Chicken Lady

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Inspiring Creativity Interviews

Canadian Folk Artist Violette Clark

Still Living out LOUD

By Chris Dunmire | Updated December 6, 2018

VioletteWhen I first discovered Canadian artist Violette online in 2004, I was immediately enamoured. Long before Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and other push-button social media platforms were the norm, Violette was digital journaling and chronicling her creative journey at where you will still find her today.

We instantly connected and Violette became an early collaborator on Creativity Portal, sharing a number of art projects and creativity tips to inspire readers to find and celebrate their own unique style and voice. Later excerpts from her wonderfully-illustrated Journal Bliss: Creative Prompts to Unleash Your Inner Eccentric showed us the wealth of source material we can tap into from our own life experiences to repurpose into stories, art, writing, and other creative expressions.

In 2005 Violette and I shared the following virtual conversation touching on her personal history, appearance on HGTV's Weird Homes, the courage it takes to create, and her mantra of Living Out Loud. Like others who persist on the artistic path, the wisdom found in Violette's journey is both timeless and timely for all who seek joy, meaning, and purpose from creating.

Q: Your name, Violette. When I watched Weird Homes and HGTV's Creative Decor, I noticed your name was pronounced Vee-o-let instead of Vi-o-let. Is this a result of Canadian dialect, or just another wonderful thing that makes you so unique? By the way, how do YOU pronounce violet (the flower with heart shaped leaves)?

Magic follows you wherever you go by VioletteA: The Vee-o-let pronunciation of my name is French. My Mom named me after the tiny bouquet of violets my Dad used to bring her when they were courting. She was to wear them as a broach on her lapel. If you wore them a certain way it meant you were "taken" if you wore it the other way around it meant you were "available." One day my Mom who was very young at the time (17 years old) decided she didn't like it the way she was "supposed to" have it and pinned the violets the other way around. My father who was insanely jealous ripped the flowers off of her lapel and stomped on them. I was told the story recently by my Mom when I asked "Where in fact did my name come from?" It was unfortunate that she mentioned the stomping incident... lol... So that's where my name came from!

Oh there is something else important attached to my name. When we first came to Canada from Morocco I was 4 years old, my Mom would stand on the back porch and call my sister and I for dinner. She would yell "Vee-o-Lettttttttttttt!" Anyways one day I was very embarrassed to hear this because I so desperately wanted to be like the little Canadian kids. I asked my mom to call me "Violet" so I would be like the Canadian kids. So she did and so did my sisters.

Just before my father died when I was 33 years old I was taking my Lay Counsellors certificate. When the participants in the program asked me my name I surprised myself by saying "My name is Violet but my REAL name is Violette." From that point on they called me Vee-o-let which felt like home. I tried getting my family to call me by my real name but my sisters refused. And to this day (18 years later) they still call me Violet. I often say "Violet is dead, I'm Violette" but it makes no difference.

Q: Tell me more about the Chickenlady you mentioned in Weird Homes.

Violette's ChickenladyA: I was in a very dysfunctional relationship. My partner had brought me to Mexico for a vacation. There I was in an incredibly beautiful spot, Saint Miguel de Allende, an artist's mecca and I was freaking out. As I surveyed the beautiful landscape and architecture from our veranda I was thinking "Oh my God... I could lose my home, my parents and family are never going to accept me as an artist, I might end up a Wal-Mart Greeter, I may end up a baglady, I'm in a very dysfunctional relationship!"

So there I sat in PARADISE worried... I was such a chicken. I told myself that I'm a chicken... no... not just a chicken but the Chickenlady! I started to furiously draw a chickenlady. She became my mascot. I noticed that at first she looked very timid. Her pose was very vulnerable in the beginning. As I matured as an artist and finally left my dysfunctional relationship the Chickenlady's pose became much more determined which mirrored my life.

One of the last paintings I did was called "Don't Mess with the Chickenlady!" She is on my kitchen door forever asking me "Now what are you afraid of Violette?" The Chickenlady challenges me to embrace my fears and move forward. She never gives me a break, she is unrelenting. I can't even butter a slice of bread without noticing her questioning glare. I like it that way... she keeps me on my toes. Just recently she is encouraging me to drive by myself to Mt. Shasta where I'm being called.

Q: We all have authors and artists who impact us in some uplifting way. Who are some of the luminaries that inspire you artistically?

A: Wow... I have been inspired by so many authors and artists! My home library is just brimming with books. Some of my favourites are:

  • Jim Henson of the Muppet Fame
  • Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way
  • Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin
  • A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Van Oech
  • Kathy Murrillo Cano (Crafty Chica)
  • The Lost Soul Companion by Susan Brackney
  • Women who Run with Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood
  • Somerset Studio Magazines
  • Collage for the Soul by Holly Harrison and Paula Grasdal
  • Moonlight Chronicles by Dan Price
  • Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory
  • Living out Loud by Keri Smith
  • The Artful Spirit by Nancy Drew
  • Eric Maisel's books on Creativity
  • The Journey is the Destination by Dan Eldon
  • Artist's Journals and Sketchbooks by Lynne Perrella
  • Sabrina Ward Harrison's Spilling Open
  • and all of the SARK books!

