires the genius and care of a great sur­geon. Lucky for me, I have one, and he was totally on board with me…figuring out an “ele­gant solu­tion” to try his best not only to save my life, but to ensure I could paint. I’m doing pretty well right now, almost three weeks post-surgery. Life isn’t with­out it’s ups and downs, and I’m not back in the stu­dio paint­ing quite yet.…but I know I will be. Thank you, Dr. Austen, Edith, Dr. Quin­lan, Pam, Can­more Home Care, Cathie, Julie, Sarah, and all the staff at the Breast Can­cer Clinic and Rock­yview Hos­pi­tal. You have rocked my world.

Know­ing that I have a sacred space to go to has given me a goal and a direc­tion and helped me remem­ber not only who I am, but what I can accom­plish with my fam­ily and friends when we put our minds and hearts into it.

Work In Progress: Stage 3- Gerin-Lajoie Studio at The Banff Centre.

Work In Progress: Stage 3– Gerin-Lajoie Stu­dio at The Banff Centre.

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  • http://twitter.com/scout9niner Edward J

    Very nice :o)

    • http://www.janicetantonblog.com/ Jan­ice Tanton

      Thank you, Edward. :)

  • Tracey Hewitt

    Jan­ice… send­ing you love and light. May the recov­ery go bet­ter than any­one dares hope, and the res­i­dency be the med­i­cine your soul needs.

    • http://www.janicetantonblog.com/ Jan­ice Tanton

      Thank you, Tracey. Chemo is a bit rough, but I“m 1/3 of the way through. Cel­e­brat­ing the small successes!

  • dorothy lorenze

    Truly inspir­ing, Jan­ice! Thank you for shar­ing and pro­vid­ing a les­son in appre­ci­a­tion and per­spec­tive as well as focused deter­mi­na­tion and artis­tic inspi­ra­tion. Wish­ing you a speedy and full recovery.

    • http://www.janicetantonblog.com/ Jan­ice Tanton

      Thank you, Dorothy. I’m a bit slow respond­ing to blog com­ments, but is it ever nice to sign in and see all these won­der­ful thoughts.