Artist of Merritt

Cassandra Dolen

"My artist life grows out of my spiritual life....We all admire other artists work and everything we love becomes incorporated into our own style eventually of course,

Van Gogh skies or Emily Carr cedars, but my biggest inspiration is not a human." 

Cassandra is involved in a NVCAC project, painting an art piece for our public art program. We are looking forward to seeing it!

To see her work check her page on Redbubble!

And Cassandra's Facebook page.

The Nicola Valley Arts Interviews

By Catherine Oborne


A new series of conversations with local creative people in the Nicola Valley, designed to inspire imagination

Recently we sat down with artist Cassandra Dolen to discuss who were her creative influences.

CO: Can you tell us about your creative expression?


My biggest inspiration...


CD: My artist life grows out of my spiritual life. When I'm starting something new, I'm appealing to the creator for just a tiny portion of that creative energy that He used to make the universe. We all admire other artists work and everything we love becomes incorporated into our own style eventually of course, Van Gogh skies or Emily Carr cedars, but my biggest inspiration is not a human.


CO: What cities have you lived in, beginning with your place of birth?


CD: I was born and raised on Vancouver Island, surrounded and nurtured by artists in an environment that highly values creativity. My friends mothers were working potters or painters, My Grandmother painted and my mother (who had 5 other children and many boarders) encouraged me, giving me as many opportunities to be exposed to accomplished artists as she could afford. When I was 12, she took me to the Prado museum in Madrid.  I came to the Nicola Valley when I was 18 years old with my husband, Ed. He had a piece of property in Collettville where we started building a house that would become our life work together.


CO: Tell us about your background; creatively and professionally.


CD:  My husband and I are musicians, My strongest musical memories are connected to playing and singing together with him for our 38 years together.


CO: What was your first real job?


CD: My first real job was as a 'dresser' for the Ice Capades when I was 14. It was mostly undoing and doing up the zippers.


"Ice cream. Frozen love."


CO: If you have a favourite ice-cream, what is it?


CD: ICE CREAM. Frozen love. My favourite is probably Tiger, although my grandma had homemade coffee ice cream in her freezer that I used to sneak with a spoon when she left me alone (which was always) and that was very, very good. Although all that coffee kept me awake.


CO: What music is memorable from your youth & still in the present?


CD: Music while painting: I'm painting with intent, or intuitively. What I'm thinking about, what I'm listening to, what I'm experiencing is becoming part of the work and that energy will be transferred to the viewer. I have an eclectic body of music I choose from for this purpose.


CO: If you left the Nicola Valley for a long time and then came back, what are the first things you would do?


CD: If I came back to the Nicola Valley after a long absence, I would visit the Coldwater River to see if it still existed, my swimming holes, favourite cottonwood trees, the most generous currant bushes. I might look for barn swallows and mountain blue birds on Lindley Creek road. I might drive by the house Ed and I built together in Collettville and wave.


CO: If you had to eat the same meal everyday what would that be?


CD: If I had to eat the same meal everyday it would probably be salad or cheesecake from Brambles Bakery.


Art is visual expression of emotions, ideas, stories. 


CO: How would you define Art?


CD: Art is visual expression of emotions, ideas, stories. It opens up cerebral windows to concepts that cannot be understood any other way. Someone said: 'If I could say it with words, I wouldn't have to paint'. Art is life. Living is Art. They are the same thing.


CO: Name a couple of films you consider moving or extraordinary.


CD: It takes a lot for me to make it through a whole movie, honestly. That being said, I have found some particularly cathartic. I enjoyed the shared experience of watching ‘ the Glass Castle' and 'Maudie' last year with the Nicola Valley Film society.


CO: What is your favourite back road in/around the Nicola Valley?


CD: Ed and I drive up Lindley Creek road often where we have a few special places where we celebrated our wedding day and many anniversaries. I can’t tell anyone where the secret hideouts are, but if you come across two people and a border collie in the middle of the forest, you probably found us.


CO: What kind of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?


CD: Don’t be afraid to try. Fear kills creativity, don’t compare your work with other artists. Competition kills creativity and there are many different kinds of 'good'. Guard the source of your inspiration fiercely. Don’t be intimidated, your interpretation and vision are valid and valuable. Don’t be lazy, fill your toolbox with everything you need to carry out your idea to successful completion. Don’t hoard all your work. Price your work to keep the creative river flowing. There’s lots more where that came from J.


A spotlight is shining on the vibrant, growing Arts community in Merritt.


CO: What would you say about living in Merritt? 


CD: There are a lot of things right in Merritt. If I looked for a flaw, it would be the underestimation of the power of the Arts to be a magnet in even a small community. Art is elevating. We are not only a mill town or a mine town anymore. We are not just a fishing destination anymore.  A spotlight is shining on the vibrant, growing Arts community in Merritt and we can encourage that flower to continue growing.


Thanks Cassandra!

And thanks to Catherine Oborne for the interview!