Flying in from where he and his family live in the Northwest Territories, Robbie Craig is bringing his Northern Project Pop-Up Shop to the place he grew up.
The art sale event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Four Points by Sheraton at 60 Bryne Dr., and will feature work from Craig’s vast collection of work he has been producing in his tucked-away home in the north.
Craig is a graduate of Eastview Secondary School and attended university before moving to Yellowknife to fill a teaching position.
“I was teaching full-time and painting when I could as a creative outlet, because of the isolation in the north. Other teaching staff members were wanting some of my work and so I started selling them to them,” Craig told BarrieToday. “The next thing I knew, people I didn't know were reaching out and it began to become bigger than I expected.”
The big break came when Craig won the Northwest Telephone Book competition. Despite telephone books not being very popular nowadays, the 2011-12 edition featured one of Craig’s pieces and it went across the entire northern region of Canada.
“Maybe not so much now, but 10 years ago having your work on the cover of a phonebook was huge because of its reach,” Craig said. “After that happened, I was being contacted by representation from southern Canada. I didn’t really consider myself an artist at that point”
Craig had come back home to Barrie shortly after to visit family and it was then that his artist mother told him he may have to make up his mind about his path.
“She said I had to decide whether I was going to pursue my art or continue to teach. I did both for a little while until it got to a point where I was selling enough art to do teaching part-time,” he said. “After three years of that, I ended leaving teaching altogether and have been a full-time artist ever since.”
The 39-year-old artist calls his style graphic impressionism, but says he definitely tries to display the beauty of his home country.
“I try to pull on what it means to be Canadian and that is trying to connect the viewer to things that are typically important to us,” Craig said. “Big landscapes, big animals and images that are symbolic, particularly where I live and the people who I live near.
"I put some of my experiences in the work, as well," he added. "I think by looking at the work you tell it is pretty Canadian.”
The pop-up shop this weekend is not a gallery, but as Craig says, it is a chance to pick up a unique piece of work for yourself or for someone else as a gift. With each piece being sketched first and then painted, a lot of hours are put into each piece, he said.
“I think if people realize this is a sale, not so much a gallery show,” Craig said. “People are coming in to go shopping for maybe some Christmas gifts. I am a business ... so I am trying to sell some work while I’m on this pop-up sale tour.”
Craig just completed shows last month in Calgary and, after this weekend in Barrie, will head to Thunder Bay for Oct. 24 and 25.
But his Barrie visit is something he's been looking forward to, as it gives him a chance to visit his hometown and his family.
“It's always good to get back to Barrie and see my family, bring my wife and two kids for a little getaway,” he said. “I usually get back here maybe two or three times a year and holding a show while I’m here is something I do every year. It is good to do that, but also to make time for friends and family.”
The Northern Project Pop-Up Shop runs Saturday and Sunday at the Bryne Drive location from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free to attend and COVID-19 protocols of masking and social distancing are in effect.
To view more of Craig’s portfolio, head to his website here.