The following quotes are all from Emily Carr’s Growing Pains.
- “Easy soft living might have induced laziness. The harder I worked the happier I was, and I made progress.” (72)
Emily Carr could have had a simple life. She could have grown up and gotten married and never become an artist, but here we see her reasoning and her drive. The want that she had to be successful and to work hard is what made her who she was in the world of art. She was able to recognize her potential and what would come if she actively worked towards her goals. She also showed an aversion to taking the easy route. Emily Carr realized the benefit of hard work and the potential for joy that it could bring her, which made her stand out during her lifetime.
We as Canadians value hard work and effort, which is shown throughout confederation and the beginnings of our country. In this quote Emily Carr identifies the value of hard work and her culturally influenced distaste for laziness. She states that hard work makes her happier and adds to her value of life. As a prolific Canadian, her beliefs add to Canadian values, as much as they are affected by it. Canadians value hard work and overcoming obstacles, and Emily Carr exemplifies that, especially as a woman in a difficult career during an age of sexism and bias.
- “They had to admit that somehow I looked best, and was most me, in my own things.” (95)
During her time, Emily Carr was considered different and unique which weren’t necessarily positive traits. She displayed an innate desire to stay true to herself, despite how others might have perceived her because of it. This particular quote is from when mentors of Carr from London attempted to dress her up and change how she looked. This provoked Carr into refusing their advice and adamantly sticking to her own decisions, something that was often frowned upon in societies at the time.
In this quote we see Emily Carr embrace her individuality, a trait still valued today by Canadians across our country. When new people come to Canada, we encourage them to retain their beliefs and values from their old lives. We appreciate differences and celebrate them. Carr was looked down upon in other countries for wearing what she willed rather than trying to fit in, further outlining the differences between Canada and the rest of the world in her time. Emily Carr was at peace with being different, a quality that we can all hope to emulate in our country.
- “To attempt to paint the Western forest did not occur to me. Hadn’t those Paris artists said it was unpaintable?” (109)
In Emily Carr’s life, despite everything she did on her own she was constantly influenced by her male predecessors. No matter how much she tried to break free of those bonds, there was always another traditional painter shining through her. This is the first moment that she is able to even process the idea of doing something new rather than just working through art school templates her whole life. Her paintings of the western forest are her most famous works, and this is the first thought that will lead to them.
Canada has always existed because of something, and often that something is England or France. So much of what we do is indirectly because of another culture more so now with new cultures becoming a part of Canada every day. Emily Carr recognized how much of her work was because of these other cultures, and even with that recognition, these methods were so engrained in her that they remained there up until her final works. This questioning of “can it be done?” is what leads us to create new ideas for ourselves, and that determination to get there played a huge role in the creation of our country.
- “I am Canadian, I am not English. I do not want Canada polished out of me.” (135)
This is one of many instances where Carr refused to be labeled or perceived as English. Despite her British upbringing and parents, she still considered herself Canadian. On top of that, there were many instances throughout Carr’s life in which her background and place of birth negatively affected how people treated her, whether that be in art school, or the world of art itself. She could have passed for British, but found the idea appalling, for she loved Canada and wanted to be recognized as a part of the country.
Even today, many people perceive Canada as part of another country, or somehow not its own entity. A common sentiment, for example, is that we are just a part of the United States, or some desolate arctic region. Emily Carr experienced the unsolicited opinions of people who believed that being Canadian was something she should have been ashamed of. Even then she was very passionate about not being American or English, even when her reputation was on the line. One of the strongest Canadian values of today is to be proud of our country and the few values that we hold dear, which Emily Carr was. She defended her country and regularly reflected fondly on it when she was away from her home. This overall shows her love of our country, which connects her to Canadians of the present.
- “English women were horrid about this marrying business. They seemed to think the goal of every woman was to find a husband.” (138)
For many women at the time, marriage was their goal. Carr however illustrates that that wasn’t the case for all women, herself included. She despised the idea of marriage, and though it was offered to her many times, and she was handed many opportunities, she consistently declined. In 1911 it was quite unusual for a woman to never marry, yet Emily Carr was content with her single life, further proving her comfort with being outside the norm of the time.
Nowadays, Canada is considered a very tolerant country. Emily Carr’s values surrounding individuality and the right to live her life on her terms would be widely accepted in Canada now, though it wasn’t in her time. She was ahead of her time in that way, enjoying her life to the fullest extent without worry of how people saw her. For this we should admire her, as her passion for what she loved outweighed her worries about the opinions of others, which is something many people could benefit from.