Hi everyone, my name is Brandi Hofer, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a Canadian female artist with an in-home art studio, and I have been actively running my art business for a little over 10 years. Last year was the first year I started creating my artwork full time. However, in reality, I paint in the evenings when I can, because I am Momming FULL-time to a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, (and 6 months pregnant) all boys!
As I was putting this project together the title was the first thing that came to me. “Don’t over think it”. It came, along with a memory, a not so good memory. Something, another art professional said to me once a long time ago: They said something along the lines of “do you just like do things, and not think them through beforehand”? They were not being kind, and definitely meant it as somewhat of as an insult. Being caught off guard, the only way I could respond was “ya, I guess so”. So up until writing this, this conversation and encounter has always annoyingly hung in my memory as an unpleasant experience, and something that someone not so nice said to me. But I am here today to tell you, a small version of my life story and how not “thinking things through” just may have led to the most beautiful, and rich experiences that I have had in this life.
Naturally, being born and raised in a small city in Canada, upon graduating, I could not wait to leave! I first attended Red Deer College in Red Deer, Alberta, and transferred to NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I attained by Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Not long into living so far away on the East coast, I longed for our open prairie skies, and home. I moved back to Lloydminster AB/SK promptly after University, and started working to pay off my student loans. A few years after that, I began to long for a taste of the world and culturally diverse experiences. In 2011 I applied to be a part of 2 separate art projects. The first being another artists’ project set in Montreal and an artists’ residency in France. Remarkably, I was accepted to both.
The project that was set in Montreal was titled “The only thing I know for sure, is while I’m looking for you, you are looking for me”. There were two people chosen to participate in the project, and they were to set out in the city and find one another within 30 days. As a part of the requirements to apply, you were unable to know anyone in Montreal beforehand. The other individual was someone who I did not know, and who did not know me. We didn’t know what the other looked like, if they were a man or woman, their age, nothing. We were not allowed to use the internet as a resource to find one another. I got a bike from a young man named Andrew, whom I had met swimming in a fountain one evening. I had never actually ridden a road bike before, nor had I biked in a large city. I was welcomed into Andrew’s road bike posse immediately, and within minutes, we were weaving in and out of Montreal rush hour traffic, I was scared and terrified, but completely exhilarated! Every day after that, I covered at least 40 km a on that bike through Montreal. I encountered special events like group yoga, electric dance parties, Salsa lessons, and the tam tams. I Ended up on being interviewed on CBC twice, and having an live painting exhibition at a gallery to promote the project. I didn’t find the other person in montreal, but didn’t view that as a failure, because that experience was life changing for me. I was pushed beyond every expectation I had of myself, I was surprised at how I thrived independently in a place that I was unfamiliar with. It was an extraordinary time of growth for me.
2 months later I was to travel to Marnay sur Seine in France for the artist’s residency. I met some stunning creative minds, from all corners of the globe, and began hearing of their stories while I painted them. The residency was set in the country side 40 km outside of Paris. I got pleasantly plump and glowing from the fall sun, warm banquettes, soft ripened cheeses and flowing red wine. It was completely picturesque. Almost every day, I would get on my bike and ride down a country road in the orange sunlight passing fields of sunflowers. The old brick residency was right on the Sienne, trees sagged beautifully over the waterway. It was how everyone should experience France.
That next summer after all of my adventuring I would marry my best friend and partner of 6 years Carly Classen. We got married at his parents’ home, in their backyard, in front of the tiny brick house that his dad built with his two bare hands. It was a magical evening where our families came together with live music, and that night to celebrate northern lights danced in the skies. That moment seems even more meaningful and significant now. Because not long after the birth of our second child Finn, my husband’s dad Dwayne passed away unexpectedly.
My mom always used to listen to the live Indigo girl’s album every Saturday morning and I’ll never forget something that they said: You’ve got to laugh at yourself because you will cry your eyes out if you don’t.
In light of that, I want to share with you a story about my father-in-law, a story that always makes me laugh and reminds me fondly of the warm-hearted, playful man that raised my husband. My now husband and I were maybe on our third date at the time, we were barbequing in his parent’s backyard. We were all sitting at a small table together, it was just he and I and his parents. Being newly in love (you know the time where you can’t get enough of each other) I was rubbing carly’s foot underneath the table all through dinner. Nearing the end of us all finishing our meals, I looked over at carly and noticed that he was not wearing socks. AND I had been rubbing a socked foot all night… I looked up at Dwayne and just said, oh my gosh!!! I was completely mortified, after all I had been rubbing his foot all night! Whether he enjoyed it, or just wanted to save me from embarrassment, or maybe a bit of both, we still to this day, do not know.
