By Sarah Ryeland
Some people are simply born to do what they do. They’ve been blessed with a gift and no matter where they go or what circumstance they find themselves in, they always come back to what they love.
For Alana Boyd, that passion is art.
Focusing on the natural world, Boyd loves to paint animals. Her horses are a great source of inspiration, as are flowers, landscapes and everything in-between. But she doesn’t limit herself. She can find inspiration anywhere.
That broad scope can be attributed to the wide variety of life experiences she’s had.
Born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Boyd started cultivating her talent at an early age.
“I was lucky to live around the corner from an artist,” she says. “His name was Ty Hornvelt and he gave art lessons for 50 cents an hour. My mother sent me off there every Saturday for art lessons in the summer and every year we created a painting. He would take me through it step by step.”
The kind neighbour had no children of his own, so he took the talented young girl under his wing. Boyd loved the mentor who not only fostered her passion for art, but for horses as well.
“He had animals and dogs and trained horses,” she says. “He had a couple of horses and he said OK I’m going to get you to train this one – and would tell me all the different things to do. He was a very kind and sweet man.”
After five years of summer training with Hornvelt, Boyd moved to downtown Toronto. At her new school she was encouraged to pursue business studies, but found that her love of art overshadowed all else.
“Art was just all I was good for, really,” she laughs.
Struggling to fit in at the school, Boyd begged her mother to consider sending her somewhere else.
“Everyone was just looking down their noses as me,” she says. “I just felt like crawling in a hole. I couldn’t take it.”
Eventually, her mother found the perfect place for her artistic daughter – Central Tech.
The school – renowned for its specialized programs – was a dream come true for Boyd. Gaining acceptance to the art program, she quickly made friends and excelled in her courses – something she couldn’t do at the previous school.
“I knew everybody in one day,” she says. “They were just so open, so accepting and whatever you did was OK. Everybody helped me get all my work caught up – I couldn’t believe it.
“I didn’t actually understand what I was getting into because I didn’t realize the teachers that were there. They were real artists. They weren’t just teachers that studied art somewhere. These were important people who were sharing their gifts.”
One of those teachers was Doris McCarthy who had painted and taught with members of the Group of Seven.
“I was very lucky,” says Boyd. “I was blessed to go to that school when I did.”
When her days at Central Tech came to an end, the daily grind began to take the place of art in Boyd’s life. She married and became a mother, which required one crucial thing: a paycheque.
And so, the artist became a waitress. She focused her energy on raising a family and her days were so full that she couldn’t find the time to create.
“I had a husband who didn’t work and was an alcoholic,” says Boyd. “He was supportive, but you can’t do it all. And you can’t just sneak in a half-hour of painting here and there. It’s a zone you get into and everything else drops away. If I had been painting I would never have known the kids were in the room, and I couldn’t do that to them.”
What she did want for her children was a stable family life that didn’t include city living. Boyd and her family moved to various locations in the GTA before settling in the Ottawa Valley for 13 years.
As her children got older, Boyd started reinventing herself. She reconnected with an old friend from her Toronto days – now her husband – and gradually made her way north to the Burk’s Falls area.
Still trying her hand at various types of jobs – from owning a gas station and store, to working at Deerhurst Resort – Boyd slowly felt her need to create coming back. Soon, with the help and encouragement of a few friends, she was back at the easel.
“I started again almost from the beginning,” she says. “It’s like you know stuff, but then you have to apply it. It’s hard now, but I don’t care. Because art is something that either you like it or you don’t. Some people will like it, some won’t – and it doesn’t matter. I’m not out there to make everybody happy anymore.”
Boyd links her artistic rebirth to spiritual awakening. As she grows spiritually, connecting with herself and letting go of troubling parts of her past, she finds that her artwork also changes and grows.
“It has a lot to do with being still and listening and being happy,” she says. “And I’m trying to learn that because I have some old mental patterns I’m trying to overcome.”
And people are taking notice. Boyd’s paintings are displayed in various locations in Burk’s Falls and Huntsville, and she has been asked to produce quite a few commissioned pieces already. Although she sometimes finds it difficult to part with her work – she compares it with giving away one of her children – she is happy to be able to create something meaningful for others.
For now, Boyd is still in the exploratory phase of her artistic re-emergence. She’s inspired by the natural world surrounding her property in Almaguin, but she’s always open to new experiences and challenges, too.
“I just think the whole world is a medium,” says Boyd. “I love going to the dump and finding stuff. I like utilizing stuff that’s already in existence. I like to recycle stuff. This is still all learning for me – I’m trying to learn, re-learn or re-experience things.”
With that kind of talent and dedication, it’s clear that Boyd’s artistic hiatus has not diminished her passion at all. She has entered into a brand new stage of her life as a painter, sculptor and all-around creator and according to the artist herself, the best is yet to come.
“I’m still re-emerging,” she says. “The universe is telling me I’ve got to redo my craft. I’m not sure if I can make a living at it yet, but I’m going to try. I’m still in the infancy of what I’m capable of doing.”
To see more of Alana Boyd’s work, head to ArtistsInCanada.com/Boyd.