Play Makers: Unleashing the Artist Within


When Torontonian Vanessa Martin came to the Yukon in early May of this year, she never imagined that four months later she would have her own art show and be proudly displaying more than 30 original pieces.

“I came here to live for the summer but I had every intention to leave in August,” describes the energetic and quirky 25 year old.

But Martin did not leave, cancelling her August plane ticket home at the last minute.

“I didn’t have any reason to leave. If I left, I felt I’d be leaving a lot of newfound opportunities behind,” said Martin. “I was genuinely enjoying every day and it made no sense to leave.”

Looking at the walls in Umbellula Café at Spook Creek Station, where Martin’s work is now displayed, it is a good thing she didn’t leave, at least, if you ask Umbellula Café owner operator Tracy Taporowski.

“It brings a lot of warmth to a space that is quite industrial and I think a lot of that warmth comes from the person doing it,” explains Taporowski, who is also Martin’s boss and roommate. “To have the option to chat with the artist behind the counter is a great and very personal opportunity for the customers, too.”

For Martin, painting is something she has always been passionate about and something she has always made part of her life.

But it was only upon coming North that she realized she could do it on a more serious level and actually make money at it, too.

It was when Taporowski told her that she was planning to open up a café and showcase art that Martin seized the opportunity.

“I told her I would love to be part of that,” explains Martin. “Then Tracey said I could come over and paint at her house and so I did.”

And she hasn’t stopped since, painting close to 30 different pieces.

“I was never trained, I didn’t like art class,” jokes Martin, when asked if she has been trained formally.

“She doesn’t like to be told what to do, quips Taporowski.

“I won a colouring contest when I was seven,” smiles Martin. “It was for the most colourful reindeer. He had all these colourful legs, it was great.”

Speaking with Martin as she makes sandwiches and serves customers at Umbellula, her positive energy is both contagious and reflective of her art.

¬Flamboyant and unique as her personality, the art that hangs on the walls at the café, nestled within Spook Creek Station five minutes north of downtown Whitehorse, exudes colour and vibrancy.

On one wall hangs a single orange flower and to the right of it a lush forest scene with swirling blue skies.

On another wall is a mish mash of blues, reds, whites and greens.

Martin struggles to find the right words to describe her art.

“It’s abstract but it has … I want to say impressionism. Abstract is like lines and squares where as mine actually shows something,” Martin describes. “I would say it’s a mix of abstract and impressionism and it’s very colourful.”

However you describe it, one thing certain is the popularity of the work.

Since she began displaying her work in mid-September, Martin has sold more than a dozen pieces, the first going to boss and close friend Taporowski.

“I’ve never been that confident in what I’ve done but I felt proud because I could tell she really liked it.”

And while Martin cancelled her August trip home to Ontario, she is planning to leave the Yukon next month.

“I’m coming back though,” ensures Martin. “I’m going to do an art show in the spring.”


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