Nova Scotia·Video

This artist's happy place is an island of memories and make-believe

To find her happy place, artist Briana Corr Scott opens her sketchbook. She shares her joy with us in the stop-motion animation, The Happy Island.

Briana Corr Scott's The Happy Island stop-motion animation is part of our Happy Place series

'These animations are a way for me to play, and merge all the different parts of the art that I make,' says Briana Corr Scott. (Briana Corr Scott)

In the middle of winter, in the middle of a pandemic, where do you go to find joy? Maybe it's a physical spot, or a memory. Our new Happy Place series explores both.

Artist Briana Corr Scott opens her sketchbook to find joy. It's home to The Happy Island.

During the quarantine in March and April 2020, I craved routine, and I needed something to look forward to each day. It was difficult to carry on with my usual art practice because my three kids were home for remote school. We were all tense and worried about the future. I decided to give myself an assignment to force myself to make something, even if it was just small and for a few minutes of the day.

I looked at all the paintings, drawings, poems and books I have made in my career, and I analyzed all the imagery I used. My project was to create a visual vocabulary of my work. Why do I paint seals so much? Why do I like horses, what is it about flowers, and what's with all these unicorns?

Briana Corr Scott's inspiration comes from 'the kind of magic you find out in nature, and the kind of magic from the land of make-believe.' (Briana Corr Scott for CBC)

In the end, I identified 20 of my favourite images. I got to the bottom of why I make them and most importantly, why I repeat them.

Inside my sketchbook, I mapped out all of these places, objects and memories as if I was drawing the map for a real live place. This resulted in the image of my Happy Island, which you see at the start of the animation. This exploration is something I find very important to me now as an artist.

Briana Corr Scott is a fine artist, illustrator and writer based in Dartmouth, N.S. (Alexa Cude)

Equally as important, I have found that this small act of showing up at my desk, drawing something I love for 10 minutes and writing one paragraph about it transformed how I felt about being in quarantine. No matter what happened in the day or on the news, I could look forward to this 20-minute escape from reality. I realized that my sketchbook, where I draw and write, is my happy place. 

These quarantine discoveries were the inspiration for this stop-motion animation, The Happy Island. In my short video, you can open my sketchbook, fly past the fog and discover some of the images and feelings of my island. Together we can visit my childhood home in Ipswich, Mass., and watch the cranes fish in the cove. You can see me drawing the periwinkles on the beach, and watch me sketch moths and flowers in the nearby meadow. I will show you the two types of magic that my heart is concerned with: the kind of magic you find out in nature, and the kind of magic from the land of make believe. 

Corr Scott's childhood home and memories from Ipswich, Mass., are on The Happy Island. That includes cranes fishing in the cove. (Briana Corr Scott for CBC)

To make these animations, I cut up pieces of older paintings, rejected illustrations, scraps and cast-off pattern designs. I carefully construct the moving parts. It is a joy in itself to repurpose all of these textures and images. These animations are a way for me to play and merge all the different parts of the art that I make. I use paintings, paper dolls, surface patterns and storytelling. Put together, they feel magical. In this joyful way, a handmade stop-motion animation was the perfect way to illustrate The Happy Island.

If you have a Happy Place story idea, email natalie.dobbin@cbc.ca.

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