Lloydminster, Alberta / Canada
Art Mums United is beyond thrilled to introduce Brandi Hofer, a Canadian painter, muralist and mother to three creative boys. Brandi's main focus is on figurative and portraiture painting. She creates her art in her own in-home studio and involves her children in her creative process.
Brandi, let me just that I admire you and your work very much. You are an absolute superhero woman. Tell us about you and your journey into the art world (brief bio/history/backstory)?
That is very kind of you. I feel like art has always been integrated into my life and has defined who I am!
I love the quote from Helena Bonham Carter:
"I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art."
I recall as a child drawing in every book, even our atlas. My carpet in my room was covered in paint. Gifts I received from the family were always art related, art was embraced and encouraged.
I received my BFA in 2008 from NSCAD University in Halifax NS, Canada. Upon graduating, I decided that I wanted to be close to family and made it back to the prairies in central Canada. I guess you have to find the distance to realize what you really value in life, and for me, that was a family connection. In hindsight, I am so grateful for that decision now. A few years later my mom got sick and right before my first son was born, we lost her. I was very close with my Mother, and that forever ripped a hole in my heart. My husband was my constant in that time, and my son was my focus. Time is a funny thing. I don't think I could have gotten through that loss if I hadn't become a Mother during the grieving process, it gave me purpose and focus.
That experience and shock of death awoke something in me. I had a new thirst for life. Nothing scared me anymore. Nothing could be more painful than losing my mother. You will not get the things you want in this life by not taking a chance in the first place.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
- Steve Jobs
Since the passing of my mother, our lives kicked into high gear. Time is our most precious commodity and should be spent on the things that matter most: Family, love and one's passions. Moments are fickle and fleeting; I have endeavored to make the most of mine. I refuse to lock myself away in my studio alone and not include my children in my passion for the arts.
Your main focus is on figurative and portraiture painting while exploring the themes of empowerment, the female psyche, and emotional self. How did your style evolve, and why are you focusing on these topics?
I've always been really keen on portraiture. I started mostly with abstraction, and that led into combining the two in an expressive journey to do both. I am a really emotional creative individual and cannot separate myself from the artwork. The work I create is an extension of my emotional self. The subject matter usually revolves around internal struggles or a message that I would like to express. Communicating has always been a struggle for me, speaking aloud the gravity of what I am trying to say, I always find challenging. Expressing my thoughts through the process of art-making, or poetry and the written word seems to be a natural solution and a beautiful way to connect with the world. Every day my practice is evolving and changing, and I am always experimenting in new mediums or finding my way back to old processes, I just love being in my studio! We are very fortunate to have the studio right in our home and I can sneak in there whenever I get a free moment!
When your first son was two years old, you did a 44-piece series together. The opening event seemed to be so much fun. Can you tell us all about it including how did you come up with the idea?
It actually all started with me wanting to make a big statement about feminism and the female rights movement, I had a new series in mind. Until I was talking about it out loud, and more and more, I realized that wasn't where I was at in my life at that moment. Not that my idea and that movement is not important, it just I didn't feel obligated to speak creatively about it just then. I was knee-deep in parenthood. I desperately wanted more studio time and was frustrated that I couldn't get in there alone. Then it just dawned on me maybe Gus would be ready to paint with me (I had tried earlier and he didn't seem that keen). Then we had our second child who napped 3 times a day and Gus and I had to stay relatively quiet, and winters are very long and cold where I live (-30 degrees Celsius some days). Magic happened, wonderstruck, and we worked together in a creative furry! Long story short to say we had the most amazing time is an understatement. My hope was that the artwork could even scratch the surface of the significance of our time together. The paintings were of all local parents that came by the studio and were photographed. Then I thought a standard opening just wasn't sufficed. We needed it to be completely tactile and interactive! We had hundreds of suckers tied to balloons, ride along with toys, carpets, bean bag chairs, swords, the whole deal! We had 115 people come to the local opening, it was actually crazy, the kids were all riding a sugar high, but it was so so wonderful! I still can't believe we created 44 paintings!!
