Giselle Denis is kind of living our dream life.
Residing on the Alberta prairies, she lives close enough to access the city, but far enough outside it to feel like you’re in the country. Her home is peaceful. Magical, twinkly lights light up her patio. Encased in windows, natural light pours onto the white walls, light floors and natural wood finishings of her home. An artist to the core, she lets paint splatters have their way with her studio floor, and most of the furnishings in it. Canvases covered in bold, bright, textured florals and landscapes dominate most of her wall space.
As a Canadian, Edmonton-based performance painter and fine artist with two decades of experience, she’s made her everyday environment a reflection of the kind of artwork she creates. For Poppy Barley, she invited us to take over her home for our latest campaign photo shoot, and brought our Spring 2018 Collection to life with her near-hypnotic, large-scale paintings (see them on display and available for purchase at the Poppy Barley Southgate Flagship from now until May 1st, 2018). Together, we saw the concept of everyday luxury come to life—in art, in shoemaking, in your surroundings, and with pieces that truly inspire.
Here, we find out what living the dream means to Giselle—and how fashion plays a huge role in her life.
How essential is it to you to be inspired in your surroundings—your home, landscape, fashion, food etc.—in order to let your inner artist shine?
There’s nothing like having a quiet, secluded place to come home to everyday. To live in the place that inspires me is so important.
Could we call it the “canvas” for your creativity?
It is absolutely the canvas of my creativity. It is the foundation. I take “home is where your heart is” very seriously. When we saw this place 9 years ago, I knew immediately I wanted to live here. It felt right. We had to do a lot of work to make it look like it does today, but that work was well worth it and so rewarding. We saw the potential of what it could be and we have certainly made it our own little oasis not far from the city, but far enough to refuel in the peace and quiet of nature.
How long does it take you to create a painting?
I can create 2-3 paintings in a 3-5 hour period. I paint large. I paint quickly and it is meant to be an interactive experience for guests to chat with me while I’m creating. One of the best ways to describe my live painting is that it is fascinating to watch a painting come to life as it is progressive, and soothing and quiet to watch.
How does Poppy Barley’s Spring 2018 Collection inspire you? What aspects?
The playful use of colour that Poppy Barley has used int he 2018 Spring collection. It was not a colour palette I had thought of using before, so that part made me want to try and see what I would come up with. The shapes and lines of the shoes and what shoes represent is what really inspired me. They represent walking, moving forward, proceeding, travelling, adventure, playfulness. All of these messages are threaded into my paintings.
You have a son (who also appears to be a painter/creative!), and your husband was actually the one who suggested you reach out to Poppy Barley when we were on the hunt for a photo shoot location late last year. How does your family support your art?
Family is everything and I am so fortunate to have a husband on board supporting everything I do. He is the perfect business partner as we seem to share a brain when it comes to our vision and where we want to go and what we want to accomplish. I have always encouraged creativity in my son the way my Mother did with me when I was growing up. He participated in the Artwalk every year with me and sells out his paintings each time. He likes colour and abstract paintings and I am so happy to have a space where he can feel free to make a total mess and not worry if paint gets on the floor or his clothes. To be able to travel a little bit with my work and have my family join me on month long trips to Dubai while I am the feature painter at a hotel there is an amazing thing as well. To travel alone, to me, would not be that fun. To have the ability to take my family with me is the best thing in the world to experience places together.
Tell us about the philanthropic side of your business. Why is the charitable aspect of painting so important to you? As a socially responsible brand that donates 1% of annual sales to our communities, it means a lot to us too!
When I do charity work, mainly live painting for donation at large gala fundraisers, I donate 100% of the money raised at live auction to the charity. My message in my art is that I paint Hope. I have a goal to raise $1 million for charity and I am getting closer and closer to that goal. I’ve even had one painting sell for $50,000 at one charity auction. I don’t take a penny of that money. My message is hope. My story is hope and my vision is all about hope.
You regularly live paint at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton, and have done live-painting at the Raffles Hotel Dubai, which you’re returning to this Spring. Do you see yourself traveling around the world live painting for people? Where else would you like to go?
Yes! I have a vision, dream and goal to travel the world live painting! I will be returning to Dubai to paint as the feature painter at the Raffles Hotel. I’ve also painted for the Canadian Embassy in Abu Dhabi on my last trip. I would like to go to London, Paris, Singapore, Morocco, Beijing, Shanghai, Hawaii… these are just a few places, but I would like to make travelling with my art a regular thing. I want to affect the world with my art and am seeing my dreams become reality. It is quite amazing!
In terms of what to pack/wear when you travel, what are you travel essentials?
Poppy Barley black flats (of course😉), many many dresses, wide brimmed summer hat, Bose headphones, 2-3 books (specifically books on business… I’m a business nerd. Right now I’m reading Steal the Show by Michael Port) my paints/brushes/palette knives, painting apron.
How does fashion influence/play into your life?
Fashion has always been important to me. I have always created a statement with my clothes. Growing up, I would make outfits work that my friends would envy and ask how I made the outfit so cool. It was one way to stand out from the crowd and be an individual I supposed. I’ve always felt that fashion is art for the body. Art that we wear. Our bodies are a temple and by dressing well, we are demonstrating to ourselves that we respect the bodies we’ve been given. My husband is the one with the fashion eye actually. He takes me shopping and dresses me. He always steers me to quality, classic items. When I want to buy something really colourful, he reminds me that my art is the colour, and to wear items that are more neutral in tone. Dresses are a weakness for me, as I would buy a new dress every week! The fashion in Dubai is quite high end and very beautiful. When we found the outlet store it was fabulous to shop at Burberry at 75% off! I found a lovely Dubai designer, Valery Kovolska and bought a few items from her store during my last visit. Some of my favourite designers are Marie St. Pierre, Phillip Lim and Jil Sander.
How do you like your Classic Point flats?! (Now, covered in paint too!)
I love my Classic Point Flats! They are the perfect statement piece to any outfit I wear and I am proud when people ask me who made them too say they are Poppy Barley, a local company run by powerhouse Edmonton entrepreneurs. I love that they are simple, and are the prefect shoe to drop paint on to make them even more customized to an artists shoe! They are coming with me to Dubai definitely.
If you’re already living our dream—what’s your dream? What do you see for the future for Giselle Denis the artist, and Giselle Denis the person—or are they the same?
I do feel I am already living my dream, but the live part about dreaming is that it never has to end. I have done many of the things I said I would do, but the possibilities are really endless. That is what I love most about being an artist. The fact that I can do what I love as a career, but do it with my family as part of that dream. I want to travel the world live painting and showcasing my art. I plan loosely for the future with goals and dreams as I want to remain open to the many possibilities.