In light of the holiday season, with the cold temperatures settling in and decorating cities and towns with its magical winter glisten, this story brings us up into the true north. An undeniable winter wonderland, yet where Jack Frosts frigid bite is unforgiving.
You’ll know you’re there when ice trims your eyelashes like frost on the trees, and your pink cheeks and nose makes those of fairy tale Christmas elves pale in comparison. Nestled up far into Canada’s north is where artist Danielle Bossio currently resides. Together with her partner, Cal Read, they found themselves venturing into the north when the corona pandemic broke out. Starting out in Fernie, British Columbia, and now settled in Whitehorse, Yukon. “In regards to COVID, I would say we’re fortunate because we haven’t experienced it like other places have, they’re very protective of the territory here and they’re enforcing rules for safety here. But now they’re seeing an increase in cases and we don’t have the hospital equipment for that here, in the rural communities.” But, how did this Mississauga-native end up there?
“Well, the story begins when we got very little notice to move to the Yukon. I think we had 4 days to uproot and go. It was a huge transition, and thankfully Cals work coordinated with us and arranged a hotel for us to stay in during the move. However, we had no idea where we were going to go from there. It was a pretty big transition going to Dawson City, and luckily, we were offered a place to stay in a cabin from a friend of Cals parents. During this time, I was uncertain about what I should be doing in Dawson, if I should search for work. My partner has been really supportive during this process and encouraged me to focus on my art. Which helped me to focus on creating, and not working a job that I did not want to be doing. It was an interesting time because this had been a dream of mine for a long time, to live in a cabin in the middle of nature and just be able to focus on my art. But at the same time, this was challenging at times because the lack of social interaction got to me. We were living in a place that is small, and isolated. That was probably the biggest struggle. Cal was away wildland firefighting, which meant most days he would be working for about 10 hours per day. He was the only person I would really see most of the time. It hasn’t been until this pandemic that I realized the gravity of how important social interactions are.
I knew that if I wasn’t going to be working, I had to dedicate my time to doing something or the only alternative would be wasting away doing nothing – I had to keep myself sane. I constantly reminded myself that this is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, and that I had to take serious advantage of it. During the time I spent there [for five months, in the cabin], I signed up for an online course to learn digital illustration – which was something that I had wanted to get into for years. I think I always knew the style I wanted to do, but I didn’t know the medium to achieve it. I feel like as soon as I started to draw digitally, a whole new world opened. It became easier for me to create and to be happier with what I was creating.
The illustrations that I’ve done that were inspired by COVID were my black and white figure drawings series. I did a three-part figure drawing series of females laying on the floor restlessly. This idea came about because after just finishing work, we [my partner and I] would just chill and lay on the carpet and not be super productive at that time. My figure drawings are depicted lying on the floor with a black cloud floating above their heads – because everything was so chaotic and disjointed. That series was made on personal request, but I made it more a reflection of how I was feeling.” With that story in mind, as I peek through the rest of Danielle’s work, I cannot help but wonder what her inspirations are behind the other series she has made. “I get a lot of ideas. I have so many ideas written down and on the go. I have a really distracted mentality where I start things and then start another. My Lepsing series started four years ago now, and I’ve done 7 or 8 pieces for it. That series started with me reflecting on my current situation at the time. The idea was inspired by Freuds psychoanalytic theory of id, the ego, and the super-ego. Lepsing is the id within me. He’s like this animal within me, and it’s a struggle to get there. He goes through challenges which I kind of like to poke fun at and give it a fun element, but it’s reflecting an internal process that I’m going through at that moment.
In my earlier days as an artist the only time I wanted to create things was when I was in a darker place, but I’ve let go of that. You can’t always wait for your demons to inspire you. Even if it is a struggle at the time, I can take a different angle and make it into something lighthearted.”
As a fellow Canadian, when I take note of her sticker series – I definitely see Danielle’s playful side shining through. Being abroad currently, her stickers bring cherished sayings and phrases from my Canadian roots back to the forefront of my mind, chuckling as I realize how long it’s been since I’ve used them myself. Which was exactly her purpose.
“I was inspired to create these stickers after I got back from travelling abroad, I was out of the country for four years. When you’re that token Canadian, you get all these people poking fun at the things you say. It’s not until I came back to Canada that I started to really embrace our sayings, although in certain parts of Canada I feel like some of this culture gets left behind. By going around the world you realize different facets of the Canadian identity. And in places that I have lived in Canada I realized that a lot of my friends weren’t Canadian, like when living in the resort towns here. I wanted to make something, a sort of a souvenir, for people who visit Canada to take back with them.” I smile as she explains this, as it’s an experience that I can relate to all too well. When your “oh hey there” gets met with a confused look – you’re confronted pretty quickly with the realization that you are no longer within the confines of the Great White North.
The Canadian sticker series is only one of multiple series featured on her website – which lures you in with its colourful and vibrant palette and humour alike. Not to mention, there is also a clothing line; ski/snowboarder lifestyle inspired.
As I mentally escape into this world that she has crafted, my thoughts wander on to her northern experiences gained during this pandemic.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from COVID so far is that it’s really important to try and have goals that are attainable and to give yourself some purpose throughout your day, because it’s so easy to get caught up in time wasters and whatnot.
My learning experience has been to reflect and realize that things are so different right now, and it’s okay to not feel amazing. I’m trying my best to take advantage of this time that I’ve been given.”
Danielle [@danibo.art] is an illustrator currently living in Whitehorse, Yukon
You can browse her work here:
Photography by Cal Read and Danielle Bossio