Charlene balances a symbiotic relationship between art, illustration, and art education; each area influences and strengthens the other.
I grew up in the prairies of Canada. My childhood was filled with boxes of paper, stationary supplies, and industrial printing machines. My parents owned a small commercial print shop. I spent many days amongst the floor-to-ceiling shelves of paper. My mom was the best artist I knew and my dad made the tools, scraps, and knowledge of the shop available to me –– a dream setting for making, drawing, and imagining.
Art classes were not available in my middle or high school, but the teachers in the small school knew my interest in drawing and built creative options into projects that allowed for it. During my senior year, my parents arranged for private drawing lessons with the best teacher I could have hoped for. This wild-haired woman told me that she would teach me to see. I still value and connect with her today.
My post secondary studies began in graphic design––a logical choice, given the family business. I found “my people” in that creative environment. After graduation, I worked in the advertising industry, honing my graphic skills to the level of shrewd meticulousness. My most enjoyable projects involved illustration.
That chapter of commercial work came to a close after a two-month backpacking adventure throughout South East Asia, where my husband and I stumbled upon teaching positions at an international school in Bangkok. I happily shifted my creative momentum into art education; I loved seeing through the eyes of children. All the while, I continued to illustrate and paint.
The half-year contract turned into 17 years abroad. After Bangkok, I taught drawing and painting at a boarding school in Switzerland. It was perfect; I walked 7 minutes to my classroom with a view of the mountains. Alongside, I completed my masters in international education. But it was in London, with two little children, that I fully redirected my precious time into the full attention to artwork and illustration. I attended illustration conferences, participating in group exhibitions, and organised a solo exhibition at a local gallery.
I arrived in Qatar with this growing body of work, experience, and focus on visual literacy. In my nine years here, I have contributed to projects with museums, schools, and educational institutions. I have also taught community classes at VCU-Q for the majority of those years. Classes relate to visual literacy for adults who work with children, illustration and visual storytelling, and reinvigorating drawing and painting practices. Regardless of the boarders I live within, my artistic viewpoint of reality develops and evolves. I am thankful for the relationships that have come out of this creative exploration.
Masters in Gallery and Museum Practice (Distinction), University College of London – Qatar, 2020
Masters in Education (Hons), Endicott College, Switzerland campus, 2010
Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons), University of Manitoba, Canada, 2007
Diploma in Advanced Graphic Design (Hons), Red River College, Canada, 2000
Diploma in Graphic Design (Hons), Red River College, Canada, 1999
Private Art Lessons with Artist, 1995-1998
Select Collaborations include:
National Museum of Qatar
Museum of Islamic Art
University College of London in Qatar
Qatar Museums Family Programmes
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Medina Publishing, U.K.
Akkadia Press, U.K.
Picture Books illustrated:
Sirenia, A Little Dugong’s Tale (Qatar Museums Publishing)
The Path Towards The Island (Qatar Museums Publishing)
The Old Man and his Donkey (Medina Publishing)
The Blue Jackal and Other Tales from Islamic Lands
(Medina Publishing, in collaboration with the MIA)
Several personal picture book and zine projects
Various group, duo, and solo exhibitions held in Switzerland, London, and Qatar
from 2009 to the present.
I participate and organise collaborative and purposeful exhibitions.
Charlene has built friendships and gains perspective from connections within:
The Association of Illustrators, and
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators