Kingston-based artist Linda Samuels has a painting in the running to win a $25,000 prize for Kingston General Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Artists from across Canada are competing to win a significant donation to the healthcare facility of their choice, and the first place winner will be chosen through a simple voting process.
The Faces of Canadian Healthcare Art Contest is a project dedicated to the healthcare heroes across the country who devote themselves to helping people every single day. HealthPRO, a Canadian organization that has served the public healthcare system by supporting better patient outcomes and contributing to innovation, developed the contest.
Samuels came across the opportunity while scrolling through Facebook, when a fellow artist from another province shared it. She immediately entered.
“The work had to represent our tireless healthcare workers and be able to express the emotions that are true and raw during the pandemic,” she explained.
Samuels’ piece, entitled “Divine Strength,” was created during the pandemic.
The description reads: “In a time of uncertainty, we begin to doubt ourselves, to doubt what we believe in. This painting was created with these thoughts in mind, the struggles we face every single day. I poured raw emotion into this piece, achieving a feeling of strength and power to continue looking forward to the good that life has to offer.”
Samuels implores the community to vote daily, and set phone alarms as reminders.
“I need everyone to share this and I will talk about it to whoever will listen!” said Samuels.
“I was standing in line at the bank last week and began talking about it to the woman standing behind me. She took her phone out immediately and voted for me, telling me she would vote daily and get her husband to vote, as well! This is why I love Kingston. We truly want to help each other.”
Samuels, originally from Montreal, moved to Ontario as a teenager and has remained in Kingston since 1990.
“This is the most beautiful city I have lived in, and Montreal is quite astounding in itself!” she said. “I love the people, the sense of belonging and I am happy to have raised my family here.”
The first time Samuels picked up a paint brush was in 1994. She began with tole painting, a popular method of folk art that involves decorative painting on objects and furniture made of tin and wood. Samuels kept up tole painting and went on to teach evening classes for several years.
In 2012, Samuels had her first pattern published PaintWorks magazine, and her work continued to be published in various hard copy and online art magazines. She became an in-house designer for The Artist Club magazine, based in the U.S., for five years until the magazine folded.
It wasn’t until 2018 that Samuels began experimenting with mixed media abstract art, the method she used to create the painting for The Faces of Canadian Healthcare Art Contest.
“I owe this huge creativity jump to my youngest daughter,” explained Samuels. “She wanted me to paint her a large painting for her new apartment. And she wanted it abstract.”
Samuels was initially overwhelmed by the task at hand, but researched and created her first ever abstract painting, a major break from the meticulous work she had done previously.
“She loved it and I loved the freedom it gave me. Tole painting is extremely precise, and abstract is the complete opposite! I was never freer, I continued my journey into abstract, as a self-taught artist and eventually added mixed media.”
Samuels has had her work displayed in various Kingston establishments and exhibited in art fairs. She continues to run an Etsy shop called The Painting House through the COVID-19 pandemic, and sells painting patterns to artists internationally.
The Faces of Canadian Healthcare Art Contest opened Monday, Apr. 5, 2021, but Samuels didn’t come across it until Sunday, May 16. Despite 6 weeks of lost voting time, the Kingston community has managed to get “Divine Strength” to fourth place, a huge accomplishment Samuels credits the community for.
Samuels chose Kingston General Hospital’s NICU as the recipient of the donation because of the care they provided her grandson, Jack, when he was born at 26 weeks old.
“Jack spent the first 99 days of his life in the NICU at KGH,” Samuels said. “Thanks to his incredible team, he is healthy and strong, and celebrated his fourth birthday on May 25! I am forever indebted to them, not only for Jack, but for all the babies that come through the NICU. I will do whatever I can to give back, as a way to say thank you.”
Samuels explained that $25,000 will go a long way in the NICU.
“They can use this money to help with any new equipment that is needed, or to help parents stay close by their babies. I saw what 99 days in the NICU does to parents, and whether it’s 99 days or nine days, each day is just as long. If we can make a difference, then that’s all that matters.”
“Kingston is such a generous and loving community, we just need to get the word out!” Samuels said. “We need to get to #1 to give the NICU that well-deserved donation.”