Deanna Lankin: Meet the artsy mermaid from Vancouver Island

by Heidi
Deanna Lankin - Tofino Surf Artist

Dieser Artikel ist eine Premiere: Erstens stelle ich dir endlich Deanna Lankin vor, eine meiner liebsten Surf Artists. Und zweitens in einem englischsprachigen Text! Denn die Künstlerin aus dem kanadischen Tofino fand in unserem Interview so passende Worte, dass ich sie durch eine Übersetzung nicht irgendwie verändern will. Um Deanna an meiner Sicht teilhaben zu lassen, wir wir uns kennenlernten und wie sie mich beeindruckt hat, gibt's vorher noch eine kleine englische Intro von mir. Enjoy!

Tofino on Vancouver Island is my happy place and pure magic! The little village on the west coast of Vancouver Island attracts many saltwater souls who are hungry for the unbeatable combination of woods, waves and first nations culture. “Tuff-City”, as the locals call it lovingly, has already been featured in some of my articles. One introduced some of the towns’ modern mermaids – women dedicating their life to the ocean. I was so stoked about hearing their stories! But just as I had finished the mermaid interviews, another one crossed my path.

Deanna Lankin: The artsy mermaid

Surrounded by home-made cake and people chilling in the sun she was painting, in the middle of the hubbub of Tofino’s weekly Sunday market. The brunette woman with the dark hat expertly added delicate brush strokes to her artwork and was super focused. Curiously I peeked at the fifty shades of blue, which unmistakably formed a breath-taking wave.

Deanna Lankin - Sunday MarketMy personal credo is to be generous with compliments. So I told the female artist how much I loved her wave painting, we talked briefly and she introduced herself as Deanna Lankin. Unfortunately I was in a hurry and had to leave soon. At home almighty Google told me a bit more about Deanna: She is a daughter of an artist family, studied classic arts in Ontario and had her first gallery at the age of 19. Her work is realistic, romantic and oozes love and longing for the sea. Deanna regards herself as a collector of beautiful moments and says:

There is a very specific moment that I constantly seek – it happens often when I’m alone in nature. It’s in-ignorable when I’m sitting under an old growth cedar or standing on an empty shore.  It's more subtle (but no less powerful) when I pause during my day to watch my daughter playing quietly. (…) As an artist I’ll never stop striving to capture it.

Wow. I was stunned by that woman and wanted to know more. So I asked Deanna for an interview and she happily agreed. Double wow: Not only her art, but also her answers to my interview questions gripped my heart. That’s why they deserve an article on their own. So here it is – the beautiful interview with Deanna Lankin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Interview: Deanna Lankin about Tofino, ocean love and Canadas first lady

Deanna, you say that you always have found solace in water. Why is that?

Water has always been that one place where I’ve felt the most at home. When I’m under the water, whether swimming in the ocean or at the bottom of a pool or in a bathtub, everything seems to make sense. It’s quiet and I’m all alone and feel connected to life in the most meaningful way all at once.  Nothing else in my world has that instantanious effect.

Deanna Lankin - Immersing + Emerging

When and how did you become attracted to art?

I remember painting a field of sun flowers early in elementary school. The feeling of creating it and the response I got to it lined up in such a perfect way. It felt like I was being seen for who I really was! I’ve always been able to express myself in art in a way that feels very authentic. My mom still has that painting framed and hung up in her home.

And the ocean seems to be your favorite subject – right?

It’s heaven on earth to me! I love everything about it, from the way the light reflects off of it, the feeling of my hand dipping in over the side of a boat, the sound of it gently smacking the bottom of my surfboard, to the first scent of it coming off of the highway towards the coast. The ocean is the great connecter: It literally connects our entire world and has the same effect (I believe) on every person who stands on the shore of it.

Deanna Lankin - Sup Yoga GirlSome years ago you moved to Tofino. How did you find that place and why did you stay?

I moved here completely by accident. After having finished film school in Victoria, I hitch-hiked to Tofino in 2004. I had two weeks before my booked flight to go back home. Originally I had picked Victoria as my school destination because it was on the ocean… But there was still an unfinished feeling about my year by the coast.

I remember coming over the hill in this woman’s car and seeing the waves breaking at Long Beach for the first time as the sun was setting. A feeling that I will never forget! It was like: “This!  This is what I was looking for.” That week I tried surfing for the first time and had to call my parents to tell them I was not going to be on that flight. I’ve never looked back and fell in love with the community, the culture and connection people from here have to the land.  It’s magical!

Deanna Lankin - First Light + WaveYou painted Sophie Trudeau, Canada's first lady, doing beach yoga in Tofino. This painting became kind of famous. Tell us more about that! 

