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Metis artist JD Hawk always knew that art would be a part of his life. As a kid, he hoped and dreamt he would ‘make it’ like his Uncle, the lauded Armand J. Paquette whose portraits of western Canadian life and Winnipeg’s North End have earned him a loyal following amongst collectors. Without the proper guidance or support at home, JD kept his work to himself as a fun hobby. It wasn’t until his late 20’s when JD’s art life began to change. People were noticing his work. His hobby became something more. JD was getting commissions for portraits and stone carvings. His art career was building momentum, and then he lost everything.

JD went through a period where he ended up homeless with less than $40 to his name. Things seemed to pick up but then he ended up homeless again. He fell into a deep depression. At one point he was travelling through Nova Scotia and came across the story of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. A moment of self reflection. Maud Lewis’s story made him rethink his attitude and change his perspective. JD believed art was in him for a reason, so why would he allow himself to let it go. JD returned to Winnipeg and began rebuilding himself. It’s been 2 and ½ years and his artistic career is thriving. “I’ve been blessed in so many unexpected ways. I’m so thankful.”

JD’s primary focus is oil painting portraits and wildlife as well as India ink, soapstone, digital paintings which include NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) and polychromos. He keeps a broad interest in various mediums, allowing his mind to continually think, learn, adapt, expand his creative being and reach different markets.

One of the key things to JD’s success is defining ‘want’ vs ‘need’. In his words, “You can’t just want it, you must need it. If you stay focused on ‘I want’, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When people ‘want’, it’s usually for instant gratification. Whereas, if you ‘need’ to create, need art in your life. This attitude gets rewarded. This is what people and clients see.  And if the rewards don’t come right away, you’re ok because you’re not searching for instant gratification, you’ll have consistency.”

Along with consistently creating, JD understood that to develop a successful art career, he needed to learn the business aspect of it. “An art career is not just about creating, its also taking care of the backend of the business. You need step out of the studio and take a course or two on how to develop that career. It’s a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding!”

When Covid hit JD began taking courses through Creative Manitoba’s online workshops. Taxes for Artists, How to sell art online, Creating a virtual online gallery and a series of Grantwriting workshops. “The course on Taxes was outstanding. If you know nothing about business start with taxes and work backward from there. An accountant will tell you what they need to help you file your taxes. They will give you a list. That list is an amazing start to help you track everything!  How much it’s costing you in canvases, brushes, paint, promotional material, cleaning supplies, internet, website, etc…. And from that list you can break it down even further. There was so much to take away from it, I highly recommend it. You won’t dread tax season as much because you’ll be prepared.” 

We asked JD if he could explain why Creative Manitoba’s professional development courses were important to him, “You are dealing with people who are in the business, have the knowledge, and can relate to what the students(artists) are going through. It’s important to have that all around connection in a safe and focused environment.”

“When I say, “I do this full-time”, that is an understatement. There is so much to do and so little time, I love it!  I enjoy every aspect of it, from squeezing the colours out of the tube and placing them on my palette, to cleaning up at the end of the day. I love that feeling of getting lost in the moment when everything around me becomes invisible.  The colours, smells, feeling the buttery paint against the palette knife & brushes, mixing in mediums and hearing the sound of the brush against the canvas…. It never gets old. Each and every time it’s like discovering and exploring a whole new world.” All your hopes as a kid are coming true. I think you’ve made it JD.

JD Hawk has been featured in the Winnipeg Free Press Apr, 2022, Digital Delirium Money Matters and interviewed on CBC Manitoba Radio Jan 2022, A Citizen Spotlight for the Manitoba Metis Federation in Jan, 2022, interviewed for The Projector in Feb 2022, LOCAL WINNIPEG ARTIST USING DIGITAL ASSETS AS A NEW STREAM OF REVENUE about his recent foray into NFT’s and most recently Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage – Parks Canada have licensed four of JD’s works for the 2022 season!

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