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Amanda Onchulenko taking mirror selfie with artwork behind

Amanda Onchulenko is a painter, textile artist and author, and the current Artist-In-Residence at the Fairmont Hotel. Her work is both strong and colourful, with emotion reflected in each brush stroke. As part of the Interlake WAVE Artists group, she opens her studio twice a year for tours and purchases.

I went to art school in Australia where I earned a Bachelor of Art in Art Education with majors in Painting and Printmaking. I travelled and taught on three continents before arriving in Canada in 1990.

After the premature births of our children, I opted to be the stay-at-home mum. Creativity has a voice and mine needed an avenue for expression that did not involve play dough. An introduction to studio space in the Exchange- courtesy of Grace Nichol- began my studio journey. I initially shared space, then eventually spread out into 800 square feet, working in acrylic and textiles.

Motherhood was a catalyst for my creative dreams. The school schedule provided the boundaries for my physical practice.

I still maintain a weekday schedule at the studio but I no longer have to set an alarm for a 10 to 3 clean up. I often begin with an exhale to reacquaint myself and on a good day I will aim to do some kind of meditation, perhaps a written meditation if I have the time.

My space is small. I sit across from the paint wall and take a moment to reflect on where things left off at the end of the previous painting session before I get started. I might address my emails and check my schedule for any appointments I might miss if I dive straight into my work. The art of work is a salve for my soul and I often find myself zoning out as I engage fully in the process.

Brush stroke painted artwork of colourful florals

I break for tea when I get to a logical point in the work. I like to bring my lunch to maximize my painting time, except for Tuesdays which is a dim sum lunch date and has been since my earliest days in the Exchange. I’m in South Osborne now, but the drive is worth it.

Flexibility is key. I work for myself but that doesn’t mean I am sitting in the window with my feet on my desk waiting for inspiration to strike. Painting is a practice. I am making myself a priority now that my family has grown and graduated. The expressions “If not now, when?” and “Why not me?” are my current mantras.

Studio days end around 4, but creative thoughts aren’t limited to my studio time. I often continue with creative thoughts and plans as the rest of my life unfolds. The business side of my practice also requires tending: Planning and more and more writing- blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts.

More flexibility.
More intuitive intentions.
My husband says I do my best work when I am working because I want to explore some thing.

When I have done commission work, I insist on creating two pieces for the client. The first is what I understand they think they want as a result of our meetings and discussions. The second is what I want to do on a similar theme after I feel I have met the mandate and have the freedom to work broadly within similar parameters with more of an emphasis on what I want to explore.
Many times the client has chosen the second piece. On occasion they have adopted both.

There is no time like the present and I am trying to be mindfully present, accepting of the ups and downs of life and art as it plays out.

I’m tending towards addressing personal work in a textile project I have on the go called The Investment Pieces series. This project evolved out of a body of work I exhibited as “Composition” at la Maison des artistes in 2021.

The Mindful Moments Affirmation Deck was an exercise in realizing a dream I had long pushed off to the side. It was a steep learning curve but I enjoyed doing the work and am proud of the results.

I am doing the emotional work of navigating a healing journey through the crafting process. With this work I am expressing my female experience in subtle, poignant and sometimes humorous ways. The bodice, a universal garment, is the armature that supports this creative play. There are more than a dozen bodices slated for this project so far. I have two completed pieces in this series and 3 pieces currently on the go.

Painted vest by Amanda Onchulenko

Creative Manitoba is a great resource. I’ve accessed business and grant writing workshops and I also have a younger headshot of myself courtesy of Creative Manitoba.

Joy is in the doing. Joy is finding myself with the ability to pursue my creative goals, to live a creative life. I am exceedingly grateful to have this privilege. I am also grateful for all the connections I have made through my art. Connections, relationships and associations are a major player in our human experience and I am grateful for all those who have come into my sphere because of a common affinity for colour and colour relationships.

I am currently an artist in residence at the Fairmont hotel where I have 5 large works on display in the foyer.

I am also preparing for the WAVE Interlake Artists’ Studio Tour. This is a group of 18 Interlake artists who open their creative spaces twice annually to the public. The WAVE rolls June 8th and 9th, 10 am – 6 pm, and also on September long weekend (August 31 and September 1st). I mount an outdoor exhibit of paintings in acrylic on the exterior of our cottage and display small works in the bunkhouse. The Mindful Moments Affirmation Deck will be one of those offerings, as well I will offering a sneak peak of work in progress on the Investment Pieces series. CJ Tennant jewellery will again be elevating our cottage drop zone into “The Lobby” with an exhibit and sale of her semi-precious gemstone jewellery.

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