Charity Dakin : Creative Living

By Wendy Stefansson

Charity Dakin

Outside, it is a snowy Tuesday morning in February. Inside, I am looking at an accidental still-life: a hunting bow and colourful arrows lean against a wall next to a wooden easel. Clustered on a table nearby are a birch log, a jar full of paintbrushes, and a book of paintings by Frederick Remington. To my left is a deer’s skull and antlers. To my right, are tacked pictures of foxes, and actual fishing lures. Oh, and a computer. It is an eclectic mixture of the timeless and the cutting-edge.

These are the tools of Charity Dakin’s trade, and it is her studio in which I am standing. Charity is a young mother, and an accomplished artist from Manning, Alberta. And as it turns out, the deer skull is the relic not only of a hunting trip and a winter’s worth of venison, but also of the subject of her painting, Aspen King. In the painting, the deer looks intently at the viewer, not as prey at predator, but eye to eye; with recognition. There is a connection there. The painting is small, but compelling; the tone of it quiet but eloquent, communicating everything.

Halibu - Charity Dakin

Charity grew up on the land, living on farms first in the Fraser Valley, and later in central Alberta. Now, in this small rural community, she is raising her own family. She and her husband have dreams of moving to an acreage, and starting a small hobby farm. When they fantasize about winning a million dollars, Charity talks about having her own chicken coop. She smokes her own salmon, and is working out a recipe for making her own sausages from her venison. Remembering her rural roots, she says: “I spent hours drawing when I was a kid, and I spent even more time actually just looking. You know, watching animals, how they move, their anatomy …. I was always out in the ditches, and in the back fields, slopping around in rubber boots. I just remember being a kid who watches things, and I still watch things now.”

This habit of patient watching is evident in the keenly observed quality of her work; the finely rendered details, the ring of truth. When Charity sits down to create a work of art, she begins with numerous pencil sketches. She will try it out in one or more colour schemes using paint; then she will scan various elements into her computer and move them around using Photoshop until she finds the best composition. Along the way, she makes notes to herself, in the margins. It is a laborious and timeconsuming process, but her sketches could pass for finished works of art in themselves.

Morning EncounterA self-taught artist, Charity describes her education as “a lot of trial and error; looking at the world around me and then looking at my paintings; and playing with the mediums, and seeing how they work.” Her mediums of choice include graphite, pastels and acrylic paints. Her subjects: wildlife, farm animals, local landscapes, and aboriginal people. These are choices that connect her to 150 years of painting on the prairies (think Frederick Remington and Paul Kane), as well as to other contemporary Canadian artists (think Robert Bateman). More importantly, they are choices that connect her to a growing viewing audience. She says: “My art is about responding and reacting to the things that I see around me, and the things that are important to me. And it happens to be something that a lot of other people find endearing, and they like what I do. So I don’t really have to paint for a market; I paint what’s important to me, and what I love.”

At the same time, Charity takes nothing for granted in the world of art marketing. She acknowledges: “If you want to make a living out of art, you have to have an element of business and marketing. You have to.” All of her work is professionally reproduced, but she takes charge of as much of the process as possible, right from the digital imaging to the final printing. She prints editions of 50 to 150, for which she has found gallery representation in Peace River and Edmonton. She sells most of her originals privately or through Night of Artists events. Like her life, her art career is a hands-on process. “I don’t really think anybody owes me a living,” she says.

Charity’s prints are available at Frameworks Gallery and Claire’s Custom Framing in Peace River, and Birks Art Gallery in Edmonton. You can also find her work online at www.NightOfArtists.com.


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