If you’ve spent time on the west coast of the province, you might be familiar with the work of Jackie Alcock. A versatile artist who works in acrylic, oil, sculpture, mixed media and more, she was also recently named one of the Rug Hooking Artists of the Year for 2019 by the Hooked Rug Museum of North America in Hubbards, Nova Scotia. You might’ve seen her most recent paintings spread along the interior walls of the Corner Brook Plaza (in honour of the city’s Come Home Year). And, of course, her work on the newest #ComePlayWithMeNL public piano at Deer Lake Regional Airport is a sight to behold.
Jackie spent over 200 hours making all of the little details come together into one wild design – and her hard work shows. From the unforeseen hassles that go along with making moose, to why it’s a good idea to listen to your kids in the case of an artistic conundrum, Jackie took some time out to chat about her experience.
Business & Arts NL: Your whimsical design really helps tell the story of the area in which the piano is situated. Can you tell us a bit more about where you got your inspiration and how the concept came together?
Jackie Alcock: First, I think art should be interesting and possibly teach you something.
I do a lot of research for my projects and discover all sorts of things…the call for this project wanted the piano to be about the animal life found here. I incorporated that animal idea and the fact that the piano was being placed in an airport to design the piano. People would be coming and going and many would have no idea about the west coast of the province.
To start, I divided the piano into five parts: 1) The right side would be a road showing the Trans-Canada Highway. 2) The middle front top would show the four seasons. 3) The middle bottom would show the ocean. 4) The middle top would be a diorama of our wildlife set in a background of the Long Range Mountains. This was the starting point and I divided the top using this background. 5) The left side would tell you a little info. on the animals I used.
I collected as many animals as I could and realized I would have to make many of them. I looked at many videos and learned to make the beaver, otters, hares, owl and, of course, the felted moose. For many, like the polar bear, pine martin and coyote, I just used a photo as a guide. The rug hookers will see that I used the tee pins for the pine martin walking sticks; nothing is safe in my house.
As with any research you learn many things, such as a moose’s front legs are longer than their back legs; and coyotes are now considered native animals because, unlike the moose, they came here on their own.
Business & Arts NL: How long did it take you to create this piece and what was the most challenging aspect?
JA: I will be the first to admit I go overboard on projects (I am the artist who made over 15,000 forget-me-nots for my WWI Remembrance Art Show, a project that took me four years to complete).
The piano project took me over 200 hours to complete. The most challenging, I would have said, was the polar bear as it was the first animal I sculpted, but then along came the moose. Ah, the moose. First it was a bull moose, but the antlers that I spent more than a day working on just did not look right. Not a problem, we would feature a cow moose. Well, the making of the cow moose was coming along fine. One article said to make an armature for the legs of the moose, but another article said you didn’t need an armature to make large animals (this author of the how-to article had been making animals for over 30 years). So I cut the wires in the legs down and read some more. I learned later in the article that she did not need an armature anymore, but suggested if you were just starting out you should use one. Opps.
Well, I finished Missy moose, whose legs looked strong and I placed her in her spot. A few days later she had toppled over. I had a moose with weak legs and I had to cut her legs to remove her from the base as I had glued her in place. What should I do now? I learned you cannot add wire after the project is finished. Too much work had gone into the making of the moose, I did not want to abandon her. I talked it out with my family (one should always seek help when you need fresh eyes or, in this case, fresh legs). My son said, “Stand her in a lake.” I smiled – children are so smart and that is just what I did. Problem solved.
Business & Arts NL: What was the most enjoyable part of this project for you?
JA: First, would be giving a shout-out. The snowshoes on the polar bear are made by 101-year-old Watson Budden, who has made over 10,000 pairs and donates all the money to the dialysis department at the Western Memorial Hospital. What a wonderful man.
Second, seeing it all come together. My projects change and evolve as they progress. My grand design may be nothing like the original plan, so coming to the end is always a reveal to me.
Business & Arts NL: Of course, the previous piano you painted for the Deer Lake Airport was gifted as a piece of visual artwork to Grenfell Campus. How does it feel to have one of your pieces on display at your alma mater?
JA: I am truly flattered. I often walk the halls of the college and look at all the artwork on display and read the names and realize I know many of them. And now maybe someone will see my name and say, “I know her.”
Business & Arts NL: If there’s anything you’d like to add, please feel free!
JA: I will stand on my saltbox here and say there are not too many paying gigs for visual artists and I am so happy that Business & Arts NL is out there raising the profiles of visual artists. Thank you, and to all those who sponsor visual artists.