Joy and discovery

"The Wind is Our Ally" by Teresa Young.

Art leads Teresa Young to shocking revelations about herself and her family

Teresa Young’s path to being an artist began with first face painting at age 3, and became clearer five years later when she completed her first oil painting.

“You know how somebody can gravitate towards something they’re given as gifts?” she says. “This was just what I always did.”

Growing up on British Columbia’s coast, Young believes she inherited her creativity.

Young’s father was a fisherman, but he also a carver, as were her five older brothers. 

“My second oldest brother painted a bit, but he wasn’t that interested in it,” she says. “Once they saw that it was my thing, they just veered off to other things.”

As a teenager, Young did portraits at the local mall. For a year, she used her profits to fund private lessons from an artist that was classically trained in Europe. She also took oil painting lessons from Tommy Thompson, a veteran Canadian artist known for his Group of Seven style. Those sessions had a lasting impact.

Teresa Young

“I have a very good grounding in colour,” she says. “I’m a colourist, but I also have a very odd use of colour. I’ve had gallery owners tell me that it’s very different. I get to a certain point where it just overcomes me, and off I go on my tangent, and then you don’t know what’s going to come out.”

Moving to Nova Scotia in 2010, she continued her artistry and is known as a “figurative abstractionist,” a unique style that she says she developed alone, comparing it to the way American artist Georgia O’Keeffe uses lines, strokes, and colours.

Young says early in her career, people often asked about her ancestry, seeing a Native style in her work. That sparked her to research her family tree.

“I found out my grandfather was fully Métis,” she recalls. “It was a big scandal in the family; my grandmother was a widow who got pregnant, had my mother, and then got married a year later in 1920. I didn’t get the full story because it was the big family secret. My mother never talked about it; she was curious with me to find out.”

Art also helps Young balance to the technical side of her personality. After completing studies in electrical and computer engineering, she’s worked as an IT consultant in real estate software for many years. With the housing market booming, life has become a balancing act.

“I honestly don’t think I could live without it,” she says. “It is a fundamental part of my personality; I can’t separate myself from that … It makes me calm and stable. You know how some artists are tortured, and their art gets dark? Even when my art got darker, I didn’t stop to think that paint, when it dries, gets darker for many years. Art is a joy, and I want to share it. As I express it, it’s coming out, and that’s why I’m happier when I can share it with other people.”

“Carnival” by Teresa Young.

One of her favourite creations is “Dragon Feed,” a painting she made 20 years ago and can’t bear to sell, because it expresses her journey.

“It has depth, but it’s still an abstract, and it’s very precise,” she says. “I was a gifted mathematician when I was in school, and I look at this and, if a mathematician painted this, that’s what you’d get. It’s all patterns, and everything is together, almost structured logically. Every piece is very distinct from the other, but it all fits together and flows. It’s just my favorite, but that’s the one I won’t sell.”

In June, she’s contributing to an exhibition at Chase Gallery in the Nova Scotia Archives, and hopes more Haligonians discover her unique artwork.

“When you have anything realistic, it’s more grounded to the real world,” she says. “Many times when I look at (art) based on my mood, I can get something else from it and feel something different. It can change with you on a certain level, or you can see something new or remember something that you saw … That’s valuable with art can comfort you. It can bring a sense of enjoyment; it can bring joy into your life.”

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