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Reva Madryga

creative & maker


My name is Reva and I am an artist. It was really hard for me to initially call myself that though, as I didn’t think I fit the title. Perhaps ‘creative’ or ‘maker’ is more fitting, since that is more what I do.  I live with my stuntman husband, our little baby boy, and our kittens, in a small beach town on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.  

If I'm not creating, you will most likely find me playing at the beach with my hilarious friends, reading books and drinking tea in my hammock, indulging the The Office & Buffy binges, dreaming about velociraptors and hammerhead sharks, thunderstorms and tornadoes, and attempting to tame my wild garden. In the winter, my favourite thing to do is hibernate in blankets. We get pretty wild winters here, but thankfully, wonderful summers too.

Awake, awake. Clothe yourself with strength... Shake off your dust. Rise up! Free yourself from the chains on your neck Daughter Zion.
— Isaiah 52:1-2

a little bit of history…

I started life near the great Rocky Mountains in Alberta. In a time before cell phones, internet, and cute kid clothes, I happily played in my osh-kosh coordinated outfits, climbing over the back fence to play with my neighbour, learned how to braid hair on My Little Pony and Sheera dolls, and started colouring on my bedroom walls (sorry Mom!). My mom was a maker, and always had us doing lots of crafts and creating. My favourite thing was a large cardboard box. Like large appliance size. And paints. My parents set me up on the driveway and I just went at it. Doors and windows were cut into it, and I made it colourful and my favourite play place ever. Creativity flowed into the basement with our super full Tickle-Trunk (Dad worked for CBC then, so Mr. Dressup was life) filled with amazing dress up clothes and shoes. I pranced around in my purple high heeled cowboy boots until the heel broke off. Imagination was always alive in our house.

Moving to New York when I was nine was a big change. I started to feel social peer pressure, but I still loved art class. Thankfully, in elementary school, I had an amazing art teacher, and learned so many new techniques and mediums, probably far beyond what kids learn these days. Lino cutting was one that stands out in my memory, and I still have super Canadian moose lino floating around here somewhere. Moving back to Canada when I was 12, getting into art class with a teacher who was not artistic, slowed me down too. I learned about competition in art, as there was a girl who was way more talented than me, and I started to experience my first taste of jealousy. IT. SUCKED. I felt defeated and that I didn’t have any skill, because she could just whip our everything with ease, especially portraits. I struggled a lot, and was very grateful to move onto highschool soon after, where I didn’t have her in my art class. Not that I needed to be at the top of the skill bank, but it made me feel a little more confident in myself because she wasn’t there to make me feel weaker (She in no way put me down…she just worked hard, practiced often and was just really good! The ‘shame’ I had was all my self doing.)

Fast forward to my last year of school. My art teacher was amazing (we got to call her by her first name, and we thought it was the coolest thing ever). She was encouraging, pushed us, bought us better supplies out of her own pocket because our school supported sports more than the arts. She taught us new things, and expanded our knowledge of different materials and mediums. I still regret disappointing her so much though, as I never applied to any of the local Toronto art universities when post-secondary school selections came around. I decided to go to a non-art school, but it happened to have a decent art program. She thought I would be missing out, but I definitely didn’t feel confident enough to apply to the art schools.

Turns out confidence, or lack there of, has stuck with me even to today, when I still struggle to call myself an artist. I struggled through university, as I was more at the bottom of the class than the top. They had all experience oil paints, when I never had touched them. They all understood how to do critiques and handle them well, when I often felt like I had to hold back tears. I didn’t know the fancy art terms they were using. I didn’t know the artists they were referencing. I didn’t feel like I had any imagination or creativity, or was ‘weird’ enough. I didn’t hang out in the amazing art building we had, even though I desperately wanted to. I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I plugged away, squeezed by and finally graduated. Later, after going to college for a different program, I realized I wasn’t built for the kind of education style university offers. Unfortunately, high school taught us that that uni vs. college was a case of smarter vs. less smart, not different styles of learning.

Years later, after getting married and moving away, I found myself sitting at home, husband away working for many weeks, bored. With Christmas coming up soon, I decided to start making original, handpainted/lettered cards. After making dozens of those, my husband and dad told me I should start selling them. A few weeks later I opened up my Etsy shop, selling handpainted, one of a kind cards for wayyyy too cheap. I didn’t think about charging for my time, my supplies, etc. I basically was trying to keep my priced on par with Hallmark. So ridiculous. Fast forward I invested in a printer, learned about pricing, started creating custom orders (priced accordingly) and prints. Everything was watercolour and hand lettering. I started teaching calligraphy, painting, and homeschool kids. It was great, until I felt burnt out. I was pregnant, so sick, so tired, and so creatively blocked. I hardly made anything. I knew I needed a change.

Where I find myself now…

I am stepping away from handlettering and prints, although words might still creep up in my work here and there. After working on an 100 day project in the late spring to try to jumpstart my creative slump, I decided I wanted to get back to painting on canvas. So I’m making a change. With a new studio space in early 2019 (yay!) I’m setting it up with more room for my easel, large canvases, acrylics and oils. I’ve cut ties with my old business name Daughter Zion Designs, and am going to be creating under my own name instead. I’m going to have to push myself, because these painting techniques take more time for set up and clean up than watercolours, but I think painting large, painting differently (less flowers I think), with refuel me, and allow me to paint more.

Thanks for joining me on this new path on my art journey of life!