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My art belongs to you: Five artists share their handmade Valentines Add to ...

Gary Taxali

Contemporary artist Gary Taxali designed this whimsical Valentine as a gift to himself, which he then incorporated into a solo exhibit held recently in New York. It quickly sold, and Taxali – loath to part ways with his feel-good creation – posted the ink-on-paper image on social media. It has been an unqualified hit. To date, the Torontonian says he is aware of at least 10 people who have the “Love You” hug as tattoos. “I think people resonate with the idea of being both the character and the heart – and loving someone so much that you just want to smother them, as well as being a recipient of that kind of smothering love.” The non-Pollyanna image, he adds, is also a more contemporary spin on traditional Valentine sentiments. “Saccharine images of love are fine, and have their place. But given the world we live in, people now think a bit beyond that when it comes to greeting cards. Love is imperfect, and imperfection is part of love.” www.garytaxali.com

Irma Kniivila

Toronto illustrator Irma Kniivila’s favourite time of day is when she and her boyfriend, Charles, share coffee and idle chitchat in the morning before jumping into the day. A quiet time. Peaceful. Unrushed. Those feelings were the inspiration for her Valentine’s card, “to pay reverence to a shared daily ritual – one that is very small, but feels all the more important for it.” Two steaming mugs surrounded by greenery. Kniivila spent a few hours creating this Valentine “to capture a peaceful, private moment, and to imply an element of growth over time in the background.” Roots. Comfort in simple pleasures and routine. www.irmaillustration.com

Dominic McKenzie

Pure, unadulterated fun best describes Dominic McKenzie’s bold, caper-in-a-card Valentine. An illustrator based in Britain, McKenzie is staying mum on the recipient’s identity except to say it’s “for someone special who recently had to move away.” Wonderfully cryptic, like the shameless jailbird sneaking through the window. The Cambridge School of Art graduate says that, in many ways, his card is a “fantasy. I won’t be able to steal their heart this Valentine’s Day, nor will I ever be the bad boy! Despite not being able to celebrate with this someone special, I think they’ll appreciate the humour in this card. I think they’ll appreciate its quirkiness. We had plenty of laughs together!” www.dommckenzie.com

Helen O’Connor

It’s a dark time of year in Whitehorse, and when artist and master papermaker Helen O’Connor came across a “decadent” chocolate-bar wrapper, she decided that would empower her Valentine. The visual artist makes her own paper out of plants – nettles, flax, cotton – and she uses an old manual typewriter to write poetry. After a snowy walk with her boyfriend recently, she typed the poem onto Japanese fibre paper. Both she and her boyfriend enjoy food – “especially minty things” – so she wrapped the chocolate bar in the poem. “It’s cold here, and I liked the tropical quality of the chocolate.” O’Connor used a simple elastic band to hold her treasure together. “He uses elastic bands for everything – his lunch, his work supplies. So I thought it was the perfect way to tie it up. Personal memories play a big role in my work.” www.helenoconnor.com

Celia Krampien

Illustrator Celia Krampien was working on a recent personal project that featured some spooky, made-up apothecary items. Her boyfriend – whom she describes as a “fan” of said apothecary image – joined the fun by trying to dream up some fake potions and cure-alls. This Valentine’s, the Oakville, Ont.-based Krampien decided that it would be “cute” to create a visual “love potion” in the same style. “He and I had fun brainstorming together some romantic items that could act as ingredients for an imaginary love potion.” No doubt, a few drops of “fragrant flirtation” and a dash of “sweet nothings” is an ideal V-Day concoction. www.celiakrampien.com

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