Fredericton exhibit pulls back the curtain on creative process

Yousef Hussain, a multimedia designer and illustrator, said his display for the exhibit, CVD19 MIRROR, is a self-portrait done during the pandemic.  (Jonathan Collicott/CBC News - image credit)
Yousef Hussain, a multimedia designer and illustrator, said his display for the exhibit, CVD19 MIRROR, is a self-portrait done during the pandemic. (Jonathan Collicott/CBC News - image credit)

What's more valuable than a finished piece of art?

The process.

That's according to an exhibition at the George Fry Gallery in Fredericton. Pull Back the Curtain showcases completed works along with the artists' initial sketches for the pieces.

Christina Thomson, head of the drawing studio at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, said the exhibit features 26 pieces, including metals, fashion, textiles, ceramics, digital design and visual arts.

"We wanted to focus on the drawing process and how that informs all the different studios at the college," said Thomson.

"We have this [notion] that brilliant ideas emerge as fully formed from your mind, and we don't get to see all of the hard work and hours that go into making something."

Jonathan Collicott/CBC News
Jonathan Collicott/CBC News

Thomson said the exhibit was an "eye-opener" for her and showcases how the preliminary process in each studio differs.

Fashion and jewlery pieces start with conceptual drawings followed by technical drawings with in-depth measurements, she said, whereas a painting may start with a rough concept, sketch or even a feeling.

"I'm very proud of the students. I'm very proud of all the work that was submitted."

Thomson said it's not often that several studios take part in the same exhibition.

"It was really nice to not have it just be about drawing, but also how it connects with every other studio in the college," said Thomson, "we don't necessarily get a chance to check in with each other as much as we should and reconnect in that way."

Grace Hallewell, a photographer and mixed media artist, said she's showing her series, Cross Contour Light Drawing, where she used drawing and photography to bring a traditional technique to life.

Jonathan Collicott
Jonathan Collicott

"Taking something that's traditionally just done on paper and bringing photography techniques with long exposures and a cat laser toy," she said.

Hallewell said her friend lay on the floor while she took long exposure shots and used the laser to draw lines up her friend's arms.

She learned about photography and working with light in her first year at the college, so she wanted to find a way to combine both concepts.

She said it's interesting, and daunting, to see how far her work has come since those initial sketches.

WATCH | From paper to final product:

"It's intimidating. [I'm a] perfectionist and get self-conscious," said Hallewell, "But in a way it's kind of relieving to be like 'I mess up, we all do'."

She said it's also a validating process. "I am growing, I am improving, I can say I'm a photographer, I'm an artist."

Yousef Hussain, a multimedia designer and illustrator, said his display for the exhibit, CVD19 MIRROR, is a self-portrait done during the pandemic.

Hussain is originally from Saudi Arabia and moved to Canada in 2021.

Jonathan Collicott/CBC News
Jonathan Collicott/CBC News

He said "COVID was a very rough period" because he went to China on a holiday and got stuck there for two years.

"I had to do a lot of art and self-reflection, a lot of looking into myself because no one could go out, I couldn't meet up with friends or extended family," said Hussain.

He said the work is a lot of what he learned through that period and portrays that "it's okay to just let things go with the flow with life, learn from your mistakes and move on and don't really focus on the negatives."

Hussain said he's never had his sketches on display before, but he was excited to incorporate his initial works for this piece.

"When it came to sketching and the idea phase,  I tried to focus a lot on seeing myself from different perspectives, how I look at myself, how I look at my struggles," he said.

"They mean a lot to me."