In 2014 I lost my mother Donna, I was 6 months pregnant at the time. Losing my mother, I lost a part of myself. My sense of home, my sense of security, my advisor through trouble times. This was not something that could be fixed or repaired, the pain just fades a bit over time and there are less and less instances where you are doubled over with grief, and you smile at a memory and treasure it instead of it making you sob.
There was such a warmth my mother provided, for not just for her children, but for all of the people she let in. She was a very private and humble woman, extremely intelligent and had incredible strength and wit! She was also very scary sometimes, but in the best way, because you knew she wouldn’t let anyone ever hurt you. She was also a very talented photographer, fascinated in people and portraiture, which she didn’t really share with others. And I can understand where my interest in portraiture and people as a subject matter in my art stemmed from. My father is a kind and loving man interested in music, nature and creativity. And I can never recall a time in my life where he told me that I could not do something just because I was a girl. Both my parents were supportive and open, and instilled in us that the things valued in this life are moral integrity, equality, love and kindness. Trust me when I say that my siblings and I had some crazy ideas and cockamamie schemes, but there were no bounds on our dreams.
I want to speak about becoming a mother, amongst the mess of losing mine, all within an alarmingly small amount of time. I can tell you that without the birth of my first child shortly following my mother’s death, I don’t think I could have made it through that grieve unscathed. Gus was my focus, and carly was my strength. Never do you truly know the will of what it takes to be a parent, until you are one. They take all of you, maybe even a bit more. You really begin to appreciate how amazing your own parents were or are.
That experience and shock of death awoke something in me. I had a new thirst for life. Nothing scared me anymore. Nothing could be more painful than losing my mother.
As an artist, I was torn. Creating requires time and headspace. Something I struggled with especially when my second baby boy came along, Finn. After all, I was a foremost a mother. I had given myself over to my children, they needed me. But there was just a huge part of me that longed to create, and I wanted to somehow pass this gift on to them. And I had finally figured out a way to do that, it just all of a sudden clicked! One day Gus’ interest in painting grew. We started working together more and more while his brother napped. In turn, the GUS series was born. A 44-piece art series, all paintings of local parents and a full interactive installation that travelled to three venues across western Canada. Gus was involved in every step of the painting process from beginning to end.
After losing my mother and father-in-law in a matter of a few years my belief that time is our most precious commodity has grown exponentially. Moments are fickle and fleeting we should spend it with the people we love, our families. I refuse to lock myself away in my art studio alone and not include my children in my passion for the arts. I want to show them the beauty of mark making, dancing, and expressing yourself with a brush stroke, or a splash of paint. I want to teach them that it’s ok to make a mess, “YES Gus you can step in the paint, squish it between your hands and toes, and no Finn, you can’t eat it. I know that the whole process has been so precious because I have never seen so much joy pour out of my son! He is confident, self-aware, and playful when creating. Every moment I have spent with him has been worth it, and I can always look back on this time in our lives with absolute fondness.
In amongst the darkest of periods I have somehow found the light. Through troubling and hard times, I chose resilience. I have given to this life and life has gifted back a wonderful childhood, a loving family, stunning life experiences, and the most sensitive, loving, children.
I have chosen to take something negative, something that someone said to me, that they viewed as a flaw, and turned it into one of the most beautiful things about myself. Without my bravery and inability to “think things through”, I could never have come to realize my capacity for creativity, found my unique view of the world, and found an insurmountable lust for life. I could not have accomplished all this without the beautiful community of people we have here in Lloydminster, it is a beautiful place filled with amazing opportunity and support.
What I am bringing forward today, to you, is, do you have the courage to find bravery within you, do you have the courage to live life moment by moment? Find something within you, something you never knew you had. We don’t know what is to come, there is no control over time in this life, so, with every ounce you have squeeze and savour every moment. And "don’t over think it", because you may just end up missing out on something magical.
Now, I want to finish with this story about my mother: Some months ago, as I was searching through old photographs and some letters my mom left to me. There was this page, along with something she had written on the bottom, as I looked closer I discovered that the page had been torn from a comment book from an art competition I had entered from years ago. I had placed first in the competition and someone left an unsavoury remark on how they disagreed with my receiving first place. My Mother had saved it for over 10 years and when she was sick she left this for me to find with a note at the bottom, she wrote:
Dismiss with love all those who don’t see beauty in the world.
- love mom