Artist Renee Audy doesn’t usually repeat a mural, but the snowy window scene she created for Santas Anonymous in 2020 evoked so much magic, she couldn’t help but repeat it when asked.
The Santa blowing snow - as one would blow a kiss - graces the expansive glass canvas of a Beacon Avenue business.
The Saanich muralist remembers her first paying gig as a kid in Alberta. She was always artistic, but at 13 she worked for $5 an hour at a sewing business and the owner asked her to paint all the walls.
So she did.
As a kid, her family often vacationed on the west coast.“I remember it being a tropical oasis,” she says with a laugh. “Something about the ocean just draws me.”
A dozen or so years ago, Audy packed up and left Red Deer.
“There’s something better out there and I think it’s called Victoria,” she recalls thinking.
She graduated from the visual arts program at Camosun College in 2014 and embarked on building her art career.
She also managed a Victoria pedicab company that was both lucrative and enjoyable in the summers. It was hard to give up and afforded her winter travel. Which is when she honed her artistry in places such as Belize and Guatemala. “I wanted to be an international artist.”
In the winter, she was. Then in 2019, she scored a large contract at the cruise ship terminals in Victoria. Literally large, it is now 240 feet of flowery walkway that passengers follow as they disembark.
It launched her career here.
In 2020, Santas Anonymous asked her to paint a mural for them on the window of their workshop. With pandemic safety protocols limiting public appearance and opportunities, they asked her to add some charm to draw attention to the Broadmead Village storefront.
“I wanted to do something special for them and I hadn’t really painted any windows before,” Audy said.
She created a Santa, blowing snow from the palm of his and as one might blow a kiss, or fairy dust.
“It was pretty magical and really well-received,” she said.
When winter ended, she returned to her traditional murals. Among her creations was the 150 feet of west coast forest – inspired by a photo from PKOLS (Mount Doug Park) – near the intersection of Bay and Government streets. It’s an area of the city that puts a face to socio-economic challenges in the region. It was a challenging place to paint, under challenging summertime conditions. But she felt a need to do it.
“It’s important there’s some kind of aspect of community building, self-awareness or public engagement. …That’s how I decide what I’m going to paint, where I’m going to paint. It’s also what gives me the drive to push through the harder parts. I know it’s meaningful at the end.”
This fall a volunteer with Santas – who had opened a business in Sidney – hoped to have that magical 2020 Santa return.
It is among a handful of winter portraits spreading snowy serenity across Greater Victoria.
She filled the mezzanine and massive windows greeting visitors at the Victoria International Airport; the front of the Hotel Grand Pacific, and a longtime Sidney notary’s front window.
“I felt luxurious working at the airport and Grand Pacific compared to Bay Street and Government, but it’s all really important work.”