Friday, December 15, 2017

Author explores historical and cultural context of BC artists

October 29, 2015 by Wendy Snedden, contributing writer

Pender Island-based writer Maria Tippett, who grew up in Victoria, has always had words in her blood. Her latest book, Made in British Columbia, is just the most recent example of a passion she’s had since she was young.

“When I was a child I wrote a play,” she says. “I was about seven. I performed it at my school. I had always written; I wrote a novel when I was about 12. It was dreadful. Writing was a way to express myself and my relation with the rest of the world, I guess.”

Made in British Columbia examines the lives of eight individuals: visual artists Emily Carr and Bill Reid, architects Frances Rattenbury and Arthur Erikson, writers George Woodcock and Martin Grainger, and musicians Jean Couthard and George Ryga. They each have a distinct but equally important influence on the development of British Columbian culture, which Tippett wanted to explore further.

BC author Maria Tippett says she doesn’t believe in writer’s block (photo provided).

BC author Maria Tippett says she doesn’t believe in writer’s block (photo provided).

“I wanted to know about Emily Carr, and I wanted to know about other artists around her,” explains Tippett. “I wanted to know about landscape painters who were painting before her who were painting the British Columbian landscape. I wanted to know about her political situation. I wanted to know about her financial situation. One of the myths is that Emily was a poor starving artist, but that, of course, was not true.”

Tippett says that the book helps the reader understand the larger picture of what was going on during the times of the people profiled in its pages.

“I wanted to look at the broad picture,” she says. “The narrow picture would be the life and the work of the person I’m writing about, but it’s the social, political, and cultural context as well.”

Made in British Columbia is Tippett’s 15th book. Her first, Emily Carr: A Biography, came out in 1979. She says that writing books is difficult but adds that it has gotten easier for her.

“I’ve never had a block,” she says. “I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writing is a job, and it’s just like any other job, so whether I’m a carpenter or writer or whatever, there are challenges in whatever you do. In writing it’s just keeping it going: keeping it all in your head, pushing it along, and devoting all of your time to it.”

Tippett sticks to a routine when getting her books together, which includes time for exercise and uninterrupted writing. For her, writing is something you set a routine for and then get done.

“It’s a matter of doing it every day,” she says. “It’s not just something you do when you feel like it. If you want to be a writer you need a lifetime.”

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