“Do you have any regrets?” An innocent question posed by a curious husband set off a series of events that transformed the rest of Sandra MacGillivray’s life. Married for thirty years and working in advertising, MacGillivray was in the middle of a major turning point. Encouraged by supportive people in her life, she left a well-paying advertising career to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
“I thought I’m out of time, I need to do this. I quit my job, sold everything, moved to Peterborough (Ontario) and started painting,” says MacGillivray, whose newest exhibit O Canada is currently on display at the Toronto Dimensions Gallery.
MacGillivray achieved success working in advertising as an art director at a time when it was uncommon for women to excel in that field. “I’ve always been driven by the ability to visualize and my passion. When I walked away from it, I realized I was putting my energy into graphics rather than the actual painting, which is what I’m most passionate about.”
Luckily, MacGillivray was able to transfer these skills into life as an artist. Artistry and advertising complimented one another in many ways. Her experience in setting up trade shows for clients influenced her decisions on how to present her gallery – be it decisions on how to present her pieces in a visually appealing and dynamic way or creating a unified look. Behind every decision is a constant attempt to capture and captivate an audience’s focus in the best possible manner.
MacGillivray’s journey as an artist was uphill. Not having a safety net of a fixed income to support her, she had to get creative about how she made money using her art. What kept her going was the numerous awards she won for her work including the People’s Choice Awards at the Toronto Outdoor Arts Show, the McMichael Fall Art Show in 2015. Her next show at the Toronto Arts Expo in 2016 was sold out. The money earned gave her enough income to spend the year working on her opus, “O Canada.”
MacGillivray explains: “We sing our national anthem in every event, every country, but no one has taken the time to analyze what the words mean to them and to put a visual to it.” What is the significance behind “glowing hearts?” or “true patriot love?” Her latest exhibit doesn’t look to answer these questions, but inspires visitors to reflect on it. What started as a simple painting of a man looking up at a flag evolved into a series about Canada’s national anthem on the cusp of its 150th anniversary.
“O Canada” is a collection of seven paintings that tells a vivid story with each verse of the Canadian national anthem. Each painting is a powerful image on its own. MacGillivray indicates that the “Stand on Guard” painting of a young girl holding the Canada goose has become her favourite. “The look on her face and the innocence of the children who love and will inherit our land and wildlife.” Conversely, the painting that resonates with most of her viewers is “Our Home and Native Land,” which depicts an aboriginal man draping himself with a Hudson’s Bay blanket.
MacGillivray has received rave reviews from both the critics and the public for her work. She believes that this entire journey of giving a visual depiction to O Canada has been most satisfying in a personal sense. What she hopes is that she can sell all seven of her paintings together to one collector, because they all belong together, like the verses of the national anthem.
O Canada is on display now until July 3 at Toronto’s Dimensions Gallery. For more information on the show, visit http://www.dimensionsframing.com/
Aileen Ormoc and Alex Correa | The Edge Blog