Afton Brazzoni is an artist based in Cochrane, Alberta. Originally from the maritime province of Nova Scotia, she has a deep connection to water and rugged landscapes. Many of Afton's oil paintings are inspired by the Canadian Rockies where she lived for nearly 10 years with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. An emerging artist, Afton continues to hone her style. She is originally a writer by craft and the author of "Shop Dogs of Canmore" (2019), as seen on CTV National News. Her first exhibition included photos from the book.
When did you start making art, and what inspired you to pursue it as a profession?
I started making art about 10 years ago. A new community art center had just opened in my then-hometown in the Canadian Rockies. They held a festival where people could try any medium, and I tried a weekend-long glass workshop. I loved the process of creating small glass dishes. Next, I took a 3-month ceramics course there and became even more immersed in the process of making art. I paused for a few years, then got back into art in 2020 as an oil painter, and have been working in that medium ever since. It is a side gig rather than a profession currently, but I am always working to further my art practice and business.
Your paintings often feature landscapes and nature. Can you tell us what draws you to these subjects?
I love spending time in nature, whether hiking, paddleboarding, or skiing, and I often take photographs when I'm on these adventures. The reference gathering process is one of my favorite parts of my art practice. When it comes to the act of painting itself, I love the sense of calm it brings me. For me, nature is also about calm, peace, and harmony. It's an escape – but not the kind you seek when you want to tune out. It's the kind you seek when you want to dial into who you truly are and what really matters to you. I feel that during the painting process as well.
Could you explain the process of turning your photos into paintings and any challenges you've faced?
Because the process involves creating a fairly realistic interpretation of a scene, I sometimes struggle with the patience that's required to do this, especially as a new painter who is not so fast yet! I even stopped making art for a while in the spring of 2023 when work and personal things were taking a lot of my bandwidth. My progress stalled for a while as a result. Applying to art shows and putting some healthy pressure on myself to create again was exactly what I needed to get back into it. The inspiration was always there, but the focus and motivation had waned for a time. Now, I'm back in the groove and loving it.
Is there a specific painting that holds a special memory or meaning for you?
Most of my paintings do, but one particularly special adventure was to one of Canada's most beautiful backcountry hiking destinations, captured in my painting 'Assiniboine Dream.' Have you ever dreamed of visiting a place so much that you could hardly believe it when you finally saw it with your own eyes? That was how I felt about seeing Mount Assiniboine. Ever since I moved to the Canadian Rockies and got into hiking, this backcountry destination called to me. It was worth every step of the 25-kilometer hike to get there, even with a heavy overnight backpack. I had an incredible weekend there with friends. When I painted this scene, I reimagined it as a sunrise (or sunset - viewer's choice), since the original reference photograph is a daytime, blue sky shot. I wanted to add even more magic to the scene.
What feelings or messages do you hope your art conveys to people who see it?
Most of my painting inspiration comes from nature – specifically, rugged landscapes like mountains or seascapes. Growing up in the coastal Canadian province of Nova Scotia, then later moving to the Canadian Rockies, I saw these landscapes everywhere, and I've spent a lot of time exploring them. One thing I love about the natural world is that it offers an endless array of forms, colors, patterns, and textures. It's an artist's playground. Nature also provides a sense of scale and perspective. The vastness of a night sky, the towering heights of mountains, or the endless expanse of the ocean spark a sense of awe and wonder. This is one way I aim to evoke emotion in my work.
I aim to convey both the grandeur and detail of nature in my art. The process of revisiting some of my most cherished moments in nature through painting brings me joy, and I hope to convey a sense of peace and awe in my work.