Insta exposure

Manitoba artists use app to showcase work during pandemic


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Love it or hate it, the social media app Instagram has become ubiquitous in the daily lives of more than one billion people across the world.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/08/2020 (1024 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Love it or hate it, the social media app Instagram has become ubiquitous in the daily lives of more than one billion people across the world.

It’s also an app of contention, where the bad can easily outweigh the good. For all the drawbacks of the Facebook-owned app — like the anxiety and depression caused by seeing an endless barrage of other people’s perfectly curated lives — it is also a great (and free) platform for artists to showcase their work, connect with others, and find inspiration.

Here are five great local artists who have taken to Instagram to highlight their work, accept commissions and connect with the world around them.


Niamh Dooley @niamhdooleyart

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Textile artist Grace M. works on a wall hanging using a weaving loom in her Winnipeg home.

Niamh Dooley has been creating art since childhood. The 27-year-old artist of Oji-Cree and Irish descent grew up in Sioux Lookout, Ont., but moved to Winnipeg to study art at the University of Manitoba. It was there, in a Native Studies class, she began to learn to bead.

“One of the projects was we could either write a paper or incorporate some beadwork as part of our project,” says Dooley. Today, she creates art that incorporates beadwork on her own and as part of a group with her sisters under the Instagram handle @moniasbeads.

“I work a lot with oil on canvas,” says Dooley, but she adds a traditional twist. “I prep the canvas with rabbit skin glue instead of Gesso. I’ll incorporate beadwork as well as animal hide, branches and sinew.”


Rhob @rbsprayart

SUPPLIED Niamh Dooley first learned to bead while taking a Native Studies class at the University of Manitoba.

Not much is known about the enigmatic artist Rhob, who keeps his true identity hidden to protect his day job and his family’s privacy. The mystery hasn’t stopped him from gaining more than 11,000 followers on Instagram.

“I typically paint whatever is desired by others,” he says. “I really love the mountains and wildlife, so I enjoy painting those pieces the most. Aside from spray paint, I also do pet portraits and recently completed a memorial portrait of an individual for a family who had lost a loved one.”

Besides spray paint, he also uses acrylics, watercolours and charcoal, almost always painting on a stretched canvas. His love of painting began in junior high school, but that was put on the backburner as he got older and his career and family became his focus.

“It turned out that the stress of my career is what brought me back to painting,” says the self-taught artist who started painting again three years ago and has now had his artwork shipped all over the globe.

“My artwork is an escape usually, much like how some people use yoga or meditation. While painting, I typically can forget about the world around me for that short period of time.”


Grace M. @textiles_by_grace

SUPPLIED Rhob uses acrylics, watercolours and charcoal, almost always painting on a stretched canvas.

Nineteen-year-old Grace M. uses yarn, wool and thread to create textile wall hangings using a weaving loom.

“I work with lots of different kinds of yarn, wool, thread, different types of needles, hooks and shuttles,” she says. “I love creating abstract texture-filled designs, but lately I’ve also been creating more pieces based on images, mostly for custom commissions, which I take through my Instagram page.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Textile artist Grace M. works on a wall hanging in her Winnipeg home.

The self-taught artist is an avid fan of the social media platform, using it not only to showcase her own work but to find inspiration and connect with other artists. Though her Instagram currently only features a handful of pieces, there will be plenty more on the way soon thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I probably wouldn’t have started trying to showcase myself and my art without the pandemic happening,” she says. “I’d always wanted to run my own shop and work for myself and the craziness of the world right now was strangely just what I needed to start.”


Kelsey Smith @kelseyannnsmith

Painter Kelsey Smith finds inspiration in her neighbourhood, her personal history and the combination of mundane content and contemporary art.

“I love finding friends’ general images and their potential to be translated to a painting, especially if it doesn’t make sense,” explains the 25-year-old. “I look through old text messages, Facebook photo albums, baby books, and anything related to get excited about making art.”

Smith, who holds a BFA in Studio art from the University of Manitoba School of Art, was initially interested in making graphic novels and drawing anime, but her time at the School of Art helped her discover other mediums and techniques, which led to her work in oil painting, photography and performance art. She also cites Chris Fleming and Andy Kaufman as major sources of inspiration that fuel her work.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Textile artist Grace M. works on a wall hanging in her home in Winnipeg.

“I prefer oil over acrylic and paint on stretched canvases that are typically three feet by four feet large. I use a lot of linseed oil and other solvents so that I can make pretty quick paintings,” she says. “For photography, I’ve used film but I ended up focusing on digital so that I could take as many images as possible to work. For performance, I’ve only ever really used regular objects, nothing art specific other than the camera that films it and the odd painted surface.”

Prior to the pandemic, Smith worked out of a studio in the Exchange District but has been working out of her small Transcona apartment for the past few months.

“The disruption was OK for me, but meant I had to change my idea of what kind of work I could make for the next few months. This time period has shown me that I have more time in the future to put towards making art than I thought before, which I felt excited about.”


Kristy Janvier @secret_life_of_beads

A good pin on a jean jacket or backpack can change everything. Just ask Kristy Janvier, who makes unique pins and patches that can add a perfect touch to any jacket or bag.

SUPPLIED Kelsey Smith finds inspiration in her neighbourhood and her personal history.

“I bead on felt sewn onto cardboard,” says the Flin Flon-based artist who describes herself as in the gap between gen-X and millennial and is of Dene, English/Irish and Ukrainian descent.

“Sometimes I have a clear image or idea that I want to try or colour pattern, which I usually see before falling asleep,” she says, but she’s always ready to try something new and see what happens.

Janvier is a dancer by profession, with creative hobbies such as knitting and making homemade cards. Two years ago, searching for a way to create art that was more tangible than the ephemeral nature of dance, she started beading and hasn’t stopped.

SUPPLIED Kristy Janvier says beading is very meditative. A dancer by profession, Janvier took up beading as a way to create a more tangible form of art.

“My first successful project was beading little blueberries for a music festival called The Blueberry Jam. I sold out the first night and worked all weekend to catch up on orders.”

Janvier has been enjoying her time in quarantine, using it to catch up on projects and commission.

“I had lots of time to get things done and enjoyed my days,” she says. “Beading is very meditative. I can tell when I need to put it down when it’s just not going right or if I break a needle, I’ll realize that I just had a negative thought.

“I find when beading with others, people tend to open up and share more. I hope to be able to hold a weekly circle in my community in the fall.”

Twitter: @franceskoncan

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SUPPLIED While beading, Kristy Janvier says a broken needle can signify a negative thought.
Frances Koncan

Frances Koncan
Arts reporter

Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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