In my early days as an aspiring artist and carver I would look in awe at pictures of the modern-day masters in catalogues and books, dreaming of one day reaching the level of excellence that they made look so effortless. I never really thought that I could achieve that level of artistry, it always seemed so out of reach to me because I had such an unrealistic view of what made them so exceptional.
A few years into my journey I actually accepted the idea that there was a ceiling to my development as an artist. I even had a part-time job in mind that was suitable for my level of education, working at a gas station. I never intended on giving up carving, I loved it too much, I just wanted to supplement my income so I could continue with my albeit “limited” artistic career.
Luckily this mentality didn’t last long, and I continued to work hard towards achieving my dream of having my name mentioned alongside those modern-day masters. This is why receiving the BC Achievement First Nations Art Award was such an honour for me. It felt like a nod of appreciation to the years of sacrifice and hard work that brought me here, and it felt great to be validated by the belief my nominators have in me.
Of course, this does not mean I am anywhere near complete, my self-critical nature won’t allow me to dwell on this accolade for too long. It was however a welcome reassurance and a chance for me to step back and positively reflect on my artistic career so far. I know that I am on the right path and I will continue my lifelong mission of proving my unknowing eighteen-year-old self wrong.
Phil Gray, is a Tsimshian artist based in Vancouver BC who works in cedar, alder and boxwood creating masks, sculptures, panels, poles and drums. His work can be found at major galleries in the Pacific Northwest. Watch Phil Gray’s film at www.bcachievement.com.