Caroline James

painter, teacher, student

I was born in Calgary Alberta in 1962. That in itself, says so much about the journey I was about to undertake. In a world of “Mad Men” and repressed and frightened women, I appeared on the planet as a profoundly creative and intuitive bisexual who knew without a doubt that the reality she was presented with was not going to cut it.

I grew up and went to school there, until we moved down to Drumheller when I was sixteen. That year I took “Art 11”, one of the very few classes I cared about. We were assigned a year-long project of filling two sketchbooks. That year ingrained in me the memories of the quiet joy and solitude of my many drawing expeditions inside and outside. I still remember sitting on the old railway bridge drawing the coal mine where my Dad’s older brother’s and friends worked when he was a young boy. And lying on the brown and gold shag carpeted living room floor creating a meticulous drawing of my blue suede Nike running shoes, which I loved more than food. I remember my affection for the shoes showed in the drawing. The magic of it affected me in a profound way.

After a brief disastrous college career in Calgary where I majored in “Pub Attendance”, and various challenging jobs waitressing and cleaning other people’s houses, in 1987, I moved to Victoria to attend Camosun College and went from high school upgrading, to the Biology program, to an elective in Art 100, which of course changed everything.

I finished two years in Visual Arts at Camosun, and then completed my BFA at the University of Victoria in 1996 with Honours. In 1999 I was accepted to the MFA program at the University of Saskatchewan on a full scholarship, which was very much like winning the lottery. I still remember, with enormous gratitude and disbelief, opening that life-altering letter. It was, quite frankly, a miracle to me.

I could write a book about those two years. The first year I was so homesick for the west coast, and so terrified of failing I fell into a period of depression and severe anxiety. But I had a deep and moving dream one night, a dream of the work I had to do. It carried me forward on a wave.

At the same time I found singing with the Bridge City Chorus, a gay, straight, trans, everything friendly choir who became my adopted family. There was also the fantastic faculty and my fellow students who were all so unbelievably supportive.

Eventually I found my way to an incredibly successful Graduate Show and Thesis which, much to my amazement, garnered me a nomination for the Governor General’s Award for Thesis Work as well as the University of Saskatchewan Award of Excellence in Thesis Work in the Arts and Humanities for 2000. I won the latter award.

After moving back to Victoria I quickly picked up some commercial representation with the Fran Willis Gallery and several others. I lived a rather itinerant life for a few years, house sitting here and there, and living in temporary spaces. I did a teaching stint at The Victoria College of Art while spending a life-changing year of isolation and painting at a big old, cold, dark house and light filled studio in Youbou, on Cowichan Lake. Here I created the “Lake Work” series (2003). This work once again shifted my career to the point where I had multiple gallery representation, and the incredible luxury of knowing that whatever I made had a home somewhere.

Eventually I ended up on Hornby Island where I lived for 13 years. After the devastation of the 2008 downturn in the economy, the fortuitous “accident” of Hornby Island Peace Work in 2010 kept me busy creating a more accessible and affordable, meaningful line of artwork.

Through all the changes I have continued teaching Free Expression Painting which is really the most important thing I do. “The Process”, is magical, powerful, and frequently life changing, and I am filled with gratitude and humbled by my students’ trust in me.

After 13 incredibly successful years on Hornby and the joy and magic of the summer market there, I made a huge leap of faith and re-settled in a new home and studio on Gabriola Island. This has been a time once again of shifting perspectives and intentions in my art making, my teaching and life in general. But I have to say, after years of searching, I think I’ve finally found home.

Having closed out the Peace Work line I am currently finding my way back to painting in a way which not surprisingly seems to represent a culmination of everything I’ve done over the years. Oil, acrylic, collage and mixed media, seems to all be coming together in an exploration of texture, spirit, colour and quiet. All this happens within the process of working in the magnetic and magical space that is the edge between the real and the abstract.

I realize, in my lifetime, that things have never stayed the same for any length of time. I’m ready for a long stretch of contentment. But there are some things that have never changed. Like how much and how deeply I love; my capacity to forgive myself the mistakes I make and still return to the light inside me; and then there is my AWE at being alive to create each day with a sense of profound gratitude for all that is given me and all that I have to give.
Welcome to my new website. I really hope you like it… ♥ ….
Peace Always,…Deep Breath,…