Angela Gooliaff has a rather unique way at looking at the world, even for an artist. Her work plays with a sense of scale—making tiny creatures become huge, painting on massive surfaces and even building entire worlds.
It’s a passion that was ignited at a young age. Angela says she could always draw, and it was something she enjoyed.
However, like many who are artistically inclined, a career in the arts was not something she initially thought possible.
“I wanted to be practical because everyone was like, ‘You’ll never make it in the arts.’ You know? That horrible stereotype of the starving artist,” Angela says.
She pursued a biology degree instead, which led to working in a toxicology centre doing lab work on how arsenic affects freshwater shrimp.
But the arts were never far away from her mind. She kept finding beauty in her scientific work, especially in colour.
“When I was doing lab testing, I found I cared more about the colour changes [in the shrimp] themselves than what the colours changes were telling me.”
That passion was impossible to stamp out. After enrolling and graduating from art school, she found herself looking at a new career path.
“I was just sitting and looking at a piece of wood. And I was like, ‘I want to draw ants all over that. Just cover this board with ants.’ And I did. And then I just kept drawing ants. As for why? I love insects. I did work with entomologists when I was doing scientific research. And I love the tiny world, tiny worlds that we as humans don’t have the opportunity to really engage with.”
Her Entropy and Misunderstandings series features ants, either blown up in scale or using hundreds on a single canvas to create shapes and patterns that can be seen from a distance.
“When you see them under a microscope, they’re beautiful,” Angela says of ants. “And if they were the same size as us, we’d have no chance. Like their structure, the strength. We have the size difference that makes us ‘superior,’ but are we? We seem pretty soft to me.”
In terms of the scale of canvas, Angela went on to work on murals, painting on large urban surfaces. Her first, at Revelstoke, B.C.’s Lunar Fest, led to more throughout the province and even overseas in Italy.
But it is her current work that really keeps her busy. Angela collaborates with FriesenPress Publishing as an illustrator.
Her first work was actually a children’s book co-written by herself and her niece, titled A Fun Food Friends Adventure.
This led to more work with other children’s book authors. It gives an idea of how busy their career trajectory has been. Angela illustrated 12 books last year alone and currently as several on the go right now.
As an illustrator, Angela is able to take the words of an author and imagine them visually on the page, creating the world as it is described.
“I just love illustrating books,” she says. “Because you kind of just have to be a little bit of everything. Like I’m designing kitchens and bathrooms and parks and humans and monsters and animals. I’m kind of like creating all these things.”
And like her days in science, it is when colour becomes involved that Angela thrives.
“My favourite is when we approve the pencil stretches and get to go into colour,” Angela says. “I love colour. I already know things are going to shift and evolve. I’m like, ‘I hope the author is comfortable. Just trust me. It’s going to be gorgeous.’”
Colour and scale seems to be at the heart of her passions. Whether it is working with tiny subjects or large surfaces, she delights in bringing them to life and inviting her audience inside.
But Angela has truly found her niche as the business creative she is, charting her own
nique career path and finding success in doing it.
“Science keeps you alive. Art is the reason why you want to be alive. How do you put a price tag on that?”
By Nathan Durec