Feature First Nations, Inuit, and Métis People on Canadian Banknotes

Being an artist, I value and see how powerful images are in society. As a writer, I see how important stories are to how we view ourselves and others. For so long and in so many ways, Indigenous people have been and continue to be marginalized in Canada. Sharing positive images and stories in a meaningful and respectful way, is a small, but symbolic step, to work towards addressing the damage of so many generations of systemic racism. Our view of Canadian history has been sadly skewed and Indigenous perspectives and contributions largely ignored. Having First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people featured prominently on our money would be a way to recognize the importance of Indigenous people in our society. It’s a way to change our media and mental landscapes that are generally bereft of positive Indigenous images. It would be a touchstone to share stories about the important impact Aboriginal people have and continue to have in Canada.

I imagine parents having an instant teachable moment when kids ask who is on their dollar bills.  I imagine visitors from other countries asking the same question, and Canadians proudly sharing stories about Indigenous historial figures and role models. I imagine a future where more Canadians talk about and see our country as starting with Indigenous people versus only when Europeans came here. I would hope this could help spark change in how our government, related agencies and every Canadian thinks about and relates to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

I started a petition asking the Bank of Canada and the Canadian government to feature First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people on Canadian banknotes. Below is a link to the petition. I am trying to collect as many signatures as possible to make this happen, so please sign and pass it on.

As well, here is the letter I wrote to the government and Bank of Canada:

I am overjoyed that the Canadian government has made the important and progressive move to feature Viola Desmond on our $10 bill. I am now petitioning the federal government to make a sincere and long-lasting commitment to feature Aboriginal men and women on our future bills. The Bank of Canada has said that its goal is to “promote Canada and Canadians – our values, culture, history, traditions, achievements and/or natural heritage.” There is absolutely nothing more Canadian than the Indigenous people of this land.

It’s shocking and shameful that Aboriginal people are not included on every single bill we have.  They are the heart and soul of this country, and their exclusion on our banknotes sadly reflects how our society has long viewed and treated First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. When we think of “founding fathers,” we automatically think of white male government figures – and that is who we see on our bills. But this is not who “founded” this nation.

Canada has always been home for Aboriginal people, for thousands of years and countless generations. Their culture, knowledge and connection to the land, and their willingness to share this, are what made it possible for Europeans to survive and thrive here. Aboriginal people shared a cure for scurvy with sickly newcomers, helped them travel this great land, and even taught them the sport of lacrosse which is enjoyed across the country today. From the very beginning to this very day, Aboriginal people have made and continue to make important contributions to Canada – that sadly have been and continue to be left largely unrecognized.

The federal government can take action to help right this wrong; it has the power to make an impactful change. Ottawa can send a powerful message that touches all our lives every day, by meaningfully including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people on our banknotes.  Money passes through hands every day and across the nation, and who we see on our bills reflects how we see ourselves and how we see not only our past, but how we shape the present day and envision the future. By making Aboriginal people visible on our currency, this is a step in the right direction to illustrate how our government values and validates their importance in Canadian society.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people should all be represented, with the goal of having historical heroes and/or present day role models featured prominently on Canadian banknotes. Some examples would be historical figures like Louis Riel and Molly Brant to present day trailblazers like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Rosemarie Kuptana and Senator Murray Sinclair.

This petition calls on the Bank of Canada to commit to featuring First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people on banknotes, to do so as soon as possible, and to remain steadfast to this commitment as future bill series are created. Please add your name to help make this important change happen.

Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories

There is a twinkle in my eye!  I am excited to say that my short story “A Star is Born” will be featured in Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. The Laksa Media Groups Inc. is responsible for this anthology, and I am feeling thrilled to be part of an organization that forward focused.  For example, their mission statement is “to create opportunities to ‘pay forward’ and ‘give back’ through our publishing program. Our tag line is Read for a Cause, Write for a Cause, Help a Cause.” Who doesn’t want to be part of something as awesome as that!

To top it off their website states that a “portion of Laksa Media’s net revenue from this anthology will go directly to support Kids Help Phone.” And Laksa Media says it will donate $500 to Kids Help Phone once this anthology is published.

Browsing around their site, I checked out Laksa Media’s current anthology which is Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts where “nineteen science fiction and fantasy authors tackle the division between mental health and mental illness; how the interplay between our minds’ quirks and the diverse societies and cultures we live in can set us apart, or must be concealed, or become unlikely strengths.”

