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For the love of art
Fort Smith's Chris DeWolf not an artist for the money

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 15, 2011

As a full-time artist, the most important thing to Fort Smith's Chris DeWolf is to be able to make a living at something she loves doing, although she doesn't expect to get rich.

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Chris DeWolf, who earlier this month attended a trade show in Hay River, is a full-time artist in Fort Smith. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"I'm not really strongly motivated by money, which is good because, as an artist, unless you get that lucky break you're not going to be rolling in the dough," she said. "But on the other hand, what's more important to me than anything, and it always has been, is working in the field of my choice."

DeWolf's art has two aspects graphic art and fine art, mostly jewelry-making and painting.

"I'm employed full-time as a graphic designer, jewelry maker and art creationist, and however that divides up," she said.

In fine art, she has focused on jewelry-making and painting for about the last seven years, she said. "Prior to that, I was working in all kinds of different mediums, and I still do. I'll take workshops in altered art. I'll try altered art for a bit and see how that goes and maybe I'll even make some. I might try fabric-making and whip up a few of those. But my prime focus is jewelry, because you have to narrow it down to something or you'll be all over the place."

DeWolf is originally from Nova Scotia, where she earned a college diploma in graphic design before moving to Fort Smith in early 1998 after getting a job with Cascade Graphics, where she still works on a contract basis.

"I didn't know where Fort Smith was. I didn't care," she said.

DeWolf, 50, has found the North to be a good place to be an artist.

"The government of the NWT is very supportive of its artists. It really is," she said, noting she has received thousands of dollars in support over the years from the NWT Arts Council, the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation, and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

"That's a big deal," she said. "In Nova Scotia, where everybody and their dog is an artist of some sort, there's just not that kind of money being given away."

Among other things, government support has helped her equip a studio which she built in her backyard.

DeWolf also said that living in the North has influenced her work.

For instance, she has incorporated some northern elements, such as a bison horn, and she created a stylized pendant based on the aurora borealis.

She noted she doesn't agree with some people who say there's a challenge for artists in the isolation in the North.

"I really don't feel that," she said. "For me, so far anyhow, there's already been quite a market."

In this Internet age, DeWolf has also done graphic design work for people in Yellowknife and Nunavut without ever actually having met them.

In the next two weeks, she will be launching a website for her DeWolf Artworks.

All paintings she has created, except for some she has decided to keep, have already been sold.

DeWolf noted she is not a prolific painter, and has done about 30 acrylic works.

One of her creations was seen by virtually everyone in the NWT. In 2003, her painting of pelicans on the Slave River was featured on the cover of the NorthwesTel phonebook.

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