on being an artist

and other survival strategies…
By Dymphny Dronyk


A native of Calgary, Ted Godwin studied art at the Southern Alberta Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (1951-1955) rising to national prominence with the 1961 National Gallery exhibition “Five Painters from Regina”. Joining the Faculty of the School of Art at Regina in 1964 he remained there until retirement in 1985.

Godwin was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1974 and made a Professor Emeritus in 2001. In the same year he was also given the Award of Excellence by the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and granted an honourary degree from the University of Regina.

Throughout his time as a Professor, Godwin maintained an active professional career. Over the past 47 years he has had over 100 exhibitions in regional and national venues.

Ted’s PaintingConversations with Ted Godwin, Tessa Nunn and Tina Martel, featured artists of “Painting the Big Picture” the first Annual Art Symposium – October 24 & 25, 2003, at The Prairie Art Gallery and the Centre for Creative Arts.

“… the doing of art is only part of the reality one must confront to be successful. In today’s art world you must promote yourself.”
Ted Godwin

DD: Ted, how important do you think it is for an artist to participate in a symposium like this?

Ted Godwin: It isn’t until you go to a symposium that you realize that there are many other artists in the same predicament as you, dying of terminal uniqueness.

DD: Do you think it is a handicap for artists to live far away from the mainstream places where art is happening – the proverbial boonies?

Ted Godwin: Maybe the boonies used to be more of an issue, but now with the ease of communication I think you’re probably better off to be in the boonies, away from the constant busyness of bigger places. I think it allows an artist to subscribe to and live on a more spiritual plane.

DD: You’ve said that your latest book, The Artist’s Handbook, deals with the “nitty gritty street stuff that can make the crucial difference between a winning and losing strategy”. How would you persuade a young artist to give priority to these non-artistic details?

Ted Godwin: Look, I never planned on being that successful. But then you finally start to make a bit of money and income tax comes along and says show me the bills. Then it’s a priority!


Tessa Nunn graduated with a Masters in Fine Art for the New York Academy of Art in 2002. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts as well as a degree in Anthropology from the University of Alberta. She has taught figurative painting and drawing at Red Deer College, Grant MacEwan College and has been a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta since 2002. She has won numerous scholarships and awards and is an Elizabeth Greenshiels recipient. She exhibits regularly and has shown in France, Canada and the United States. Tessa’s work is represented in many corporate and private collections including HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.


Freedom From The Known“Art is an experience, a way of life. The energy of the artistic mindset that exists amongst us can change the world.”
Tessa Nunn

DD: Tessa, what is it that you hope to share when you participate in a symposium?

Tessa Nunn: The same thing I try to do in my classes. I want to create a moment, an event, that gets everyone in the room thinking and asking questions. I believe that the artistic way of thinking is what it means to be human, and inherently that is truth. The energy of the artistic mindset that exists amongst us can change the world.”

DD: What is this mindset, what is an artist?

Tessa Nunn: Artistic thinking will show you the interconnectedness of everything, that everything is related. The spiritual and physical realm is one and the same. After what happened on September 11th, I really believe in deconstruction of space, and question the dimensions we like to categorize the world in. Artistic thinking can be expressed in many ways – in a visual way, or by how we rear our children, or by our teaching or our cooking. You have to ask yourself why you are an artist, what are you interested in communicating, and how effective is your message. You must emphasize the content of your art.


Tina Martel was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and spent 13 years working and studying in Calgary. She earned a BFA (with honours) in the painting department of the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary and an MFA in painting at the University of Calgary.

Martel went on to teach at the University of Calgary and the Leighton Centre and currently teaches as a full time instructor at Grande Prairie Regional College.

She has exhibited extensively across Canada and internationally in Germany, New York and Omaha in the U.S. and Tel Aviv, Israel. In 2001 her work was chosen for the Sotheby International Young Art exhibition.

Martel commonly refers to herself as a “maker of objects” because her work trespasses freely into many different artistic fields. Her current mixed media work combines acrylic paint, silver and copper leaf, printed papers and medium on 3-dimensional cast paper sculptures.

Martel’s Art“Focus on the process. Be open to it; allow it to take you in a different direction.”
Tina Martel

DD: Tina, how did you become an artist?

Tina Martel: Somehow I knew all along I had to do art, but instead I did all kinds of other things first. I really get into all kinds of things intensely, but I also get bored real easily. So I had a professional career, I had a flower shop, got a pilot’s license – I was involved with music and dance for years. It was like craving chocolate – somehow I thought I shouldn’t indulge in art, because it would be bad for me. But nothing else has held my interest like art has, there is no limit to it, it is a funhouse of creativity.

DD: Why do you teach? How do you balance a full-time job with a commitment to your art?

Tina Martel: Teaching allows me to create art from a secure place. After my Masters I wanted to see if I was any good at it, and I’m exhilarated by what I see in my students. It is a knife-edge to balance, but to be a good teacher it is critical to maintain a practice of art. I choose to be exhausted, and make work and be happy instead of being less tired but miserable.

DD: What advice would you give a young artist?

Tina Martel: I would say if you need a 9-5 job with benefits. If you don’t like the freefall, then this is not the place for you. And know that who you are, what has happened to you, what you think – all those things influence your work.

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