North·Profile

Nunavut teen 'takes a chance', will represent N.S. at national Art Battle

Megan Kyak-Monteith, originally from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, can draw anything, but she prefers to sketch people when they least expect it.

Megan Kyak-Monteith is heading to Toronto after winning the regional art battle in Halifax last week

Megan Kyak-Monteith, who just completed her first year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, won the city-wide art battle in Halifax earlier this year. (Kristof Rudic)

Megan Kyak-Monteith, originally from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, can draw anything, but she prefers to sketch people on the sly. 

"I'm more comfortable painting people," says Kyak-Monteith, "I like to draw them when they least expect it, capturing a moment without them knowing."

'I’m more comfortable painting people,' says Kyak-Monteith, 'I like to draw them when they least expect it, capturing a moment without them knowing.' (Submitted by Megan Kyak-Monteith)
It's no surprise that some of Kyak-Monteith's favourite sketching sites are at airports and on buses.

In fact, when getting ready for the Nova Scotia regional art battle, she prepared by drawing people at the airport on her way from Iqaluit to Halifax.

'Just you with a canvas'

An art battle is a live competition where artists are given 20 minutes to create the best acrylic piece possible before a live audience that judges the final work. The event is often animated with live music performances.

Kyak-Monteith's advice to other artists? 'If you see an opportunity, take the chance.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
Kyak-Monteith, who just completed her first year at  the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, won the city-wide art battle in Halifax earlier this year.

She was in Iqaluit, where she lives with her grandparents in the summer months, when she got the news that she was going to represent Halifax at the provincial battle on June 17.

Kyak-Monteith's efforts sketching unsuspecting airport patrons paid off: she won the provincial competition and even auctioned her piece for over $400, all without letting her nerves get to her.

"Once you start painting it's just you with a canvas, even though you're on stage and everyone is making comments," says Kyak-Monteith.

'I have done a lot of pieces on Inuit mythology,' says Kyak-Monteith. (submitted by Megan Kyak-Monteith)
Now she's preparing to fly to Toronto to represent Nova Scotia at the national art battle in Toronto in July.

There's only one catch: the organization only pays $500 towards her flight, an amount that can cover airfare throughout most of Canada, but is just not enough for travel from Iqaluit to Toronto.

To offset the travel expense Kyak-Monteith is doing what she can to raise the money through the sale of her art, her summer job illustrating books, and other fundraising efforts.

Getting inspiration from her Inuit roots

Kyak-Monteith's art is distinctly modern, featuring bold colours and dynamic strokes, but she admits that much of her inspiration comes from her Inuit roots and life in Nunavut.

Her favourite Inuit legend is Qalupalik. A cautionary tale of a sea monster. (submitted by Megan Kyak-Monteith)
"I have done a lot of pieces on Inuit mythology," says Kyak-Monteith.

Her favourite Inuit legend is that of the Qalupalik, a cautionary tale of a sea monster who hides between the cracks of the sea ice preying on children who get too close to the water's edge.

"It's really fun to draw because they're so creepy and slimy," says Kyak-Monteith.

Kyak-Monteith says art school has really helped her refine her skills. (Submitted by Megan Kyak-Monteith)
Kyak-Monteith says that in the future she wants to work on more narrative pieces that tell a story. She says many of her earlier works dealt with social issues in the North like food insecurity, and the legacy of residential schools.

The young artists says that after high school she was planning to study forensic science instead of art. Going to art school was a last-minute decision made after she was awarded a scholarship.

But Kyak-Monteith admits that the skills she's learned at art school have made all the difference in honing her talent and exposing her to new types of art, medium and techniques.

"It has helped me a lot to smooth out the edges , to refine my art," says Kyak-Monteith.

Her advice to other artists? "If you see an opportunity, take the chance."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.