Jade Williamson would rather history record her as someone who helped save endangered species, not as someone whose portraits recall the last of them.
She has combined her conservationist bent with her fine arts skills to create a portfolio with lasting images of wildlife, including polar bears, shoebills and antelope.
Proceeds from her work as exclusive artist for Polar Nation, a team of local artists and designers, go towards polar bear conservation and battling climate change.
“I really want my art to have a purpose,” said Williamson, whose artistry has been honed and shaped at Western, where she is graduating this June with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
On June 18, she joins more than 328,000 Western alumni living in 160 countries as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2021.
Early in her art career, she drew mostly people portraits. “I was really bad at drawing animals, actually.”
But when she started drawing a lion and envisioned its symbolism as guardian in Greek art history, everything started to click. Her white lion emerged from a black background, its eyes and mane piercing through the darkness. “It was presence in a background of absence, this powerful creature emerging from the void,” Williamson explained.
One piece then became a series that became an exhibit on a wall of the Art Building. “That was a pivotal point in my art career. This is what I wanted to do.”
She honed her craft under the tutelage of professor Tricia Johnson and others in the arts program.
During an an internship at the Embassy Cultural House, she co-ordinated an intergenerational virtual exhibition for International Women’s Day, under the direction of London artists Jamelie Hassan, Tariq Hassan Gordon and Ron Benner. “They are the most incredible people, so generous. Having that opportunity in the community was the best thing ever,” she said.
Williamson works mostly on her large conservation pieces from the dining room table and on canvases leaning against doors or walls. “I create in all sorts of places. I’m 4’11” so most of my art is bigger than I am.”
While attending Western, Williamson has worked part-time at a restaurant, has kept busy with several commissioned works and has helped lead a high school art class. It all requires a degree of organization, structure and planning that Williamson finds refreshing.
In her current year of her undergraduate degree, she has been awarded the David Magee Scholarship in Visual Arts and the Mackie Cryderman Award for Excellence in Visual Arts.
She will be attending teacher’s college at Western in the fall and continue to paint and draw professionally. “My plan is to do both. My love for teaching is there. My love for art is there, so I can combine the two.”