There were times when Tammy Hudgeon thought she was incapable of doing anything creative.
Now the Gabriola Island-based artist is opening up about those struggles and sharing her story in the hope that it emboldens others to fearlessly follow their own artistic pursuits.
On June 27 Hudgeon released her first book, the art-filled memoir Tender Brave Spirit: An Expressive Life Almost Missed. Hudgeon said she’s had the book on her mind for a few years but only recently did everything fall into place.
“I was at a place in my artistic career where I felt like I had something useful that I wanted to share,” Hudgeon said. “Share more about me and the behind-the-scenes process of how I went from there to here.”
The book is a work of art itself, styled as a ‘visual journal’ containing photographs of art works created for the book and collage-like pages with Hudgeon’s story appearing in type as well as hand-written. As a visual artist, she said she wanted her memoir to be beautiful.
“I wanted it to just be this yummy experience of flipping the page and just having an immersive experience for the senses,” she said. “So the words are yummy, the colours, the imagery, the tiny little words that are scrawled in the sidelines, and I wanted it to be a journey of exploration to take this book in.”
Although she was a creative child, Hudgeon said she lost interest in art by adolescence. Without an outlet for expression or a sense of direction, she said her creative impulse led to “unhealthy situations.” Hudgeon’s desire to create stayed buried until her late 30s.
“In the meantime I never did anything creative with my hands. I didn’t even believe it was possible for me to be creative…” she said. “I truly believed I didn’t have one ounce of creativity in me. I was meant to just do regular things.”
Hudgeon said her way of thinking changed when she started meeting the right people and had an opportunity to move from her small-town Prairie home to Vancouver Island. She said being exposed to Island artists was eye-opening.
“It felt like an opportunity for me to reinvent myself,” she said.
Hudgeon unveiled Tender Brave Spirit last month to coincide with the 20th anniversary of her opening her first art studio, Little Isle Glassworks, on Mudge Island. Her practice has since grown to include painting, mixed-media work and “any medium that helps me to express myself.”
Based on early feedback, Hudgeon said her story has resonated with readers and has left them inspired. She said “it seems to be touching that chord and I think that it partly comes from that place of pain.”
“There are other people out there who feel like I felt … because we judge ourselves so harshly and for the most part for many of us our first efforts are not what we expect,” Hudgeon said. “But you’ve got to just go through the pain of those early stages and find the goodness in it. And if it feels good to do it, just keep doing it.”
Tender Brave Spirit is available at Hudgeon’s website.