Heidi is a self taught mixed media artist living in Metchosin, BC. Having worked with horses for most of her life, she finds inspiration from animals and nature.
In 2016, Heidi started painting on bones, later learning to clean skulls, literally facing her fear of death. Canvases were often donated by farmer friends. She loves getting damaged skulls, that are less valuable to others, but allow for the most artistic interpretation. Using sewing machine and Harley Davidson parts, Heidi created a series of cyborgs, another way to reuse what was once unwanted. Heidi develops a piece by sitting with the skull and accentuating natural patterns and shapes already present. The design that develops represents the skull’s own unique energy and that animal’s past experiences.
Where do you get the skulls?
Firstly, and most importantly, none of these animals were raised or killed for their skulls. I’m fortunate enough to source most skulls from local small farms in Metchosin and East Sooke. I’m friends with many farmers and have a sincere appreciation for the care they provide to their animals and the clean and healthy food they provide to locals.
All the animal remains that end up in my hands are respectfully buried and then cleaned months later after enough time has passed. Once cleaned, the animals are thanked for their part in the world and smudged to clear past traumas and negativity attached to the remains.
As an artist it’s my hope that I can take something unneeded, with little value to most people and show the beauty of that soul so it can carry on, even after death.
How long does it take to paint a skull?
Surprisingly, cleaning the skulls can take much longer than painting a skull. The cleaning and degreasing process can take a year or more for certain animals, and only hours to paint.
Pieces that are very colourful often have more layers than a black and white piece and therefore take significantly more time to complete. The largest skull I’ve painted is a draft horse, complete with the bottom jaw. It took me about 120 hours to paint.
What got you interested in using skulls as canvas?
There are two answers to this question, and both are correct. The easy answer is that I was looking for free or cheap interesting surfaces to paint and decorate my house. Since I was working with horses at the time, I was often on farms and had access to animal skulls. I asked a friend if I could buy a cow skull from her and she gave it to me, which thrilled me. Having a free surface to paint is so liberating since there’s nothing to lose. I played around with paint and gold leaf on the skull and was hooked from the first one. Painting a 3D object is in many ways more challenging than painting a flat surface, however skulls are a 3D object that carry significant energy and thus can guide you through the painting process.
The more difficult answer is that after working with horses for years, my relationship with death and dying was traumatic. After suffering through a series of devastating losses, my interest in skull painting accelerated, and began to include cleaning the skulls, getting fresher and fresher animals.
Seeing the biological process of decay in various stages helped me to normalize death and to see for myself that the spirit of the animal carries on in the skull. It's an honour to paint the skulls, sharing their stories and my story, with all who see them.
Feathers, Fur & Fauna/ Art Pod Metchosin, BC/ 2021 Feature Artist & Juror
Coast Collective Haunted / Colwood, BC / 2019
Art Masters Competition / Vancouver, BC / 2019
Experiential Art Gallery / Tofino, BC / 2019
Calgary Stampede Fine Art Gallery/ Calgary, AB / 2018
RAW Art Show / Victoria, BC / 2018
Sidney Fine Arts / Sidney, BC / 2018 & 2017
Sooke Fine Arts / Sooke, BC / 2017