Realizing that not everyone can afford to buy a book, they have a Library Challenge section on their website. They ask that folks suggest their local library request the anthology so that everyone can have access to entertaining yet socially relevant, important stories. If you are interested in getting this anthology at your library, here is the information you need below, and you can do it online in mere minutes.

Title: Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts
Author: Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law
ISBN: 9780993969607
Publisher: Laksa Media Groups Inc.
Notes/Comments: The anthology (dealing with mental health/mental illness) has been reviewed by Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Quill & Quire, and Foreword Reviews.

Powell Street Festival

psf2016_11x17poster-copyThe Powell Street Festival is celebrating its fortieth year this year in Vancouver, and I am so happy to be taking part in the event.  Come stop by my table for a visit and a chat. I will be selling my paintings, prints and cards. I have always loved the Powell Street Festival and it`s so awesome to be able to participate this time.

It`s Canada’s biggest festival of Japanese arts and culture, and it is great family fun for the last weekend of July. It offers entertainment  from taiko drumming to sumo wrestling. There are crafts and activities for the kids and all sorts of great Japanese arts and crafts to purchase. One of my favourite things to do is to pig out on all the delicious Japanese fair food. This year they are also having an interactive section in the park and a street party on Alexander Street. Hope to see you there!


Nikkei National Museum 8th Annual Bloom Art Auction

Come check out the Nikkei National Museum 8th Annual BLOOM Art Auction on Saturday, May 28, 2016. My art titled Exotic Flavour Existence will be part of the silent auction.

Nikkei National Museum 8th Annual Bloom Art Auction
Nikkei National Museum 8th Annual Bloom Art Auction

You can get a sneak peak by going to the gallery exhibit and/or the online preview  featuring the art of more than 60 artists. The theme of this year’s event is ink, and it’s inspired by the sumie works of artist Takao Tanabe. The night will include calligraphy and sumie stations, as well as a calligraphy performance by Kisyuu.  There will be music by DJ Rennie Foster and taiko drumming by Sansho Taiko. Hope you can make it. 🙂

Creative Ink Festival

I had a fabulous time at the Creative Ink Festival and am sending a big thank you to author Sandra Wickham for bringing this event into existence. It was my first time going and it was so energizing! I ventured out of my midnight writing cave and into the daylight hours to learn new ideas, check out fantastic books, and meet other writers and artists.

I recently had my story “Grounded” accepted into the science fiction anthology Tesseracts Twenty: Compostela. And who did I get to meet at Creative Ink…but Brian Hades, the head of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing which puts out this Canadian anthology. Writing is a very solitary event for me where sending out stories via the Internet is the closest I come to connecting with others, so it is wonderful to meet the people who are making a “home sweet home” for my stories. “Grounded” will get to be mere pages away from work written by Robert J. Sawyer. In case you don’t know who he is, check out his biography below from EDGE’s website:

“Robert J. Sawyer is one of the most successful Science Fiction authors in Canada and the world. He has written numerous novels which have been translated into several languages, and has contributed to a number of anthologies and publications. He was part of the group that founded Vision TV, the world’s only multi-faith television service, and hosts the Vision series Supernatural Investigator. He has won the Hugo, Nebula, Aurora, Seiun, Galaxy, Audie, Skylark, Homer, Hal Clement, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Arthur Ellis Awards, as well as a number of other prestigious Science Fiction accolades.”

At the conference, I was not only able meet Robert J. Sawyer, I was able to get a blue pencil session (this is where a professional in the field will tell you the good, bad, and ugly truth about your writing) with him. He had a selection of pens neatly lined up like a brain surgeon ready to dissect my short story. I was so nervous to have such an established writer look at my work that I felt like my own personal rain storm. I had prepared myself for a horror flick amount of red slash marks to criss-cross my pages.

I was completely astonished when he had only positive things to say about my writing. He circled things he really liked in my story. He told me I should be writing books and I felt so overwhelmed. It’s like being a Muggle and being told by a Grand Wizard that I do have magic (Can you tell I’ve been reading Harry Potter with my kids?). It was so amazing to meet him, and I feel so inspired and excited to get back into writing more.

If anyone ever wonders if it is worth it to go to conferences, I would definitely say yes. I am already looking forward to the next Creative Ink Festival.

Food for the Brain

food for the brainWhat are you feeding your brain?

Try a good book. It`s food for the brain.

Curling up with an old-fashioned paper-bound book is like having a healthy home-cooked meal surrounded by old friends, dear family and interesting new guests. You are nourishing your mind with knee-slapping humour, deep conversations and a feast of new ideas. It’s quality time for your mind that opens you up to being a kinder and wiser person. And it’s not just the writer in me saying this.

