ANDREA ELENA

Origin Story

Almost all aspects of human life "takes a village", and being an artist is no exception really. See that proverbially 1970s family over there? (In the photo). That's my family, making art together, in Lima Peru. Endearingly referred to as the "Familia von Trapp de Lima", this little Brady Bunch of seven children, plus both my grandparents, were known for their ceramic sculptures, and various other artworks. I grew up, steeped in the family culture that being an artist was my heritage.

The truth is, I learned a lot from my family (that's me in the photo - I'm at my aunt Puchi's studio in Miami, Florida). I've been fortunate to grow up around people who did art, and could teach me their trade secrets. But my journey to becoming a watercolour artist wasn't actually a straight or conventional one. I didn't jump right into art school, albeit, much to my chagrin. I spent years on the journey of a conventional, "get a job first and do art after" mindset of my well meaning immigrant parents, who subscribed to the hallmark sentiment which largely defines my generation. So I have a BA Honours in Linguistics with a minor in Psychology, as well as an MA in Discourse Studies, also a graduate certificate in Corporate Communications, and to top it all off, I also have a PhD (abd) in Medical Anthropology where I started my fieldwork in researching food and health - until one day I simply couldn't live that lifestyle anymore and I left academia to pursue art, full time, professionally. I had always dabbled in art vocational training though; peppered in throughout my life, I studied photography, graphic design, and eventually watercolour. The years in which I started painting with watercolour were the ones I felt most myself. 

Today you will find me either at my studio in Hello Art Studios, or teaching at various locations across the city - through my business Local Art Workshops. I have had the unique privilege of becoming one of the co-organizers of Ottawa's Wall Candy Art Expo, which keeps me busy when I'm not painting or teaching (that photo is of my booth at our 2019 event in the Aberdeen Pavilion). Some of my other recent community-engaged art involvements have included: curating the Exploration Gallery for the Canadian Association for Food Studies conference for two-years consecutively; and, facilitating a workshop for CBC Ottawa's Make Change workshops series, which is part of their Project Give fundraising campaign to raise money for the Ottawa Food Bank.

"Sit with nature and listen to what it whispers, before it starts to yell"

-Andrea Elena

A constellation of inspirations...

I am profoundly moved by all things nature; the plethora of biota and microbiota that is our organic living world captivates my attention almost ineffably. But here, I will attempt to describe it anyway (the photo to the left is me at a Carleton University Art Gallery exhibition during my MA studies, next to my painting inspired by the whimsy of a Banyan tree). I have always felt safe in forests; they give me comfort as if I am amongst close friends (needless to say, I am an emphatic fan of Peter Wholleben's "The Hidden Life of Trees", which, refreshingly, finally extends us license to see trees as 'beings' complete with agency and culture). My research into the relationship between food and health honestly expanded my appreciation for nature as a high-functioning system, within which we are only a small part. I am perpetually humbled by what bacteria and fungi actually accomplish for the broader phenomenon we understand as "life". I have, begrudgingly, come to understand the moral quandary that in order for something to live, other things must die (and this painful awareness has challenged me to think beyond myself). I have come to discover an ethos of "conservation" that is about celebration and appreciation, recognizing that it is only in seeing all life as equally meaningful that we can begin to live more sustainably. I cherish a low-waste ethic, and value incorporating that into my artistic practice. I could go on, but I think this summarizes it for now. Thank you for taking an interest, and being part of my world, even if for this brief encounter. 

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©2019 by Andrea Elena