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Remembering a Dear Friend and Our Painting Journey

On April 29th, 2023, my friend Joanne Daigle would have been celebrating her 60th Birthday.

When that memory came up, I started thinking back about how we became friends and how my friendship with Joanne, led me to picking up my paintbrushes again.

So a few years back, or maybe more than a few, my husband Tom and I were working for a few newspapers as contractors. We delivered 3 different newspapers on our route. During this time, we hired subcontractors to do portions of our routes. Joanne was one of those we hired. She lived in Red Lake and delivered to the surrounding towns. So because of this work relationship we became friends.

During that time, I was working 7 days a week delivering newspapers, my Mom was living with Parkinsons disease and I was helping with her care. My husband had back issues that we were dealing with. Kids were growing and soon to be leaving home. And I was dealing with life in general and sometimes not well.

As my friendship grew with Joanne, she invited me to an art group that she was part of and that was the beginning of how art saved my sanity. Truly, I was not in the best emotional state during those times. I was always putting the job and everyone else's needs before my own.

Then I started showing up for the group and eventually started taking art classes from Heidi Schimper. Again, another life saver. She awakened something in me and the art allowed me time for myself and my creativity. It sparked something in me. I looked forward to those classes every week. It was my time, my expression and no one else could put demands on that time.

I really didn't realize how much I needed that time, to be around other creative people and have a group around me that were supporting me without even really realizing it.

Like everyone, sometimes I get caught up in the every day demands again and forget what got me me here and back to creating, to being an artist, what truly led me to having my own art studio and offering classes. It took me a long time to even call myself an artist, but it never stopped me from enjoying that time we were together creating art.

I made a few friends through that group and when our first group disbanded when Heidi moved away, Brenda Drager started hosting drop ins at her house so that we could all still paint and get together.

Then the newspaper contract was discontinued, I no longer drove to Red Lake everyday. I really missed the get togethers and creating art together. I did go up to Red Lake the odd time and I stayed in touch with a few in the group, but I still missed it.

Then at the beginning of 2017, I got a message from Joanne, Heidi and Brenda that they wanted to get together and meet in Thunder Bay for a weekend of painting. You didn't have to ask me twice. We chose a date in March, Joanne & Brenda met me at my house, packed up the Rav and I drove us in to Thunder Bay. We met up at Yolande's, another friend who lived in Thunder Bay and a weekend of painting began.

We had such a wonderful time, with delicious food, laughing and painting. Heidi again took up the teacher role and gave us instructions to create these amazing paintings. We all did one similar scene and then we all did something of our own. My personal painting was from a picture I had taken of our lake from the top of the island we call Big Nose. Again with Heidi's guidance our paintings turned out amazing.

My painting of the road and fence is being used in my business now. Seems I am also still wearing that same hat.

It was also the last time we were all together, Joanne passed away in 2019, too soon for sure. I do feel truly blessed that I was able to count her and these other ladies as my friends. There is always sadness and grief as we remember those who have died, but there is also the wonderful memories and gratefulness that they were a part of our lives, of our stories.

Missing Joanne, but cherishing our memories.

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