Canadian researchers have found that people who regularly read fiction demonstrated an ability to better understand and empathize with others. Now you might think that more empathetic people just happen to be more voracious readers, but researchers from York University and the University of Toronto factored this into their study and the link between reading fiction and empathy remained.

So if reading literary fiction is a gourmet meal to feed the brain, what does that make all the time we spend “reading” on our devices? We are gorging ourselves on mental junk food. But it is so hard to resists because the packaging is brilliant. It’s got movement, bright flashy colors, pictures and videos of movie stars caught doing mundane activities. It’s got eye-catching teasers and headlines that make you want to click. But everything is in snippets, a half a page of reading or less, and all sorts of other flashing bits and bobs winking at you on the side – ready to take you down the path of ingesting more mental garbage.

In our fast-paced world, some could argue that this shallow reading is at least still reading. But I would hope for less shallowness in our society and more depth of character in all of us. So let’s dig deep and stretch the depths of our humanity. It’s as simple as picking up a book.

Oxygen for the Soul

It’s 2016 and March already! Time has been just flying by, and I’m still here. I’ve been busy painting. I’ve branched out into some more abstract larger pieces, but continue to collect fast food wrappers and instant noodle packaging for my geisha series paintings.

If you have some time, please go check out the Oxygen for the Soul exhibit going on right now. It’s at the Kariton Art Gallery and the Reach. My work called Time Travel is at the Reach.


To get tickets and more information, you can go to https://abbotsfordhospice.org/campaigns/oxygen-for-the-soul/

How to Get Yourself Out There as an Artist: Art Openings


How to Get Yourself Out There as an Artist: Art Openings

So when you are just starting out, how do you get yourself out there as an artist? Art openings, and not just your own, are a great way to get yourself out there as an artist. This is one of the simple, but smart ideas I gleaned from Reach Acting Director and Curator Laura Schneider at her recent workshop titled How to Market Your Portfolio to Galleries & Curators. I had my “Aha!” moment when Schneider talked about the importance of not being an art diva or a lone wolf. She said one of the great ways to get yourself know is to become part of the art community and one way to do that is to actively attend art openings.

Lone Wolf No More

wolfI realized that I have been living my artist life more as a lone wolf. I’ve attended my own art openings, and I do regularly visit art galleries wherever I am – but I have not attended anyone else’s art opening. This is not because I want to be an art diva, but rather some part of me did not want to feel like that uninvited guest that crashes a party – to be the only one who knows no one. I’ve moved around a lot and your priorities shift when you have kids, so art has become something I try to squash into an already jam-packed schedule.

Art to Express Yourself…and You Need to Network

I create art as part of process of expressing myself, that’s why I do it. It’s cathartic and over the years I have now created a plethora of paintings, sketches, sculptures, etc. But if I want to get to the next stage as an artist, I can’t just horde all my work in my basement acting like Gollum in Lord of the Rings muttering “my precious.” I need to get out there. So I took Schneider’s advice, and went online to figure out when the next art opening was happening and marked it on my calendar.

Local Art Community

Schneider reassured me that it can seem intimidating to go to an art opening, but that it’s worth the effort. She said if you go regularly you will get to know the other artists in your community and then you will eventually become part of it. From going to her original talk, I had chatted with a few other artists. And lo and behold, I went to the art gallery opening and saw one of them there. I knew one person! Then I bumped into someone from the Art and Wine walk, chatted with vendors and talked with the curators of both of the local art galleries. From admiring a great array of artwork, enjoying snacks and a having an overall fun evening out – my first time out for an art opening was definitely a success. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Writing Your Artist Statement

penDefinition of an Artist Statement

When you apply to galleries, you need to have an artist statement (also known as an artist’s statement). So what is that exactly? The artist’s statement to me, is a more formal and detailed version of an elevator pitch. It should capture the same essence of what your art is all about – a written snapshot.

An artist statement, according to The Reach Acting Director and Curator, Laura Schneider, “is a written document that serves as a basic introduction of you as an artist, explaining why and how you make your art, among other contextual texts. An artist’s statement may pertain to a particular work or to your entire body of work.”

What to Write in an Artist Statement

At Schneider’s workshop titled How to Market Your Portfolio to Galleries/Curators, she provided the following list of “should haves” for your artist statement:

  • Your purpose or motive
  • Material and medium in which you work
  • The subject of your work (specific to this body of work? Something you revisit?)
  • The theories and methodologies that influenced your work
  • Your own personal perspective and background

She added that your artist statement should be no longer than 300 words.

