Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Feature Artist: Danielle Daniel

My name is Danielle Daniel and after 13 years of marriage I finally took my partner's last name (even though he thought it was weird).
I am living my life as an artist and a writer. Since picking up the paintbrush in 2010, I have painted well over 500 paintings.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and I believe being an artist is a REAL job.  I no longer wear my teacher pants to work, trading them in for my jeans, painting apron and converse shoes.
I am a mother to a thoughtful and compassionate boy named Owen who understands the value of kindness.  My partner Steve is a military Veteran, Paralympian and  is now attending Medical School in our hometown in Northern Ontario.  I also have a dog named Frodo.

I paint the feminine and expresses my own femininity throughout my artwork.  I am Métis-Algonkin, franco-ontarienne, and a very proud Canadian.  I'm also working on a collection of  short stories (creative non-fiction).  I'm inspired by good books, authentic people and stories of the past that remain buried in our hearts.  I  taught for many years at the Elementary, College and University levels.  I have happily left Academia behind to paint, write, and share my truth.  

Welcome Danielle....I am beyond excited to have you here today as our Friday Feature Artist.  I have been stalking following your journey for a while now and you have inspired me to go for my dreams so I am honored to have you here to share your insight and wisdom with my readers.  So here we go....

How long have you been painting and how did you learn your techniques?

I started painting January 7th of 2010 but I believe I have always been a painter.  However, before this day I did everything but paint. I created jewelry, sewed handbags, felted, cross stitched, made aromatherapy kits, created journals, silkscreened, etc...  Handmade has always been my M.O. I think all of these art forms prepared me for my BIG LOVE of painting.  A series of unfortunate events brought me to the exact moment where I finally put paint to canvas.  Looking back at it now, it was a perfectly timed symphony.
During the last two years, I have taken numerous classes from generous teachers both online and in person. My very first class was with the shining stars Mati Rose McDonough and Kelly Rae Roberts at An Artful Journey in San Jose, CA.  This retreat changed my life as I was encouraged by so many kindreds to pursue my dreams.  Since then I have been inspired by Misty Mawn, Jesse Reno, Gritty Jane, Mindy Lacefield, Pam Carriker, Traci Bautista and many others.  All of these talented humans have shared their passion for art with me and I am so grateful.

What are some of your favorite materials/tools to use?
My favourite tools are as follows:  Golden Gel Medium, Marks All pencil (black), Golden Payne’s Grey, paper of all kinds of paper; old, new, and ancient... you name it, I LOVE it!  My latest love are oil pastels. I LOVE their bold and bright hues.  Also, I can’t live without turquoise; even my car is turquoise now. (For real)

You mention in your bio that you are Metis-Algonkin, Franco-Ontarienne, and a very proud Canadian. Can you tell us what your heritage means to you and how it influences your artwork?
I believe that our geography is no accident. There is a reason I was born in Northern Ontario, Canada. While I’m the first to admit that I often wish I lived else where...where the grass is greener and ART is valued, I also trust that I am meant to be here right now.
French is my mother tongue and my French Canadian culture is something that matters to me very much. It is part of my layered identity along with my Métis roots.  Métis means part French and part Aboriginal. All of my life I have felt a connection to the First Nation People.   I wondered if I had Native blood running through my veins even though many generations before me denied this truth and refused to even acknowledge the possibility. 
Last year, thanks to a cousin who shared his research, I held the genealogical proof in my hands that went all the way back to 1630. Something in me shifted when I saw the names of all the generations before me. I knew it was a great gift.  It also validated the knowing I had always felt. It gave me an unwritten permission to go back into the past, to ask questions, and to start a dialogue. I felt like I was finally able to take part and to belong.  It also made me believe in my intuition and trust my heart above all else. I always knew I was connected to the Native people.
There is so much pain surrounding our Aboriginal populations; the loss of identity and culture due to the residential schools as well of countless other injustices that have called for attention and healing. A large section of my work is a way for me to highlight these themes, these truths, and these unwritten stories.  It’s a way to communicate that these issues do matter and we should be talking about them. I know I’m just at the very beginning of this important conversation. I hope in a small way, my art can help bridge the divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.  Because I come from both of these worlds; my heart beats in them mutually.
We are all multi-layered as humans and this includes culturally. I believe we have a responsibility as artists to tell the stories that remain unwritten, especially those that repeatedly nudge you to pay attention and share.

Recently you announced on your blog that you have been accepted to a prestigious program for creative writing (The Baniff Centre). Congratulations!!! Can you tell us a little about your experience applying and what it felt like to get accepted?
Banff. It still has not truly sunk in.  Besides my ART, my writing has been equally important. I need words like I need water.  I’ve been working on a collection of short stories that are creative non-fiction for the last few years. It has been a start and stop project that has usually stopped due to FEAR- the four letter word... Ya, I said it.
While taking Sarah Selecky’s online writing course, I found my rhythm.  I started to go steady  with my writing again.  (This is Sarah’s way of assessing your relationship with your writing).  For a while we just had one night stands and long separations.  Now, we’re solid and committed to each other.
While looking online for other opportunities to further grow as a writer I fell upon this writing program in Banff.  Of course the cruel little inner critic chimed in and said: Who do you think you are applying to this program? Seriously, you have some nerve...  I decided it was time to change the pattern. It had finally become harder for me to do nothing and fear rejection then to do something and fear rejection. 
I wrote a new story that was submitted with my application. Only 8 people in Canada would be chosen.  I held this dream close and didn’t tell many people. I think it’s important at this stage to preserve it like a newly planted seed in the ground. It’s important to shelter it from the harsh elements and believe in the possibility without outside judgement.
Just last week, I received an email that I was accepted into the program. For seven days I will write and learn along seven others and a mentor. Seven full days devoted to my writing craft that will change my life because I didn’t give into the fear that day. I sent the application and let it go. (I also worked my butt off on my story...just sayin.)

