When Cecila of teenybotanist first moved to Banff almost 7 years ago, she lost touch with her art. She was a lithographer in her life before the Bow Valley, which involved working with glorious limestones, but the specialized facilities for lithography weren’t available here. Sometimes she felt like she had traded in her art practice for mountain adventures as she adjusted to her new home. Her creativity found a few small ways to shine, but she gracefully retired her title as “artist.”.
Then in 2020, along with so many others, Cecilia lost her job (you know, the big C) and Banff became almost 80% unemployed. For her, like so many of us, this period came with lots of confusion and processing, but also beauty and joy. And that’s ultimately how teenybotanist came to be – talk about silver linings! Cecilia says she channeled endless unrestricted time into many things – working out, learning something new, spending time outside, cooking tasty meals with rescued food, and being creative. All of her time was dedicated to focusing on her purpose outside of her previous reality working at the Banff Centre where she recruited people to the residency programs.
One day, Cecilia decided to challenge herself to do 30 days of painting. One small piece, every single day. She quickly found herself painting multiple pieces a day that “weren’t good enough” and would often paint until 3:00am. After the 30 days, she was very relieved to not have to paint, but did find herself wanting to paint. Since this small breakthrough, everything changed. She was thankful to have her job at the Banff Centre back, and began navigating the new normal of working from home. In that, she finally found the balance between work, the mountains, and her art practice that she’d been searching for. She’s now celebrating herself for being an artist AND everything else that she is.
Through her artwork, Cecelia first and foremost wants to tell a story. In her recent series, Coexist, she collaborated with local photographer Nahanni McKay, to challenge viewers to question human environmental impact and spark a conversation around living in harmony. If you look at their work, you will see how the human body is designed to be the same size as the mountain – when in reality we are physically so much smaller! Cecelia wants people to think about their own environmental footprint when looking at these pieces as these are the issues close to her heart.
Teeny Botanist has donated works to support local businesses and initiatives, such as CanMore Together, Darken the Mountains, and DirtBabe Collective’s Alpine Climbing Camp, which support women in the outdoors. She also donates a percentage of sales from various pieces to various Canadian non-profits. For example, one organization is the NIA Centre for the Arts, which is Canada’s first multidisciplinary center for African-Canadian art. As well, 100% of sales for her Kananaskis Lakes print goes towards Youth Mental Health Canada in honor of a loved one, to support other young adults who may be struggling. So far, this piece has raised over $1000 in support of this initiative. Beyond this, she’s also doing her best to leverage her voice and social platform to share informative and educational content.
Cecelia is always learning from other artists, and takes classes at artsPlace. In 2021, she volunteered to be a penpal for students in grade 4 who were working on their penmanship, through a Banff Public Library program. She reflects that it was so beautiful and rewarding to write letters back and forth with a child, who she’d otherwise never connect with, learn all about them, their perspectives on the pandemic, and to find ways to inspire their own inner artists all via snail mail!
One day Cecelia would LOVE to paint a mural on a local building (*hint* any businesses a mural?!)
Teeny Botanist has recently been collaborating with local Cree-Metis photographer, Nahanni McKay, to digitally draw human forms into dreamy analogue landscapes. Together they’ve been exhibiting works locally, and working towards larger projects to demonstrate the impact of tourism on wildlife.
And of course she’s very involved in the local arts community, having her works in many local shops and businesses (such as Banff Mountaintop Flowers, Sideshow Gallery, Float Canmore, CanMore Together, and UNA Pizzeria).
To her, Cecelia says supporting local is about investing in your community. By supporting local, we not only financially support a neighbor’s small business, but we also gain a new connection to a real person that we could bump into on the street or say “Hi!” to at the grocery store.
Top 3 Local Businesses:
Wildlife Distillery, Armadillo Games, and Banff Mountaintop Flowers.