Angela Traynor flips through a sketchbook of paint colour samples and pencil drawings over a live stream on Twitch, the camera trained on her work desk. She banters with her viewers about crochet and cross-stitching as they fill up the comment section.
“That’s rad!” she says when someone comments they’re teaching themselves how to knit. “Cross-stitching is one I haven’t tried yet. Stop talking about it, you’re making me think maybe I need to try it. As if I need to try another thing!”
. . .
Traynor is not someone you can soon forget. A multi-talented third-year student in VIU’s Visual Arts program, Traynor is an intelligent and well-spoken woman who styles her hair after Dior’s New Look of 1947 and the early 50s, and makes gorgeous vintage-inspired clothes. The day I met her, she was wearing a black blouse with a pumpkin pin, a skirt, and a mask she’d made from leftover material.
Traynor’s interest in art has been long-standing. “When adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a starving artist, and everybody would laugh,” she said. “I don’t think anybody’s laughing anymore. It’s not funny—it’s the truth.”
When asked if she had a preferred medium, Traynor answered, “I kind of consider myself a jack of all trades. I’ve tried a lot [of mediums], and I haven’t really sat down and stuck to one.” Lately, she has been working with oil paints and gouache, an opaque kind of watercolour.
Traynor’s art is something she has come to recognize as very important to her.
I met Traynor on my first day of university in an English 135 class. When it was her turn to introduce herself to the class she was very comfortable sharing that she was coming to university after going through depression, and was excited to learn. Her openness and resolute attitude was inspiring, and stayed with me for the next two years.
“I’ve mentioned going through depression, and I had my little breakdown and had to reevaluate all of life and the things that I was doing,” Traynor said. “Being in retail wasn’t making me happy, and it was very much shoving me in the other direction. So in reevaluating it’s like, ‘okay, what does bring me joy? What do I want to do?’”
Art was her answer, and she focused on exploring all she could. “I was finally in a place in my life where I was willing to accept learning,” she said.
“For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been flipping through my old sketchbooks. Of all the things to hoard, I keep sketchbooks,” she explained. “And it’s been really enlightening. In high school, they tried to teach me all this shit, but I wasn’t there, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I wanted to do my own thing. But now, I want to know these things. I want to learn.”
Traynor admited that she chose to study at VIU mostly out of the convenience of its location. Her mother also completed her degree there back when the university was still Malaspina College, which she thought created a nice sense of history.
“I came out of high school and I knew there wasn’t any money for university,” Traynor said. “I never thought I’d be here. After going through what I’ve gone through and taking that step to reevaluate, it’s been really fulfilling to be able to make those choices for myself and to see value in university.”
Traynor can be frustrated by some of the younger students who are unappreciative of the opportunity university offers, but also thinks it’s amazing to see older students return to university.
“You’re never past it. It never hurts to learn.”
She had nothing but good things to say about VIU’s Visual Arts program. Traynor finds the faculty respectful and encouraging. She said the professors will grade you well if they know you put the work into the project.
The program offers a variety of mediums at the 100-level. Classes include sculpture, print-making, basic drawing, and art history. Traynor was working on ceramics when I spoke to her.
“[Art is] definitely not something you can have a strict outline for and just check all the boxes,” she said. “There’s a lot of grey area.”
When asked if she had a favourite piece of art among those she’d created, Traynor was silent for a long time. “That is a very hard question,” she finally said. “I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one.”
Looking at her recent artwork, she mentioned a portrait of her British shorthair cat—a famously flat-faced breed. “I caught him from a side profile, which I find hilarious because he doesn’t have a side profile,” Traynor said. So she sketched a copy then finished the piece in pastel. She also mentioned a portrait-style drawing of a rooster she had completed with coloured pencils. She is quite pleased with how both turned out.
Traynor has also been inspired by her surroundings at VIU. “I did a gouache painting the other day of the Tamagawa Garden,” she said. “It was seven o-clock at night, and I was on break from my lecture, and I was up there and I thought it looked nice, so I [took a picture] and I went home and I painted it. It turned out really good.”
“I don’t know if [art is] so much of an escape as it’s just a pleasure,” Traynor said. “It’s fun, it’s pleasant.” She said she’s been “stretching” her work ethic recently. Some projects are more challenging than others, and it’s important to take a short break when stuck at something for a while.
“I’m not someone who creates when I’m there,” Traynor said in reference to her depression. Despite that, she didn’t completely abandon her art. “It took a long time before I was able to get shoved into help … I resisted [for] a long time.”
“For a lot of years I would just carry this sketchbook around,” she said. “I never did anything in it, but I always had it with me. Now that I’m going through some of these old sketchbooks, you can see there are chunks of time that just [have] nothing in the sketchbook. All of a sudden, it will be two years later.”
Traynor emphasized that she didn’t carry the sketchbook around for show; it was for her. She carried it in the hopes that she’d be struck with the desire or inspiration to make art.
Traynor first sold and publicly promoted her art at a Visual Arts Department art sale a few years ago. She has continued to make a profit off of her art since then, predominantly through commissions. She said she has a knack for drawing animals.
But if you’re interested in a painting of your pet, there may be a waitlist while Traynor focuses on her university coursework.
Traynor’s talent isn’t limited to the easel; she expresses herself behind a sewing machine and with her old-timey hairdos as well. She takes inspiration from iconic war hairstyles, but she isn’t afraid to give them her own flair. The same goes for her self-made clothes.
“It’s really liberating making your own things,” she said.
She recalled how in the nineties, every shirt was short enough that your belly would hang out of them, which was not something she wanted. Now, she makes her own clothes to suit her preferences.
Traynor has observed fit issues in popular pattern companies as well. She pointed out they make clothes to fit a hypothetical body shape that doesn’t exist. “That ‘person’ isn’t a [real] person, it’s a series of numbers. It doesn’t surprise me that clothes don’t fit anybody, really.”
“It’s an impossible world to navigate,” Traynor concluded. “That’s a large part of why I turned to sewing. You can just make things that actually fit you.”
Occasionally, Traynor will live stream while she’s painting. “I’m a small streamer—very, very small—but I’ve just been starting to grow,” she said. She refers to it as “a surprisingly fun social experience.” During streams, she will usually sketch or paint something casual.
Traynor has had to cut back on streaming in order to focus on university, but you can still catch her on Friday and Sunday afternoons over on Twitch under the name Blighted_Angel. She also has an Instagram page for her art.
Traynor said she wasn’t sure if it would reach anyone, but she hopes that her story shows that you can always learn, no matter your age or circumstances.
“You’re never too old or too young to start … I think education is more about the mindset. When you’re ready to learn, you’re ready to go, so just do it. Even if it’s just one class a week. It’s worth it. It’s really worth it. [It] gives you a sense of purpose—gives you something to enjoy.”