What Not to Write in an Artist Statement

Schneider said it’s best to leave yourself open when you describe what kind of artist you are. She said by writing such things as “I’m an oil painter” or “I’m a water color painter,” you are limiting yourself to one medium of expression. Her belief is that an artist should be willing to explore any and all mediums. What do you do and why do you do it? How can that be transferred into different art forms? Leave those opportunities open to explore for future work.

Clichés to Avoid in an Artist Statement

The following are overused lines that Schneider felt should be avoided in your artist’s statement. Check through your artist statement and if you have any of the clichés below, then it’s time to cut them loose.

  • My work is intuitive.
  • My work is a personal journey.
  • My work is about my experience.
  • I pour my soul into each piece.
  • I’ve been drawing since I was three.
  • l like my audience to interpret my work.

Know Who Your Audience Is

When you write your artist statement, you need to be aware of your audience. There will be consistent information in your artist statement no matter where you apply. At the same time, Schneider said that when you apply to a gallery you should tailor your writing accordingly. Make sure to do your research about each place you are applying to. What kind of art and artists are typically featured at the gallery and how would your work fit their mandate.

Get Feedback on Your Artist Statement

It’s probably a good idea after you have come up with you artist’s statement to get feedback from folks within your circle of friends (and even acquaintances or strangers) to see if they see your words reflected in your art. As well, you may love to froth at the pen with academic terms, but you want the piece to be something that anyone coming into the gallery can engage with.


Elevator Pitch for Artists

Have your elevator pitch ready!
Have your elevator pitch ready!

How to Market Your Portfolio to Galleries and Curators

I recently went to a talk by Laura Schneider, acting director and curator of the Reach, called How to Market Your Portfolio to Galleries/Curators. She was fabulously energetic, informative and inspiring; and I’m planning to write more on her talk in future posts. One of the best tips I picked up was the importance of the Elevator Pitch.

Elevator Pitch for Artists

I had a total “Aha!” moment when Schneider said that an artist needs to have an elevator pitch. I knew you had to work on having an elevator pitch in the writing world — the idea is you pretend that if you were caught in the elevator with a book publisher, what one-minute spiel would you give to sell your book/screenplay/etc? When Schneider brought the elevator pitch concept up for art, I had to really think. What would I say if a gallery owner or curator and I were stuck in an elevator together for a minute?

Be Confident

Schneider’s advice was to “be confident in describing what you do, why you do it and where you’re going.” I had never really boiled down these three ideas before, and yet I should be ready at all times to give a Cole’s Notes version of this information.  Right away I started thinking about how I would pitch myself. Here are my thoughts on how I would answer the questions she brought up.

What Do You Do?

What do you do? Currently, I paint geisha girls in acrylic and then I rip up pages from Japanese books, glue on instant noodle packaging, drip wax and burn canvases.

This by itself definitely seems to be missing something. Why on earth is this woman being so destructive in her work?

Why Do You Do It?

On to the important second question: Why do you do it?

In an overall sense, I like to look at the world through the lens of race, class and gender. In particular, I like to create art focused on those who are not at the top of the hierarchy and express what that looks and feels like.

If I want to be more specific to my recent work titled Geisha Girl Stereotype Survivor, this is what I’d say:

As a woman of ‘mixed’ heritage, I created this art to come to grips with stereotypes about Asian women. Faster than you can make instant Asian noodles, stereotypes about my race and gender combo come easily to mind. My work also reflects on the history of the internment of Japanese-Canadians and how that impact is still felt today. My grandparents died before the Canadian government apologized. Their loss, on so many levels, is haunting.

Where Are You Going?

The final question: where are you going?

Because I’m a mix of races, people often are not sure of “what” I am. I plan to do other portraits and explore the stereotypes of other racial groups I am, I’ve been mistaken for or called. I’ve already got some in the works.

What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

These are my thoughts on my elevator pitch for now, and I’ll likely change them up as time goes on. But at least now I have a basis to jump from should I ever get the chance to be in an elevator with a gallery owner or curator. I love the elevator pitch concept, and hope this will spur you on to write your own if you have not already. If you have a great elevator pitch for your art, please feel free to share it by leaving a comment on my blog.

I’m now getting off this elevator ride to go get some painting done. 🙂


Write. Paint. Create.