This Question and Answer blog continues to highlight a few of the many compelling artists that call Saskatoon home. Perhaps you’ll find yourself motivated to explore Saskatoon differently after reading more from visual artist Nicki Ault and DJ Charly Hustle. The two artists share why they appreciate living in Saskatoon, how the city impacts their work and where they go when they need a creative boost for projects. Each artist also shares recent pieces inspired by Saskatoon.
1. Nicki Ault
Canadian artist, Nicki Ault, has a genuine and intense love for the natural world, specifically the Boreal forest, northern lakes, big skies and wild grasslands of Saskatchewan. She is fascinated by light as it changes throughout the day and consistently strives to paint the emotions she feels when experiencing our varied landscape. She considers herself to be a lifelong student of art, always determined to learn and grow in order to keep moving forward. In 2020, Nicki was named a SaskGalleries “Artist to Watch”. Nicki paints full-time at the Studio On 20th in Saskatoon where she works among ten exceptional female artists. She is represented by galleries in Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and Winnipeg. Her work can be found in corporate collections in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and private collections around the world.
What do you appreciate about living in Saskatoon?
Nicki Ault: As someone born and raised in Saskatoon, I appreciate that we are growing and evolving, but still managing to hold onto our small-town sense of community. Saskatoon has been a wonderful place to raise my two children. I am grateful that, over a century ago, our city planners had the foresight to ensure our beautiful riverbank was kept as a place for everyone to enjoy and who had the vision to establish an urban forest within the city. We are lucky to have an energetic, hard-working, and diverse population. I love seeing the new wave of innovative local businesses who collaborate and support each other and who partner with our farmers and our creatives. It’s an exciting time to live in Saskatoon.
Where do you go in Saskatoon when seeking inspiration or when you are working on ideas for your art?
NA: Good question! Saskatoon is teeming with inspiration! I guess my favourite place to go is probably the most obvious – the riverbank and Meewasin Trail. When I go to my studio, I have to cross one of our beautiful bridges and I often get sidetracked by early morning or late afternoon light. When I see something spectacular, my heart starts beating fast and I have to veer off course to enjoy the moment and take reference photos! Because my studio is in Riversdale, I take lots of pictures around the Remai Modern and River Landing area. I’m always inspired by the foliage along the river in autumn and love the area near the Delta Bessborough Hotel and the Broadway Bridge. I love the ponds, gardens, and trees at the Forestry Farm. I keep returning to the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands and the Northeast Swale for new ideas. I’ve painted en Plein air at several local parks including Gabriel Dumont, Rotary, Friendship, Kinsmen, and Buena Vista.
How does living in Saskatoon influence your art?
NA: Living in Saskatoon, I’m influenced by our vibrant art community and public art. We are a city full of creatives. I am constantly in awe of the talent here. We have amazing writers, actors, singers, musicians, craftspeople, painters, sculptors, florists, graphic designers, furniture makers, and culinary artists to name a few.
I’m constantly stimulated by Saskatoon’s growing collection of public art. It’s a joy to round a corner and come across Kevin Pee-Ace’s beautiful painting on an electrical box near Anthology or Mike Remando’s fun mural on the alley wall of Foster’s Shoes. So many people, old and young, have enjoyed Bill Epp’s sculpture, “Tribute To Youth” on Spadina or Robert Iveson and Tommie Gallie’s sculpture, “Child’s Play”, in Kinsmen Park. I could go on, but there are too many to mention here. Public art stimulates and enriches us; it adds to our collective culture; it educates and invites conversation. I am proud to live in a city that recognizes this.
The commitment I see local people give to their passions directly feeds into my energy and motivates me to contribute in a way that is authentic to me.
Do you have any pieces inspired by Saskatoon?
NA: Yes! I recently completed my largest painting to date, “Riverbank Reflections, Meewasin” (36x72 inches, oil on canvas), which was inspired by the view of the Meewasin Trail looking northeast towards Saskatchewan Crescent from the Broadway Bridge.
One of my favourite paintings from several years ago, “Kindness and Joy: Life on the Prairies” (30x48 inches, acrylic and oil on canvas), was inspired by Wolf Willow shrubs in the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands.
“River Landing Lookout” is a little 8x8 inch painting I did of a beautiful winter sunset I witnessed one evening when I left my studio last year.
