Of all the portraits Daphne Lovett-Barber’s has drawn so far, her favourite is one she did of her grandmother.
The 5-year-old Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in artist may have just started kindergarten this year, but she has been creating art since she was a toddler.
“My mommy is an artist and my daddy is an artist,” Lovett-Barber tells me as she skips along the hallway at the Yukon Arts Centre’s youth gallery, where her many portraits currently hang on the walls.
“It’s our family’s tradition.”
Among the framed portraits in the exhibition those of are staff and students from Emily Carr University, her mom’s friends, and Lovett-Barber’s relatives.
After completing a year at the Yukon School of Visual Art (SOVA) in Dawson City, and shortly after Daphne was born, her mother, Kerry Barber, moved to Vancouver to attend the film, video and media program at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
While her mom attended classes, Lovett-Barber often tagged along, quietly participating in art projects of her own, sometimes drawing portraits of those around her.
“Daphne has been going to arts school with me since she was born,” Barber says. “She had to go to school with me because I was a single mom. She’s my family.”
When Lovett-Barber was three, she started attending the Arts Umbrella art/dance immersion program, located across the street from Emily Carr.
Barber says her daughter’s teachers watched in fascination as the young artist added details to the marker portrait every week over the course of a semester at the Arts Umbrella program.
When she’s not drawing portraits, Lovett-Barber likes sculpting with playdough and plasticine, and drawing in her bathtub using washable markers. She also loves making art with her mom. The mother daughter duo often works together on a collaborative colouring book called ‘mommy and me’.
“Daphne makes art everywhere,” her mom says with a laugh.
Though she has just finished a full day of school, Lovett-Barber agrees to draw my portrait at her mom’s suggestion. “I always start with the head,” Daphne says as she outlines the shape of my face with a black marker. She works confidently, glancing at me for a moment and then directing her gaze downward at the paper in front of her. “Usually I don’t make eyebrows,” the young artist tells me, but today she draws thick brows above my portrait’s eyes.
From whiskers, to freckles, to birthmarks and other identifying features in Lovett-Barber’s portraits, it’s clear that the young artist is very observant.
“And I can’t forget that you have those,” she says, gesturing to the small nose studs perched on my right nostril. She makes two small dots on my character’s nose.
“I need to put it on this side because paper doesn’t stick out like real people.”
After she completes my portrait, Lovett-Barber asks if I’d like some hearts under her signature. I nod enthusiastically, and she draws five large hearts in purple, pink and green.
“I’m putting lots of hearts because I love to do hearts,” she says.When asked what advice she might have for other children who love to create, Lovett-Barber says, “You should be strong and confident and also really think about it when you do it.”Lovett-Barber’s portrait series will be up at the Yukon Arts Centre youth gallery until the end of this month. On Saturday, September 30, as part of Culture Days, Lovett-Barber has been commissioned to do free portraits of the public at the Roundhouse from 12-4:00 p.m.