Can you offer advice for readers who want to follow their dreams but have a hard time believing in themselves and fear rejection?
The best advice I can offer is that you can wait until the FEAR is no longer there, but it will never go away. I think the key is to see it and practice courage by taking steps towards each dream, no matter how small.  Just move forward. Each step matters and brings you closer to your desired outcome. My biggest bad ass dream is to share my stories in print.  Because of this week in Banff, I will be one BIG step closer to it.  Imagine if I would have given into the FEAR that day.  Imagine if I would have said I’ll be more ready next year... I’ll just apply then...I’m so glad I didn’t.
It sounds like you love both writing and painting, do you ever feel like these two art forms compete for your attention or do they complement each other in some way?
At first I did feel like they competed against each other for my time. It was difficult to feel like I was getting anywhere with either of them.  But last November, I decided to make a REAL commitment to my writing, and since then, both art forms now help to balance each other out.  I no longer feel like I’m cheating one or the other. I have realized that time away from my painting table keeps me wanting to come back to it. It keeps things fresh. And time away from my writing desk helps me to see my work more clearly and not lose my mind as often.  I think it’s important as artists to distance ourselves from our work.  I am my harshest critic (so far LOL) and a day away from a painting I’m working on can sometimes prevent it from getting recycled or from putting my foot through it. 
I no longer feel like I have to choose. Nor do I fear not succeeding in either genre...jack of all traits and master of none. I have finally surrendered to both of my great LOVES. While it can get hairy when I have deadlines looming, in the end I trust that I am meant to express both art forms and they make me better and not worse.     

How does your art promote health and wellness in your life?
Without ART, I would a certifiable nut bar! I used to be a full-time teacher and I was dying inside.  It turned out I was not a lifer in the education system because I was meant to be an artist.  ART is not my hobby. It is my lifestyle, like Yoga.  It is the way I live, the way I breathe, and the way I communicate.  ART balances my life like insulin helps to balance diabetics.  Not enough creativity and I crash, I get sick, sad, angry, and eventually I break down! That was the pattern until I realized how I was meant to serve in this lifetime.  The key now is to balance other aspects in my life as best I can, one day at a time.

Last but definitely not least....What do you know to be true?
What I know to be true is this:
Art naps feed by body.
No one gets anywhere alone.
What you do is more important than what you say.
Trust your intuition-always.
Everyone feels fear, but not everyone practices courage.
Our children are here to teach us.
The Forest is my Temple.
The truth will set me free.
The best is yet to come.
I AM worthy of a phenomenal life and so are you!

Danielle, this was such a heartfelt and thought provoking interview that I have to tell you I have read and re-read your answers and then read them some more.  I am sure I will continue to come back to this as I face that inner critic that says, "Who do you think you are going for this art thing?"  You are such a wonderful example of someone who feals the fear and does it anyways.  Very inspiring.  Best wishes at Baniff....go get em'!!!!!
To learn more about Danielle and see more of her beautiful work (her most recent on her blog is SO amazing!!!), please visit her website, blog, and Etsy shop:
Please leave some love below in the comments if you are so inclined.  Have a fabulous weekend.
Be Well!


  1. Lovely interview! I am a big fan of Danielle Daniel's art. Thank you Harmony for letting us get to know these amazing people.

  2. Fantastic interview!! Have loved reading every word. So truly inspiring...thank-you!

  3. Dearest Harmony, thank-you so much for the opportunity to share my heart and words with your readers. Your questions were so thoughtful and it was truly an enriching experience to answer them all. Thank-you for inviting me into your space. I'm sincerely grateful to your keen perception and generosity. Much love, Danielle xo

  4. Thank you for the interview with Danielle. Very inspiring!

  5. What a beautiful inspiring, and awesome artwork!! Thank you for sharing the story and inspiration...Joyce

  6. Harmony, I am so glad that you were able to meet Danielle. When you do, you know that there is something inside her ready to take flight. Her journey is going to be interesting to watch.

  7. what a fantastic interview, great questions too! Danielle's work definitely reflects her story. Awesome!

  8. Awesome and how blessed you are! You truly must be very thankful that you could learn so much about your heritage! I was adopted at 18 days old and although many, many people (including native americans) have said they have no doubt that I'm at least 1/2, my father's name is missing from my birth certificate and I have (although made attempt) not located my biological mother. Even though I have felt a draw to the native american people I've had nothing at all to substantiate and at 51 (52 in June) at this late date I'd be surprised if I ever do get that opportunity! Congratulations for your opportunities, too! I am also a writer (1 book published & a blog with 540+ followers) but mostly all self taught (couple of courses in college years ago). Hoping you will basque in your blessings...Jewels (Juliana Heintz Pace on FB)

  9. I met Danielle at the Artful Journey Retreat and she has made AMAZING strides in her work as a painter AND as a writer - she deserves all the goodness that is coming her way!

    Thank you for this lovely and inspiring interview! I will have to check out the Friday Features you have here so I can keep the inspiration going =-)

  10. I so love Danielle's work and this interview gave us all a glimpse into her beautiful creative heart...
    Such an inspiring story... i know Danielle will realize her "big ass dream" of publishing her book, and i'll be first in line to buy it. xoxo