Proud to Shine illustration celebrates diversity, community

Art is all about expression. It's about sharing your point of view. For local artist KJ Forman, it's also a "form of resistance, hope and self-love." CBC Ottawa asked KJ to create a unique illustration for our latest digital series, Proud to Shine. 

Read our Q&A with local artist KJ Forman

(Artwork by KJ Forman)

Art is all about expression. It's about sharing your point of view. For local artist KJ Forman, it's also a "form of resistance, hope and self-love." 

CBC Ottawa asked KJ to create a unique illustration for our latest digital series, Proud to Shine

In partnership with the Virtual Capital Pride Festival, CBC Ottawa's Proud to Shine series will highlight 2SLGBTQ+ folks who are making a difference in our city. You can also find their stories on the CBC Ottawa Community Instagram account.

KJ created this illustration as a representation of what pride means to them. Read our Q&A below to find out more about them and the design.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is KJ Forman and I am a bisexual non-binary artist born and living in Ottawa. I've been working full time as an artist for just over a year, which is basically my childhood dream. My biggest aspiration is to one day open up a queer coffee shop/art space in the city! But for right now, I'm happily working from home and living with my wonderful partner and our two cats, Georgia and Benjamin.

CBC Ottawa asked KJ Forman to create a unique illustration for our latest digital series, Proud to Shine.  (KJ Forman)

What's your favourite "hidden gem" in the city?

I'm not sure how "hidden" this spot is, but my favourite Ottawa gem is Little Jo Berry's. It's the sweetest little vegan cafe you will ever visit, and the owner, Jo, is a wonderful human. I always feel at home whenever I go there and you can tell that all the treats are made with so much love.

Name another Ottawa artist whose work you admire.

I could definitely not pick one, but here are some folks that I admire, am inspired by, and am proud to know!

Munea Wadud is a visual artist whose paintings are colourful and dreamy and always speak important truths - I am always in awe of her talent. You can find her work on Instagram at @artbymunea.

Harar Hall is a spoken word poet, writer, visual artist AND owns their own vegan baking service (their desserts are to die for). You can find them at @sweethartdesserts and @gold.tinted.glasses on Instagram.

Jayce LeClair is a non-binary embroidery artist who creates these incredible floral embroidery hoops with a mesh background. Their work is gorgeous, check them out at @myenbyembroidery. They're also my amazing partner!

Kaytlyn Giaccone is an Indigenous artist who makes incredible beaded earrings and is a truly beautiful writer (@softbutsturdy on Instagram). 

Describe Ottawa's arts community in 5 words or less.

Beautiful, inspiring, diverse, supportive and underrated.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I would describe my artistic style as bright and flowery with a hard edge - my work typically features floral drawings combined with darker imagery like skulls and swords, featuring feminist and 2SLGBTQ+ mantras.

I often find inspiration from intricate tattoos, so I like to create fine, detailed line-work in most of my pieces. My art is heavily inspired by activism, and I want what I create to act as a form of resistance, hope and self-love, always.

Tell us about your illustration for Proud to Shine. What inspired your design?

When I think of pride, I always think of being part of a community, so the idea of hands being held up high together really jumped out to me. Black and Brown folks have always been at the forefront of the 2SLGBTQ+ movement, so I wanted to highlight that in this piece.

I also love drawing flowers, so I drew them growing outwards from the hands as a symbol of the progress that has been, and continues to be, made by and for our community. Also, the colours I chose just scream 'summer' to me, so I tried to embrace that.

What does pride mean to you?

To me, pride means being thankful to the people who fought for my rights to be who I am as a queer, trans person.

Trans women of colour like Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera risked everything to pave the way for 2SLGBTQ+ folks to feel safe being who they are, and I am so grateful for that. Pride also means learning to love the heck out of the ways that I and all other people are different and unique.

Where can we find more of your work in Ottawa?

My portfolio and online shop can be found at I'm also on Facebook and Instagram @luckylittlequeer!

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