By far I think the author/artist who has been the most influential in my life is SARK (Susan Kennedy). My life opened up in a brilliantly hue-d way when I discovered SARK about 12 years ago. It was as if I was given permission to PLAY, to be myself and to be the eccentric soul that I am! Now that's Liberation!

Q: Journaling. If someone asked you how to do it, what would you say?

A: Oh Gosh... it's hard to know where to begin. Since I'm more process orientated than anything sometimes it's difficult to know how to convey "just let your intuition tell you what to do next!"

Often when I begin giving a workshop I tell the story of how when I kept a written journal and revisited it I was appalled by the months and months of negative and depressive writing. I noticed that I stayed in the same negative place for quite a while. When I discovered Visual Journaling several years ago it was absolutely incredible. The entire process of using imagery along with words became alchemical! I was aware that I was still stuck, sad or depressed but the simple combination of mixed media and words transformed the feelings much more quickly. I was not as morose as I used to be for long periods of time. The depression lifted much quicker. I was able to come to terms with negative situations more readily.

Using art in my journals gave me the opportunity to physically manifest my feelings, to extricate them from my body and mind and get them down on paper. I would encourage people to use all kinds of media in their journals, paints, pencils, felt pens, pencil crayons, rubberstamps, photocopied pictures, collaging, ephemera (add ons such as feathers, tags, paperclips, glitter, sewing, buttons etc.). Sit in front of your open journal with your materials by your side and ask yourself what's inside of you that needs a voice. Then intuitively start using words, imagery, colours or whatever jumps out at you. Do not Judge... JUST DO and enjoy the process!

I was so excited by my transformation that I wanted to share Visual Journaling with as many people as I could. It's as if I wanted to say "Listen... give a voice to all that is deep within you and you'll begin to notice yourself blossoming!"

Visual journaling is also a wonderful opportunity to document the joys in your life. It's great if you take the time to illustrate your bliss with all manner of ephemera. Just watch your journal become "poofy", colourful and sparkly as you add the moments of your life. Your book will resemble something pulled from a Pirates Chest just waiting to be discovered!

Q: The year is 2025. First-year art students are studying textbook perspectives on art history. The chapter on folk art spotlights the colorful, whimsical artist known as "Violette." Encapsulating your place in folk art history, what do you want the students to read?

A: Boy Chris... you sure come up with some profound questions. You know this question reminds me of the meditation my coach had me do a couple of years ago... the me... 20 years down the road:

Still Living out LOUD at 71!!

Artist, Violette, age 71 has retained her youthful exuberance even at this age!! Regardless of what she was told more than 20 years ago by mentors to "drop the glitter otherwise you'll never be famous or sell your work" she ignored the advice to follow her bliss. As Violette often says "Just do what your heart moves you to do... that's your job, that's what you came here for!" She still has a love affair with glitter and all things colourful.

Living on the Gulf Islands in a very funky colourful cottage Violette writes and illustrates on average one book every two years, gives talks on The Creative Spirit and appears on various T.V. shows demonstrating that you can march to the beat of your own drum, make a living and be blissfully happy. She has produced a line of DVD's which encourages and inspires people through creative projects. Her message is that being creative is a path to wholeness, a path to loving yourself more deeply. When you love yourself the love will spill over onto all who cross your path!

One of her best memories is of traveling throughout Africa keeping a visual journal of her adventures and donating all of the proceeds of the published journal to the organization "Aids Africa".

You'll still find her tooling about the island in her gaily painted and glittered VW van.

Q: You say that you're "process oriented" in your art. What does that mean?

A: To me process oriented means that what is most important is the journey of creation, not so much the end product. Unfortunately, our society values product so much that process is not held in as high regard as I'd like it to be.

Many years ago I received my lay counseling certificate, and I also went back to school in my mid-thirties to become a psychologist. I ended up quitting halfway through. The value, however, of psychology in the creation of art has remained with me all these years. The only way I learn and can teach what I learn is through direct experience. I can tell you unequivocally that Art Saved my Life! That is why I'm so passionate about teaching what I know as well as inspiring people to use art as a tool for transformation. When you get lost in the process of creation and intuitively give a voice to your feelings or experience, there is no greater joy or release than that. You certainly don't have to share your art with anyone, it's for you to decide if you do. The journey is alchemical!

Violette's coloring book for the kid in all of us.Q: Tell me about what inspired you to create a coloring book for adults? And what "magic" are you hoping it brings to people's lives?

A: I was inspired to create a colouring book because my friend and artist Tracy Dove from Arizona had sent me hers and I fell in love with the idea of a colouring book for adults. I could see the value in giving people permission to play, cut loose and have fun! Colouring is very relaxing. On the back of the colouring book I have the rules which are:

Violette's Coloring Rules

Rule #1
There are no rules.

Rule #2
Colour inside the lines, colour outside the lines, colour over the entire image.

Rule #3
Use the backs of the colouring pages to create your own drawings, then colour!

Rule #4
Embellish your pages with stickers, glitter, jewels and magazine pictures.

Rule #5
Use the images to inspire you to live life more exuberantly!

