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BC Artists: On or Under the Radar

Biographies and memoirs of BC artists who have dedicated their life to creativity, experiencing an array of struggles and successes along the way. 

Book Cover On the Curve

On the Curve: The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews, by Janet Nicol, joins a growing list of biographies and memoirs of BC artists who have dedicated their life to creativity, experiencing an array of struggles and successes along the way. 

In this list, Nicol recommends eight other reads, all beautifully illustrated with the artists’ work.


Book Cover Apples ETc

Apples, etc.: An Artist’s Memoir, by Gathie Falk with Robin Laurence

Gathie Falk (1928—) has transformed many ordinary scenes into remarkable art, from her stack of luminous ceramic apples to panels representing variations on men's shirt fronts with ties. Falk was still at work from her east Vancouver studio, aged 90, when Apples, etc.was published. Her memoir is told in the first person, assisted by seasoned art critic Robin Laurence. Seamlessly unfolding in short chapters, tales of Falk’s award-winning performance art, ceramics, sculpture and paintings are chronicled alongside insightful remembrances of her life journey.


Book Cover Light Within the Shadows

Light Within the Shadows: An Artist’s Memoir, by Pnina Granirer

Pnina Granirer (1935—) was creative from an early age, but didn’t come in to her own artistically until the “third act” of her life journey. This richly layered memoir reveals why this is so as Granirer recounts her beginnings in Romania, followed by immigration to Israel when she was fifteen and then to North America in 1962. She eventually settled in Vancouver with her husband and raised two sons. Using a journal-style format with drawings and photographs accompanying short, thematic chapters, Granirer reveals her finest talent was in drawing as “lines flowed from my pen with a life of their own.”

Book Cover Sonia

Sonia: The Life of Bohemian, Rancher and Artist Sonia Cornwall, by Sheryl Salloum 

A genuine "cowgirl" of the Cariboo region and a talented artist, the biography of Sonia Cornwall (1919-2006) is meticulously detailed, offering pure inspiration. When Sonia’s father died in 1939 and her mother, Vivien Cowan inherited the Onward Ranch near Williams Lake, the teenage Sonia “traded paintbrush for pitchfork, ”helping plough fields, drive cattle and mend fences. Along with her mother and A.Y. Jackson (of Group of Seven fame), Sonia co-founded the Cariboo Art Society in 1945, hosting artists visiting from near and far. After Sonia married Hugh Cornwall in 1947, the couple remained at Onward Ranch, raising their own family. Sonia’s paintings of people and surrounding rural landscape are as genuine and warm as her life story.


Book Cover The Art Lover

Harold Mortimer-Lamb: The Art Lover, by Robert Amos 

An accomplished artist based in Victoria, author Robert Amos writes an engaging account about another man of many talents, Harold Mortimer-Lamb (1872-1970). A collector of art as well as a photographer, painter, writer and art critic, Mortimer-Lamb led a fascinating life, moving among Canada’s most gifted artists. His late marriage to artist Vera Weatherbie, 40 years his junior, is sensitively depicted as a genuine love story, providing much motivation for his passion for art. 

Book Cover Ina D D Uhthoff

The Life and Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff, by Christina Johnson-Dean 

Ina D.D. Uhthoff (1889-1971) left a collection of varied and stunning art to gallery archives in BC and Alberta, yet has not received the recognition her work deserves.This biography is the fifth in a valuable ten-book series entitled Unheralded Artists of BC. A Scottish emigre to Canada after the First World War, Uhthoff settled in the Kootenays with her husband. When their marriage fell apart in 1925, Uhthoff moved to Victoria with their two children, persevering as a working mother and makingsignificant contributionsas an art educator and artist of oils, watercolors, etchings, linocuts, pastels and pottery.

Book Cover Kesu

Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer, by Jennifer Kramer 

This book celebrates the creativity of Indigenous modern artist Doug Cranmer (1927-2006), giving the reader a fascinating glimpse into a First Nation man’s time and place in BC history. Kesu’ was written to accompany a retrospective exhibition held at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, curated by Jennifer Kramer. In writing the artist’s biography, Kramer was assisted by his widow and sister, also interviewing more than 50 people who knew him. The result is a portrait of a man with a sense of humour who was also a contrarian, pragmatist, individualist, iconoclast and mentor. Cranmer’s rich portfolio includes carvings, prints, jewelry and paintings. 

Book Cover Seven Journeys

The Sketchbooks of Emily Carr: Seven Journeys, by Doris Shadbolt 

The list of books about Emily Carr (1871-1945) is long, ranging from the artist’s own delightful writings to the seminal work of Doris Shadbolt in 1992 and nine years later, Susan Crean’s account focussing on Carr’s relations with Indigenous communities. This slender volume of Carr’s sketches accompanied by Shadbolt’s commentary, depicts a portion of the artist’s travels, most along the BC coastline from 1928 to 1930. The reader gains an understanding of the sources of inspiration for the oil paintings Carr would later create. Independent and fearless, Carr sketched all she saw in these remote places. She played with her images too, in one sketch fusing a Native mask with a forest form, and in another engulfing a tiny house among thick forest. 

Book Cover BC Binning

B.C. Binning, by A.J. Rogatnick, Ian M. Thom and Adele Weder 

Three essayists celebrate the influential work of Bertram Charles Binning (1909-1976) in this beautifully curated oversized, hardcover book. A self-assured artist from a young age, Binning was on the vanguard of west coast modern art and architecture, his paintings and building designs distinctive for their geometric lines, shapes and bold colours. The founding director of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of BC, Binning commuted for many years to the Point Grey campus from West Vancouver, where he lived with his wife. Many photographs included in the book showcase his “west coast modern”residence, which Binning designed. Now a designated National historic site, the home exemplifies a man who lived artfully.


Book Cover On the Curve

About On the Curve: The Life and Art of Sybil Andrews:

Sybil Andrews was one of Canada's most prominent artists working throughout the late twentieth century. From a cottage by the sea in Campbell River, Andrews created striking linocut prints steeped in feeling and full of movement. Inspired by the working-class community that she lived in, her art is known for its honest depiction of ordinary people at work and play on Canada's West Coast. 

Although she was raised in Bury St Edmunds, England, On the Curve focuses on Andrews' life after she immigrated to Canada in 1947. Settling in Campbell River, Andrews taught private art and music lessons and created artwork that gained her recognition across the globe. In the final years of her life, retrospective exhibitions of her prints in Canada and Britain skyrocketed her popularity. Prints of her artwork became even more valuable after her death in 1992. In this first fully illustrated biography, author Janet Nicol weaves together stories from Andrews' letters, diaries and interviews from her former students and friends, creating a portrait of this determined, resilient and gifted British-Canadian artist. Andrews' work is as popular today as it was in her lifetime and continues to celebrate the cultural, industrial, agricultural and natural world of Canada's West Coast.


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