Jamie Reynolds is perched about halfway up a ladder in paint-stained overalls. A yellow and white trucker hat is keeping the sun out of her eyes and tight curls away from her face.
Big blue headphones cover her ears as she rolls bright purple paint onto the back wall of Avenue Garage.
She’s zoned out, listening to heavy bass beats — a deviation from her usual distractions of choice, techno music and crime podcasts, which help her through the challenges of painting large-scale murals.
“It’s kind of nice to distract my brain while I’m painting. That way all the actual physical hard work of painting doesn’t feel as bad,” said Reynolds.
In its early stages, the Avenue Garage mural in central Regina is just a sketch so far, rough outlines of two larger than life dogs — a German shepherd named Canuk and Shadow the Labradoodle — which belong to the garage’s owner Eugene Seckler.
Reynolds’ vision of a ’90s neon and chrome theme is set to come to life over the coming days.
It comes on the heels of another mural she painted last week on the Heritage neighbourhood building shared by Malty National and 33 1/3 Coffee Roasters — two owls framing a big yellow moon, surrounded by bright stars reminiscent of fireflies.
“It’s just something I always liked doing,” said Reynolds, who switched from ceramics to painting about five years ago. “I taught myself thanks to YouTube and Google. There’s no room to have a ceramics studio inside of your tiny, small apartment.”
Artist-in-residence at the Heritage Community Association, she has spent the past year painting indoor and outdoor murals around Regina as part of their mural project that began in 2017.
Co-ordinating workshops and mural projects with schools and youth shelters, the program teaches kids about street art and graffiti.
“There’s been studies that show that having murals and street art and stuff sort of deflects away from gang tagging and unwanted graffiti,” said the 34-year-old. “It also helps teach the kids that we’ve been working with, about pride in their community and taking care of the things that they make.”
When working with a group, she said she likes to get input about what themes or messages are important to them.
She did just that with teachers from Thomson Community School, who emphasized the importance of neighbourhood and belonging. The resulting mural was a giant beehive, where each kid got to paint their own piece of honeycomb and their own bee. Reynolds finished if off by adding flowers around the outside.
She said collaborating makes the kids feel like they contributed to the piece, giving them a sense of pride.
“It lets kids know that this is something that they can do, that art and this sort of thing is accessible for everybody,” said Reynolds.
The program also partners with local organizations and businesses who would like to commission a mural, but don’t necessarily have the money to hire an artist.
That’s where Reynolds comes in.
“I think everybody can appreciate them,” she said. “Having art in community gives the community something to appreciate and something to enjoy. It kind of brightens things up.”
It can also help people feel safer if they’re seeing artwork of dogs and birds as opposed to gang tags and obscene images that often make their way into graffiti, Reynolds added.
When she’s not being guided by input from those she’s working with, she finds inspiration elsewhere.
“A lot of my ideas for paintings come from dreams,” said Reynolds, adding her dreams are the cause of a recent bird kick.
“My grandma put a lot of emphasis on her dreams,” she added. “Maybe I wouldn’t have taken them so serious if it hadn’t have been for my grandma and her influence.”
After graduating with a fine arts degree from the University of Regina in 2010 and working a short stint at Casino Moose Jaw, Reynolds has made a career out of art.
Born in Fort Qu’Appelle and raised in Moose Jaw, Reynolds got a part-time job at the Moose Jaw Art Gallery as an art instructor, and then worked for 4Cats Art Studio.
She went on to find work at Regina’s Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre, teaching children’s classes. She also hosted paint nights for a couple of years.
Those experiences landed her a gig as an administrative assistant for the Sâkêwêwak (Suh-gay-wa-wok) Artists’ Collective — a Regina-based group that provides opportunities and platforms for Indigenous artists to create and showcase their work.
An Indigenous woman from Pasqua First Nation, Reynolds was also involved in the First Nations University of Canada teepee art installation kêhtê-ayak where local artists painted large murals on teepee liners. She said the experience helped teach her how to paint big.
Reynolds’ current contract with the Heritage Community Association ends in September, but she will be staying on as program co-ordinator and will continue her work with Sâkêwêwak.
“It feels good,” Reynolds said of making a living doing what she loves.
She used to think she was lucky, but over time she’s learned luck had nothing to do with it.
“It’s taking those small jobs that people don’t want and it’s using those to take steps forward,” said Reynolds. “If you don’t put in work, then you’re not going to get work.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019