Last summer I found out at dinner-time, from the owner of the business where I was the resident artist, that the Trudeaus would be coming in the next day. I was going to be watching the boutique shop that day and had recently sold some of my art, so there were a few empty spots on the wall. Thus I went home to have a look at what was in my studio, that I might bring in – but there wasn’t anything I was excited about. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has been a big inspiration to me for years! I sat at my table, thinking about her, and had a sudden flash: Of a photo a friend of mine had send me that week, of a yoga shoot he had done. It was shot in front of the place where the Trudeaus were staying and I thought, how perfect!

(1) Painting of Sophie Trudeau in the warrior pose, (2) Sophie and Justin Trudeau in Deanna Lankin's shop

Sophie Trudeau is very passionate about yoga and the photo was of a pose called ‘the exalted warrior’. That’s totally what she is to me and a lot of other women! I have this story that it’s hard for them to always be authentic in their crazy life filled with responsibility and so much presence and criticism. So I wanted to create something that would remind her of how empowering she is to so many of us, and hoped it would help her on days when it all seemed too much. Right after I went to my studio I painted what I had in mind and literally stayed up all night. The painting was still wet when Sophie came in the next day and saw it hanging on the wall!

What does living close to the ocean mean to you?

It’s a constant reminder of the flux in life. The tide is always changing, and the ocean can be flat calm one minute and a few hours later it’s raging and mountainous. Life on the ocean naturally moves with a lot of flow! It’s like the seasons changing – but instead of 4 times a year it’s changing every day, every few hours. Our lives move and adjust with it, whether it’s to find surf, how and when to boat out to a friends‘ float house or just to walk beside it. The ocean is always changing and can’t be controlled, just like life. It reminds me how beneficial it is to seek comfort internally and go with the flow.

Deanna Lankin - Portraits

I guess artists love all their work. But do you maybe have a favorite picture?

Right now it’s one of my most recent, called ‚Remembering‘.  I had a vision for it for a few years before it came to fruition. In a shoot I collaborated with a photographer, John Kelsey, who captured it perfectly! My vision came to life and I was so thrilled about that. I love collaborating with like-minded artists and the event around that filled me up for months. The painting process literally fell out of me, which doesn’t always happen.

Deanna Lankin - Cowichan / Remembering‚Remembering‘ captures everything that makes me come alive right now: The strength and resilience of women, and of the First Peoples of the land out here. It’s so epic to feel the heartbeat of their culture every day! Our world is a richer place for their indigenous perspective, knowledge and way of being. I’m blessed to be living on their lands and grateful to be learning as much as I can from their history and stories. The painting also speaks to the solace the ocean brings and to those moments where we allow ourselves a pause to remember who we are.

Being myself a surfer by heart: What does water sports mean to you? 

Surfing is where I developed by relationship to the ocean! Earlier I mentioned that the ocean is heaven to me. But the truth is, it can also be hell. Like on those dark days when the surf is just a bit bigger than my ability and I go out anyway… Some of my greatest moments of doubt have come up out there. When I was surfing every day, 10 years ago, I felt like I found out who I was and what I was made of through that contrast.

Deanna Lankin - Pure Shores + SurferNow I enjoy the peace of surfing a lot more than I did back then. I’ve been taking my daughter out. But sometimes we throw our boards up on the sand, go out in the waves and just swim and splash around. The joy it brings her reminds me to play and not take it all too seriously.

Many people still dream of a life close to the ocean. Can you give them an advice?

It’s cheesy, but it reminds me of my favourite quote by Tolkien.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Time is our only real currency. And once we spend it, we can’t get it back. If your heart wants to be by the ocean, then go now! Life has a funny way of sorting itself out around what our heart deeply desires – when we find the courage to act on it. I know it sure did for me!

Deanna Lankin - New Years Day

Thank you for the interview, Deanna! If you want to know more about her, check Deanna Lankin's website as well as her Instagram channel! And if you ever should be in Tofino, make sure to visit her in her little shop!

Copyright of fotos and the displayed artwork: Deanna Lankin.

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Amber 10. Dezember 2017 - 11:02

Danke für diesen tollen Artikel! ???? Tofino und Uclulet sind wirklich wunderschöne und inspirierende Orte.
Ich war vor kurzem in Tofino und wollte unbedingt bei Deanna vorbei. Leider ist ihr Shop super schwer zu finden….nächstes Mal habe ich hoffentlich mehr Zeit. ????

Heidi 11. Dezember 2017 - 21:04

Hi Amber,
Danke für dein liebes Feedback! Ich schreibe immer wieder gern über Tofino und Ukee, dann kann ich mich aus der Ferne trotzdem nah fühlen. Und ja, obwohl die Orte beide so klein sind, kann man manche Dinge erst auf den zweiten Blick entdecken. Wie Deannas Shop oder Merge, eine kleine coole Boutique die ich erst dieses Jahr gesehen hab. Sehne mich auch schon wieder nach dem nächsten Besuch in Tuff City!
Liebe Grüße


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