Paddy Meade has found taking risks is how you grow. She lives by the creed “Just because people say you can’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Do it!” Never one to turn away from an opportunity, she is a modern-day explorer, studying the interaction between humans, communities, and nature. We get a glimpse into her fascinating life including years of living ‘north of 60″, the Canadian Northwest Territories and Yukon, and how it provides inspiration in her new career.
Paddy only became a full-time artist about five years ago. She is fascinated by many types of art and describes her style as eclectic. Like her career path, she is drawn to many subjects and media ranging from acrylics to oil and unusual applications like cold wax. (Note the following is paraphrased for length and flow)
The Safe Route Requires A Risk-taker
When I was in high school. I did want to be an artist and was set to go that route, but I also didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t come from a lot of money. I ended up buying into the “you can’t be an artist because you will be poor”. So, I went to university and pursued a totally different “safe” career.
In the end, Paddy’s safe career required her to be a risk-taker. She moved a lot, living in unusual places, taking on a variety of challenging jobs in several provinces, and in senior and executive management for governments.
In the last few years, I worked with governments in Health and Social Services. There are very unique needs in the north, getting doctors, nurses, and social workers, and interfacing with the Indigenous and First Nation communities.
There are no roads in the Northwest Territories, outside of Yellowknife, you fly everywhere. I would fly into Inuvik and then on to the Arctic Islands.
You would take your kit bag and get on these little airplanes. Sometimes you would question if they could really land in that spot of snow or ice or lake, but they did. I think it’s unfortunate that most Canadians, don’t get to see North of 60 because it’s wonderful. And the three territories are very, very different. The communities are different. I had grizzlies in my backyard, in fact, I painted my favorite one.
Exploring The Unique Canadian North
The northern lights were amazing and dealing with the darkness and the sunrise was unusual. You could be reading a book at three o’clock in the morning when it’s summer. And then the harshness of the winter and the 24-hour darkness.
The people would give me gifts like moccasins, and I have a collection that I still wear. I always had to put the moccasins in the freezer for a while because when I put them on my feet, my golden retrievers would go crazy and start nipping at my feet.
I put my heart aside for many years except for drawing some things for my kids. When I was up north though, there was not a lot to do. There wasn’t any internet and that is when I took up drawing again. Then I was able to join the guild and got into pottery and then glassmaking. Eventually, I decided to take a new risk and do some painting, first on my own, and then I met a couple of local artists. When I retired, I decided this was what I wanted. I have many things to share, many emotions and memories, especially Canada’s wonderful nature, people, and animals.
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Learning To Give Ourselves Permission
It was a very challenging life with multiple jobs, trying to balance family and marriage, and on top of that, living in different places and traveling a lot.
I didn’t give myself permission for downtime. When I first started with my art, I think I panicked. My approach was I’ve got to have so many done a week or a day. I initially felt conflicted about prioritizing my art time, my new journey. Early on I had moments of “it is only a hobby”, though I knew, like all things in my life I wanted to jump fully in. I still have moments, which I overcome by reminding myself that this makes me fully alive, more interesting, and adding to the world. Nothing selfish in that. When I told myself no, this is about learning and sharing, that is when painting became rewarding and more successful. Anybody can technically paint but success requires emotion.
Explore Who You Are
I’ve appreciated, as I’ve grown older, that I have learned how to explore who I am as a person. Remember that ad saying something like, you can have it all baby? Well, you can, but you’re not going to be healthy. I think the biggest message that women of our age can say to younger women is being selfish is good. It’s not a bad term.
And learn to do it earlier. Don’t wait. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a very aggressive career or whatever your passion is, but if you’re not emotionally healthy, you’re not going to do anything. Your health is often the last thing you focus on, but it catches up with you eventually for sure.
It is also about mental health. One thing I have learned is if a painting isn’t working leave it. It’s not a project with a deadline for your boss.
I can put it aside and come back to it or never finish it. I’m not fussed that I don’t have it done. Sometimes there’s a deadline for a show but I don’t sweat it.
Art Can Influence Change
I just read “On Fire” by Naomi Klein. I don’t always agree with everything in her writings, but she is well researched. What I really took away from the book is the idea this is no longer just about climate. This is about society and social change. Like the social activist Greta Thunberg’s message. She is such an amazing young kid. It got me thinking about how art can, directly and indirectly, influence change. Ravens are a good example.
I’m fascinated by ravens and crows and all the history and mythology that goes with them. Certainly, with Indigenous culture, but it also goes back to Romans in Greek mythology and even with Celtic Irish.
Society needs to start thinking about how those birds work together and emulate that. I’ve started a series on ravens that will probably take me two years to finish because they’re all large-scale.
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Getting To Know Paddy
What is your key strength?
My courage to try new things, take risks, work on the big systemic issues, and step over my inner voices and those from outside that messaged I shouldn’t, I couldn’t. As I grow as an artist, I am finding the courage to experiment, learn, play and share my emotions in my work. I have always been a risk-taker enjoying overcoming my fears. I’ve done that my whole life trying things that nobody said I could or should do.
When have you been most satisfied?
When I permit myself self-leadership when I am challenged to find solutions and problem solve, and when I push my own knowledge and limits. Also, when I take a risk and feel the thrill of fear, self-doubt, and push through it
If you could meet anyone for lunch, who would it be?
I would like to lunch with Judy Chicago an artist whose work has significantly moved and influenced me. Most importantly I want to lunch with Judy Chicago while seated at her work “The Dinner Party”. I wept when I first saw this as a young woman.
What was the best advice you ever received?
A high school swim coach had a great “from afar” impact on me. The advice was “When you and others say you can’t – show them with grace you can, and you have”.
What do you need to make more room for?
Practicing my art. I’m worried that I’ll run out of time before I can paint everything I want. And balancing that with an active outdoor lifestyle.
If you could learn anything new, what would it be?
I try to grasp something new every day. I want to master creating paintings that heal and encourage a positive inclusive society.
View and purchase Paddy Meade pieces from ROAM Gallery
Check out her website PaddyMeade.com
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