Now my second Finn, who is almost 4, is very into studio time, I have to pry the big jumbo sharpies out of his sticky little hands. With Finn, it is payback for my behavior as a child, literally, every surface has been artified, I will provide some fun examples: our garage door has a giant monster face, our couch has paint from him running out of the studio, the toilet, all the chairs, the tub and every single wall, he also has a proclivity for glue ... people ask me how I got it off and I just think it's so past the point of coming back, I just leave it now. I will have time to take care of those things later in life, right now, I just want to enjoy their creativity.
Teddy, who is now 1, seems very excited about studio time too, he dismantles everything, but will be swimming in paint soon!
You have also started creating large-scale murals. How is your process different from your regular studio art practice?
With murals, I just found myself admiring murals on social media. We don't have a lot in the place where I live (hopefully that will change soon). The more I searched, the more exposed I was, and just thought, I want to do that, so I did! I messaged a business friend the next and asked her if she happened to know anyone with a downtown business who wanted or would be interested in a mural. As luck would have it, she actually did, and a few months of prepping and research I had myself a 50ft outdoor cinderblock wall to tackle! It was a far larger and time-consuming undertaking than I had anticipated, and have learned a few integral things since then, but I would love to do more! It takes a lot of prep, research, design work and material than just creating a piece in the studio. Weatherproofing and having the mural be archival is important as well, I believe the outdoor mural ended up being 6 coats, in the end, a ton of work!! Pricing for these kinds of jobs is a learning curve as well. This year I had the pleasure of doing two more 25ft indoor murals and have found the style of mural work that I enjoy creating. Hopefully, when the kids are a bit older, we can travel the world together and pursue and explore that aspect of my career further.
What were the most exciting moments in your career so far?
Honestly, there have been so many. Being an artist has woven its way into all these moments of my life! I've gotten to be in residencies outside of Paris, Montreal, and Toronto. I am grateful for travelling early in my life and career. Having an in-home studio where we are constantly immersed in creativity, having that outlet for our family is amazing! The connections I have now with other artists and artist Mother's throughout the globe. I mean, this is what I get to do like my job (and sometimes it really does feel like a job, not all sunshine and rainbows, I work hard every day). But the meaningful moments make up for all of the stuff that feels like work. My work has been featured and purchased by some neat people but what feels really amazing are the small projects, those are really meaningful. When I get to make that special portrait for a family who has suffered a loss. Those are the moments that are remarkable to me, those are the moments that I am reminded that being an artist is a true gift in this life.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past, and how do you feel about it now?
I don't think I would have believed anyone who told me I would have a home with 4 boys (that is counting my partner) ;) ! I think when I was younger, I remember saying I wasn't having children (I was naive and had a lot to learn about myself). I love being constantly surrounded by family and creating and cooking and playing. I am exhausted every day when my head hits that pillow, but my bucket feels full of love. I am getting cheesy, I just could not imagine my life any other way, I am truly lucky.
What is the message behind your art?
It is definitely always evolving and changes for each body of work, but I love communicating through poetry for each series of artwork.
What does your art do for you?
I guess it's pretty apparent that art has made a huge impact on my life! It has shaped me as a person, allowed me to emotionally connect with the world around me. It exposed me to a variety of cultures and experiences. It has greatly shaped the way I live my everyday life, and how I raise and provide for my family.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting etc.)?
With children, I've learned to take everything moment by moment. I haven't planned too far ahead ... I just want to be with my family as much as possible for now and squeeze in creating as much as I can (which I am sure as it has in the past will take me to places that I never thought possible)!
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
My best advice would be:
Take care of yourself first in order to best take care of others (rest, fitness, mental health, and diet; however, you can best achieve this for you). We must master our resting life to master our active life.
Time is our most precious commodity (be selfish with it).
Material things are just material things.
Look your children in the eyes and look at them, truly try to see them, as much as you can, you are shaping them for the future.
My favourite book for tips on communicating with small children is "Happiest Toddler on the Block" and for art inspiration, it is "Big Magic".