Rule #6
Give yourself Permission to have fun and cut loose.

Rule #7
Encourage your friends and co-workers to have a colouring contest. Everyone wins a prize... think fun prizes from the dollar store!

This is my quote on the back of the colouring book: "I encourage you to embrace your eccentricity and be authentic! The easiest way to find yourself is through your creativity!"

Q: McDonald's has Happy Meals, and you have "Happy Packages." Do tell what these are and where we can get them.

A: Happy packages are simply a package of my inspirational art in the form of greeting cards, fridge magnets and bookmarks all in a cellophane bag. Many of the offerings in the package will be glittered of course! My intent is to share my positivity with as many people as I can. Some of the sayings in the package are "Magic Follows you Wherever you Go", "Bee Yourself" and "Inspire."

Q: And you teach classes too, don't you? Where can locals explore their art and creativity with you?

A: Yes, I teach classes. Locals should check out the workshop section on my website for the latest classes and drop-in workshops. I teach all over the place, the Surrey Art Centre, Opus Art Supplies, various women's centres and non-profits as well as in the schools. I'll be facilitating a Designing Diva's workshop for teenagers in the fall at the Art Centre.

Right now I'm creating a brochure to target all of the women's centres in the area so I can facilitate workshops on Visual Journaling and Mask making. One thing I'm open to doing is have a group of people approach me to host a workshop in my home. This Friday I'm having a drop-in class where I'll be teaching visual journaling techniques as well as "Shrine Making" (from an Altoid tin). The drop-in classes will happen randomly when I have free time.

Q: One final question about your colorful Magic Cottage. Do you ever paint over walls or rework rooms when the mood strikes?

A: Sometimes I do paint over the walls but generally I'm happy with what I've done and it stays that way for a while. The latest update was to the dining room which I converted into a "Sanctuary"... a place to meditate. The walls were painted Eggplant and I randomly swirled on beige and copper paint in certain areas. On the valance over the large window is written in gold paint "To Thine Ownself be True".

When I do plan on painting a wall I go to my favourite paint store, directly walk to the colour chip area and scoop my favourite colour whether it be chartreuse, fuchsia, orange, purple etc. This takes all of one minute. I marvel at people who go in and spend hours agonizing over which shade of beige to choose. It's just paint! You can always paint over it if you don't like it. The point is to choose a colour that makes you happy! IF you follow your heart you won't be disappointed.

©2005 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

Next: Journal Bliss: Symbolic Stories

Creativity Success Story

Violette's Whimsical Folk Art

Magazines, TV Shows, and a Big Field of Dreams

Violette's Magic Cottage"If you build it, they will come," — this is a phrase from the movie Field of Dreams. Several years ago after a number of unsuccessful attempts at marketing my art I bought this movie. It was to become my personal talisman that I felt would magically bring the recognition and artistic success I was seeking for so long. Something interesting happened after buying the movie. I decided to bring my whimsical art to the States on a road trip.

Before embarking on my solo trip, I had sent a promotional package to the TV show Weird Homes. In the package I included pictures of my funky, colourful home that I dubbed "the Magic Cottage." I also brazenly stated my home should be on their show! Just before leaving for my trip I received a phone call from one of the show's producers wanting to know more about my home. I mentioned my painted whimsical doors. She asked me to forward some photos of the doors. When I returned from my trip the producer asked me if I was planning on painting any more doors — which I was. She asked me to save a door to paint on camera which happened to be the Chickenlady door. Needless to say I was elated!

Appearing on the TV show was the beginning of a series of invitations to appear on other shows. Several newspaper and magazine articles ensued. Even though I had received a modest amount of attention for my art and home before the Weird Homes show it appeared as if the TV show was what catapulted me to the next level of credibility as an eccentric "outside the box artist."

My mission was to encourage people to embrace their authenticity and be more creative. All of the publicity was achieving this, however, it was not bringing in much money. Along my journey of receiving media attention my confidence level as an artist went up. Folks from all over the world began e-mailing or writing to let me know how much I had inspired them to be more creative or to follow their dreams. Something magical and alchemical happened to me. I began to feel more like a REAL artist and had no problem stating this.

Asking for work as an artist became easier. I was invited to appear in a group art show. I sold numerous designs to a rubberstamp company, designed scrap booking imagery, created caricatures for private clients and began creating my own line of inspirational greeting cards, magnets and bookmarks. I also began submitted art and stories to various zines and publications such as Artitude, Artella, Somerset Studios and Cloth Paper Scissors. Six years ago I would never have had the courage to do this! Recently I've been asked to submit projects and ideas for two book publishers!

Writing and creating crafts for Creativity Portal has also given me the courage to put myself out there more, to send an illustrated article to Artitude zine and also to send packages to five magazines, one of which garnered me a wonderful article (Cloth Paper Scissors). I truly don't believe this would have happened without the link with Creativity Portal.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that this is in fact truly happening. After so much rejection and a circuitous path towards my bliss I'm hitting my stride. I certainly have not arrived but I'm getting there. I've built it and they HAVE come. For this I am eternally grateful! If I can do it You can do it! •

© 2005 Violette. All rights reserved.