A brush with mythology on P.E.I.

Using women from this province as her models, Emily Howard creates The Ten Muses, running at The Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown until March 29

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 21, 2014

Inspired by the story of the nine muses, artist Emily Howard has added a 10th muse to her show. Singer-songwriter Bridgette Blanchard portrays the Muse of Self-Motivation. It’s one of the paintings in The Ten Muses, a new art exhibit on display at The Gallery @ The Guild in Charlottetown until March 29.


Dipping her brush into green paint, Emily Howard fills in the folds of the satin gown with steady, even strokes.

“This is my last one. Now that it’s finished I feel amazed, relieved and impressed with what I’ve accomplished,” says the Charlottetown portrait artist giving the painting a careful look before rinsing her brush in water.

The Muse of Music, featuring model Savannah Belsher-MacLean, is one of the pieces in The Ten Muses, a new art exhibit on display at The Gallery @ The Guild in Charlottetown until March 29.

To view the pieces in the exhibit, click here.

On the wall nearby, there’s MacKenzie Deighan as the muse of dance, Ruby Wong as the muse of epic poetry, Sherri Lee Darrach as the muse of history, Jillian Clow as the muse of tragedy and Amy Argent as the muse of sacred poetry.

“With a couple of the models, I knew immediately what I wanted them to be. I want Cynthia MacLeod to be the muse of comedy. She is one of the funniest people I know and she’s always so happy. For the muse of love poetry, I wanted Rebecca Pike. She has an old-school beauty to her. Then, with the others I just went with it loosely and everyone just fell into place,” says Howard.

The idea to transform young women into Greek goddesses began years ago when she came across the story of the nine muses from Greek mythology. These goddesses ruled over the arts and sciences and offered inspiration to their subjects.

“I was intrigued. The story stayed in my memory as something I wanted to try at some point.”

So, after finishing some projects, this past fall, Howard pursued the idea.

“I put out a call for models and I got a big response.  Lorne Miller is a friend of mine, and we had wanted to work on a project together for a while. So he agreed to do the reference photos. And it evolved from there,” she says.

The most challenging part of the project was organizing the photo shoot.

“We wanted to do it in a couple of days. But because it was November, the roads were terrible,” she says.

Although the weather outside was cold, inside Miller’s Stanhope studio, the atmosphere was conducive to creativity.

“When the models showed up, I dressed them. I also did their hair and makeup. I created (and directed) their characters so it was easy for them,” she says.

Katherine Davis, who posed as the muse of astronomy, was thrilled with the experience.

“It was a pleasure to be invited to sit for the photograph and to be part of the project. When I arrived, Emily styled me with what she had in mind. She gave me a globe to hold and put a gold band in my hair, which she explained, would become a ring of stars.

“It was an inspiring experience to learn about her and what she was doing and how she worked. I asked her about what part of the process she enjoyed. She told me she loved it all.”

Although inspired by the story of the nine muses, Howard felt there was something missing.

“One day, when I was working with Lorne, singer-songwriter Bridgette Blanchard dropped by his studio. I had wanted to add a contemporary muse to the collection so after meeting her, I thought she would fit the role. That’s why I decided to use her.

“She’s the muse of self-motivation. That because, at the end of this project, I needed (this muse) to help me finish.”


Up close and personal with artist Emily Howard

Favourite book: Willem de Kooning’s biography.

Favourite mentor: Gweneth Branch-Rice,her Bluefield High School art teacher.

Favourite things to take on a field trip: Sketch book, camera, coffee, music and cinnamon rolls.

Favourite saying: “Paint as if no one will see it.”