“View North, Chief Mistawasis Bridge” (20x20 inches, oil on panel) resulted from my first walk across the newest bridge in the city. It was a rainy day with spectacular clouds, so I just had to head out to get inspired.
2. Charly Hustle
Instagram (DJ Charly Hustle): https://instagram.com/djcharlyhustle
Instagram: (Ariel & Sean): https://instagram.com/arielandseanmusic
Bandcamp (DJ Charly Hustle): https://charlyhustlemusic.bandcamp.com/
Bandcamp (Ariel & Sean): https://arielandsean.bandcamp.com/
Charly Hustle is an award-winning DJ/producer from Saskatoon, SK. He was the 2015 Red Bull Thre3style Canadian champion, and World Finalist. His DJ style consists of using dexterous skill and creativity to make a dance party in ANY situation. DJing AND producing-wise, he's got a penchant for taking left turns and any genre is fair game so long as it makes people smile and dance. He is also one half of R&B/soul/trip-hop duo, Ariel & Sean.
What do you appreciate about living in Saskatoon?
Charly Hustle: Saskatoon is the Goldilocks city - not too big, not too small - and as such is perfect for a vibrant music scene. Its size allows it to have big shows, big venues, and big ideas...but still, NEED a thriving local scene. I personally appreciate Saskatoon's incredibly diverse local music scene...and its ability to not pigeonhole people into very rigid "scenes" or genres. I see many of the same folks at hip-hop, punk, and various shows. I see many of the performers PLAYING at those shows. That's a giant asset for Saskatoon, and I absolutely love it.
Where do you go in Saskatoon when seeking inspiration, working on ideas for music?
CH: One of the best parts about Saskatoon - and living downtown specifically - is that I don't have to GO anywhere to seek inspiration. Inspiration is all around me. There are dozens of incredible music venues, bars, pubs, music stores, and coffee shops within 100 steps of my front door. All of them are able to spark a thought. A word. A musical passage. I don't even need to GET to my front door. Often having a coffee while looking out to 22nd St. from my living room window is the moment of inspiration. I've got my instruments, audio workstations, turntables, and more at my fingertips...and ready to cultivate and grow even the smallest kernel of inspiration.
How does living in Saskatoon influence your music?
CH: Being from Saskatoon...being IN Saskatoon...influences every artist, including me. The diversity that I touched on earlier is paramount. I'm rarely satisfied with only ONE genre. Only ONE way of creating. That diversity goes beyond the musical fabric and the people though. Saskatoon has the buildings...but also nature. I can be in a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art building, step outside, and within 5 minutes be sitting quietly alone with my thoughts, on a rock with the calm lapping of the South Saskatchewan River. It's got a diversity of weather. I can be out for a midnight stroll with a t-shirt and within a week be 40cm deep in snow. These diverse conditions allow for a breadth of ideas and perspectives...and that has certainly affected my music.
Do you have any songs or projects inspired by Saskatoon?
KP: The latest song that I was a part of actually has VERY specific Saskatchewan and Saskatoon inspirations. I'm in a group called Ariel & Sean and we were approached by Saskatoon's community radio station (CFCR 90.5 FM) to be part of a collaborative project with Regina's community radio station (CJTR 91.3 FM)...Saskatchewan artists cover other Saskatchewan artists. CFCR has been a part of my music upbringing for decades - has been a host since 1997, and a listener before then - so it was an honour to work with them, in addition to being an exciting opportunity to step outside of our song-creation routines. We chose Andy Shauf's "Early To The Party"...and I feel like I can hear the buzz of the sidewalk outside my living room window that was happening as I lay down the instruments, whenever I hear it. With Ariel's voice - recorded at her home in Saskatoon - soaring above it...it truly feels like I can FEEL Saskatoon in this song.
LINK to LISTEN to "Early To The Party" by Ariel & Sean: https://cfcr.bandcamp.com/track/early-to-the-party-by-andy-shauf
Please follow the creative journey of these two talented artists by checking out their social media accounts listed in their bios!
If you would like to learn about a few other Saskatoon artists, follow these links to read previous Q&A Saskatoon Artist Blogs:
Q&A with Jo Van Lambalgen and Krystle Pederson