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Clarence Kapay began his career in art as a business administration student who drew cartoons now and then. The occasional cartoon led to a cartoon strip that eventually led to a full-time commitment to his artwork. Since becoming a full-time artist, Kapay's career has soared.
Born and raised on the Day Star First Nation, Kapay moved to Regina in 1985 to pursue his business administration degree from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC). While attending classes, he played around with cartoons, drawing caricatures for friends and family. This part-time hobby became something more when he approached the Regina LeaderPost about doing a regular strip. They agreed and for four years Kapay produced "Generix".
The experience made him start thinking about art as a career. "Art has always been kind of a passion of mine," he says. "I'd been drawing all my life."
So, Kapay changed his degree to visual arts. Convocating with this degree in 1992, he returned to university for one more year. Once again his focus was business administration. He explains this by saying that nothing in visual arts prepares an artist for the business aspects of the industry. Realizing that he would have to market himself, he decided to come prepared. The extra year, he now says, "has helped me, in that sense, to get ahead."
The education paid off quickly. Kapay painted 13 pieces in three months and sold 10 of them immediately. His artwork in the beginning focused mainly on silhouettes, skies and landscapes. "When I first started I wanted to try to come as close as I could to realistic representations," he says. He describes these first efforts as a "learning process" as he was discovering how to mix paints and use colour.
He now says, "I think that you can only do so much in one particular style before you get bored and want to grow."
While considering new directions to take in his art, Kapay did some travelling in the United States and says that he saw a wider variety of styles than at home. He then adapted some of what he had seen along with some ideas from other Canadian Aboriginal artists. In the end he came up with what he calls "splash" style, a semi-abstract technique.
Although he now favours this method, Kapay says that he does not work exclusively with it but prefers to maintain some versatility. "There's a lot of people who appreciate both styles," he says. His versatility is definitely providing him with exposure and success. "I think last year was the best year for me professionally as well as personally," says Kapay.
Professionally, he continued to gain popularity locally and nationally. A major break came when he was commissioned to do artwork for the cover of the historical book, Red Coats on the Prairies. The book will be released in May of this year in conjunction with the RCMP's 125th Anniversary. He was also able to show his artwork at a significant show in Phoenix, Arizona entitled Spirits in the Sun. This show featured the work of artists from all over the continent. "It was a great opportunity for me," he says, adding that he met a number of contacts and gallery owners.
On a personal level, Kapay was married last year and welcomed a baby daughter into the world. He also was able to spend a liberal amount of time travelling. All this, he believes, has helped him grow as a person and as an artist.
In looking ahead, Kapay is optimistic, "Things are looking extremely bright for the future."