Lynn Cociani, a Prince Rupert artist and a household name in the local arts community, has never painted flowers before. She’s painted acrylic on canvass, acrylic on wood, she’s painted landscapes and abstracts, and back in the day, she even airbrushed t-shirts on the beach to sell them.
In the true sense, she’s an artist, having studied art at college, now working from her cozy studio in an art deco building overlooking downtown and making a living from her creations.
Art has helped her celebrate the memories as she captures the visions of life on canvas with her brushes. It has also carried her through the waves of challenges the sea of life washes up with the tides of time.
But flowers … not until her dad died this past January, succumbing to the ravages of COVID-19 in Acropolis Manor, had she ever painted flowers. The late winter months of 2021 were a very dark time in the city when the pandemic hit, striking the most vulnerable at the long-term care facility, she said.
“It was awful. It was brutal because you couldn’t go in. We were told it was everywhere, and if you went in, you would catch it,” she said, explaining that her mom lived in town and she did not want to risk losing two parents.
“It was just so awful, but I got a lot of flowers. When people send you flowers, it’s an indicator that people are thinking of you, and that is nice.”
To work through her grief, she took photographs of all the flowers she received after her father’s passing.
“The flowers remind me of that time … it’s weird, like juxtaposing the horror of a situation with the beauty of flowers. It was a weird time.”
“What they signify to me is people’s caring and that you are not alone. So, that is why I decided I was going to work through those feelings of knowing that you are not alone when bad things happen to you.
Lynn said art is a great avenue to help work through stressful times because when you are working on it, you are not consciously thinking about your problems. The focal point is what is right in front of you.
“There’s something about working on art that frees up the problem-solving parts of your brain to work on other things while you’re busy doing the art. I find that doing an art piece, by the time I’m done, whatever problem was stewing in my subconscious has been resolved without me even realizing it.”
During the lockdown of 2021, Lynn said everyone was missing companionship, seeing friends, and face-to-face interactions.
“Even though I have my own studio and I am working by myself, it was getting quite lonely and difficult … I started doing abstracts around that time to work through those feelings. There were a few abstracts I specifically did to try to put my feelings into coloured shapes. I find it a really good way to process.”
Another road Lynn has been down to bridge the gap of lost companionship during the pandemic is being part of the Arterial Exhibition in Prince George, which is on display during Sept. Prior to COVID-19, Lynn started in a collective of five artists calling themselves the Fantastic Fivepoint0. All of the artists live at various points down Highway 16 and came together with their art exhibit to show that metaphorical connections were still alive during a time of loss.
“It’s really great to have that camaraderie with other people who are into the arts,” Lynn, who has been a member of the Prince Rupert Art Council for more than four years, said.
“I like supporting the arts in the community. The arts are a lot of what makes a place great to live in. It increases the livability in a community,” she said. “I like supporting artists in their creative lives.”
Lynn’s life has been a creative one on the North Coast. She grew up just living art and attended Okanagan School of Fine Art after high school.
“It’s just in me. It’s like art was never a choice. It’s just something I am,” the painter said. “My mom tells me from the day I could pick up a pencil and hold it, I was drawing things.”
Lynn loves lithography and printmaking. She said she would devote her time to it if she could, but the materials are difficult to obtain up in the north.
“It’s difficult to do because you need big stones and large presses,” she said.
Cociani dabbled in art for years, not really finding her niche for a while. She moved to Prince Rupert in 2005 with her husband and raised two daughters in the city after leaving the Okanagon, where the couple devoted their time to dog rescue, and Lynn worked in a health food store.
As a stay-at-home mom and working with the rescue, she started painting dog portraits to raise money to save more dogs.
“I was trying to get one dog up here to foster and another to adopt. I really love Catahoula leopard dogs. I started doing dog portraits to raise money to rescue these dogs,” she said.
“It kind of exploded because people love dog portraits more than kid portraits. I’ve had way more requests to do dog portraits than people portraits,” she said. “It became a really nice business for me.”
After some degenerative disk issues with her neck from the constant hunching over to sketch the animals, she has now framed her pet portraits on the shelf so she can work more upright with her stature by standing at the easel and painting.
‘I always wanted to do landscapes and thought I would try it. It just took off. Landscapes are almost everything I do now, except the flowers.”
She’s proud of the flowers, she said, which in total will take an estimated three weeks of full-time work to complete. After finishing the flowers, she will return to working on her upcoming exhibition in May at the Museum of Northern B.C.
“It’s a combination of landscape and abstract. I’m going to do a local landscape and use the colour palette and the feeling of that scene. I’ am going to riff off that and produce an abstract.”
“I’m starting to do abstracts because you have to access a different part of your brain. Instead of just interpreting a photograph and putting it on canvas, with abstract, you have to pull everything out of your brain. It started as a fun exercise and a hard exercise. But, I love doing them.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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