Young artists get mentored by the pros

Arts program immerses youth in a range of skills, from working with film to painting on skateboards
A group of young teenagers stand at a blackboard, drawing. One teen on the right gives a thumbs up.
Youth participants in Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Dazzle Camouflage summer arts program will showcase their work in a pop-up exhibit in the gallery. Photo by Yvonne Vander Kooi

Throughout the month of August, the Nanaimo Art Gallery ran a contemporary art immersion program for youth called Dazzle Camouflage, which was inspired by the gallery’s current exhibition, Gutters Are Elastic. Over the three-week program, the emerging teen artists were mentored and taught by professional artists, and their work will be displayed until Sept. 1 in a pop-up exhibition at Nanaimo Art Gallery, with an opening reception at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31.

As part of The Discourse’s commitment to publish youth voices, we commissioned a first-person essay from Dazzle Camouflage participant Em Masterman to hear about their experiences in the program.

I have been going to classes hosted by the Nanaimo Art Gallery for two years now, and they have always been a blast. As someone with an interest in an artistic career, this year’s Dazzle Camouflage summer program was absolutely a no-brainer.

Dazzle Camouflage offers experiences with different mediums and mentors I would never have typically had a chance to try out, from working with real film on a spring-loaded camera, to designing comic-themed skateboards.

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One of my favourite weeks was with artist and filmmaker Brian Lye, who offered us the opportunity to work with film and stop-motion animation during the second week of the program.

The first two days we worked with film reels and vintage cameras. I found the medium very interesting to create with, from the limitations of only being able to use a set amount of film, to the process of developing the film with items that can usually be found at home.

I have always wondered what it would be like to work with analog technology, including film cameras, and have seen the developing process in movies and was always fascinated by it, so getting to actually try it was basically a dream come true.

The whole experience of using the camera was so neat. What the final film would look like using these cameras was a bit of a mystery because of the limited amount of film, and there was not much room for editing.

As a perfectionist that was a little terrifying, but at the same time, a weight lifted off my shoulders in not having to worry so much about the final product. In the end, the film was simple and goofy, which fit the messy style of the medium, and also fit the energy of my friend group that worked on it. It was awesome getting to experience this technology.

The final day of working with Brian was focused on stop-motion animation. Out of all the projects that we worked on throughout the three weeks, stop-motion is the one I’ve had the most experience with, and yet I was still able to learn new styles and techniques I hadn’t considered. 

Brian shared some of his and other artists’ stop animation films, and demonstrated several techniques we could use to stylize our animations further. He also went over some of the basic principles of animation, which was a nice addition for people with limited experience.

Every video-related piece in this class’s upcoming art show was completed with the help of Brian Lye, and it was awesome getting to learn from such an experienced creator, and a wonderful person in general, and his work is absolutely fascinating to experience.

Thank you to the Nanaimo Art Gallery for this opportunity, and a special thanks to Brian and all the other amazing artists who gave their time to share their passion with us.

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