“Every child is an artist… it took me four years to paint like Raphael and a lifetime to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso
A yellow giraffe gracefully strides through a wildly abstract savannah and a little girl appears to float above an imaginary garden. These are two kindergarten drawings conceptualized into large commissioned paintings created by artist, Joyce Ozier for her Little Picasso project.
Pablo Picasso’s quotation really resonated with the Canadian abstract painter on many levels and for very personal reasons. Ozier’s approach to her own art includes accenting her canvases with marks and scribbles which she has always attributed to “raw energy.”
“But it occurred to me that this might somehow be related to my early marks as a happy, young child,” she says, interpreting the roots of her project from her large light-flooded Main Street Vancouver studio. “Like most parents, I proudly displayed a changing exhibit of my children’s art on our fridge. I’ve saved a number of those precious drawings in a drawer, but they are now yellowed and dog-eared and some are starting to disintegrate.”
It was the emotion behind them and reminiscing about her delight in her children’s imaginations and their excitement explaining their early drawings to her, that led to Ozier’s eureka moment.
Instead of letting it slip away, why not capture the joy of those primitive drawings within a large commissioned abstract painting that she would create, suitable to be hung anywhere in the home? Little Picasso was born.
Ozier first undertook a lot of research into early childhood drawing, symbolism and how figures emerge. “It was really fascinating to discover universal stages of drawing development,” Ozier explains. “Pre-schoolers will start with circles then draw “tadpole-like” long lines for arms and legs. Then objects begin to float in mid-air which gives rise to symbolic meanings. And some children who show great talent for drawing when they’re small just stop when they get older, making their early art all the more precious.”
Before embarking on a commission, a client will bring a child’s early drawings to Ozier’s studio and she photographs them. She understands how attached parents or grandparents are to precious originals and never keeps them. After doing some preliminary sketches, Ozier transfers the child’s drawing onto her canvas using a high-powered projector, tracing the exact lines. “I may repeat one section several times. My intention is not to restrict myself to the literal composition that is photographed, but to use the elements of the drawing in a designed arrangement,” she says.
If you are familiar with Ozier’s larger painting practice you know that her use of color is a vital element of her overall aesthetic. In 2015 she devoted a year to creating a vibrant narrative entitled, Blue Refuge, interpreting Morocco’s medina of Chefchaouen known as “The Blue Pearl” awash in turquoise and lapis lazuli. It opened at the Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver to public acclaim.
Little Picasso commissions also integrate the child’s art with a balanced interplay of color and texture. Ozier’s style sometimes leaves part of the canvas empty that is simpatico with early childhood tendencies to do the same.
The vivacious Ozier originally from Boston, has made Vancouver her home for over 40 years. She has embraced almost every aspect of the arts from theatre and set design to arts management as the Manager of the Karen Jamieson Dance Company and Executive Director of the Vancouver Dance Centre (now part of the ScotiaBank Dance Centre.) She owned a display company – WOW! Windows Display and Design Ltd. until 2009.
Ozier’s love for dance and movement is immediately apparent in her paintings and Little Picasso canvases are no exception. “I start the painting using large brushes and actively apply colour using sweeping gestures over the whole canvas, instinctively melding the child’s drawing into a balanced abstract,” she demonstrates.
“Like most women, I’ve re-invented myself at least five times but didn’t start seriously painting until after I retired,” she laughs. How apropos that Ozier has chosen “time flies… immortalize” as her mantra for her latest incarnation.
TOP PAINTING: Artist, Joyce Ozier premieres Little Picasso at Kabuni Design Centre, Vancouver. Original drawing by David, age 3. Photo: De la Cajiga Photography.