South Shore Breaker
A healing journey expressed through art
Artist learns acceptance as a way of life through drawing method
Imagine sitting in your art studio with an object or a person in front of you. Choose a spot on your paper and place your pencil there, imagining it's touching the subject instead of the paper. Focus your attention on the subject's contour. Connect your hand to your eye and draw the smallest details of what you see without looking down at the paper. You have no eraser, so when you finish drawing, accept what you draw as the unique artistic expression of your mindful connection with the object or person.
This challenging approach to line drawing is blind contour drawing, as taught by Kimon Nicolaides. It's also one of the artistic tools used by South Shore visual artist Chanelle Jefferson. “I say that I am a contemporary artist who makes lines,” Jefferson said during a recent interview. “As an artist growing up, I was always interested in the simplicity of the line.”
Jefferson was introduced to the blind contour method during a first-year university art class in 2016 while studying the work of Nicolaides.
“I struggled for a long time to accept what I was drawing,” Jefferson said of classes spent drawing the details of her thumb viewed under a magnifying glass.
“I didn't appreciate the class and I didn't appreciate the method at all until I watched it slowly trickle into my work. And one thing this technique has taught me, is acceptance in many parts of my life because you don't get to use an eraser,” Jefferson said.
Learning to accept her work eventually became a way of living for the artist and a way to improve her connection to others.
“Not being able to go back and erase everything I had done taught me acceptance in multiple areas of my life,” said Jefferson.
“As a child who had a pretty difficult upbringing, I had a hard time accepting all of the things that happened in my past. And drawing this way and being so mindful and accepting what was on the paper
helped me process those things and accept them for what they were.”
Early this year, Jefferson decided to combine two techniques she had used in the past, blind contour drawing and abstract painting.
She created an ongoing series of new works called Connection Exposed, each beginning with a blind contour drawing with pencil on unbleached canvas. Then she diluted blue pigment, pouring the colour onto the canvas and adding other colours using wet chalk like paint.
“My most recent work is certainly about healing. On this entire journey I worked up a lot that was stuck inside of me and needed to come out. And this is my way of releasing that,” she said.
“I don't plan my paintings. I sit in front of a blank piece of unbleached canvas. I ask,''what do I need to release today?' And something comes,” Jefferson said.
Each piece in the collection shares its own story of childhood trauma, loss, pain, hope, faith, an homage to someone or a thank you.
The piece Uprooted tells the story of her family separating from her father.
“When I was 11 years old my mother and sister and I left a long-term abusive home situation overnight and it was jarring, exciting and terrifying to me all at the same time,” she said.
She described the piece Growth as a story within a painting about her and her partner experiencing loss and relief simultaneously.
Brittany Hachey, founder and owner of Embodied Essence, is a holistic relations coach and yoga teacher who works with Jefferson to create events incorporating yoga and art. Hachey also owns pieces of Jefferson's art.
“… it immediately resonates with people because we all want to be seen,” Hachey said of Jefferson's work. “And there is a duality in her artwork because it not only heals her, but it helps others to heal because they can see themselves in her artwork and in her.”
“My biggest hope with my work is that I can bring these things that we all struggle to talk about into dialogue through my work and therefore create a safe space …,” Jefferson said.
“I have heard so many beautiful, scary and sad stories from people who have purchased my work and being able to hold that for them is truly an honour. I think that is the greatest part about the work that I do.”
Jefferson plans a private showing of her work called Connection Exposed Part ll on Oct. 30.
To learn about the event and her work, go to chanellejefferson.com, on Instagram @ chanellejefferson_ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.