Arielle Bonsor had to do some exploring, but now that she has almost finished her fourth year in the Visual Arts program at VIU, she can confidently say that she has found the place where she belongs.
“[VIU] is a second home for me. I never want to leave the art building…I don’t have any fear here of wearing my coveralls covered in paint [around campus].”
With parents who were in the army, Bonsor moved around regularly as a child before settling down for high school in Ladysmith. After graduation, she took two years of art classes at VIU (when it was still Malaspina College) and then moved to Vancouver to study fashion at John Casablancas Institute. Though she says she doesn’t recommend the school because of the high tuition and semi-qualified faculty, she did take something away from her experience besides a massive debt.
“I got out the fact that I’m not a big fan of the fashion industry, but I like to make leather purses,” she says. “I want to do art and I want to incorporate it with a little bit of fashion.”
Bonsor left John Casablancas after three years and decided to use her credits earned at VIU to pursue a Visual Arts degree. She spent one year at Langara College before she and her then future-husband decided to move back to Vancouver Island. At first Bonsor only took part-time courses at VIU, but she decided to expand her studies in hopes of one day owning her own business. Now she is a fourth-year Visual Arts student, with her graduation project due in the spring, and a first-year business student.
“It’s a little hard going from Visual Arts for like, five billion years, to business, but I am excited to do it.”
She says, “I’m one of those people that needs a piece of paper on my wall that says ‘You know what, you spent a lot of time doing this, you finally did it. You owe the government a load of money, but you finally did it.’”
Bonsor’s Visual Arts focus is silkscreen-printmaking, in which she burns an image onto a screen and uses a pressure washer to blow the image out and pull the darker elements of the photo onto the screen. She says the silkscreen division of printmaking is her favourite because, though it takes more time than other forms of printmaking and it is more difficult in terms of light sensitivity, she feels she can manipulate the image and get a deeper end result. Last year she took two directed studies with Gregory Ball and worked on a project that she calls “The Archie Project,” but is officially titled “Black Soil, Red Sand.” The project is based upon her Great Uncle Archie, who was in World War II and recently passed away.
“I barely got to know him, so this is my way of getting to know him,” she says.
“Black Soil, Red Sand,” which was displayed in the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery over the summer, is a series of three large pieces of velum covered in authentic images from the war. One panel shows Archie in his uniform, another incorporates family portraits, and the third shows the tank he drove during the war. Bonsor learned how to assemble the images and achieve the layers of texture that she wanted in her directed studies course, and she says the experience was valuable and has inspired ideas for her final project, for which she says she wants to create an army tent using silkscreen mesh and print images she wasn’t able to incorporate into her previous project.
Outside of school, Bonsor hopes to expand her passions for art and fashion by printing on clothing and accessories.
“I like printing on unconventional items,” she says. She recently created campaign t-shirts for her husband, Tristan William Bonsor, who is running for faculty representative of Sciences and Technologies. She is also working to find special ink so she can print on her leather purses, which she makes out of vintage leather items she finds in thrift stores. She says once she is able to do so she will look into selling them through local businesses. Bonsor promises her designs are “not fluffy,” but instead inspired by, “anything creepy or supernatural, I’m all over that.” She says she wants to print things like bat skeletons and smiling tapeworms, as well as portraits of macabre literary geniuses like Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson.
Bonsor says that one day her dream is to own her own comic-book store and local art gallery, but now she is focusing on selling her purses and finding a job as a printmaking assistant. Either way, there is no question that she has an artistic future ahead of her.
“[If I couldn’t be an artist I’d be] rotting under a bridge somewhere. I can’t see doing anything else…every time I put my coveralls on and I zip them up…I take a big sigh of relief and think this is what I’m supposed to do… everything melts away, all your anxieties, all your worries—I’m happy.”