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Olivier Roy – A life in art



Artists are born not made. Know what I mean? Sure, technical proficiency can only come with discipline and practice. But the way a genuine artist addresses the world on a daily basis is a unique act far removed from the travails of a conventional temperament.

To be an artist is to see the world as a child. To be enchanted, surprised, curious, engaged, attracted by everything that surrounds you. To be an artist is to be a risk-taker. To be original and unafraid and bold and challenging. The status quo doesn't exist for a true artist - or if it does, it's only a barrier to leap over in one's quest to be original and meaningful. You don't choose to be an artist. Art chooses you.

To be an artist - especially to be an artist in Canada - is to embark on a life where personal satisfaction takes the place of material reward. Despite all the hype we hear these days about million-dollar art pieces sold for twice their appraised value at auction, being an artist in the 21 st century is not a way to get rich.

Au contraire . Few artists in this country ever manage to make a living strictly from their art. And those who do are constantly juggling money, bills, projects and commissions in a mad act of economic legerdemain.

Consider the case of Olivier Roy. Painter, sign-maker, cartoonist, graphic artist - and, oh-by-the-way a long-time pro snowboarder and coach too - Olivier's art has quietly entered the subconscious of Whistlerites over the last 16 years or so that he has lived in Sea to Sky Country. Own a Prior snowboard? Chances are, it's Oli's graphics that you're standing on when you're ripping down the Khyber. Taking the Symphony Chair up the backside of Whistler Mountain for a little sightseeing tour? Those are Oli's logos mounted on the lift stations. Raced in the Test of Metal lately? That's an Oli-designed race jersey you're wearing. Dropping in on Art Walk for a taste of local talent? Yep, those are Oli's canvases on display too.

He does it all. A one-man art-making machine - and one of the most positive-minded individuals I know (has anybody in this town ever seen him frown?) - the long-time local has hoisted himself into the top echelons of Whistler artists. Just recently he joined fellow painters Vanessa Stark and Chili Thom for a three-day romp to Ottawa to celebrate Whistler's Cultural Capital designation on Canada Day.

So did they accomplish what the Whistler Art Council had set out to do by sending them to Ottawa? "Absolutely," responds the 36 year old. And laughs. "We represented hard."