Christine is kind of amazing. I first met her a few years ago when I was coordinating the relay and she was a volunteer in the Children’s Section. My first impression gave me the sense that she was quiet, and maybe a bit shy. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend getting to know her, and our first encounter basically consisted of a “Hi, Thanks for volunteering. I’ve got to run.” So, when she responded to an invite to join us on a scavenger hunt designed as part of our monthly peer programming I finally had the opportunity to learn a bit more about her. She was not shy, but rather warm and friendly, and eager to get started. None of the riddles stumped her, and she had great ideas on shortcuts and innovations to help our team achieve the rewards we needed to complete our mission. I did not realize at the time that this was part of the workings of an artistic mind.
Born, raised and resided in Saskatoon her entire life, Christine is an artist. A true artist, who dedicates at least 10 hours a week to her passion, and much more when she is feeling “inspired”. She draws with ink, or paints with a mouse and a computer program. She draws inspiration from the seasons, Spring or Fall being her preference. Or from loud early 80’s hits, surrendering up names like “Kiss”, or “Bonjovi” as a couple favourites.
I asked Christine to meet me for coffee one morning so I could find out more about her, and, in my usual fashion I show up a couple of minutes late. She, however is sitting near a bench in the mall with her friend/caregiver Jessica, patiently waiting for me with a welcoming smile on her face. I know right then it is going to be a comfortable interview.
As we get situated at our table, and the waitress comes to grab our orders Christine pulls another artistic move. A chocolate shake…at 10:30 in the morning. I am truly impressed! I decide I’ll get right into the questions and save the small talk for after. A bit backward, but that’s how we roll.
I’m going to ask the most awkward question first, to get it out of the way. What is your disability, and how does it affect your mobility?
I have Osteoarthritis. I was diagnosed at the age of 5. It’s a progressive condition that affects all of my joints, and my ability to bend and move. I started using a manual wheelchair at 14 and by 16 required an electric wheelchair permanently. I have very limited range of motion in all my joints.
Drawing seems to be your art form of choice. What lead you in this direction?
When I was a child I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I had to have surgeries, and then I had recovery time. It could get boring so my mom and I would draw. She’d start a picture, then I’d add to it, then it would be her turn. We spent many hours doing that. As I got older I attended the U of S and got my BA in Psychology, and then attended SIAST where I received a degree in Web Design.
Are there any mediums other than drawing that you’re interested in?
Oh yes! Many; sculpture, folk art, glass work. I would really love to be able to try them all, but physically I’m not able.
Do you use any adaptive devices to help you with your art?
I use a computer mouse, and a program called “ArtRage” which simulates water color, oils, pencil or ink. I also use Photoshop.
Do you have a favourite thing to draw?
Not really. It kind of depends on my mood…and the season.
SCI SASK is publishing a children’s colouring book called ‘Adventure Pals’ which focuses on children with disability and inclusion, and you are the illustrator. How did you get involved in that?
Colin Farnan, a fellow artist and SCI Sk employee asked me if I’d be interested, and I definitely was!
I have to change the subject a bit, but I noticed that your name changed a few years ago. Do you want to tell me a bit about that? (I actually see a bit of a blush with a huge smile on that question!)
That happened in June of 2015 when I married Jeff.
Where did you two meet?
We were both residents at Cheshire Homes here in Saskatoon. Jeff and I have the same disability, but where mine affects my upper and lower mobility his mainly affects the lower portion of his body. He has also been considered legally blind since he was two years old. We had a lot in common and became good friends, fell in love, and got married. It’s wonderful. As a little girl you always fantasize about your dream wedding and I got mine!
Do you still live at Cheshire?
No, we decided to move out to a Duplex. I love it!
Does Jeff share in your artistic endeavors?
He’s artistic in a different way. He writes, mostly SCI-FI. On Thursdays Jessica and I usually take a Girl’s day and head to the mall, or run errands, or whatever. Jeff often spends those days writing.
You sound like the perfect pair! Maybe an illustrated Sci-Fi novel for your next endeavor? If I asked what you would like your future to look like, what would you say?
My hopes for the future would include a continuing, growing audience for my artwork, turning the SCI Sask colouring book character into a children’s book series, to be able to travel with my husband, and good health.
As I said, it was an easy, comfortable interview, which left me craving a chocolate shake for the rest of the day. I look forward to seeing more of Christine’s artwork showcased at our Artists of Ability Festival in the Saskatoon location from October 19 to the 21st. And, if you’d like a sneak peek, check out her website at www.patreon.com/InspirationByCS.