Thursday, 17 June 2010

An eye for art: Young Hay River painter experiments with photography

An eye for art
Young painter experiments with photography  

Some of Micayla's Frozen Eyes photos as a slide show on Flickr

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 14, 2010

HAY RIVER - Micayla Gammon looks at things a little differently now.

NNSL  photo/graphic

Painter and sketch artist Micayla Gammon, 18, is exploring the creative potential of digital photography. - photos courtesy of Micayla Gammon

Earlier this month the 18-year-old painter and sketch artist participated in a five-day workshop presented by the Frozen Eyes Photography Society at Diamond Jenness School.

Yellowknife instructors Dave Prichard and George Lessard led the workshop for Gammon and almost a dozen other students from May 31 to June 4.

Although Gammon is an experienced visual artist, it was her first introduction to professional digital photography equipment and techniques.

"There is so much that I never knew was involved in photography," Gammon said. "We went over the operation of the camera, manual and automatic, and we learned about the history of cameras as they developed over the years. For the first few days we just ran around taking pictures. I'm learning that you can take thousands of pictures and only a couple of them are really good."

Gammon began painting and drawing as a young child growing up on an acreage near Stoney Plain, Alberta. Her family moved to Hay River two years ago.

"She has been interested in art since she was very very small," said Gammon's mom, Nancy Gammon. "She practiced and tried and drew and drew and we gave her lots of opportunities to experiment with different things and she has enjoyed it and excelled at it."

As a self-taught painter and home-schooled student, Gammon immersed herself in the work of master artists from centuries past, and studied paintings by American illustrator Norman Rockwell, Ontario naturalist Robert Bateman, and German pop artist Sebastian Kruger.

"Part of the reason why I enjoy art and taught myself so easily was because I wasn't comparing myself to anybody," she said. "I didn't have that much pressure around me. I was free to enjoy life."

In her paintings and sketches, Gammon communicates through realism. She paints wildlife, from raccoons to tigers, sketches portraits in pencil and charcoal, and composes detailed Northern landscapes in acrylic and watercolour.

In her photos, however, she explores abstraction, experimenting with angles and textures

"It's a fun way to express the way I see life," she said. "I love taking what I see and trying to put a different interpretation on it. I find it's a whole lot easier with photography to say something in an image without words. It's not so much about snapping the shot – it's about what your mind is seeing. People can see it and they can immediately understand it. It creates an emotional impression, not so much an intellectual one."

During the Frozen Eyes workshop, Gammon focused her gaze on machine parts, huskies, and trash, and aimed her lens skyward to capture the contours of tall trees and buildings against the clouds.

She and the other students also documented the NWT Track and Field Championships and shot images to submit to a GNWT anti-drug poster campaign next fall.

"It (was) a great week to learn," she said.

Last week Gammon picked up a paintbrush again and joined Diamond Jenness art teacher Karen Gelderman to work on a 24-foot mural to be installed later this year at Aurora College. The mural features the Hay River landscape, including the bush, river and lake.

"Micayla is quite an artist in her own right," Gelderman said. "She is self taught and has been doing a lot of interesting work on her own. Photography fits well with that."

Gammon plans to work on several new paintings this summer. She hopes to hold a solo exhibit at the Hay River Centennial Library later this year.

Instructors with the Frozen Eyes Photographic Society will host a workshop in Fort Liard this summer and are discussing plans to visit Tlicho communities and present workshops in Yellowknife, as well.