“I want viewers to be transported to a moment, not a place.”
In the characteristic cold of winter, warmth is felt at the foot of a fire, but also at the heart of a shared moment.
“I want the viewers to be transported to a moment in our beautiful province, not a place,” explains Jessy Dion, the artist and sculptor who brought this diorama to life. After all, it’s not about what town the couple lives in, or which frozen pond the fox is crossing; it’s about the feeling their meeting evokes in us.
From a young age, Dion had a passion for creating both two- and three-dimensional art. Having spent 15 years living in and around the Rocky Mountains, he recently relocated to Grande Prairie, where he continues to draw inspiration from the wildlife that call the northwest city home. Through his work, Dion seeks to bring people into a moment in time, where they can see beyond their own perspective.
This is especially true in his latest piece, a diorama that stretches two and a half feet long, depicting a sweet older couple warming up by the fire on a mild winter evening, who turn to see a young fox with brilliant golden fur crossing the ice nearby. Behind them, a Christmas tree twinkles gently, illuminating the dark night. In the scene, the smallest details are what evoke the feeling of warmth: the husband’s arm wrapped tenderly around his wife, who pulls their woven blanket closer over their laps, pointing her mitten with joy at the fox who’s appeared from the forest, his fur as warm and bright as the flames of their roaring fire. It’s not just the textures of the materials that make the piece feel lifelike—it’s the authenticity of the warm feeling we know these figures are sharing.
To create the smoke drifting from the fire, Dion used poly wool, a thin wool material that is also used to depict steam from the cup of hot cocoa in the man’s gloved hand.
Every element in the work was struck with warmth in mind. Dion began crafting the diorama with an oval-shaped wooden base, like that of a skating rink. The snow is made of styrofoam, while he used broken pieces of clear resin for the ice; both the fox and the elderly couple are made from sculpting clay, their faces and clothing hand painted. To create the smoke drifting from the fire, Dion used poly wool, a thin wool material that is also used to depict steam from the cup of hot cocoa in the man’s gloved hand. In a work like this, precision and attention to detail make magic.
Dion hopes that this piece makes those who see it feel at ease, comfortable and warm.
Jessy Dion grew up in a peaceful and inspiring environment, living on a hobby farm in St-Basile-de-Portneuf, near Quebec City. He started drawing when he was very young, but unlike many kids, he never stopped. He always observed his surroundings, particularly fascinated with the natural world, animals’ shapes and catching the little details. Dion studied photography with the New York Institute of Photography through long distance courses, where he discovered an affinity for wildlife photography. A wildlife conservation volunteering project brought him to Botswana in 2009, followed by a solo life changing backpacking experience through southern Africa.
In addition to travel and wildlife, a variety of artistic projects over the years have inspired and challenged Dion to grow as an artist. His works usually focus on animals, but he uses a diverse array of materials and techniques, ranging from acrylic painting to metal wire sculpting and plastic resin casting. Dion now calls Alberta his home, and he often seeks out the opportunity to share his passion for art with the community, having hosted artistic workshops in schools, and taught drawing and painting techniques at the Habitat for the Arts.
This work is part of The Art of Winter, a larger series in which artists are creating custom pieces representing their experience of winter warmth in Alberta.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Travel Alberta. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
CREDITS: Concept and editing by JESSICA ROBINSON; Art direction and design by JEANINE BRITO; Development by KYLE YOUNG and JEANINE BRITO; Project management by CHRISTINA LIPPA