My name is Justine Fernie and I guess I can really classify myself as an artist now. I say that because while I was working on my degree in Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario in the early ninety's and up until a couple of years ago, I would never classify myself as an "artist" per se. I felt that that term was reserved for "real" artists--people who were famous because of their art. I have always been an "artist" I guess, but just not famous.
I pretty much am a lover of all arts. I danced (primarily ballet but also modern and jazz too) from when I was 6 right through university. Knowing I never had a "dancers body", I never chose to pursue it as a career, but I certainly loved it nevertheless. I used to play piano and the flute (yes, I did go to band camp!) and did some drama many years ago (I still am pretty dramatic) but my true love is painting.
Growing up, when my best friend Liz Sass came over to play, we'd draw. Liz specialized in figurative "books" while I focused on human bodies with animal heads--a sign of what was to come? My dad is an amazing artist and I wondered why he used to get annoyed with me when I'd ask him to "just draw" something for me. Now I understand. When my daughter sits down beside me as asks me to "just draw" something for her, I say, "No Carter, the only way you learn is by drawing things yourself." That's what dad would say to me too.
In high school, I auditioned for the Etobicoke School of the Arts for both dance and visual arts and while accepted into both programs, I chose to major in dance and minor in art (hello Mr. Dancy!). After 2 years at ESA, I transfered to ECI because I wanted a more "normal" high school experience...not too many straight boys at ESA at the time.
acrylic on canvas
36" h x 48"w
I decided to pursue a degree in Visual Arts at UWO. I had several professors along the way who greatly influenced me, one in particular named Dave Magee. Dave was a hyper-realist painter. It would take him a year to complete a single piece. I could not ever imagine the patience to work that way but Dave was a magical artist. He shared so much of himself with me and Trish, my best friend at UWO and well beyond. Dave taught us to see the magic in people and things that were not "normal". We looked at disfigured bodies in the medical lab at UWO and talked about his wife's ectopic pregnancy. He taught us about degrees of verisimilitude (very similar) and Joel Peter Witkin. He was incredible. Dave died several years ago due to health complications caused by a motorcycle accident. I hope he somehow knows just how much he influenced my artistic life. At the time I was so young and did not really understand just how his teachings affected me. Now I know.
After graduation, I knew that I couldn't make a living from being an "artist" for practical reasons ($$), so after a year living in the south of France and coming home and working for my dad's architectural firm, I started to work in the packaged goods design industry. My first big job was working for Cott Corporation out of The Watt Design Group (Cott owned at the time). I was learning there how to become an evenutal production manager--how labels could and would be printed. Not overly creative but it gave me a great understanding for colour and how it is created (CMYK/film/litho/flexo etc...).
Once I got married to Sean Fernie in 1999, I left the packaged goods industry and went to work again for my dad's company, RH Carter Architects Inc. I have been working for RH for 11 years now. It has been a truly amazing gig--I have worked primarily at home and share the position with my sister Mel and my sister-in-law Siobhan. It has allowed us all to raise our children as almost stay at home mum's, while at the same time earning a salary and having a stake in a true family business. I am completely indebted to my parents, Ron and Carol, for allowing us to do this.
Okay, I think I'm off to a good start. Enough for now.